Machu Picchu is the golden destination of Perú, being one of the most famous and demanded activities. Cultural heritage by UNESCO and one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World, this old Inca City is truly an incredible place to visit in South America.
In Quechua, Machu Picchu means “Old Mountain”. Organized in the agricultural and the urban sector, it has survived for centuries, confirming the talent and brilliance of the Inca Empire. Since it was presented to the outside world in 1911, it has been studied, admired and restored by generations so that we can enjoy it today. As the years go by, there are more restrictions to visit this place so if you have the opportunity, don’t let it go! There are many details to consider when you’re planning your trip, so pay attention to these main topics:
How to get There
There are different ways to access Machu Picchu. Remember that when moving in this area of Perú you need to pay attention to the altitude to make sure you don’t suffer the consequences of the sudden change. As a quick summary, this is how you get to Machu Picchu:
-From Lima you need to get to Cusco (check out the details in our article “from Lima to Cusco” here)
-From Cusco there is transportation available or you can do some trekking if you’re up for the challenge. The train will take you to Aguas Calientes.
What is Aguas Calientes?
Aguas Calientes (also known as Machu Picchu Town)is very small, and the previous step towards Machu Picchu. Plenty of visitors choose to arrive to this town and spend the night, so they leave very early the next morning and make the most of their time.
By road, it’s about 9km between the two (5.6 miles). From Aguas Calientes you have the possibility of taking a bus, which will take you in about half an hour (running from 5.30am to 3.30pm every 10 minutes, 5 on rush hour: the early hours of the morning).
If you’re up for it, you can walk (it takes 1.30-2 hours, but it’s a moderate-hard ascent). It’s very important that you stay in the marked path, don’t be a hero trying to find new routes by yourself. As you go, sometimes you’ll be crossing paths with the shuttle bus, so always pay attention. There are some vendors along the way too.
You can also mix and match: take the bus there and come back down walking.
When is it better to go?
As we explained in our Inca Trail article, the high season matches the summer in the northern hemisphere: June to August. In the area of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, this is the dry season. During the rainy season (November-March) the path becomes a bit trickier with the rain, but there’s still movement.
Tell me about numbers!
There are so many ways to get to Machu Picchu and each one of them comes with a wide variety of expenses, so to give a “firm estimate” is very hard. Instead, we’ve made a general list of the costs you will have to consider. When you’re planning how to move on your own, or browsing for agencies to choose from, consider the following:
Transportation by train/car/bus:
-Arrival to Cusco (see our article on how to get to Cusco from Lima),
-Cusco to Aguas Calientes (either by train,or a combination of car-train),
-Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
Moving with a mix of sightseeing and trekking:
-The Inca trail has a basic price on its own (at least 500USD)
-If you want to participate in any adventure sports, the price of the Inca Trail experience will increase (from the range of 600-1200 USD)
-If you are doing any of the alternative treks, they’re normally a bit more budget-friendly (250-500USD), but again depends on which company and services you choose.
-If you’re moving on your own to get to the town of Ollantaytambo and from there to Aguas Calientes, there’s plenty of archaeological visits to do. Also, private companies operate around this area and have organized tours.
Accomodation and meals: again, depending on how you travel, you might be spending several nights in hotels along the way. This cost is reduced if you move with motorized transportation, as you can cover the distance between Cusco and Machu Picchu in a single day. Consider that, for sure, you’ll be spending some time in Cusco and probably a night in Aguas Calientes.
Machu Picchu Tickets: Machu Picchu itself, Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu, or Machu Picchu + Mountain (keep reading for more details on this).
What else should I know?
-The Machu Picchu ticket on its own is to see the city area (residences, temples).
-Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain are inside the complex of Machu Picchu, and you can add them to your visit of the city itself.
-Both mountains have restrictions when it comes to the amount of visitors and access times, so it’s advisable to plan ahead. Besides, ticket’s aren’t sold at the entrance point.
-The Machu Picchu complex has its own restrictions: only 2500 visitors per day at this moment, and you access at a specified time.
– Official Machu Picchu website here.