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Your Guide to visit Machu Picchu, Peru

Belonging to the world’s wonders, Machu Picchu in Peru is a travel highlight that should be on the very top of your bucket list!
The unique, ancient Incan city that was built in the 15th century, on the top of a mountain, was lost for many years until it was rediscovered in 1911.
It’s an archaeological masterpiece and no matter if you visit via the famous Inca trail or scenery train ride, it will take your breath away!

When I planned to visit Machu Picchu, I found it hard to get information on choosing the ticket, how to get there and how to prepare. That’s why I hope this guide will give you a good overview with understandable and valuable information!

  1. Tickets
  2. Visiting Machu Picchu
  3. How to get to Machu Picchu
  4. Preparations
  5. Best time to visit

Tickets

Up to 5,000 people visit Machu Picchu every day- it’s an incredibly popular spot! This means you should plan your trip and buy your entry tickets in advance.

To control the number of visitors entering every day, there are two shifts you can choose between: morning (6 am – 12 pm) and afternoon (12 pm – 5:30 pm).
Usually, taking the morning shift is the better choice because the morning sun is the best time to see the attractions.

➳ Tip: Try to get inside as early as possible toavoid the tourist crowds.

No words can describe the feeling of standing here!

Machu Picchu Ticket Types

When you purchase the entry ticket to visit Machu Picchu, you will have different options:

  1. Machu Picchu ruins only (cheapest option & normal MP ticket)
  2. Machu Picchu ruins + Huayna Picchu Mountain
  3. Machu Picchu ruins + Machu Picchu Mountain

Option 1 or 2 are the best choices! Read further for more info on these options.

Where to buy tickets?

You can buy the tickets online or purchase them in Cusco a few days before your planned visit. If you decide to visit Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail or Salkantay Trek, your tour will most likely already inlcude the entrance ticket to Machu Picchu.

Interested in hiking to Machu Picchu?
➳ Read: Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu – all you need to know.

Tickets book out quicker during high season (June – August). If you go in that time make sure to book more in advance!

Cusco is your starting point for visiting Machu Picchu.

Visiting Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu opens at 6 AM and you will get the most of your experience if you will be one of the first ones entering! Try to be there as early as possible, so you will beat the tourist crowds and are on time for an incredible sunrise appearing from behind the mountain tops shining down on Huayna Picchu Mountain.

In total you will need 3 – 6 hours of exploring, depending on which option you choose.

Option 1: Machu Picchu Ruins

The Machu Picchu ruins are the most popular choice. With this normal MP ticket, you will explore all the famous photo spots, breathe in stunning views, discover the Inca ruins, meet some alpacas and tick off Machu Picchu from your bucket list.

Visiting Machu Picchu ruins is included in the normal MP ticket.

Fluffy Alpacas and Llamas walk around everywhere at Machu Picchu.

The 600 + terraces were built and used for growing crops. The stone structure of the ruins look breathtaking with the incredible mountains in the background!

You will see the first ruins after a short 5 minute walk from the entrance.

➳ Good to know: If you’re asking yourself, which ticket is the best option for taking photos: all the typical photos and famous views of Machu Picchu can be ticked off with this ticket!

Option 2: Machu Picchu Ruins & Huayna Picchu Mountain

If you want some more hiking adventure and the best views of the Machu Picchu ruins from the top, you should decide on this ticket option, like I did.

Besides exploring the ruins, you will also hike up Huayna Picchu which is the famous big mountain behind the ruins.
The hike is very steep, challenging and high. It takes about 1 hour to get to the top and 1 hour to get back down- the views are worth it!

Making my way up to the top of Huayna Picchu Mountain. The views are already rewarding!

➳ Good to know: The only times available for hiking Huayna Picchu is between 7 and 8 AM or 10 to 11 AM. You can check the time on your ticket.

There it is! Machu Picchu from the top- view from Huayna Picchu Mountain. So stunning!!

Happy Me after sweating for hours to get here- effort was worth it.

The Machu Picchu ruins look so small from here!

If you’re afraid of heights, you should overthink doing this hike. The way up and down is challenging surrounded by steep cliffs, which can be quite scary!

Some impressions on how steep the hike is.

Wouldn’t be a good idea to pass that sign…

Option 3: Ruins & Machu Picchu Mountain

Machu Picchu Mountain offers less steep, wider and visually less frightening roads than Huayna Picchu. Hiking this mountain is suitable for tourists of any age.

You can find more information on differences of Huayan Picchu Mountain and Machu Picchu Mountain here.

Literally feeling on top of the world! Highest point on Huayna Picchu.

All tickets for the mountains have daily limited spots. It’s necessary to check and book in advance.

Get your tickets online.

How to get to Machu Picchu

You will start your journey to Machu Picchu from Cusco. From here you have to get to the small town Aguas Calientes (also Machupicchu Pueblo) that is the closest town near Machu Picchu. From here it only takes a few kilometres to reach the world-famous site.

Cusco to Aguas Calientes

There are three different options on how to get to Aguas Calientes from Cusco. It’s a cute, very small town where most people spend the night before the big day of visiting Machu Picchu.
It offers many places to stay and cute restaurants for a nice dinner out.

Welcome to Aguas Calientes- Machu Picchu Pueblo.

Train

Taking the famous “Peru Rail” is probably the easiest and quickest way. It brings you directly from Cusco to Machupicchu Pueblo.

