A trip to Peru is not complete without visiting Machu Picchu. It attracts archaeologists, photographers, and adventurers, as well as travelers who are dying to cross it off their bucket list.
Machu Picchu’s elevation is 2,430 m (7,972 feet) – which makes it quite impressive (acute mountain height sickness can occur).
If you want to visit Machu Picchu in Peru, here is everything you need to know.
How do I get to Machu Picchu in Peru?
Visiting Machu Picchu isn’t cheap (although you can do Machu Picchu on a budget). From 2021
With the train ticket to Machu Picchu Pueblo, formerly known as Aguas Calientes, for $ 98 round-trip and one night, it easily adds up to over $ 200. Machu Picchu visitors usually leave Cusco (read all about things to do in Cusco).
From there, a visitor has the following options to reach Machu Picchu:
Hiking the Inca Trail is an alternative to hopping in and a great way to arrive if you see the city through the Sun Gate first (rather than arriving from below by bus). Both the four-day and two-day walks are controlled by the government. Travelers should be fit enough to run and sleep in tents for days.
A hiker can also follow the train tracks all the way to Machu Picchu. There is only one lane that goes from Machu Picchu train station in Cusco so it’s easy. It takes about four days and you just have to pay to enter. Recent regulations require reservations and the hiring of a professional tour guide to accompany you on the hike.
You can also take the less popular Inca Jungle Trail.
Walking along the railroad tracks
Although this route is technically illegal, the law is only enforced at the Inca Trail checkpoint at kilometer 82. To get to Machu Picchu on this route, depart from Ollantaytambo in the early morning, between 5am and 5:30 am. You will likely need to make arrangements in advance for a taxi to take you to km. 82, as not many taxis are currently in use. Once you have reached kilometer 82, follow the trail of Ollantaytambo.
The trip takes about 30 kilometers, but since the ground is flat it is pretty quick. Rest assured to come to Aguas Calientes sometime after lunch and before dinner. It is then recommended to get a hostel the next day and visit the ruins. It should be emphasized that this method of travel is technically illegal, but for a budget traveler looking for adventure, this is the best choice.
Train to Machu Picchu
Most often, take the PeruRail train to Machu Picchu in the morning, explore the ruins for a few hours, and then return to Cusco in the afternoon, although it can be a bit hectic. The train ends at Puente Ruinas station, where buses take tourists up the mountain to Machu Picchu. The Machu Picchu station is located in Aguas Calientes; This is not the train station that tourists use on a day trip.
Book a return ticket for the Vistadome train here.
Note: The PeruRail backpacker train is segregationist in the truest sense of the word. Tourists drive in one posh car and Peruvians drive further back in another car, often standing up.
Bus to Machu Picchu
From Machu Picchu Pueblo Aguas Calientes, a traveler can take one of the frequent buses to the ruins ($ 12 each way). The bus goes from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu and the journey takes about 35-40 minutes.
It is also possible to walk the route, around 2 hours (8 km). This route consists mainly of stairs and follows the bus route up. It’s a strenuous and long hike, but very rewarding. It is recommended to start around 4am to get to the top before sunrise.
You can also travel “Way back” independently from Cusco by bus to Santa Maria, colectivo to Santa Teresa and on foot or by van to the hydroelectric power station and on foot or by train to Aguas Calientes. Note that hiking on the trails is technically prohibited. Do your research before choosing this route.
An experience to visit Machu Picchu by train
Many will take the challenging Inca Trail to reach this new 7 Wonders of the World, but Lisa Rollinson discovered that even those who take the easier route will still be overwhelmed by this legendary site …
“I had dreamed of visiting the ancient ruins for as long as I could remember. I’d heard stories, seen pictures, and read books, but eventually it was my time to visit this man-made wonder.
We arrived in Aguas Calientes by train in the early afternoon. This small town is Machu Picchu’s jumping off point for people who have completed their Inca Trail hike or who are sightseeing by train. A river runs through the village and there are restaurants and souvenir shops along the main street. You could immediately feel the excitement among the people returning from the sacred ruins and I couldn’t wait to enjoy the moment for myself!
We queued for the locals and visitors waiting to get on the buses. 25 minutes later we would disembark in one of the most fascinating places on our planet.
The road meandered through the mountains and when the bus turned a corner I had my first view of the ancient Inca ruins. I realized I was holding my breath, surprised at the size of the site.
