Yes, the great wonder of Machu Picchu may well qualify for my list of the best travel things to do the world over… if I ever to get round to compiling such a list that is!
And to think I almost missed it.
Yup hard to believe now, but my dislike of crowded tourist spots almost had me missing Machu Picchu, until my wonderful Instagram followers saved me!
After putting the question to them about whether I should or shouldn’t visit Machu Picchu whilst I was in Peru, they overwhelmingly voted that I should, and so it was off to see this UNESCO-listed beauty I went.
And, it’s at this point that I’d like to thank those followers for I do believe they may have saved some serious disappointment, if not a little embarrassment too!
For MP (as I like to informally refer to her now we’re acquainted) is truly one of the most amazing and memorable places I’ve ever been.. and the crowds weren’t even that bad.
So if you’re debating about heading to this Peruvian prize-winner then I’ve got 2 things to say to you.
#2 Here’s How…
Cue music and my full guide on how to get to Machu Picchu in Peru, which includes 5 options AND everything you need to know about your trip there, including entrance ticket buying, tour vs independent travel, costs, routes and lots of secret expert tips!
I know, you know, it’s all you need…
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Visiting Machu Picchu – The Basics
Before I launch into the different ways you can get to Machu Picchu however, I want to start with a little intro about visiting this New Wonder of the World.
And that’s because giving you a bit of background info, will ensure the rest of this article makes a lot more sense.
First up, you need to have an entrance ticket to visit Machu Picchu – this applies whether you’re heading there independently or as part of an organised excursion.
To control crowds and protect the site, the Peruvian government has also introduced time slots with limits on the number of visitors allowed to enter the site at each slot.
This means that when you buy your ticket (or your tour does so on your behalf), you need to know exactly the date and time (down to the hour) you want to enter the site.
You’ll also need to book your Machu Picchu entrance tickets in advance.
Learn more about this in the entrance tickets section further on in this article.
Your entrance ticket gets you into the site of Machu Picchu – the kind of reserve that houses the ruins if you will.
This is separate from any hiking permits, transport tickets and accommodation reservations you might need to get there.
Because Machu Picchu lies deep in the Andes, how you get there will largely determine the sort of experience you have – the costs, the adventure, the comfort, the length of time etc.
These is exactly where the following 5 options of how to get to Machu Picchu come in.
Most of them take up multiple days of your Peru itinerary, leave from Cusco and involve overnight stops – either camping in the Andes and / or nights in the town at the foot of Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes.
To get from Aguas Calientes to the Machu Picchu site itself you must walk a little way out of the town until you hit the bottom site gate where you must show your ticket.
From here you can either take a shuttle bus (additional cost of around $24 USD for a return adult ticket) or walk about 1-2 hours uphill to reach the top gate and official entrance to MP.
Again, more on this in the Aguas Calientes section further on in this article.
Word is going around that guides have been mandatory to enter the Machu Picchu site since 2017. However when I visited at the end of 2019, there’s was absolutely no evidence of this.
Indeed, I didn’t even know this rule existed!
As such, I think it’s safe to safe you can dismiss this rule, but if you do want to take a guide one can be found at the second site entrance – the one at the top of the hill.
Or you can book a guide, entrance ticket and shuttle bus combination package, in advance, here.
You have 4 hours to explore Machu Picchu from the time printed on your entrance ticket and once within the site itself, there’s a set route to follow around the ruins, which keeps the movement of human traffic flowing!
It does also mean you should take photos there and then, as you won’t be able to return to that point or view once you’ve moved on.
So now, with the basics out the way, let’s push on with the 5 main ways to get to Machu Picchu – what they involve, how much they cost as well as the pros and cons.
#1 The Classic Way – Inca Trail
I’m calling this the classic way, because it’s probably the most famous and before I’d really researched anything about how to get to Machu Picchu, it was the only way I’d heard of.
Yes the classic Inca Trail used to be the most popular way to get to Machu Picchu and is probably the oldest, as it follows exactly what it suggests it does – ancient Inca trails that criss-cross the Andes to get to MP.
