When I was packing for Peru, I had a tough time finding non-hiking recommendations that seemed reasonable and, well, things I would actually wear.
In fact, pretty much the only useful thing I could find (beyond pictures of girls in heels in the ruins…the last time I wore heels was May, and that was for a wedding, so, well, NO), was this post from Travel Fashion Girl. Those general recommendations are on point, and I thought it would be helpful to show some of the things I wore, given the time of year that we went (early August).
Don’t Wear Hiking Boots
If you are NOT trekking, hiking boots are heavy, cumbersome, and seriously not necessary. Machu Picchu is mostly stairs and fine gravel paths. There is no strenuous hiking involved if you are just going to the ruins. Flip flops would have been fine (I’m young, fit, and consider flip flops pretty much the most comfortable pair of shoes I own, so take that into consideration). As long as it didn’t rain–the stone does get a touch slippery. I was glad to have light trail running shoes for the hike to the Sun Gate.
Even If It’s Chilly in Cusco, Machu Picchu Gets Warm Quickly
Machu Picchu is a good 4,000 feet lower than Cusco, and even if it’s brisk in the morning, down is truly overkill in August. The coldest place–seriously–was the dining room in the restaurant in the evening. When the sun comes up, it gets warm, and it gets warm fast. Light, sun protective layers are great, but don’t expect to be cold. I wore my Patagonia Better Sweater for probably 40 minutes the morning we got up early to see the sun rise.
I Own Four Better Sweaters Because They ROCK
Sun, Sun, Sun
Beware of the sun–either wear UPF items or lots of sunscreen. The first afternoon we were there, I lathered up my arms and through a SPF shirt around my shoulders for extra protection. For the morning we were out until about 11am, I wore a UPF shirt (seen under my Better Sweater above, from Lululemon) so I didn’t have to worry about it. The altitude + the exposure means that there is a lot of sun, powerful rays, and lobster-esque visitors.
Sunglasses + Hat + SPF
Bugs + Bugs = More Bugs
I’m usually like the biggest bug attractor ever, yet I didn’t have issues in Peru. Granted, though, I didn’t give the pesky things much of a chance: long pants, bug spray with deet, and often a long-sleeved shirt. However, given the lovely welted legs we observed at Machu Picchu, and the myriad of forum posts on how bad the bugs are at Machu Picchu, I’d error on the side of caution. Bug gear may be in order, depending on the time of year you visit, and always wear long pants that they can’t really bite through.
Athleisure Items Are Fantastic
As much as that word sort of makes me want to vomit (can’t wait till THAT one goes in the Oxford English Dictionary), they are really awesome for Machu Picchu. I wore a pair of Anatomie travel pants (yup, I have multiple pairs due to an amazing giveaway win), and a cute longsleeve with a tank top every day (usually Lululemon or Athleta). Mixed and matched appropriately, many of these items can be dressed up (lose the hat, switch out the UPF top for an oxford over a tank, and gain a scarf or long necklace), and were perfect for Machu Picchu and Peru more generally.
My Fave Pair of Anatomie Skyler Pants
All photos again courtsey of my mom, who likes to take photos of me when I don’t notice because I’m a total grump about people taking photos of me.
Great tips for the non-hiker. I second the bug issue. Unfortunately, even with extra precautions I was still bitten pretty regularly. And some of them are now lovely scars. We did, however, observe there weren’t as much sand flies on top of Machu Picchu as there were on the hikes leading up to it.
Hi Erika–Sorry to hear you were victim to those pesky bugs! I think Machu Picchu is occasionally blessed by a strong breeze, including one afternoon when we were there, so it cleared out *some* of the bugs.