The Machu Picchu museum is also known as the Manuel Chavez Ballon Site Museum (named after the famous archaeologist of the same name) is located at the Puente Ruinas, approximately 2.2 kilometres (a 30 minute walk) from Machu Picchu town. Other than a visit to the Machu Picchu citadel itself, this museum is possibly one of the best places to visit while in Machu Picchu to really get an understanding of the history and importance of these ruins which you don’t get at the citadel itself.
The museum is made up of a series of rooms with interactive and colourful displays with lots of interesting facts about Machu Picchu like how they constructed the impressive stone terraces to create micro-climates for agriculture and how all building were designed to get maximum sunlight which was an important sacred element for the Incas.
The museum has some nice artifacts such as an original National Geographic magazine published in April 1913 that was dedicated entirely to showcasing Hiram Bingham’s discovery of Machu Picchu as well as copies of letters from the Peruvian government authorising Hiram Bingham’s team to take artifacts to Yale University for analysis for a period of 18 months only. These artifacts were finally returned to Peru in 2011.
Most displays are in both Spanish and English although some photos and letters are in Spanish only. The self-guided visit of the museum takes between 1 – 1.5 hours depending on how much reading you like to do. You can also ask at the ticket desk for them to play one of the videos on Machu Picchu in the video room.
Adjacent to the museum is a botanical garden with 402 species of plants representative of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary including some varieties of orchids. Access to the botanic garden is down a series of steep Inca steps embedded in the rock wall.
This is definitely a must do activity for any visitor interested in getting a further insight into Machu Picchu.