How to get to Machu Picchu
How to visit Machu Picchu
In order to visit the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu from the town of Aguas Calientes, located at the base of Machu Picchu Mountain, once we are in the town of Aguas Calientes, we must ascend to the Inca Citadel, you must either take the bus or hike. The bus will take you up the Zig Zag road for about 25 minutes to the gates of the Citadel. Buses depart every 15 minutes starting at 5:30am.
During the high travel season lines begin to form very early so it is suggested to arrive around 5am. here is also another option, a 1.5 hour hike from Aguas Calientes town up to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.
How to get in Machu Picchu
To get to Machu Picchu it is necessary to take the train to the town of Aguas Calientes located at the base of Machu Picchu Mountain. The train is taken from the train stations of Poroy (Cusco) and Ollantaytambo. The Poroy Train station is a 45 minute drive from the Cusco. The Ollantaytambo Station in the Sacred Valley is an hour and 45minute drive from Cusco. It is usually suggested to tour the Sacred Valley on your way to Machu Picchu to help acclimatize to the altitude and ultimately improve your overall experience while touring the Iconic Machu Picchu archaeological site.
Enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the famous Sacred Valley as the train speeds along next to the ancient Urubamba river of the Incas.
There are two main train companies to choose from, Inca Rail & Peru Rail, both of which operate the Expedition Class & Vistadome Class trains. The Luxurious Hiram Bingham Train is operated by Peru Rail. It is highly suggested to book your train tickets in advance as spaces may become sold out weeks in advance during the high travel season.
Another way to get to Machu Picchu is taking one of the trekking paths, also known as Inca Trail Alternatives. They may all start at a different point and take different paths but they all end at the Iconic Citadel of Machu Picchu. There are many hikes offered by trekking operators, varying in routes, distances and levels of difficult, among the most classic of which are:
*Inca Trail 4Days – 3Nights; Departing from Km82 and ending with the arrival of the citadel of Machu Picchu, this four day trek is by far the most popular of all the treks in Peru. It is highly recommended to book a minimum of four months in advance. If you are planning to travel during May or June it is best to book before January. It is necessary to book this trek through a tour operator, since the availability is limited (500 spaces between visitors and the staff of tour operators)
*Inca Trail 2Days – 1Night, A popular alternative for those unable to obtain entrances to the 4 day Inka Trail and those without the experience needed for the 4 day trek. This hike consists of a one hike starting at KM104 and ending at the Iconic citadel of Machu Picchu. The second day will end with a tour of the Amazing Machu Picchu.
*Choquequirao – Machu Picchu; 8Days - 7Nights; Highly recommended for visitors with archaeological interests. This hike is much longer and much more difficult than most treks in Peru. This trek is only recommended for the experienced hiker. Ending in aguas Calientes and visiting the Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu on the eighth day this amazing hike will take you across beautiful countryside, past rural communities and includes vistas that will take your breath away.
*Lares 4days – 3Noches; This cultural-landscape hike, also an amazing alternative to the traditional Inca Trail, combines the high Andean landscape with meeting the few remaining Quechua descendants in their traditional lifestyle.
*Salkantay 4days-3nights; This amazing hike will take you across breath taking vistas on your way up the Snow-Capped peak of Mt. Salkantay. Culturally reviered as Apul Salkantay. After the hike you will continue to make your way to the Iconic Machu Picchu Citadel.
**Keep in mind that the Classic Inca Trail and the alternative hike of Salkantay are both closed in February for maintenance and safety of the rainy season.
By Car & Train/Hike
Another alternative to get to Machu Picchu is by car. This route will take you to Hiroelectric by train or hiking to the town of Aguas Calientes located at the base of Machu Picchu Mountain. This alternative route is mostly used by backpackers and adventure travelers. Keep in mind that this route is not recommended during the rainy season due to difficulty and danger.
In order to get to Hidroelectrica a car should be taken from Cusco to Santa Maria and/or Santa Teresa. Santa Teresa is a very small town that has basic hostels, usually travellers stay overnight here in order to continue to Aguas Calientes. From Santa Maria there are small cars that go to Hidroelectrica (235min.) and then take the train (not touristic) towards Aguas Calientes. There is also the option of hiking from Hydroelectric towards Aguas Calientes, approximately 2 hours.
Aguas Calietnes or Machu Picchu Pueblo
In order to visit the citadel of Machu Picchu you must pass through Aguas Calientes. The only way the majority the population can access this town is by train, making it a very expensive town. The town is very small and crowded by hotels. There are no cars or transports so be prepared to walk.
Where to Eat in Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes
Aguas Calientes has a variety of different restaurants offering a variety of dishes, although it is not considered to be the best place to experience true Peruvian Cuisine.
Where to Stay in Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes
The village offers a wide variety of categories and prices of hotels and hostels, however if you are looking for a hotel of 3 stars or more it could be difficult to find availability during the high season. Just outside the gates of the Inca Citadel is the only hotel in concession by the state, The Belmond Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, considered one of the most beautiful hotels and also by far the most expensive.
Hikes around Machu Picchu
Huayna Picchu Mountain
From Huayna Picchu the view of Machu Picchu citadel is amazing. You will notice the shape of the Machu Picchu citadel from above has been laid out in the shape of a hummingbird. The ancient Inca used to build their sacred towns in different shapes such as the Hummingbird and Puma, representing their sacred deities.
There is an additional fee for the entrance to Huayna Picchu, which must be purchased, with the ticket for Machu Picchu. The additional fee is approx. USD $15 on top of the charge for the entrance to Machu Picchu.
Please note that if you do not reserve your entry to Huayna Picchu at the time of booking your entry to Machu Picchu you must pay another full additional entrance to both Machu Picchu & Huayna Picchu at an additional cost of USD $60. Your tickets you must be purchased in advance due to the limited capacity of visitors, only 200 people per schedule, per day there are two shifts, 7am and 10am.
The level of hike is more Difficult, with many slopes and steps. Approximate time of hike is between 2-2.5 hours round trip.
Machu Picchu Mountain is a lovely hike, ranked as Moderate to difficult with slopes and steps. There is an additional fee for the Machu Picchu Mountain Hike, an additional US $15 on top of the fee for Machu Picchu Citadel. Entry schedules are at 7am & 9am.
Free hikes around Machu Picchu
The hikes that are included in the entrance fee to Machu Picchu are: The Inca Bridge; which the level of hike is moderate and recommended for those interested in Inca engineering, bridges and hanging roads. The other trek is, the Inti Punku or Sungate, also a moderate level. From this point you get one of the best panoramic views of Machu Picchu.
What to Bring
It is recommended to bring a small backpack to carry your mosquito repellent, sunscreen, drinking water, rain jacket, hiking shoes and your passport, which you will need to show at the entrance to the citadel. Regarding cloths, it is recommended to dress in layers and prepare for both wear cloths cool and warm temperatures. During the day the weather is warmer especially in dry season between 19-21 c (66.2-69.80 F), this variation is according to the season, while for those who stay the nights are much colder mostly in the months of June and July, approaching 0 c (32 F)
**Take note that sunscreen in Peru is very important, remember the ozone layer is very thin in this area and when combined with the altitude makes the sun extremely strong, so sun protection and/or a hat is highly recommended.
What not to Bring
Umbrellas, drones and walking sticks or poles are prohibited in Machu Picchu. If the traveler requires a cane for mobilization, the tip of the stick should be protected with rubber.
Just outside of the entrance gate, there is a small station where you can get a stamp in your passport for visiting the great Machu Picchu wonder.