From the ticket booth, the path enters the south side of Machu Picchu through the Guards’ Quarters, which are two-story storehouses orientated to the June solstice. These buildings now form the modern-day entrance.
Instead of going through these buildings, we suggest taking the path, usually marked with white arrows, which you will find on your left just after walking through the ticket area and before arriving at the Guards’ Quarters. This 10-minute hike switchbacks up into the forest alongside the terraces and arrives at a lookout offering the oft-photographed view over Machu Picchu.
From here, it is easy to understand Machu Picchu’s basic layout: A large grassy square divides the city in three areas. To the left are the Royal and Sacred Areas, which were probably reserved for the Inca emperor and his court. To the right is the Secular Area, where the workers lived, and below the lookout itself is the Agricultural Area.
Running near the lookout area is the main Inca Trail, which comes all the way from Cusco. Looking left, it’s possible to see the Inca Trail coming down the terraced hillsides from the Inti Punku, or Sun Gate, the ceremonial entrance to Machu Picchu. On the other side of the Inca Trail are smaller paths that lead uphill to the Caretaker’s Hut and another that leads across the terraces to the Inca drawbridge.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition