A visit to Machu Picchu is the highlight for most travelers on their journey through Peru. Machu Picchu is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and when you are here you will understand why. This Inca city was built around the year 1450 and has been inhabited for 100 years. On the 24 of July 1911, the “lost” city was rediscovered, therefore everything has been well preserved.
How to visit Machu Picchu? That the question! You can visit Machu Picchu in combination with a trekking tour like we did with the Salkantay trek. This is of course not necessary because you can also do a day trip to Machu Picchu. To ensure that your visit to Machu Picchu is an unforgettable experience, there are several things you should take into account. If you don’t do this, you will most likely not like it as much as you expect. Read all the information about how to visit Machu Picchu in this article. We explain the different ticket options, what options you have to visit Machu Picchu, what practical tips you need to know to be ahead of the crowd, and how much it costs to visit Machu Picchu.
Table of Contents
#1 The best time to visit Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is open all year round. The worst time to visit Machu Picchu is during the rainy season that runs from November to March. The best months are July and August during the dry season. In this period it is very busy because of the summer vacation months in Europe and the US. We visited Machu Picchu ourselves in the first week of September and the weather was perfect.
#2 The different tickets for Machu Picchu
To visit Machu Picchu, there are some things you should take into account. For example, you need to buy your ticket in advance, because you cannot do this at the entrance. It is strongly recommended to book tickets weeks in advance as only 2500 people are allowed to visit Machu Picchu per day. If you want to do the Huayna Picchu Mountain or the Machu Picchu Mountain hike in addition to the regular ticket, you have to book months in advance, because only 200 people are allowed every day.
You can easily buy the different tickets via the links below
- Machu Picchu Lost Citadel* | 6:00 am to 12:00 pm & 12:00 pm to 5:30 pm | $64 pp
- Huayna Picchu Mountain | from 7:00 am to 8:00 am & 10:00 am to 11:00 am | $84 pp
- Machu Picchu Mountain hike | from 7:00 am to 8:00 am & 9:00 am to 10:00 am | $70 pp
Tip: (again) buy your ticket far in advance via the links above.
#3 How to visit Machu Picchu
Aguas Calientes is the village next to Machu Picchu and is the starting point for your visit to Machu Picchu. How to visit Machu Picchu depends on whether you do a trekking tour or go individual. The most important tip throughout this article is that you need to travel from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and spend the night in Aguas Calientes. The next day before sunrise you need to visit Machu Picchu. At this moment there are relatively few people, which makes it magical. If you visit Machu Picchu like everybody else in the afternoon it will be very busy which isn’t that beautiful compared to sunrise.
#3.1 Visit Machu Picchu without trekking tour
If you aren’t doing a trekking tour you will need to travel from Cusco to Machu Picchu. First travel from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and then to Machu Picchu. Aguas Calientes can only be reached by train. You have four options to travel from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. You can buy the bus tickets on the spot, but you need to buy the train tickets far in advance because if there are few places left, tickets can quickly be twice as expensive. There are two train companies Peru Rail and Inca Rail.
Cusco to Aguas Calientes*
- From Cusco take the bus to Hidroelectrica | From Hidroelectrica 10km walk to Aguas Calientes | Bus ticket S.60 / $16
- From Cusco take the bus to Hidroelectrica | From Hidroelectrica take the train to Aguas Calientes | bus ticket and a train ticket are each S.60 / $16
- From Cusco take the bus to Ollantaytambo | From Ollantaytambo take the train to Aguas Calientes | Bus ticket S.15 / $5 and train ticket S.180/ $50 (The cheapest train departure at 17:35).
- From Cusco take the train to Aguas Calientes | Train ticket (Expedition 34) S.277/ $78.
*Tip: (optional) overnight in Aguas Calientes so that you can visit Machu Picchu the next day during sunrise.
Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
When you are in Aguas Calientes you have two choices for going to Machu Picchu. You can hike from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu or take the bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. Many travelers choose to take the bus, the disadvantage of this, however, is that you will arrive later than if you hike to Machu Picchu. The gates of Machu Picchu open at 6:00 AM.
We did the Salkantay trek and went hiking in the morning from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu, making us one of the first that arrived at Machu Picchu. We recommend this to everyone.