The most amazing thing is the location of the ruins on the mountain. The amount of work that goes into clearing the land is inspiring, but the gradient they are built on is simply unfathomable.
Our guide explained how the stones used for construction were brought both locally and from elsewhere. It took the Incas about 90 years to build the sanctuary, and some even say parts were never completed.
We had enough time to wander at will, take in everything and imagine what it must have been like when the Spaniards invaded the region. During this time, the Incas are said to have burned Machu Picchu and hid deeper in the mountains.
Machu Picchu was a small community, a haven, built in the most unlikely landscape. “Incredible” just doesn’t describe it. Even if you see it for yourself, the extent of Machu Picchu is difficult to understand. You will keep wondering why the Incas decided to build on a mountainside in the middle of nowhere. There is simply nothing like it in our modern world! “
Highlights and sights in Machu Picchu, Peru
Take your time to explore the construction site. There are plenty of places to see and explore on a visit to Machu Picchu. While not necessary, a guided tour offers a deeper look at the ancient city, its uses, and information about its geography.
Also, wake up early to miss the thousands of people who visit the site every day or stay until the store closes. The first buses leave at 5:40 a.m., which gives you an hour or two in the pleasant light of dawn, but before the full power of the sun begins to pound the mountainside. (Sunscreen is required if you plan to stay after 10am.)
Temple of the Sun
Near the summit of the capital, The masonry on the temple is amazing. If you look carefully, you will find that there are a multitude of stone walls all over the city. Most are rough stones held together with mud, the common stone walls around the world. However, many buildings or parts of buildings are executed with the more distinctive and impressive masonry. The temple is the absolute pinnacle of this technology. Watch it from the side and go down the stone stairs in the main square.
Intihuatana – Temple of the Three Windows – Main Temple – Condor
The guides will try to tell you that this was a temple, but look carefully: between the condor’s wings there is a chamber with grooves cut in the stone to secure shackles, a walkway behind which a torturer will walk can to whip the prisoner on the back and a creepy looking pit to drain the prisoners’ blood. Of course, the condor was a symbol of cruel justice, but a sung version is told for the benefit of middle-aged tourists and their children.
The following sights require some legwork:
Walk back the Inca Trail away from the construction site and up the hill after the sun gate (or Inti Punku); From here you can see every valley again and enjoy an excellent view. It’s a gentle walk (probably 45 minutes round-trip) and well worth it. If you are staying in Aguas Callientes it is possible to get here early enough to catch the sunrise from here.
Waynapicchu (Huayna Picchu)
Go up Waynapicchu (in Spanish Huayna Picchu); This is the “second” hill that can be seen in the many photos. It’s a steep but short walk that offers impressive views over the grounds. Well worth the effort!
Waynapicchu also has ruins on its summit. From November 2006 visitors will no longer be accepted after 1 p.m. All visitors must be absent by 4:00 p.m. to begin the trail.
Only 400 visitors are allowed to enter this path every day. The buses leave for Machu Picchu at 5:30 am. A line forms early at the checkpoint to the trail. At 7:00 a.m. 400 ticket numbers are issued and the first of 200 hikers is slowly released. The second group of 200 people can start at any time between 10:00 and 11:00 a.m. On busy tourist days, the limit is reached at 7 or 8 a.m.
It is recommended that you go straight here first. You have to log in. Make a note of your number (or the time you signed up) so that you can find yourself in the book to sign out. The climb is steep and sometimes exposed and takes about 1 hour each. Some parts are slippery and steel cables (via ferratas) provide support. Decent footwear is important. There is an extremely narrow passage near the summit (a cave).
The view of the city is amazing as it rises from the clouds. You can even see all the way to the Sun Gate.
At the top is a mini machu pichu with houses, terraces and some HUGE descents for you to take some amazing photos.
This is truly the final epic moment of the Inca Trail and the little that very few people can see. So walk past the crowds and hurry towards the mountain, sign the book, go through the gate and climb to the top.
Take some time to lie on your back and take in the fact that you are at the top of the Incas world.
Two warnings: The hike is a bit strenuous and is not intended for visitors who are elderly, pregnant, or have heart / lung conditions. Also, the steep stairs and cliffs to walk up the summit can be terrifying for those who are afraid of heights.