Cusco—Ollantaytambo—Aguas Calientes: 3 1/2 hours.

The train is very comfortable and each wagon has a see-through roof, so you have an incredible view!

Peru Rail brings you safely to Machu Picchu Pueblo.

*Tickets
From 60 USD. Find your tickets here.

The train drops you off directly in Aguas Calientes.

Shuttle

The second option is taking a shuttle. Although, the shuttle cannot bring you directly to Aguas Calientes as there are no roads leading to the town.
That means:

  1. First, take a bus/shuttle to Ollantaytambo.
  2. Then, take the Peru Rail for 1,5 hours from here to get to Aguas Calientes.

    OR
  1. First, take a bus/ shuttle to Hidroelectrica.
  2. Then, walk the rest along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes (2 – 3 hours).

Here, the last option is the better one!
It’s not only the cheapest way, but most travellers choose it because it’s the more comfortable one, as it’s more complicated to get to Ollantaytambo than to Hidroelectrica.
The trek along the train tracks is really easy as you just go straight, not up or downhill.

Making my way from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes by walking along the train tracks through jungle.

Trekking

The last option is doing a several day trekking that undoubtedly, gives a huge satisfaction while finishing at Machu Picchu. If you like hiking and would like to explore more of Peru’s wonderful nature before getting rewarded with Machu Picchu’s views, this is your go!

There are two different main hikes leading to Machupicchu Pueblo:
Salkantay Trek (4 or 5 days depending on your choice)
Classic Inca Trail ( 4 days)

The Inca Trail is the more popular trek, but if you want less tourists and have a smaller budget, the Salkantay Trek is the perfect alternative! It still offers you an amazing hiking experience in stunning scenery but is much cheaper.

➳ Read: Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu – all you need to know.

Me hiking the Salkantay Trek- 4 days to go until arriving at Machu Picchu.

➳ Tip: Spend at least 4 days in Cusco before the trekking tour to get used to the altitude. It took me a few days to properly adjust and be physically prepared to hike in almost 5,000 metres of height.

Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

Once you made it to Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu is almost around the corner. In order to make an early start, you should spend the night in Aguas Calientes before visiting the world-famous sight. There are two options to get to the entrance of Machu Picchu.

Take a Bus

You can take a shuttle bus up to the entrance of Machu Picchu, which only takes 30 minutes. The first bus leaves at 5:30 AM, but people start queueing at 4:30 AM as the line can get very long.
This is the fastest and most convenient way but compared to standard prices in Peru expensive with 24 USD return.

Hike

The alternative option is hiking up to Machu Picchu. This takes about 60 minutes and you will face 1,600 stairs in front of you.
It’s a tiring and demanding way up, but once you made it to the top, you really feel like you deserve to finally see Machu Picchu!

Challenge for the next hour- making my way up to Machu Picchu!

Besides that, you can expect beautiful views.

Slowly reaching Machu Picchu.

Now, that you made it to the entrance, you can finally enter the site after showing your ticket. You made it to Machu Picchu!

Preparations

Here are some tips for your preparations and a few things you should know before visiting Machu Picchu:

Bathrooms

There are no toilets inside the site! Make sure you visit a bathroom before entering Machu Picchu because you cannot leave and re-enter. Your ticket is only valid for a one-time entry.

Camera Usage

You are not allowed to bring tripods, selfie sticks or drones inside.

Altitude sickness

Altitude sickness can be a very unpleasant feeling. Fortunately, the site of Machu Picchu is located at 2,450 meters, which is below 2,500 meters where altitude sickness can start occurring.
Spend a few days in the higher located Cusco to acclimatize to the altitude.

Clothes

Make sure to wear good shoes! There is a lot of walking to get to the entrance, as well as inside the site, going up and down on often steep and narrow stairs, so you’ll be happy to have shoes you can walk in comfortably all day long.

Besides that, you should wear layers that you can take off if it gets too warm. The mornings can be cold and chilly, but you’ll get warmer while walking around and when the sun comes out.

Bring water, snacks and sunscreen

Walking and hiking all day can be very tiring. As soon as the sun comes out, that place is heating up very fast as there are almost no shadow places. Bring enough water and a few snacks to stay hydrated and energized!
Also, have enough sunscreen with you.

Pack lightly

Only bring the most necessary things- large bags aren’t allowed at Machu Picchu. That’s why you should only bring a small day bag fitting all the important things you need. Don’t bring too many things, you don’t want a lot of extra weight on you tiring you out.

Best time to visit Machu Picchu

Weather- wise the best time to visit Machu Picchu is during the winter months from May to September, which is dry season. But therefore, June to August are also the busiest months tourism wise, which makes it harder to get tickets due to limited spots.

October to April is wet season, which means less tourists, but you risk catching a rainy day.
However, if you want to stay flexible on your dates, beat the crowds and don’t bother too much about the weather you should go during the summer months. Besides that, you can still book your tickets a few days before heading to Machu Picchu once you are in Cusco. In the dry season you need to book more in advance.

I was visiting Machu Picchu in December and most of the days we only had a few hours of rain. When visiting Machu Picchu, there was a lot of sun and the weather was great! It mostly starts raining in the afternoon if it does.

➳ Must read: Desert Oasis Huacachina, Peru.

Are you now feeling inspired to visit Machu Picchu? Is this amazing place on the top of your bucket list?? Share your thoughts below in the comments! 🙂

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