As you would imagine, it involves a lot of stairs, steep inclines and descents over a 48km altitude stretch that involve hiking over 3 mountain passes (including the famous Dead Woman’s Pass) and camping for 3 nights in designated spots along the trail.
A 4 day hike from Cusco, the Inca Trail allows you to enter the Machu Picchu ruins from the top end, which means you avoid having to spend the night in Aguas Calientes and you get to watch sunrise over ruins.
It remains the only option that still operates this way.
Tours for the Inca Trail (because you must take a tour for this one) begin in Cusco, from where you’ll be transported on the morning of Day 1 to the trailhead.
Tours then end on the afternoon of Day 4 in Aguas Calientes – the town at the bottom of the Machu Picchu site – but do not include a night here unless you have opted for a 5 day Inca Trail tour.
From Aguas Calientes, you’ll then board the train back to Cusco – learn more about the train in option #2 below. Train tickets may or may not be included in your package, so do check this.
Due to massive demand and environmental degradation on the trail as a result of its popularity, number limits have been strictly imposed now meaning the Inca Trail, as an option to get to Machu Picchu, books out months in advance.
Booking must be made through a tour agency, who lead the trek and organise the permit and the ticket for MP for you.
If you want to use this method to get to the ruins you must be very organised (think booking 6 months) and have a lot of money.
The prices of this trail, especially in high season, can be over $700 USD per person.
It’s worth knowing that although recent regulations have limited visitor numbers, the Inca Trail is still far from crowd-free!
You also need to know that in February the Inca Trail is closed for repairs.
With all that said however, this does remain a classic option and, if you have your bucket-list sights set on it, plus you want to see sunrise over Machu Picchu, it’s the only route for you.
Inca Trail Pros: Bucket List Favourite, Only Way to Enter MP at Sunrise, All Organisation Taken Care Of, Hiking Involved
Inca Trail Cons: Very Expensive, Need to Book Well in Advance, Lots of Steps Involved, Little Flexibility, Closed in February
#2 The Luxury Way – By Train
The train route to get to Machu Picchu is the one that’s most accessible, due to the fact it involves little to no walking.
It can also be said that catching the Machu Picchu train is the luxury way to do things around here!
There’s 2 train companies that operate this route – Inca Rail and Peru Rail – both use the same tracks, but the major difference between the 2 companies is their departure points.
Check out Bookaway, a great travel site that allows you to compare all the different train journeys that get you to Machu Picchu.
Peru Rail is the only company to depart from Cusco – ok, well it actually departs from a small town called Poroy outside of Cusco, which you’ll need to take a bus or a taxi too, but you get my point.
Peru Rail trains also depart from the Sacred Valley towns of Ollantaytambo and Urubamba – which you should visit too FYI!
There are 4 different classes of train tickets on this service, with the cheapest being the Expedition class.
Tickets can be booked on the Peru Rail website with an international credit card or at their offices in Cusco where cash and card are accepted.
As a rough guide, an adult Expedition class return ticket from Cusco to Machu Picchu (aka Poroy to Aguas Calientes) starts from around $150 USD.
Alternatively, an adult Expedition class return ticket from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu (aka to Aguas Calientes) starts from around $110 USD.
If you feel like upgrading to the Vistadome class and are having trouble booking on the Peru Rail website (as can sometimes happen), you can buy tickets here as an alternative.
It is worth noting that departures from Cusco / Poroy are far more limited, both in times and by the class, when compared to an Ollantaytambo departure point.
Also useful to know is that Poroy station is usually inaccessible during the rainy season in Peru (Nov-Mar).
For this reason, and because most people want to visit the ruins at Ollantaytambo anyway, the majority of travellers pick up the train from this station instead.
From Ollantaytambo, the train follows the tracks to Aguas Calientes – the town at the foot of the Machu Picchu site – and takes just under 2 hours.
Inca rail services run only from the Sacred Valley town of Ollantaytambo.
Again they have 4 classes and ticket prices vary accordingly.
Learn more, and book, via the Inca Rail website.
As a guide, prices starting from around $75 USD one way from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes.
Again, the train follows the same tracks as Peru Rail to Aguas Calientes, taking just under 2 hours, although I have heard reports that the carriages are not as clean, new and comfortable as those of Peru Rail.
Train Arrival in Aguas Calientes
When you arrive in Aguas Calientes, you can basically roll off the train and reach the bottom ticket gate for Machu Picchu.
From there, you can either walk up to the MP ruins – around 1-2 hours uphill – or buy a ticket to board the shuttle bus that will take up the hill in comfort instead.
Tickets for the shuttle bus cost around $24 USD for an adult return ticket and run every 15 minutes.
While you don’t need to buy shuttle bus tickets ahead of time, you can do so in Cusco (at the Banco Interbank on #380, Avenida El Sol) if you wish.
You can also book shuttle bus tickets online in advance.
Both these options will save you the queuing in Aguas Calientes – a great tip if you visiting Machu Picchu during high season.
Walking or taking the shuttle bus will get you to the top entrance of Machu Picchu, where you’ll show your ticket again and enter the ruins.
You can pick up a guide at this point too if you like.
Or save yourself some hassle and opt for a small package – which includes your entrance ticket, shuttle bus and guide to the ruins. You can book this online in advance here.
Independently Booking Train Travel to Machu Picchu
If you’re booking the train independently, you’ll need to ensure the times match your MP entrance ticket – allowing for queues and delays.
You’ll also need to plan your route, so here’s options for you to decide on.
You’ll need to arrange getting to Ollantaytambo from Cusco and likely, your accommodation in Ollantaytambo for the night before you board the train.
If you need to stay in Ollantayambo, I highly recommend Mama Simona hostel. It has a beautiful garden, lounge area as well as kitchen and offers private ensuite and dorm rooms in a top location.
While in Ollantayambo, I highly suggest you explore the ruins there.
Catch the train to Aguas Calientes, for which you have 4 options:
- Day 2: Visit Machu Picchu & Catch Train Straight Back to Ollantaytambo & Then Bus to Cusco
- Day 2: Visit Machu Picchu & Catch Train Straight Back to Ollantaytambo & Stay Another Night There. Day 3: Bus to Cusco
- Day 2: Visit Machu Picchu & Spend the Night in Aguas Calientes. Day 3: Catch Train Back to Ollantaytambo & Then Bus to Cusco
- Day 2: Spend Day & Night in Aguas Calientes. Day 3: Visit Machu Picchu & Catch Train Back to Ollantaytambo & Then Bus to Cusco
Which option you go for when booking your train trip independently will largely depend on the time of your MP entrance ticket and how many days you have to spare in your itinerary.
Or you can actually use the train to take a day trip to Machu Picchu from Cusco – it’s the only option that allows for this.
This is a long day, where you would need to set off super early as the journey would look like:
- Depart Cusco Early – Bus to Ollantaytambo
- Train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes
- Shuttle Bus Up to Machu Picchu
- Explore Machu Picchu
- Shuttle Bus Down to Aguas Calientes
- Train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo
- Bus from Ollantaytambo to Cusco
Train Travel Tour to Machu Picchu
As you can tell however, there’s lots of options and flexibility with the train, although you’ll need to sort all this out + the costs too.
For many people, this is too much organisation, so they prefer to use a tour company to organise their visit to Machu Picchu via train.
Tours via the train to Machu Picchu will arrange all the logistics and pay for all the separate elements of the trip, meaning you just have to pay a single cost.
Train Option Pros: Tie in with a visit to the Sacred Valley, Can Arrange Through a Tour Company, Makes Seeing MP Accessible to More People, Lots of Flexibility, Can Do as a Day Trip
Train Option Cons: No Hiking, Expensive, Need to Book in Advance, Many Elements to Arrange if Booking Independently
#3 The Cheap Way – By Bus
But stick with me here because, in hindsight, I was actually delighted I opted for this route as it included a bit of everything and offered a lot of possibilities.
When it comes to how to get to Machu Picchu the cheapest way, the answer is the bus!
But this isn’t just any old bus, it’s a designated bus.
Plus this route just doesn’t include a bus, it includes a walk too – 2 for 1!
One of the reasons this route is the cheapest is because it doesn’t involve any tour, so if you like your travel independent (comme moi!) this could be the option for you.
All you need to do for this option is buy your Machu Picchu entrance ticket online, or in person (learn more about how to do this in the entrance ticket section later on) and then buy your bus ticket for the day before your entrance ticket slot.
Bus tickets can be arranged through almost every travel agency in Cusco and cost around $13 USD for an adult return – cheap!
PLEASE NOTE! This is a totally separate ticket to the shuttle bus ticket that gets you up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes. The bus ticket I’m talking about here gets you from your accommodation in Cusco to Hidroelectrica.
Book your return bus ticket back from Hidroelectrica to Cusco for either the day you visit Machu Picchu or the day after, by choosing from one of the following itinerary options:
Bus to Machu Picchu Option A
Day 1: Bus from Cusco to Hidroelectrica. Walk to Aguas Calientes. Spend night in Aguas Calientes.
Day 2: Visit Machu Picchu. Walk to Hidroelectrica. Return by bus to Cusco.
Bus to Machu Picchu Option B
Day 1: Bus from Cusco to Hidroelectrica. Walk to Aguas Calientes. Spend night in Aguas Calientes.
Day 2: Visit Machu Picchu and then spend another night in Aguas Calientes, enjoying the hot springs etc. This is the only option if you have an afternoon entrance ticket for MP, as you won’t have enough time to walk back and catch the bus to Cusco on day 2.
Day 3: Return by bus to Cusco.
Arranging Bus to Machu Picchu Itinerary
Option B presents the more chilled option because the thing with the bus is that there’s a hike involved.
A 2-3 hour hike to be precise.
After the bus leaves Cusco at around 8am, it takes you about 6 hours to reach Hidroelectrica around 2-3pm – which is essentially a hydroelectric dam where the road ends.
This is why you then have to walk the rest of the distance to Aguas Calientes and will arrive there around 4-5pm, meaning you don’t have enough time to visit Machu Picchu that day.
The walk is flat and easy – you follow the railway line, so you can’t really get lost – but I do suggest bringing snacks, water etc.
And on that note, it’s worth pointing out you should only bring a small pack with you on this option because you don’t want to lug a heavy bag around with you, trust me.
Instead, leave your main bag at your Cusco hostel – see my recommended list of Cusco hostels here.
The time of your entrance ticket for Machu Picchu the next day will determine what time you get up on day 2 and also whether you can take the bus back to Cusco that day too or whether you must spend another night in Aguas Calientes.
So you don’t have to carry your bag around the MP ruins (because if you’re getting the bus back the same day you’ll also have to take all your stuff when you leave your accommodation at Aguas Calientes in the morning), most people opt to stay a second night here.
This is also a more chilled option because after walking around MP all day, you might not feel like a 2 hours walk back to Hidroelectrica as well.
If, after the walk from Hidroelectrica on day 1, you don’t feel like walking up to MP from Aguas Calientes on day 2 – yes this another hour uphill – then book onto one of the shuttle buses. You can do this in Aguas Calientes or online in advance here to save the queueing.
If you want to save yourself even more hassle, you can also opt for a small package – which includes your entrance ticket, shuttle bus and guide to the ruins. You can book this online in advance here.
You’ll also need to book your accommodation in Aguas Calientes for the 1-2 nights.
I highly recommend Supertramp Hostel here FYI.
As is clear, you’ll have to organise all parts of the excursion yourself if you opt for the bus route to Machu Picchu because tours don’t do this, but this does keep prices down.
So just to recap, with the bus to Machu Picchu options you’ll need to arrange:
- Machu Picchu Entrance Ticket
- Return Bus Ticket to Hidroelectrica
- 1-2 Nights Accommodation in Aguas Calientes
- Luggage Storage in Cusco
- Snacks & Water for the Walk
Bus Option Pros: Cheap, Flexible, Includes Walking, Can Do in 2 Days
Bus Option Cons: Includes Hiking, Need to Arrange Yourself, Need to Carry Pack
#4 The Active Way – Salkantay Trek
The next option on this list of how to get to Machu Picchu is what I’m calling the active way, because it involves a tough trek.
In fact, there’s a few treks to choose from (outside of the Inca Trail) that involve getting to Machu Picchu, but here I’m selecting the most popular.
