Where is the best shopping in Machu Picchu?

Paul Brady

Most shopping around Machu Picchu centers on souvenirs, which are either charming or kitschy, depending on your perspective. Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend stocking up on postcards as a way to arm yourself with magnificent photos of the ruins. Clothing, rugs or bags made from alpaca fiber, a Peruvian specialty, can be found in Aguas Calientes, the town nearest Machu Picchu. But you’ll find a better selection (and much higher quality) in the shops of Cuzco, a short train ride away and a major gateway to Machu Picchu (almost all visitors to the ruins pass through it). Do your shopping there, and you’ll find stylish boutiques, crafts markets and international shipping agents who can help you get your haul home.

  • On September 18, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    Where are the best places to eat in Machu Picchu?

    Visitors don’t come to Machu Picchu for the food. In fact, snacks and even water bottles aren’t officially allowed inside the huge archaeological site, so fuel up before you arrive. But for a post-exploration celebratory dinner, Forbes Travel Guide recommends these restaurants as the five best:
     
    1. Tampu. Located inside the luxury Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge — the only hotel adjacent to the ruins — Tampu serves gourmet Peruvian cuisine in a dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows so you can enjoy the views as much as your meal.
     
    2. Cafe Inkaterra. This spot serves traditional but contemporary Andean specialties (heavy on the roasted chicken, corn and potatoes) inside one of the best hotels in town. The thatched-roof dining room overlooks the Urubamba River.
     
    3. Indio Feliz. The upscale menu is a fusion of French-Peruvian dishes and features some creative flourishes that go beyond the standard offerings on the often-pedestrian menus of Aguas Calientes.
     
    4. The Tree House. Located above the town inside the Rupa Wasi Lodge, this restaurant is one of the few places in town that offers something besides traditional Peruvian, with menu items like tabbouleh and eggplant parmigiana.
     
    5. Pueblo Viejo. Here your order is grilled on an open hearth, which sets a festive and cozy mood at this international favorite on the main drag of Aguas Calientes. Look for live music most nights at this casual, lively spot.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the best places to stay in Machu Picchu?

    A stunning spread of ruins set high on a mountain summit, Machu Picchu would have amazing hotels if only there were room for them. Instead, most cluster in nearby Aguas Calientes, a frenetic tourist center where numerous hotels range from the budget basic to the upscale. Here are Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for the five best places to stay near the Machu Picchu ruins.
     
    1. Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge. There is only one hotel adjacent to the actual ruins, and this small lodge operated by the luxury tour company Orient-Express is it. Deluxe rooms have views of the verdant mountains and are superior to alternatives that overlook the hotel courtyard.
     
    2. Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. This place offers a cosseting luxury experience in Aguas Calientes, perched above the Urubamba River that cuts through the mountains. Fine touches like alpaca blankets and local crafts in all rooms make this stay a bit more unique than what you'd find at a typical luxury hotel.
     
    3. Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel. This luxe hotel’s architecture reflects that of Machu Picchu with intricate stonework and a cantilevered structure. Eat at the scenic restaurant or recoup at the full service spa. The Aguas Calientes location is within walking distance of the train station.
     
    4. Rupa Wasi Lodge. A five-room inn just off the main square of Aguas Calientes, Rupa Wasi Lodge is all about personal, attentive service. Ask for an upper room for fantastic views of the region. Rooms have a tree-house feel with modern wood décor and wide open windows. Sign on for a cooking lesson at the hotel's own Tree House Restaurant.
     
    5. La Cabana Hotel. This is a cozy and colorful option in Aguas Calientes, and staffers are happy to come meet arriving guests at the train station to assist with any luggage — a helpful service at any elevation but particularly welcome here, high in the mountains.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Paul Brady answered the question: Paul Brady

    What are the best things to see and do in Machu Picchu?

    Machu Picchu is legendary for its vast ruins, and there are plenty of ways to explore its wonders. The five best things to do and see at the magical lost city of Machu Picchu include:
     
    1. Exploring. Simply exploring the massive grounds of the ruins can easily take a full day, from hiking the historic agricultural terraces to exploring the pristine temples. You can spend a considerable amount of time photographing the famous ever-changing clouds above the surrounding pinnacles.
     
    2. Climbing Huayna Picchu. This very steep summit is accessible as part of the Machu
    Picchu site, and a climb to this peak offers a stunning vantage point for photos of the ruins below.
     
    3. Riding the PeruRail. This train leaves from Cuzco and arrives at Machu Picchu; it has panoramic windows for excellent views of the river gorge that carves a path through the mountains to Machu Picchu. Make conversation with your fellow passengers, who've likely traveled from around the world to see the site.
     
    4. Hiking the Inca Trail. Many visitors hike the Inca Trail, a four-day guided trek that delivers you to Machu Picchu after exploring the Sacred Valley of Peru. While the 20.5-mile hike wouldn't be too strenuous at lower elevations, some points top 13,000 feet, leaving hikers gasping for air. Many insist the spectacular mountain scenery is worth the challenge.
     
