Top 5 Must Do's in Machu Picchu

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Machu Picchu is a beautiful, awe-inspiring place. If you have the time, perhaps the best thing to do is to simply wander around the ruins and sink into the world of the Incas. But for those who can't spend a week documenting the intricacies of this 'lost' world, here is a list of five places that shouldn't be missed.

Huayna Picchu

The mountain that sits behind Machu Picchu is iconic and also offers fabulous views of the city below. Only 400 people are permitted to climb the mountain each day, so be sure to arrive at the registration entrance by sunrise. You can choose to make the ascent at 7 a.m. or 10 a.m. but don't worry about overcrowding on the path, as they stagger people to prevent such occurrences. Making the 7 a.m. trip usually means less people and a cooler climb. It's about one hour to the peak and another hour back down for anyone of average fitness. There are cables to help you along and places to catch your breath, but the stairs are very steep, making it unsuitable for children or those afraid of heights. Also note that you'll have to climb through a narrow tunnel to reach the top.

Moon Temple

Once you reach the peak of Huayna Picchu you can take the alternative trail down to Moon Temple. The way down consists of extremely steep staircases and intensely frightening ladders. If you're afraid of heights, avoid it completely. Otherwise, wear good hiking boots and carry a bag so your hands are free. Making this trip will add another 2 or 3 hours to your trip up Huayna Picchu, so remember that they close the gates at 2 p.m. It gets strenuous making the ascent back up to the Huayna Picchu path.

Temple of the Sun

Once you've got your panoramas of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu, you can really enjoy the city itself. Be sure to stop at the Temple of the Sun, the only round structure in the entire city. The masonry is a marvel in itself. The temple marked the winter solstice by 'capturing' the sun's rays through the eastern window. Be sure to climb a bit above the temple for a great picture of the entire roofless structure.

Intihuatana

Located in the Sacred Plaza is the 'living' rock of Intihuatana. Place your hands on the rock and then raise them slightly to see if you can feel the energy that emanates from the rock. On your way up, be sure to stop for a picture through the windows of the Temple of Three Windows, and before you head back down get a few photos from this great vantage point.

Temple of the Condor

This temple makes use of the natural rock formation of two mountains that are meant to represent the condor's wings. Between the wings you will find a rock carving that is meant to represent the condor's head and neck ruffle. The temple was possibly used as a sacrificial altar. Check out the prison behind the temple, and if you have kids let them explore the caves located around the condor's wings.

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