The Salkantay trek is a 5 day hike that is renowned for being quite a tough way to get to Machu Picchu.
It runs for 74km at high altitude and although it doesn’t have the number of steps that the Inca Trail does, it’s still got plenty of steep ascents and inclines, across passes and visits 2 sets of Inca ruins.
Even though it’s less well known than the Inca Trail, and therefore thought to be more off the beaten track, it’s not!
Yup, this is still one of the most popular hikes to make in Peru and there’s many groups going every day.
However the beauty of the Andean scenery it affords, in particular the high altitude lakes it passes, are pretty amazing.
You can make this hike with or without a guide – it just depends how confident and competent you are.
Taking a tour will ensure you have a guide and a group with you.
It will also mean your stuff (such as tent, food and cooking equipment etc) gets carried – the major advantage in my eyes.
The downside of taking a tour for this route is costs and crowds.
The Salkantay Trek starts from a town called Mollepata, 100km away from Cusco – if you take a tour, transport here will be included. If you’re going independently you’ll need to make your own way here.
You’ll camp the rest of the nights along the trek in the Andes, with the 3rd night spent near Santa Teresa – a spot with hot springs.
Feb 2020 Update: Landslides near Santa Teresa, which caused a lot of damage and temporarily rendered the path unusable, have been reported.
From Santa Teresa, you’ll continue to Hidroelectirca and then walk the railway track to Aguas Calientes in the same way those taking option #3 (the bus route) will do.
You’ll spend your 4th night in Aguas Calientes.
On day 5, you head to the Machu Picchu ruins, like the bus route guys would as well.
Once you’ve seen MP however, you’ll take the train straight back to Cusco.
If you want to take a guided group trek along the Salkantay route prices start from around $350 USD, but this doesn’t include the train ticket for the return journey.
Check out this top-rated Salkantay Trek tour which has more details about the day-by-day itinerary, what is and isn’t included and what to expect.
If you want to include the one-way train journey in the price of your Salkantay tour, check out this small group option.
Salkantay Trek Pros: Hiking, Can Arrange Through a Tour Company, Many Options
Salkantay Trek Cons: Can Be Expensive, Takes 4-5 Days
If the Salkantay Trek sounds a bit hardcore for you, but the Inca trail is too expensive, then the Lares Trail is another great hike you can enjoy that goes from the Cusco area to the Machu Picchu area.
Check out this 4 Day Lares Trek for more info.
Prices start from around $300 USD.
If you feel like the Salkantay Trek isn’t hardcore enough for you, then the Choquequirao Trek, with the added Machu Picchu section should do it!
The Choquequirao Trek visits a hidden Inca citadel that you can currently only get to on foot.
I did this trek over 4 days and loved it.
Learn more here.
Instead of looping back to return to Cusco on Day 3 & 4 of this trek however, you can continue onto Machu Picchu from the Choquequirao ruins on an 8-9 day adventure.
I think this would be amazing!
Inca Jungle Trek
There’s also an Inca Jungle Trail option to consider, which is basically a multi-adventure tour that takes 3-4 days and includes not only hiking, but also biking and rafting through the Andean forest.
Prices start from around $250 USD.
Check out this well-reviewed option – you’ll want to make sure you go with a safe operator for this.
#5 The Tour Way – See More of Peru Too!
And finally, you can visit Machu Picchu on a tour.
I know we’ve covered the fact that some of the options above include a tour option, but all of these run from Cusco i.e. they are shorter tours focused around MP specifically.
Alternatively, of course, you can take a tour that organises your visit to Machu Picchu as part of an overall Peru package.
This really does take all the hassle out of organising any part of the excursion, including the ticket buying, accommodation finding and the wheres and hows of getting to Cusco.
Machu Picchu Tours from Lima
These Machu Picchu tours from Lima are a great option if you don’t want to organise anything, because they’ll begin as soon as your international flight arrives into Lima, making things very safe and easy.
