How High is Machu Picchu? Machu Picchu Elevation
High in the Andes Mountains of Peru lies one of the most mysterious and impressive wonders of the world, Machu Picchu. Over the last fifty years, the site has become a magnet for nature lovers, history buffs, and intrepid travelers, but getting there requires venturing thousands of meters up in elevation.
Sure, Machu Picchu might not be as tall as the top of mount Everest; however, it’s quite high, nonetheless. Let’s take a look at the exact elevation of Machu Picchu, how difficult it is to hike there, and other good-to-know information. So, put on your hiking shoes, and let’s go!
How High is Machu Picchu?
The archaeological site of Machu Picchu sits at an elevation of 2,430 meters or 7,972 feet above sea level. At that height, it’s normal for visitors to experience altitude sickness, so some precautions need to be taken. However, Machu Picchu isn’t high enough to require people to wear oxygen–usually, oxygen is only needed at elevations of 8,000 meters.
Just next to the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, there’s an opportunity to climb even higher by trekking up Machu Picchu Mountain. The mountain is about 3,082 meters (10,111 feet) tall, and getting to the top means hiking up a very steep path. Visitors who have done a multi-day trek to the Machu Picchu ruins should be cautious about overexerting themselves to reach the peak.
Where is Machu Picchu Located?
Machu Picchu is found toward the south of Peru in the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes Mountains. Almost all of its visitors travel from the city of Cusco, which is only about 70 kilometers (62 miles) away. However, although Cusco is just around the corner, the city has an elevation of 3,399 meters (11,152 feet), making it much higher than both the ruins of Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain.
The location of Machu Picchu, even today, is not obvious. It’s tucked away in the towering green mountains and requires a professional guide to lead you in the right direction. Being so elusive is the reason it wasn’t discovered by westerners until 1911, even though Cusco was conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century!
Did People Live on Machu Picchu?
The exact purpose of Machu Picchu remains a bit of a mystery–especially because the site has been around since the 8th century BC. However, researchers have been able to conclude that in the 15th century, there was a population that ranged between a few hundred people and around ten thousand people.
Interestingly, the Spanish never discovered Machu Picchu, so the Incan people who lived there managed to avoid being attacked. But in the 17th century, the Incan people abandoned the site in the Andes Mountains–some researchers suggest that a large portion of the population died from smallpox. It’s also important to point out that Machu Picchu was never a normal village. Instead, it was like a citadel, or place of worship, for the Incan people.
What is the Temperature at Machu Picchu?
In general, Machu Picchu has a fairly mild average temperature. Usually, the mornings are chilly (and sometimes foggy), but as the sun begins to break through the clouds, the day starts to heat up. The average temperature typically ranges between 12 to 24°C (53 to 75°F). Anyone hiking Machu Picchu should be prepared for dips in temperatures. If you’re there during the winter months, it’s possible that temperatures can drop below freezing, which could cause all sorts of trouble.
Another key weather factor to consider is rain. The area’s rainy season occurs between December and March, so it would be a good idea to bring along a waterproof jacket. When you get to the nearby village of Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes, you’ll be able to find inexpensive ponchos–it’s recommended you get one even if it doesn’t look like rain.
How Long Does It Take to Climb Machu Picchu?
The amount of time it takes to climb Machu Picchu depends on which trail you take. If you’re going to take the most popular Incan Trail, the journey should take about four days. However, there are other options that range from two to six days. During the trek, your professional guides will ensure everyone is responding well to the altitude and will set up tents for the group–keep in mind that some tours require you to rent a sleeping bag in town.
If a four-day hike sounds like a lot, don’t worry! You could also take a shuttle from Cusco to Hidroeléctrica, where you then hike for about three hours to Aguas Calientes (you can then take a bus to the park of Machu Picchu). Another option is to avoid hiking altogether and take the train–a great option for anyone who doesn’t feel physically able to trek.
Can a Beginner Climb Machu Picchu?
A beginner can, without a doubt, climb Machu Picchu. The journey requires zero technical climbing, so as long as you feel comfortable walking on your own two feet, you should be good to go. However, because you’ll be at such a high elevation, altitude sickness is not something to take lightly. Visitors should plan on spending at least a few days in Cusco to allow their bodies to acclimate before tackling one of the hikes.
If you’re not a confident hiker but still want to experience the adventure, the three-hour hike from Hidroeléctrica is an excellent option. The trail is virtually flat, with a slight incline on the way there, and you’ll find various food and drink vendors when you need a much-needed break.
How Does Mount Kilimanjaro Compare to Machu Picchu?
So, how does the height of this mysterious natural wonder of the world match up with Mount Kilimanjaro? Well, Kilimanjaro is by far the taller of the two, coming in at 8,895 meters (19,340 feet)–making it about 3,400 meters higher than Machu Picchu. However, despite the height discrepancy, trekking to the top of both places takes multiple days (unless you choose one of the easier options at Machu Picchu.
The great part about Kilimanjaro and Machu Picchu is that anyone of any age can experience the adventure. So, if you’re interested in conquering Kilimanjaro, head over to Climbing Kilimanjaro and learn how to schedule your guided hike with professionals who will take care of you every step of the way!