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Which Machu Picchu Circuit Is the Best?

March 13, 2024
MACHU pICCHU

There are 5 different circuits to explore the Incan Citadel of Machu Picchu and they all offer different attractions and vary in difficulty. The Peruvian government has implemented circuits to better preserve Machu Picchu and to alleviate the congestion that can form in some of the more cramped areas. It can be a process trying to figure out which circuit is best for you. At the end of the day, it depends on personal preference. However, there is a general consensus as to which circuit is the most desirable.

Circuit 2 + Inca Bridge: The Best Circuit!

Most people agree that circuit 2 is the best circuit in Machu Picchu. This circuit takes you to both the upper and lower sections of the complex where you get to visit many different interesting sites. Circuit 2 by itself is a great option however, you can add the Inca Bridge onto circuit 2 for the absolute best experience!

Inca Bridge: The Inca bridge is an interesting site and a great addition to circuit 2. Thought to be Machu Picchu’s escape route, the bridge was built on a narrow stone pathway on the side of a cliff hundreds of feet off the ground. Logs were placed across a large gap and would be removed after crossing, preventing anyone from following the fleeing Incas. You cannot walk on the bridge itself as there is a locked gate preventing access. Not that you would want to anyway, it’s a narrow bridge with a few hundred-foot death drop!

***PLEASE NOTE: If you want to see the Inca Bridge and all of the sites in circuit 2 you must pick one of the first three time groups!

Circuit 2 + Inca Bridge Schedule

Circuit 2 Places of Interest

Upper (Best View Point) and lower platform (Temples)

Starting at the main entrance you will first explore the upper section of the complex arriving at the lower viewing platform. Climb the steps to the upper platform where you will find the famous Guard House. Take this opportunity to snap your iconic Postcard pictures of Machu Picchu and if you’re lucky, say hi to the llamas who lounge around this area!

***PLEASE NOTE: This is where the most famous views of Machu Picchu are!

Expansion Joint or Drainage Channel

After the platforms you will walk towards the Expansion Joint or Drainage Channel. This channel is strategically placed in an area between tectonic plates and would act as a seismic expansion joint. Thought to have been the drainage of the city, it divides the Urban and Agricultural sections while also isolating the Sacred district.

Temple of The Sun

Continue on the path towards the Temple of the Sun where the Inca paid tribute to their most important deity, Inti the sun god. Built on top of a Natural cavewhere Pachacutec may have been buried, the cave section is referred to as the Royal Tomb. The temple also functioned as an astronomical observatory where one could determine the arrival of the solstices based off the positioning of the windows and the light they would cast in the temple.

***PLEASE NOTE: Entrance to the Temple of The Sun is not allowed. Currently you can only see it from a viewpoint above the Temple.

Quarry and Sacred Plaza

Next is the Quarry where the Inca gathered the stones to construct Machu Picchu. The Sacred Plaza is the next attraction on this circuit, where you will get to see the main Temple of Machu Picchu. Most of the religious and astrological gatherings were held here.

Intihuatana (open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.)

After the Sacred Plaza walk up the stone steps to the highest point in the Sacred district which is home to the mysterious Intihuatana stone (open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.). The Intihuatana stone is the subject of many debates. Some believe it was just a simple sundial while others believe it had a more specific complex use regarding the winter and summer solstices.

Sacred Rock

When you are finished admiring Intihuatana descend towards the Sacred Rock. The Sacred Rock is a huge rock carved to imitate the shape of the mountain valley in the background. Offerings were laid at the foot of the Sacred Rock in hopes of gaining favor from the Incan deities.

Workshop and Oriental Storehouses

The Workshop is the next site of interest and is where various things were made, such as pottery and tools. Next, continue on the circuit until you come to the Oriental Storehouses where dried meats, grain, and other goods were stored in case of a bad farm season.

Water Mirrors

The Water Mirrors is the next attraction, they were thought to be an observatory used to watch the stars and possibly more specifically the moon. The structure surrounding the mirrors has no sing of ever having any rooftop. For this reason, its widely accepted that this site was designed for astronomical observations.

Temple of The Condor (open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.)

Next, is one of the most fascinating structures in the complex, Temple of the Condor. This temple has rock carved into the shape of a condor’s wings making up the back walls of the temple. On the floor is a rock carved to resemble the condor’s head. This was the site of many ceremonies and animal possible sacrifices (open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.).

Included in Circuit 2:

Not Included in Circuit 2:

Why is Circuit 2 the best?

Circuit 2 is the best overall because you get to see the most sites in the lower section of Machu Picchu and you to get visit the viewing platforms, which offer the famous postcard views of Machu Picchu. You do miss out on some of the lower section sites that circuits 3, 4, and 5 offer. However, circuits 3, 4, and 5 do not go up to the viewing platforms so you cannot get your iconic pictures of Machu Picchu. This circuit does have quite a few steps however and may be difficult for some individuals.

Things to Consider

Arrive on time: If you arrive even a few minutes late you will not be allowed to enter!

Time it Right: You’ll have to book one of the first three time groups if you want to guarantee that you will see everything on the circuit. Intihuatana is open from 7am to 1pm and The Temple of The Condor from 10am to 1pm.

Book your guide in advance: You need a guide in order to enter Machu Picchu so booking with a reputable tour operator such as 69 Explorer Peru is the safer way to go. They have bilingual guides with a wealth of knowledge and experience!