Intipunku, the Sun Gate

The Intipunku is an Inca construction of Machu Picchu, which served as a checkpoint and entrance to the ancient Inca city. It has walls, enclosures, windows, niches, all made of polished stone with great technique. Its windows and doors receive the rays of the sun during the summer solstices. Currently getting there is a short hiking route within the Inca site. Tourists who make the Inca Trail arrive there. The landscape from this place is one of the most surprising in the whole place.

What is the Intipunku?

The Intipunku is the name by which the old entrance and exit gate of Machu Picchu is known. This enclosure was built in the upper part of the Inca city because from there you could have a panoramic view of the entire environment. It consists of walls, windows, niches carved in good quality. This checkpoint is now where the tourists who make the famous Inca Trail enter (hiking route of 4 days and 3 nights). Currently the entrance door to the Inca archaeological site is in the lower part. Therefore, to get to Intipunku, you must do a short uphill walk of approximately 2 kilometers.

What does your name mean?

Intipunku comes from a Quechua word, the language of the Incas, which means ‘Sun Gate.

Where is? How high is it?

The Intipunku is to the south east, in the highest part and that watches over the archaeological site of Machu Picchu, Cusco – Peru. It is located at 2,745 meters above sea level (9,005 feet of altitude).

Map from Machu Picchu to Intipunku

How to get?

You can reach the Intipunku by taking the almost 2-kilometer walk from Machu Picchu. This route is following the steps of the Inca trail. It takes 1 hour or more, depending on the physical capacity of each visitor. After arriving, tourists cannot continue advancing along the Inca route that leaves from Machupicchu. Therefore, they will have to return to the archaeological site, after visiting the ‘Sun Gate’.

The other way to get there is through the famous Inca Trail route to Machu Picchu, which lasts 4 days and nights. On the last day in the morning, tourists arrive in the Inca city through the ‘Sun Gate’, as the Incas originally did. Then they must descend to the archaeological site and visit the other constructions. According to many visitors who have made this route, seeing Machupicchu for the first time through the Intipunku is an unforgettable experience.


The Intipunku, along with Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail route, were built on the orders of Emperor Pachacutec during the 15th century. The purpose was to expand the limits of the empire that later reached part of the current countries of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia. In Inca times, this construction was guarded by guards.

After the arrival of the Spanish to Cusco in 1533, Machu Picchu was gradually abandoned until it was covered by thick vegetation. In 1911, with the arrival of the American explorer Hiram Bingham and the subsequent news of the existence of Machu Picchu in the world, the Intipunku was recovered and the Inca roads were slowly restored. Today, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the most famous hiking trails in the entire world. The Intipunku is the final destination of this walk.

Intipunku architecture

The Intipunku is made up of various structures such as walls, windows, niches, doors, and even platforms. The arrangement of this structure was built following a perfect alignment of the sun’s rays, especially during the summer solstices. Because of this, it is believed that its function was religious. In addition, the main Inca temples were located in the highest part of the mountains. However, because it is the first meeting point with the Inca road network, for most researchers, it was the main entrance gate to Machu Picchu. Today, from there you have a viewpoint from where you can see the mountains, rivers and, above all, the Inca city of Machupicchu.

How to visit it?

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu – The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is the most difficult way to visit the Intipunku. However, for many, it is also the most incredible way to do it. This hike lasts 4 days and 3 nights. It travels a total of 39 kilometers of roads built by the Incas many years ago. The final destination is the Inca city of Machu Picchu, where you arrive on the morning of day 4. The entrance is not through where most tourists enter, but through the Intipunku, the ancient entrance gate used by the Incas. According to many people, appreciating the Inca city through the Puerta del Sol with the first lights of the morning is a unique spectacle in the world.

Short walk to Intipunku – Tourists who visit Machu Picchu in the most usual way, that is, entering with their entrance ticket through the main door, have to do a short walk to visit the Intipunku. This route is approximately 2 kilometers. Follow a flight of stairs and trails, always uphill. That route is part of the famous Inca trail. After approximately 1 or 2 hours of walking, you will finally reach Puerta del Sol. During the route you will also appreciate the flora and fauna of the wonder of the world, such as: hummingbirds, butterflies, orchids, cock of the rocks, vizcachas and even the spectacled bear. Then they will have to return to Machu Picchu to visit the rest of the buildings.

How much?

The entrance to the Intipunku is free for all the people who visit Machu Picchu. However, to carry out this route you must buy your ticket to Machu Picchu, which has a general cost of 152 Peruvian soles (approximately 47 US dollars). Another option is to take a tour that includes everything you need: transportation, tour guide, tickets, etc. For example, the cost of a 1-day tour to Machu Picchu is approximately $ 290.

The other way to visit the Intipunku is by doing the 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This route also includes transportation, food, camping equipment, chargers, tour guide, entrance fees, and more. The cost of this service is approximately US $ 500 per person.

Hours of Operation

The Intipunku is within Machu Picchu. The Inca city is open every day of the year from 6 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon. Sun Gate can be visited any day. Tourists can stay at the top until 1pm at the latest. Then they must descend to the Inca archaeological site.

When is the best time to go?

For many tourists who have already visited the Intipunku, the best time to do this walk is during the months of the dry season, that is, May, June, July, August, September and October. On those days there is little chance of rain so the walk can be done without problems. Above all, once at the top, you will be able to appreciate the entire landscape of Machupicchu as there will be no clouds that impede the view.

Some things to know

The Intipunku is an optional route within Machu Picchu. That is, no tour guide in group service does this tour. Only the main constructions of the archaeological site are visited, such as the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of the Condor, the Main Square, the Sacred Rock, etc. If you want to visit the Intipunku you must get a private tour guide or go on your own without a guide.

From the top of Intipunku you can appreciate the best panoramic views of Machu Picchu. However, on rainy days, clouds can prevent you from seeing this landscape. In Cusco it can rain any day of the year. However, the months with the most possibility of rain are: January, February and March.

Many people enter Machu Picchu early to climb the Intipunku and appreciate the sunrise in the wonder of the world. This is difficult because the Inca city only opens at 6 in the morning, when the first rays of the sun are visible. On the other hand, tourists who do the Inca Trail do have the opportunity to see that spectacle since they arrive before the Inca city.

The roads that lead to Puerta del Sol are safe. No one has slipped or fallen off the roads. Therefore, entry is allowed to tourists of all ages. The hike can be a bit demanding for children and older adults. However, it is not impossible at all.

Some advices

The Intipunku is almost 300 meters higher than Machu Picchu. At that altitude the tourist can suffer some of the symptoms of ‘soroche’, also called altitude sickness. The most common symptoms are nausea, fatigue, headache. To overcome them easily, it is advisable to spend 1 or 2 days in the city of Cusco before visiting Machupicchu and Sun Gate. The discomforts usually disappear gradually.

When you make the walk to Intipunku, do not forget to take a backpack with you where you can store rehydrating water, snacks, raincoat, cap or hat, camera and your personal documents. It is best to do this walk with comfortable shoes, preferably mountaineering.

The route to Sun Gate is not the only optional walk in Machu Picchu. You can also take the short route (only 30 minutes) to the Inca Bridge. Other options are the Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu mountains. Only that these routes are done yes or yes with a different entrances that include these summits.

Photos of the Intipunku

Inti Punku
Inti Punku
Inti Punku
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