First impressions last, which is why the Sun Gate leading to Machu Picchu is such a highlight for people visiting Peru’s world-famous Inca citadel; Machu Picchu
The Sun Gate, or Intipunku in Quechua, sits around 290m (951 feet) above Machu Picchu’s elevation, offering unparalleled views of the ruins some 3 kilometres away. Spread out before the eyes are the dramatic mountains of Huayna Picchu, Putucusi, and Machu Picchu.
The panorama from the Sun Gate is not a prize only for Inca Trails trekkers. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about Intipunku and how to make the most of your visit to the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu.
Important note: As of recently, per government regulations, you cannot hike up to the Sun Gate from Machu Picchu Citadel, so the only way to get to the Sun Gate now is through an Inca Trail trek: 1 day Inca Trail, Short Inca Trail or Classic Inca Trail 4 days.
Early explorers at Machu Picchu bestowed the Sun Gate name as they orientated themselves around the archaeological ruins. In Quechua, Inti means sun, and Punku means a door or gate, which gives the Sun Gate its name.
We now know that the Sun Gate was the most critical entrance and fortress to the entire site. Only the elite passed through. the Sun gate connected Machu Picchu with the Inca empire’s road called Qhapac Ñan, known today as the Inca Trail.
Its design of a thatched roof, enclosures, doors, and windows allowed sunlight on the summer solstice (Dec 21) to illuminate the entity.
Inca culture afforded people returning through the Sun Gate towards Cusco more respect than those journeying towards Machu Picchu, a mark of the importance of their visit.
The Sun Gate sits at around 2,745m / 9,005ft, above Machu Picchu’s elevation of 2,430m / 7,972ft. It takes around an hour to walk down to Machu Picchu and 90 minutes from the ruins up to the Sun Gate, following an original Inca Trail.
Inca Trail trekkers must pass through the Sun Gate to access Machu Picchu.
People on the classic 4 day Inca Trail hike usually reach the Sun Gate early in the morning of their last hiking day, then swoop down into Machu Picchu for a guided tour. The Sun Gate can get a little crowded as groups try to reach the spot for sunrise.
People, often families, hike the1 or 2 day Inca Trail from KM 104, and they pass through the Sun Gate any time from noon to 4 pm.
Machu Picchu and the Sun Gate’s busiest times are from May to September. There will be more people visiting in these months and December and January when tourists from South America travel extensively. A visit outside those months means fewer people.
February can be pretty wet. Indeed, the Inca Trail closes every February for maintenance and to take advantage of the fact that few people travel in this period.
What is the ‘best time’ to visit is subjective. Below is a rough guide to what to expect.
There are two main seasons in the sub-tropical Peruvian Andes:
Here are the answers to some of the commonly answered questions about the Sun Gate, Machu Picchu.
Hiking the 4-day Classic Inca Trail trek gives people the chance to see the sunrise.
It’s unlikely a day visitor can get into the ruins at the 6 am opening time and make it to the Sun Gate in time for the sunrise.
The dry season (April to October) offers a great chance of good weather. Shoulder season months like April, September, and November can be excellent times.
Early (8 am) to late morning is a good time to arrive at the Sun Gate.
Mountain weather is notoriously fickle, and we recommend preparing for all eventualities. The climate is sub-tropical; the sun can be intense, and rain showers can be heavy.
Below are some guidelines.
Altitude brings its own effects; sunny days can feel hot, and early mornings can feel bitterly cold. Wear layers, take water, sun cream, waterproof clothing, and sunglasses.
Accuweather offers an excellent weather forecasting and reporting service for more information.
The Sun Gate is definitely worth the 2-4 hour round-trip walk, offering an alternative and fantastic view over Machu Picchu. It’s easy to imagine Inca guardsmen protecting their empire’s magnificent architectural centrepiece from their vantage point.
You need to be in good physical shape to visit the Sun Gate & Machu Picchu. Much of the tour is at high altitude, which places more stress on your body than at sea level.
Trekking requires more effort up high. We recommend you acclimatise to the area’s altitude with 2-3 days in Cusco, the Sacred Valley..
Hikers need to be able to walk comfortably for 3-5 hours in total to enjoy the Sun Gate & Machu Picchu ruins.