Hiking from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
The hike from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes and is tough. You should follow the bus line that goes from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. After 25 minutes you will arrive at a bridge that crosses the river on your left. You cross this bridge and then turn right. After 100 meters you will see the start to Machu Picchu. You need to be at the bridge at 4:30 am. There will be a row of people who want to hike just like you. Leave your hotel at 04:00. You will arrive at the entrance at approximately 6:00 am and be one of the first to enter Machu Picchu.
Bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
If you don’t want to hike and you don’t mind not arriving as one of the first visitors, you can easily take the bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. The first shuttle buses leave at 5:30 AM and take 20 minutes to reach the top. In the morning there is a long queue, so it is wise to be at the queue at 5:00 am. Leave your hotel at 04:30. There are plenty of buses so if you are on time you don’t have to wait extremely long.
#3.2 Visit Machu Picchu with trekking tour
You can also visit Machu Picchu by doing a trekking tour of several days. We have done the Salkantay trek ourselves and are very enthusiastic about it. Of course, you also have the Inca trail and other awesome trekking tours. The big advantage of a trekking tour is that you hike in nature for several days through the beautiful landscape and eventually arrive in Machu Picchu with a satisfying feeling. Another benefit is that everything is arranged for you.
The Salkantay Trek is the best trek we have ever done in our life. It has even been named one of the 25 best hikes in the world by National Geographic Travel Maginze. The Salkantay trek is a trekking tour where you walk along 80 kilometers for 5 days through different environments. The nature you see is truly breathtakingly beautiful. The Salkantay, together with the Inca trail, is the toughest trekking but also the most beautiful one. We have written an article (Salkantay trek guide) in which we tell everything about the Salkantay trek. Probably when you read it, you also want to start the Salkantay trek. We did this Salkantay trek (tour) and highly recommend it.
The Inca trail is the most famous hike to Machu Picchu. This is the path that the Incas used to walk to get to Machu Picchu. It is a four-day trek covering 43 kilometers. The Inca trail is the only hiking tour where you don’t end up at Aguas Calientes but directly at Machu Picchu. The Inca trail must be registered six months in advance because it is extremely popular and only 500 people per day are allowed to start this tour. You can book the Inca trail here.
Inca Jungle trail
The Inca Jungle trail is a combination of hiking and adventure. On the first day, you will go mountain biking and rafting. The second day you go hiking and the third day it is a mix between hiking and ziplining. On the fourth day, you will visit Machu Picchu. You can book the Inca Jungle trail here.
The Lares trek is perfect for people who don’t want to walk that much. In four days you walk 33 kilometers, past mountain villages and you have plenty of time to relax at hot springs. On the last day, you will visit Machu Picchu. The Lares trek that we recommend is this one.
#4 Visit Machu Picchu with a guide or individually?
On your four-hour visit to Machu Picchu, you must have a guide for 1 hour (new rule since 2017). In practice, this appears not to be the case and you can therefore visit Machu Picchu individually. However, the question remains whether it is better to visit Machu Picchu with a guide or individually. We have visited Machu Picchu with a guide, this was the same guide that we had during the Salkantay trek. We highly recommend using a guide because you will hear from a local their perspective on Machu Picchu. You also get all the historical, architectural, and biological information you would expect. You can easily book a guide here.
#5 How to return from Machu Picchu to Cusco
There are some options for traveling from Machu Picchu to Cusco. The easiest and most expensive option is a direct train (Expedition 34) from Machu Picchu to Cusco. The cost is S.277 / $78.
The option we did: take the train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo and then take the bus to Cusco. It’s cheaper than the first option but still a good option. A train ticket is S.180 / $50 (The cheapest train departs at 17:35). The bus ticket is S.15 / $4.
You can also take the train from Aguas Calientes to Hidroelectrica and take a minibus from there to Cusco. This is more difficult to do. Train ticket and bus ticket are each S.60 / $16.
The last and cheapest option is to walk from Aguas Calientes to Hidroelectrica (10 km) and take the bus to Cusco. Bus ticket S.60 / $16.
With trekking tour
If you are on a trekking tour you don’t have to worry about this. In the program, you can see how to travel back to Cusco and of course, the guide will help you on the spot.
#6 How much does it cost to visit Machu Picchu?
