Are you planning a trip to Machu Picchu? If so, you’re in for an unforgettable adventure! Machu Picchu is one of the most iconic and sought-after travel destinations in the world, and for good reason. The ancient Inca citadel, perched high in the Andes mountains of Peru, is a testament to the ingenuity and engineering prowess of the Inca civilization. Visiting Machu Picchu is an experience like no other, and with a little planning and preparation, you can make the most of your trip.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to plan a successful and memorable trip to Machu Picchu. From the best time to visit and how to get there, to what to pack and how to stay safe, we’ve got you covered.
Top 5 best tips for planing your trip to Machu Picchu
1. Be Flexible
The key to a successful trip to Machu Picchu is to be flexible with your plans. While it’s important to aim for your preferred dates, hotels, and train departures, it’s also important to have backup options in case your first choice is not available. Be prepared to adjust your plans and choose alternatives that can work for you.
2. Plan for a 2-Day Trip
Instead of trying to see Machu Picchu in a single day, plan for a 2-day trip that allows you to fully enjoy the journey and have more flexibility in case of unexpected events. On Day 1, depart from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and have an afternoon visit to Machu Picchu. Stay overnight in Aguas Calientes and return to Machu Picchu for a morning visit on Day 2 before heading back to Cusco in the evening.
3. Add Buffer Days
When planning your trip to Machu Picchu, it’s important to add in buffer days to account for delays or unforeseen circumstances. Spend at least one full day and one night in Cusco, where you can access banking services, pharmacies, restaurants, and other amenities. Also, consider the high altitude and allow time for acclimatization. Avoid booking flights on the same day as your visit to Machu Picchu and plan to overnight in Cusco after returning from Machu Picchu.
4. Buy Multiple Entry Tickets
Consider buying more than one entry ticket to Machu Picchu. Even if you don’t plan to hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain. This will allow you to take breaks between tours inside the national park and avoid being stuck without access to restrooms. Remember, you cannot exit and re-enter Machu Picchu using the same ticket.
5. Consider an Easy Guided 1-Day Inca Trail Hike
If you have the time and energy, consider adding an easy guided 1-day Inca Trail hike to your Machu Picchu itinerary. This 7.5-mile hike is part of a 2-day trip to Machu Picchu. Offers the opportunity to enter Machu Picchu from the Sungate. Families with varying needs can split up for the day. And meet up in Aguas Calientes at the end of the hike. A private guide is included during the hike and the tour of Machu Picchu the next day.
6. Pack for the climate and be ready for altitude
The climate in the region around Machu Picchu is tropical, so you’ll want to pack accordingly. Lightweight, breathable clothing is ideal, and be sure to bring a rain jacket or poncho as the rainy season lasts from December to March. Also, don’t forget to pack sunscreen and insect repellent.
The high altitude of Cusco and Machu Picchu can cause dehydration, so it’s important to drink plenty of water. Carry a reusable water bottle with you and fill up at the many water fountains throughout the region. You can also bring electrolyte tablets or powder to add to your water for added hydration.
7. Book your tickets in advance
Tickets to enter Machu Picchu can sell out quickly, especially during the high season from June to August. To ensure you can visit on your desired date, book your tickets well in advance. You can purchase tickets online through the official government website or through a licensed tour operator.
Now that you have a solid plan for your trip to Machu Picchu, it’s time to delve into more details to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. In the next part, we will cover topics such as how to get to Machu Picchu, what to pack, what to expect at the site, and more. So, keep reading to make the most of your journey to this incredible wonder of the world.
When to Visit Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is open year-round, but the best time to visit is during the dry season, which runs from May to September. During this time, the weather is generally mild and dry, and the skies are clear, making for better views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, aim to visit Machu Picchu during the shoulder seasons, which fall in April and October. While the weather may be slightly less predictable during these times, the smaller crowds can make for a more enjoyable and peaceful experience.
Read our complete guide: Best time to visit Machu Picchu.
How to Get There
The most common way to reach Machu Picchu is by taking a train from the nearby town of Cusco. Trains run daily and offer a comfortable and scenic journey through the Andes mountains. The journey takes around 3.5 hours each way, with departures from both Cusco and the nearby town of Ollantaytambo.
Another option is to hike the famous Inca Trail, a multi-day trek through the mountains that culminates in a stunning sunrise view of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate. The Inca Trail requires a permit and should be booked well in advance.
Read our ultimate guide on how to get to Machu Picchu.
