All about the Machu Picchu Site Museum
What is it?
The Machu Picchu site museum 'Manuel Chávez Ballón' (in honor of the archaeologist who led the excavations in the Inca city between 1966 and 1971) exhibits pieces found in the Inca archaeological site as well as didactic panels of the staging process of the site inca. It has up to 7 showrooms and 8 sequences with photographic materials and panels.
Where is it located?
The museum is located in the town of Aguas Calientes, also known as Machupicchu town. It is located on the Hiram Bingham road, which connects the town with the Inca citadel.
How to get?
Most tourists arrive at the Machu Picchu site museum by walking approximately 2.8 kilometers from the town of Aguas Calientes. Another option, although more expensive, is to take one of the buses that take you to the museum in just 10 minutes.
A good option is to visit the museum, after the tour of Machu Picchu. For this, you must do a downhill walk for approximately 3 kilometers. It can also be reached by taking the buses that return to the tourists, after the visit to the Inca city.
Map of the route
What to see
- Room 1 – This room has 4 educational panels that show infographics on the location and strategic geography of Machu Picchu. It also highlights the factors that the Incas took into account for construction: raw material, water source, proximity to the sacred mountains. It also includes a historical map of everything that happened in the world while the Inca empire developed.
- Room 2 – This room explains the history of Machu Picchu before it became an archaeological site. It has 3 panels that also explain the sacred mountainous environment where it is located. The first maps made by foreign explorers such as Augusto Berns, Hernán Gohring and Charles Wiener are exhibited in this room. For the first explorers, the place took the name of: 'La Huaca del Inca'.
The term "Machu Picchu" was provided by the encomendero Diego Rodríguez de Figueroa, viceregal authority, taking references from the testimonies of the locals. Because it is a bumpy route, people did not arrive in the jungle region of Cusco by the road to Machu Picchu but by the "Abra Malaga" route. In 1943 the State appropriated Machu Picchu, which at that time was part of the Cutija farm.
- Room 3 – This room exhibits 4 panels with photographic records on the excavation work carried out in Machu Picchu at the beginning of the 20th century. From the discovery of Hiram Bingham in 1911 to the works of the Peruvian archaeologist Manuel Chávez Ballón. It also includes a photographic series with the portraits of the most outstanding intellectuals to support the work in the Inca city.
- Room 4 – This room exhibits lithic and metallic artifacts destined for the construction of Machu Picchu as stones with different functionalities. Also everyday objects such as knives, pots, glasses, water mirrors, pots, plates and more. It also offers didactic material that explains how the construction of it was carried out following the Inca stone carving techniques. It has up to 15 panels and samples of Inca stone, copper and bronze objects. How did the Incas build such precise stone walls without the tools of modernity?
- Room 5 – This room has 6 Inca samples and panels showing objects of ceremonial use found in burials of important people in Machu Picchu. These burials were made in caves and were accompanied mainly by ceramic objects. It also explains the strategic location of Machu Picchu between the mountains and the jungle and its 8 paths that led to different points of the environment. The most important of all, without a doubt, is the Inca Trail.
- Room 6 – Room that exposes the work of the first researchers who worked in Machu Picchu, both Peruvians and foreigners. It also exposes the important role played by Dr. Manuel Chávez Ballón (director of works and the museum). This researcher is considered the 'Father of Cusco archeology'. He was the one who got the funds for the construction of the museum. In the room there are photographs of the excavation work at Machu Picchu.
- Room 7 – The last room exposes the different ways of feeling Machu Picchu, both for Peruvians and for humanity. It accounts for some myths taken from the locals. For example, 'the Incas made the stones walk by whipping them'. It also includes an explanation of the 'Inca Trail' route, the 4-day route to the Inca city. The last room also exhibits ceremonial objects dedicated to worship in Machu Picchu.
History of the museum of Machu Picchu
The Machupicchu Site Museum was built in the 1970s on the initiative of the Peruvian archaeologist Manuel Chávez Ballón, who was in charge of the excavations at Machu Picchu between 1966 and 1971. An important part for this building was achieved thanks to the donation by Mrs. Anita Fernandini de Naranjo. Since its early years, the museum exhibits pieces found in the Inca city.
In 2002 the museum remodeling works were carried out as well as the organization of the museum's cultural material. In 2005 the second inauguration of the museum was held, which bears the name of Manuel Chávez Ballón, in honor of the 'father of Peruvian archeology'. Currently, the place has 7 rooms where ceramic pieces, tools, utensils and other Inca objects are exhibited, as well as photographs, panels and infographics.
The Botanical Garden
The botanical garden of Machupicchu is located a few steps from the site museum 'Manuel Chávez Ballón'. The place has diverse species of flowers and plants where the floripondios, the lilies, the palm trees, the lemon trees, the pisonay and, above all, the orchids, the most representative flower of Machu Picchu, stand out. Due to the abundance of flowers, the site is an observatory for various birds and especially butterflies. Occasionally you can see the 'tunki' or cock of the rocks, known as the national bird of Peru.
The cost of entering the botanical garden is included in the entrance ticket to the botanical garden of Machu Picchu.
How much is admission?
With the purchase of any entrance ticket to Machu Picchu, the tourist can enter the Machupicchu Site Museum (and the botanical garden) for free.
Another option is to directly purchase the entrance ticket to the museum whose cost is 22 Peruvian soles per tourist (7 US dollars approximately). Peruvian students and visitors pay only 11 Peruvian soles (approximately 4 US dollars). Children enter free.
Hours of Operation
The Manuel Chávez Ballón Site Museum is open to the public every day of the year from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.
Other museums in Cusco
- Machupicchu Museum of the Casa Concha – Museum located in a colonial house where pieces found in Machu Picchu during the first excavations made by the explorer Hiram Bingham are exhibited. These pieces were returned to Peru in 2011. It is located at 320 Santa Catalina Ancha Street.
- Museum of Pre-Columbian Art of Cusco – Museum that exposes the development of different cultures and civilizations before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. They include pieces and educational panels from various parts of Peru. It is located in the Plazoleta de las Nazarenas, in the historic center of Cusco.
- Inka Museum of Cusco – Museum that exhibits Inca pieces of different origins such as: ceramics, textiles (mantles, accessories), goldsmiths (gold and silver idols), stone carvings and more. It is located on the street 'Cuesta del Almirante 103' (just a few steps from the city of Cusco).
The purchase of the entrance ticket to the Machupicchu Site Museum can be done in person in Cusco (at the door of the museum) or online, through the website of the Ministry of Culture of Peru.
The Manuel Chávez Ballón museum offers free admission for everyone during its afternoon hours: from noon to 4 in the afternoon. They just have to approach the place and present their identity document or passport. This offer includes national or international tourists of all ages.
An excellent idea for your visit to Machu Picchu is to visit the Inca archaeological site in the morning and, after descending (by bus or on foot), go to the 'Manuel Chávez Ballón' Site Museum. So you will have a complete cultural experience in Cusco. In addition, in the afternoon the entrance to the museum is totally free.
The town of Aguas Calientes is located 2,040 meters above sea level (6,692 feet elevation). At that altitude, symptoms of altitude sickness (fatigue, nausea, headache) are not frequent. If, before visiting Machu Picchu, you spend one or two days in the city of Cusco, your body will be used to the mountainous geography and you will not suffer from this disease.