    5. Visiting other Incan settlements. Nearby towns like Ollantaytambo and Pisac are well worth the visit for their own Incan sites, and tour operators in both villages provide a number of excursions by van, bike or horseback that explore the wider Sacred Valley and its indigenous history.
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  • On September 18, 2012
    Paul Brady answered the question: Paul Brady

    What are the key ruins to see at the vast Machu Picchu site?

    There are a few key ruins to see at Machu Picchu, which sprawls across the top of a mountain at more than 8,000 feet above sea level. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend several notable sections and you’ll need a map to seek them out. The most impressive stonework can be found at Temple of the Sun, and the central plaza is a grassy patch at the heart of the site that was the central hub of the city at its height. It’s a steep hike to the top of Huayna Picchu, which over looks the ruins, but those who put in the effort are rewarded with breathtaking views. If you haven’t reached the site by the Inca Trail, you can trek up to the Sun Gate for a taste of the four-day journey and the view of the ruins that hikers first see at the end of their walk. Few visitors trek to the Inca Drawbridge, a sort of back door to Machu Picchu that offers an outstanding panorama on the valleys below.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Paul Brady answered the question: Paul Brady

    What is the best thing to bring home from Machu Picchu?

    There are some fantastic souvenirs to bring home from Machu Picchu and Peru. Even at the ruins themselves, you’ll see alpacas, the llama-like animals whose fleece yields a thick yarn that’s woven into hats, gloves, ponchos, sweaters, rugs and more. While quality varies greatly, it doesn’t take an expert to tell shoddy mass-produced work from finer pieces. While you can find vendors at the ruins, Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend the boutiques in Cuzco (just a short train ride away) or even the ones in Aguas Calientes, the town nearest Machu Picchu. Peruvian pisco, a flavorful grape brandy, is the base of the pisco sour cocktail and is a delicious indigenous firewater that’s difficult to find in the United States. Postcards are another great buy: No matter how good your photos are, postcards will show the ruins in different light, at different times of year and from vantage points you may not have explored. Stock up.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Paul Brady answered the question: Paul Brady

    Where is the best nightlife in Machu Picchu?

    Nightlife is not a main (or even ancillary) attraction at Machu Picchu, where the elevation, sun and wind sap the energy of even the most prolific hikers. You’re most likely to find visitors calmly sipping a Peruvian pisco sour or two at a hotel bar before tucking in early for a pre-dawn wake up call — seeing the ruins at sunrise is more important to many tourists than going late into the night. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend visiting Aguas Calientes. It’s the town at the base of the mountain where Machu Picchu is located and there are a number of locally owned and operated restaurants and bars there. Dancers head for the only club, Wasicha, and there’s a small, lively bar at Indio Feliz restaurant. Other cafes and restaurants lining Avenida Pachacutec, the main drag of the city, may stay open late if there’s a crowd.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Paul Brady answered the question: Paul Brady

    What is the best way to see Machu Picchu in one day?

    Some visitors start their day at Machu Picchu by racing to the mountaintop ruins before the sun even rises. While there’s considerable charm to seeing daybreak here, the stunning high-altitude light makes for a breathtaking spectacle at any hour of the day. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest strapping on comfortable shoes or boots to join other visitors at the gates midmorning. While the entrance is often laden with tourists, the ruins are so large that even on busy days you don’t feel smothered by crowds. If you’re interested in climbing the terribly steep Huayna Picchu mountain that overlooks the site, you’ll need to get in line early because access is capped at a small number of visitors. Otherwise, simply wander the grounds with a map and a camera in hand — you’ll need them both. The early birds will start leaving around lunchtime — and you’ll really feel like the ruins are yours alone. The longer you stay, the more deserted the site gets. When you’ve finally seen it all head back to Aguas Calientes or wherever you’re staying in the Sacred Valley to treat yourself to a giant meal of comida tipica, or typical Peruvian food, which is heavy on meat, potatoes and corn. A Cusquena beer or Peruvian pisco sour might also be in order. After all, you’ve earned it.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Paul Brady answered the question: Paul Brady

    Where is the best shopping in Machu Picchu?

    Most shopping around Machu Picchu centers on souvenirs, which are either charming or kitschy, depending on your perspective. Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend stocking up on postcards as a way to arm yourself with magnificent photos of the ruins. Clothing, rugs or bags made from alpaca fiber, a Peruvian specialty, can be found in Aguas Calientes, the town nearest Machu Picchu. But you’ll find a better selection (and much higher quality) in the shops of Cuzco, a short train ride away and a major gateway to Machu Picchu (almost all visitors to the ruins pass through it). Do your shopping there, and you’ll find stylish boutiques, crafts markets and international shipping agents who can help you get your haul home.