- 12 Day Peru Tour: Includes Inca Trail to Machu Picchu as well as time in the Amazon
- 11 Day Peru Tour: Includes Train Option to Machu Picchu as well as time in Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Pros: Everything Arranged Through a Tour Company, Many Options
Cons: Can Be Expensive, Little Flexibility
Machu Picchu Entrance Tickets
So, once you’ve wrapped your head around how to get to Machu Picchu, you should now be clear about whether you need to buy your ticket for the Machu Picchu site or not.
If you’re taking a tour here, and aren’t clear whether you need to buy a ticket or not, be sure to ask.
You’ll need to know the date and time (down to the hour) of your intended entrance into the MP site.
Types of Tickets
There’s 3 types of Machu Picchu entrance tickets:
- Machu Picchu Ruins Only. Cost from $45 USD. Book 2-3 days in advance.
- Machu Picchu Ruins + Huayna Picchu Mountain Combo Ticket. Cost from $60 USD. Book 2-3 months in advance.
- Machu Picchu Ruins + Machu Picchu Mountain Combo Ticket. Cost from $60 USD. Book 2-3 weeks in advance.
Tickets are limited as only 2500 people are allowed into the MP ruins each day.
This means, within each time slot, there’s roughly 300 places for the ruin only tickets and even less for the ruins + mountain tickets – which only have just 3 times slots per mountain per day to choose from.
Popular time slots can sell out quickly, especially in peak travel months – see the below section about the best time to visit Machu Picchu for more details.
What Entrance Time to Choose?
When it comes to choosing your Machu Picchu entrance time slot, I highly suggest selecting the 6am option if you can – this will allow you to see sunrise within the site… or near enough.
With a 6am ticket, you have from 6am until 7am to reach the bottom gate at Machu Picchu.
If there’s no space left for the 6am window, the 7am entrance slot is the next best one.
With a 7am ticket, you have from 7am until 8am to reach the bottom gate at Machu Picchu.
After your entrance time (whatever it is) you then have 4 hours to explore the site. So if you have a 6am ticket, you must leave by 10am.
Inevitably this isn’t well-policed however, so another of the reasons I suggest choosing the early ticket slots is because there’s simply less people in the site then.
At 6am, there’s only 300 people in Machu Picchu.
At 7am, there’s only 600.
After that, it goes up each hour by roughly 300 people.
The early time slots also allow you access to both the Huayna Picchu Mountain and Machu Picchu Mountain, because access to these mountains is only allowed through a small handful of slots in the morning.
Again there’s set entrance times for the mountains i.e. with a 6am entrance ticket, you can access either Huayna Picchu Mountain or Machu Picchu Mountain from 7am.
With a 7am entrance ticket, you can access either Huayna Picchu Mountain or Machu Picchu Mountain from 8am.
Scaling whichever mountain you have access to, also needs to be completed within the 4 hours total visiting time you have in the whole Machu Picchu site.
You can book your Machu Picchu entrance tickets online via the official website, or in-person in Cusco and Aguas Calientes at designated offices where you can pay with cash or card.
The offices are as follows:
- Cusco – Ministerio de Cultura, Casa Garcilaso. Open Mon – Sat from 7am – 8pm.
- Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu Cultural Centre, Avenide Pachacutec. Open Mon – Sun from 5am – 10 pm.
Finally, you can also buy tickets in any Peruvian City at a branch of the Banco de Nacion.
You need to have your passport handy whenever you buy a ticket and know the date and time of the required entrance.
When booking online via the official website, ensure you make a note of the reservation number in case of any problems.
It’s also best to print your ticket out to ensure there’s no problems at the MP entrance gate.
The official ticket website accepts both Mastercard and Visa cards, but can be a little temperamental.
If you’re having problems, you can also book Machu Picchu entrance tickets online via GetYourGuide – it costs a little more but it works!
Showing Your Ticket
It’s a good idea to have a printed ticket to show at the entrance to Machu Picchu. You’ll also need your passport to prove your identity.
First off, you’ll have to show your ticket at the bottom gate.
From here you can either take the shuttle bus up the hill to the ruins (you should buy your shuttle bus ticket before the gate) or cross the bridge and begin your walk uphill to the ruins!
Once the bus, or your legs, reach the top, there’s then a second gate where you must again show your passport and ticket to enter the ruins.
It’s here you can pick up a guide for the site if you wish.
