You can’t leave Peru until you’ve visited the famous Machu Picchu. The impressive location in combination with the special Inca history make this one of the highlights of Peru. Because you’ll probably visit this world wonder only once in your life, we have created a Machu Picchu guide with practical information and tips to help you get the most out of your visit.
Tickets for Machu Picchu
It’s necessary to purchase tickets in advance. You can easily buy your entrance tickets for the Machu Picchu online at the official website Machupicchu.gob.pe. Of course it’s also possible to buy them at one of the many travel agencies in Cusco or at various travel organizations in the Netherlands. Often you pay a little more, because these companies also has to earn something from it. To dose the crowds, you must select your arrival time. For example, we had tickets that allowed us to enter only between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. We walked in with the first group of people and enjoyed a great sunrise. Because we bought our tickets fairly last-minute, there were only standard tickets available, but if you arrive early, there are three options:
1. Machu Picchu
This is the standard ticket for the Machu Picchu. With this ticket you can visit all the places that I describe below and you can entertain yourself for an average of 3 to 5 hours. Do you want more and aren’t you afraid of an intensive hike? Then check options 2 and 3.
2. Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu
With this combi-ticket you have access to the Huayna Picchu in addition to the standard entrance. This is the large mountain next to the Machu Picchu. This is a tough hike of about 2 hours up and then walking down again in about 50 minutes. You shouldn’t have a fear of heights, because there are incredibly steep paths and deep abysses, but then you have a breathtaking view of the Machu Picchu. Please note: only a limited number of people are admitted, so these tickets are often sold out well in advance (count at the moment about 3 months in advance).
3. Machu Picchu + Machu Picchu mountain
With this combi-ticket you have access to the Machu Picchu Mountain in addition to the standard entrance. This is the mountain opposite the Huayna Picchu and also from this spot you have a great view over the Machu Picchu. This intensive hike takes even longer, around 3 hours, and is therefore sold out a little less quickly. Count on it that you should book this about 2 months in advance if you want to be up early (at 6 a.m.). The trails are slightly less exciting than on the Huayna Picchu but it remains a tough climb. Please note: only a limited number of people are allowed on Machu Picchu Mountain.
- Don’t forget your passport! You must show this along with your admission ticket upon arrival. Oh yes, and a nice extra: afterwards you can have an official Machu Picchu stamp in your passport at the exit.
- It’s officially forbidden to bring food inside. There is no baggage check so we had brought some sandwiches / snacks. We were very happy with this, you can’t buy food / drinks inside, only at the entrance. So take enough water with you!
- There are no toilets! Only at the entrance so go before the ticket control to the toilet and don’t drink too much.
- Selfie sticks and drones are prohibited at the Machu Picchu. There are guards walking around who pay attention to this. We were approached, but luckily we had already taken our selfie.
- Altitude sickness: the Machu Picchu is located at 2450 meters altitude, just below the altitude sickness limit of 2500 meters, so that the risk of altitude sickness is low. Cusco is higher, at an altitude of 3399 meters, and you will probably notice this. That’ss why we recommend taking it easy for the first few days so that your body can get used to the altitude.
Officially, the use of a guide has been mandatory since 2019. This is not the case in practice; there are guides at the entrance but if you don’t want to use this, you can just walk on. This may change in the future, but at the moment you can still visit the Machu Picchu without a guide.
Transportation from Cusco to Aguas Calientes
You don’t visit the Machu Picchu from Cusco, but from the nearby village of Aguas Calientes. There are three ways to get to Aguas Calientes: hiking (for example via the well-known Inca Trail), with a minibus from Cusco to the Hidro-Electrica power station to walk along the tracks for 2 to 3 hours from there by train. So far we’ve chosen the last option and found this to be one of the coolest train journeys. The Machu Picchu is impressive, but this train journey makes the adventure complete.
Bus from walk to the Machu Picchu
From Aguas Calientes there are two possibilities to get to the Machu Picchu: walk or by bus. Read more about this in our blog about transport to the Machu Pichu.
Best view of the Machu Picchu
When you enter the Machu Picchu, you are probably the first to walk up because from there you have the most beautiful view of the ancient Inca city (the famous picture of the Machu Picchu). Although it’s attractive to get away with your camera at the first viewpoint, we recommend that you continue to the ‘Guard House’ after a quick photo. Especially if you, like us, go up early in the morning, it will still be quiet and you will have plenty of room to take beautiful pictures there. Then you can choose to go to the ‘Sun Gate’. Note: this is a 1 to 1.5 hour walk from the Guard House. You walk on a narrow path with a deep abyss on the left and a fantastic view of the Machu Picchu and surroundings.
You can also choose to take a nice walk to the Inca Bridge. This is about a half-hour walk from the Guard House. Everything is clearly indicated with signs. Before you take the walk, your data is first noted (and on your return it is noted that you’re leaving the area again). Along the way you have a beautiful view over the valley and finally you have a view of the Inca Bridge. A huge narrow bridge that was used as an alternative route. Very impressive to see how they made such a bridge at the time. If you are short of time then we advise you to skip this short trip.
After admiring the Machu Picchu from above, it’s of course time to take a close look at the ancient Inca city and walk from there to the exit.
Best travel time to Machu Picchu
The rainy season in Peru runs from November to March and the dry season from April to October. In the dry season you’ve the best chance of a clear sky and therefore a beautiful view of the Machu Picchu and surroundings. The busiest months are therefore June to August. Unfortunately there are no guarantees; even in the dry season it can be cloudy and rainy, but we were lucky with a nice clear sky at the end of June.
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