If we assume that you take the regular Machu Picchu ticket, catch the bus in Cusco Ollantaytambo and there take the train to Aguas Calientes and sleep one night in Aguas Calientes so that you can see Machu Picchu at sunrise, it will cost you about $193 per person.
If you travel by train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, visit Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, and spend the night in a luxury hotel it will cost you around $314 per person.
On average Machu Picchu cost between $193- $314, this depends on how you visit Machu Picchu.
With trekking tour
If you do a trekking tour, it of course depends on which trekking tour you do. You cannot compare the costs of the trekking tour with a day trip, because it is very different.
- Salkantay trek | $298 (we wrote an article about the Salkantay trek, open here)
- Inca trail | $935 (short version of 2 days $519
- Inca Jungle trail | $386
- Lares trek | $712
#7 What to bring to Machu Picchu?
- Sun protection
- Headlamp (if you hike to Machu Picchu before sunrise)
- Backpack with rain cover
- Waterproof shoes
- 5 pairs of underwear and 3 pairs of socks
- 2/3 shirts
- Hiking pants
- Thermal undershirt
- Thermal pants
- Jacket North Face (you really need this!)
- Gore-Tex Jacket
- Waterproof pants
- 1 Hat, 1 Bandana
#8 The best tips for visiting Machu Picchu?
In addition to what you already have read, we have several tips that you can take into account to make your visit to Machu Picchu unforgettable!
Stay overnight in Aguas Calientes and visit Machu Picchu during sunrise
We have already given this tip but we want to share it again because in our opinion it is the best experience you will get when you visit Machu Picchu. Further on in this article, you can read which sleeping places we recommend in Aguas Calientes.
Also, don’t forget to leave your hotel on time. If you go hike you have to leave at 04:00 am and for the bus at 04:30 am.
#9 The best route for your visit to Machu Picchu
To have the best view of Machu Picchu during the sunrise, you must be at “The Guard House” before 07:00. This is a thatched house. At the entrance, keep left and walk up until you get here. Then you can walk to the Sun Gate (+/- 1 hour walk). This is indicated on signs. From this place, you have a beautiful view of Machu Picchu. Then you can visit Machu Picchu or go to the Inca Bridge. In total, you need 4 hours for this route.
Tip: After the Guard House you can walk to Machu Picchu. Keep in mind that this is a one-way path towards the exit. You cannot re-enter at the exit. Therefore you need to choose at the Guard House whether you will walk through Machu Picchu or first want to walk to the Sun Gate or the Inca Bridge.
Tip: There are no toilets in Machu Picchu. Before visiting Machu Picchu, make sure you have visited a toilet.
#10 Best places to sleep in Aguas Calientes
If you are looking for a good and affordable hotel, Andino Hotel ($54 double room) is highly recommended.
The rooms are very neat and the big advantage is that you can have breakfast at 05:00 am. If you want to leave earlier for sunrise you can also ask for breakfast that you can eat on the go.
If you want some luxury and want to recharge yourself for Machu Picchu, you can spend the night at Casa del Sol Machu Picchu ($157 double room).
Did you know that you can stay next to Machu Picchu? If you wish, you can stay overnight at Machu Picchu Belmond Sanctuary Lodge. This is perhaps one of the most special places to stay in the world. You have an overview of Machu Picchu in the evening without all the tourists.
#11 Best restaurants in Aguas Calientes
Aguas Calientes isn’t the place to expect culinary delights in Peru. For this, you have to be in other places. Yet there are still plenty of nice places to eat deliciously. Aguas Calientes is a very touristic place with a lot of hotels and restaurants. This makes it even more difficult to find the best restaurant. We have eaten at Mapacho Craft Beer & Peruvian Cuisine where you have a nice view of the Urubamba river. They serve Peruvian, vegan, and vegetarian dishes. The price for a dish is between $6 and $14. The highlights in these restaurants are the Alpaca steak, Aji de Gallina, and Lomo Saltado.
#12 Continue your journey after Machu Picchu
We hope you enjoyed our article and gave the information you need to answer the question: how to visit Machu Picchu. After you have visited Machu Picchu your journey will continue. If you follow our Peru itinerary you will travel back to Lima via Cusco. If you are going to travel even further in Peru, you can use our itinerary as a building block for your trip. We have written an article for every destination we have visited where we give you all the information you need to know.