Sun Gate, Machu Picchu: An Overview
Visit the Sun Gate, Machu Picchu
The Sun Gate offers wonderful views over the Inca citadel, and is well worth visiting. Inca Trail trekkers have to pass through the Sun Gate, while Intipunku is a relatively short walk for day trippers.
The Sun Gate’s accessibility, good pathways, and no extra entry requirement all add to its appeal. Get there at a quiet time, and it’s not hard to imagine yourself as an Inca guard protecting the site.
Inspired to see the Sun Gate? We’re happy to help fulfil your Inca Trail or Machu Picchu dream, so contact us for more.
10/10 Amazing experience
If you’re thinking about which agency to use, look no further- Ray and Jimmy went well above and beyond and made this a memorable, safe, fun, and professional experience.
Ray is the most knowledgeable guide I’ve ever had in any country for any excursion - during both the Short Inka Trail and the actual tour of Machu Picchu, Ray’s expertise shined through in his ability to give us a detailed background on every aspect of the history, climate, nature, flora, animals.. anything!
Likewise, Ray and Jimmy were truly the friendliest, kindest hosts that I could have imagined our group having.
Thank you both so much and I will definitely book with you again if (when) I come back!
Did the 2 day Inca trail with Ray and Jimmy they were great and knowledgeable. Ray not only guided us along trail to Machu Picchu but also was an excellent photographer and taught us the history. It was a group of 10 and we had a great time. Even everything going on in Peru, we always felt in good hands.
Short Inca Trial (2-Day)
This tour was the perfect experience for our (group of 10) short trip to Peru. The trail was sometimes challenging, but the views and history made it all worth it. Ray and Jimmy were our guides and imparted sooo much knowledge about the history of Peru, Inca, and beyond. I would definitely recommend!
It was perfect! On the first day we had a great time exploring the Sacred Valley and see the main attractions and learn about the history of this beautiful place.
I would definitely recommend the short Inka trail, I think it was the best way to get to know Machu Picchu and the surrounding area. We arrived at Machu Picchu when most of the crowd was gone and it felt really special.
You won’t regret booking with this tour company, especially if Liz Montesinos is your guide. My boyfriend and I did the 4 day Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain (private) tour. The tour covered everything; from transportation, hotels, meals, tickets and entrance fees, to stops at local places we would’ve never known to go or check out. We did a private tour because for us we felt this would help us get the most out of our time and experience in Peru
Best mix of adventure, history and nature: Sacred Valley & Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
4-day trekking option seemed too intense for us, but we still wanted to experience the entrance to Machu Picchu through the ancient Inka trail, so we opted for Orange Nation’s combination of Sacred Valley & Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I couldn’t be more happy about our decision.
We booked and paid the deposit to Orange Nation / Sam travel for the 4 day Inca Trail and Machu Pichu trip back in 2019. But we couldn't travel in 2020 and 2021 - but the company honoured our agreement and so we came back in 2022.
You won’t regret booking with this tour company, especially if Liz Montesinos is your guide. My boyfriend and I did the 4 day Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain (private) tour. The tour covered everything; from transportation, hotels, meals, tickets and entrance fees, to stops at local places we would’ve never known to go or check out. We did a private tour because for us we felt this would help us get the most out of our time and experience in Peru. This tour had so many incredible things and places packed into 4 days.
My girl and i did the Machu Pichu trek tour with Orange Nation. It was seriously the most amazing experience that we'll never forget. Gorgeous views! The long trek was worth the amazing view. The tour guide was friendly and very knowledgeable. We considered other tours but chose Orange Nation because we liked the idea of smaller groups and this was definitely worth it. I will be using Orange Nation again next year when I come back to Peru!
Wow, what a wonderful trekking experience! My trip to Peru was amazing thanks to this awesome tour that i took with Orange Nation. I did multiple tours with this company. I'm a solo traveler and everyone in my group was always still friendly and did not make me feel left out. I loved going off the beaten track with this company. It's much better to pay extra to go off the path for the quality experience of this amazing guided tour They definitely helped guide us and gave us a quality experience with a small group and paid special attention to each one of us. I highly recommend using Orange Nation for your next tour in Peru!
Has one of the most outstanding meal services. Our chefs have been highly trained to prepare the best peruavian and International food our treks. You should be prepared to not only have a superb trekking experience, but also a culinary one. "The food has been the highlight for all our hikers"