Do You Need a Guide in Machu Picchu?
My neighbor went to Machu Picchu about a month before I did. His partner is a genius at Internet research and vacation planning, so they went on their own. In contrast, my dad and I signed up for a guided tour.
Later that summer, my neighbor and I compared notes over a glass of wine. We had many of the same stunning photos of Machu Picchu. They had discovered a hidden gem restaurant in Aguas Calientes that my dad and I missed when we opted for the buffet at our hotel. My neighbor and I were both satisfied with the quality and the ambience of our hotel accommodations.
They had the freedom to come and go as they pleased. We, however, reaped the rewards of the years of study our guides had undertaken. We learned why the Incas had constructed their doorways in a trapezoidal shape. We found out how the niches in the stone walls were used. We learned the significance of different birds and animals in the Andean religion. Understanding what we were seeing and what it meant really enriched the experience for me.
Tour guides in Peru must complete a rigorous program of study. They take classes to learn about the history, geography, birds, insects, and mammals of an area. They visit archeological sites with their teachers where they must pass practical exams. They go on treks, often at their own expense, so they can get a sense of the best way to guide a group through the terrain.
And, it doesn’t end there. Continuing education on a yearly basis is considered essential to successful guiding. Guides also have first aid training, which can really come in handy at high altitudes. I can attest to this as I fainted at Sacsayhuaman on my first visit to Cusco.
So, yes, I’d say spending money on a guided tour in Peru is an investment worth making.