Moon temple and great cave
If you have some time to spare or are craving a touch of solitude, you can walk to the Moon temple (Templo de la Luna) and the Big cave (Gran Caverne). It’s a long walk and an adventurous hike with multiple ladders. Some may find the locations aren’t exactly rewarding, but unexpected wildlife can be seen (wild spectacled bears have been reported).
This hike is also very interesting because halfway you leave the mountainous terrain behind and enter a more conventional forest. The caves can be accessed either by descending the trail from the summit of Waynapicchu (which includes some semi-harrowing but fun, almost vertical descents) or by splitting off from the main Waynapicchu trail (look for the sign that says Gran Carvern).
Keep in mind that it is much easier to descend from Waynapicchu than to ascend from these temples. Make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks for this long hike. The hike from the summit to the caves and back to the checkpoint takes about two hours.
Eat at Machu Picchu
It is not officially allowed to bring food into the archaeological site. However, if you plan to stay all day bring snacks or sandwiches and plenty of water (just be careful not to throw away any trash). Your ticket tells you that you cannot bring bottles of food or water to the site, although many people still take them with you.
Buying it on site is expensive and no plastic bottles are offered (only glass). Buy groceries and plenty of water and bring it with you. The concession stand near the entrance to the site is pathetic and gets very crowded around lunchtime. Once on the site there is no food or drink purchase. There is a cafeteria near the site where the locals who work there eat. Ask any of them and if you are lucky you will be rewarded with a cheap, filling and unique alternative to the expensive tourist food stand.
- Tinkuy buffet restaurant, Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, +51 84 21 1039/38. 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Casual lunch buffet with beautiful panoramic windows. Expensive: About $ 33 for the buffet lunch, about four times as much as local restaurants.
- Tampu Restaurant Bar (Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge guests only). 5.30 a.m. to 9.00 a.m., 12.00 p.m. to 3.00 p.m., 6.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. Expensive, but it’s in ruins.
You can find a better choice of food if you take one of the regular buses to Aguas Calientes (the small town at the stop to Cuzco), where there are plenty of restaurants. These restaurants do not meet the standards of restaurants in Cuzco or Lima, but are generally satisfactory. They are usually moderately expensive. Some travel guides report an unusually high incidence of food poisoning in the area, possibly due to the fairly frequent power outages (with loss of cooling). Cooked pizza and bottled beer or soft drinks are safe bets, salads and pisco sours (made from raw egg white) are best avoided here.
Accommodation in Machu Picchu
Instead of returning from the ruins the same day, a traveler can stay overnight near the ruins. There are many hotels near Aguas Calientes but only one hotel in Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu is not a regular city, but a protected sanctuary where new buildings are not allowed. For this reason, all sleeping places with the exception of one are in nearby Aguas Calientes. This lively city offers a wide range of accommodation options, from simple backpacker hostels to very sophisticated hotels. It is recommended that you do a thorough hotel research before committing.
The only hotel in Machu Picchu is the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge. Guests at this hotel can visit the ruins on the same schedule of travelers spending a night in Aguas Calientes but enjoying the sanctuary’s glorious isolation. The hotel also allows guests to shorten all transfer times from the Citadel to their accommodation, which allows for a longer and more relaxing time at Machu Picchu.
What does a visit to Machu Picchu cost?
There are three types of tickets to visit Machu Picchu. All include entry to the famous Inca archeology. However, they also offer access to huge mountains as well as interesting museums to learn more about the Inca city.
- Machu Picchu Solo (includes access to Inca City Machu Picchu): 45 USD (152 soles) for adults and 21 USD (70 soles) for children (<18 years old)
- Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu (includes access to the Inca City of Machu Picchu and Mount Huayna Picchu): USD 62 (200 soles) for adults and USD 35 (118 soles) for children (<18 years)
- Machu Picchu + mountain (includes access to the Inca cities of Machu Picchu and Machhu Picchu Mountain): USD 62 (200 soles) for adults and USD 35 (118 soles) for children (<18 years old)
NB! Note that Tickets are not sold at Machu Picchu itselfyou need to get your ticket In front Arrival. Book your entrance ticket to the Lost Citadel of Machu Picchu here.
When is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?
The dry winter months of June and July are high season in Machu Picchu and prices rise accordingly (and Inca Trail reservations are rare for last-minute planners).
In the summer months of December and January, tourists flock to the sun-drenched coastal regions.
The best bargain can be found in the marginal months of April and May or September and October.