Now a quick word about Aguas Calientes – the town which almost everyone heading to or from Machu Picchu will pass through.
Aguas Calientes is the access town for these famous ruins – as such it’s pretty touristy, but does have a certain charm about it too.
If you’re a tourist, it’s only accessible by train or on foot.
When staying in Aguas Calientes, I highly recommend Supertramp – an amazing hostel with both dorms and private rooms.
With some great staff, as well as a fun terrace bar and restaurant, this spot has everything you need – including breakfast from 4am, which is ideal for those heading off to Machu Picchu for the 6am entrance slot.
There’s a lot of restaurants in Aguas Calientes where you can enjoy dinner / lunch, as well as shops where you can buy snacks and water etc.
There’s also some hot springs here – the perfect spot to relax if you’re staying a night in Aguas Calientes after your visit to MP.
From Aguas Calientes, it takes around half an hour to walk to the bottom ticket gate of Machu Picchu, near where the train station / shuttle bus depot is.
If you have a 6am Machu Picchu entrance ticket therefore, I suggest the following schedule:
4am: Breakfast at Supertramp Hostel
4:30am: Walk to bottom MP gate
5am: Arrive at MP bottom ticket gate, pass through ticket check and begin walk up to the top MP gate
6:15am: Arrive at MP top ticket gate, leave any big luggage at secure lockers, pass through ticket check and enter ruins
10am: Leave Ruins
11am: Reach bottom gate again and either take train or walk to Hidroelectrica
Remember, if you don’t want to walk up from the bottom MP entrance gate to the top one, you can take the shuttle bus instead.
Tickets are available to buy in Aguas Calientes or, to save yourself queueing, you can also book them online in advance.
How to Get to Machu Picchu from Lima?
If you want to take a tour from Lima to Machu Picchu, then check out option #5 I’ve written about above.
Otherwise, if you’re making your own way from Lima to Cusco, you can opt to take a domestic flight or a bus.
Check out Skyscanner for the best prices on domestic flights plying this route.
For buses, do bear in mind, this is a LONG journey, so I really recommend a luxury bus company like Cruz Del Sur.
When To Visit?
In general however, the best time to visit Cusco is during the dry season in the Andes aka winter in Peru, which runs largely from the months of May through to October.
Peak season is July and August – this is when the crowds will be heaviest, so I’d avoid these months.
I visited Machu Picchu in October and actually found it ideal, as there were less tourists (because it was shoulder season) but it was not yet too cold or wet.
That said, it can, of course, rain any time of year at this altitude, so maybe it was just luck!
What to Pack?
Here’s a quick checklist of the things you should take when visiting Machu Picchu:
- LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle
- Natural Insect Repellent
- Natural Sunscreen
- Light Rain Jacket
- Comfortable Walking Shoes
- Sun hat / Cap
- Hiking Trousers / Leggings
- T-Shirt & Long-Sleeved Layer
- Sony A6000 Camera
Learn more in my tried and tested Peru packing list.
There is something very important you need to know about Machu Picchu and that is, altitude!
Being in the Andes and situated 2400m+ above sea level, Machu Picchu is high and altitude sickness is a real and serious thing here, especially if you are undertaking any of the treks to MP that you have you ascending and camping at heights greater than this.
As such you must, ABSOLUTELY MUST, take altitude issues seriously when you come to Machu Picchu and spend at least 1 day in Cusco (better 2) acclimatising before attempting any hiking or excursions.
This is especially true if you’ve come from the coast i.e. Lima, as you must allow your body to get used to the lower levels of oxygen up in the Andes before attempting any serious exertion.
I’ve had altitude sickness myself in Ecuador and can definitely attest it is not nice.
In fact, it can be very serious and sometimes lead to hospitalisation and even death.
Do not take this issue lightly when travelling to Machu Picchu and if you start to suffer any symptoms then take the necessary precautions.
You can learn more about altitude sickness, what causes it, what the symptoms are and how to avoid or treat it in this useful article.
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Woah, what a mammoth post!
Now you should have all the info you need about how to get to Machu Picchu, as well as the details to make your trip there a success!
Still got questions?
Then pop them into the comments box below and I’ll do my best to answer.