Read our guide for Planing a trip to Inca Trail.
How to Buy Machu Picchu tickets
If you’re planning a trip to Machu Picchu, buying your entrance tickets in advance is a must. Here’s what you need to know about how to buy Machu Picchu tickets:
- You can buy tickets online or in person at the official government office in Cusco or Aguas Calientes (link is to google map).
- There are a limited number of tickets available each day, so it’s best to buy them as early as possible.
- You can choose to visit Machu Picchu in the morning or afternoon, and you’ll need to choose a specific entry time.
- You’ll also need to choose which areas of Machu Picchu you want to visit, such as just the main site or also Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain.
- Make sure to bring your passport and the credit card you used to purchase the tickets when you enter the site, as you’ll need to show both to gain entry.
By following these steps, you can secure your Machu Picchu tickets and ensure that you have a chance to explore this incredible archaeological wonder.
What to Bring to Machu Picchu
When planning a trip to Machu Picchu, it’s important to bring the right gear and equipment. Here are some essential items to pack:
- Comfortable hiking shoes
- Sunscreen and insect repellent
- Rain gear and warm layers
- Water and snacks
- Camera and extra batteries
Read more in: Ultimate packing list for Machu Picchu.
Exploring Machu Picchu
Once you arrive at Machu Picchu, you’ll want to take your time exploring this ancient wonder. Be sure to wear comfortable clothing and shoes, as there are steep steps and uneven terrain throughout the site. Consider hiring a local guide to take you through the ruins and provide insights into the history and significance of the site.
While the entire site is worth exploring, there are a few must-see spots that you won’t want to miss:
- Inti Watana: This impressive stone structure is believed to have been used as a sundial by the Incas and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
- The Temple of the Sun: This circular temple is one of the most important structures in Machu Picchu and was likely used for astronomical observations.
- The Main Plaza: This large square at the heart of Machu Picchu was likely used for ceremonial purposes and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
- The Inca Bridge: This narrow, wooden bridge offers a thrilling experience and stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
- The Sun Gate: This entrance to Machu Picchu is an iconic spot for photos and offers stunning views of the ruins and surrounding mountains.
While Machu Picchu is generally a safe and well-managed site, there are some precautions you can take to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit. Be sure to drink plenty of water and take frequent breaks, especially if you’re hiking or exploring the site for an extended period of time.
It’s also important to be aware of the altitude, as Machu Picchu sits at an elevation of over 7,000 feet. Take it slow and allow yourself time to acclimate to the altitude before engaging in any strenuous activities.
Useful Tips for Visiting Machu Picchu
Here are some useful tips for visiting Machu Picchu:
- Pack for changing weather: Machu Picchu’s weather can be unpredictable, so be prepared for sudden changes in temperature and weather conditions. Bring a sweater and/or rain jacket to stay warm and dry.
- Bring water and snacks: While technically food and drinks are not allowed inside the site, you can still bring water and a small snack in your bag. This will help keep you hydrated and energized during your visit.
- Plan your meals: Food and drinks inside Machu Picchu can be expensive, so it’s best to eat a big breakfast and bring a snack or two. This way, you won’t have to waste time or money on a meal while you’re exploring the site.
- Buy tickets in advance: To avoid disappointment, it’s best to purchase your train tickets and Machu Picchu tickets online ahead of time, especially during high season (April – August).
- Get your passport stamped: You can get your passport stamped at the tourist office near the bus drop-off point, which makes for a great souvenir.
- Be aware of altitude sickness: Machu Picchu sits at a high altitude, so it’s important to take it easy and not overexert yourself. Symptoms of altitude sickness include headaches, nausea, and fatigue. If you’re feeling unwell, take a break and drink plenty of water.
By following these tips, you can make the most of your visit to this incredible World Heritage site.
Traveling Peru at high season
Traveling to Peru during high season can be an exciting and memorable experience, but it can also present some challenges if you’re not prepared. One of the most significant challenges during this time is finding accommodation and activities, such as the Inca Trail trek, which can book up quickly.
If you plan on hiking the Inca Trail during high season, it’s essential to book your spot ahead of time. Due to the trail’s popularity, many tours and guides are fully booked up to a year in advance. This means that if you wait too long to book, you may be out of luck and miss out on the experience altogether.
Similarly, it’s important to book your accommodation in advance to avoid paying premium rates or struggling to find a place to stay. During high season, many hotels and hostels fill up quickly, so it’s best to book your room as soon as possible to ensure a comfortable and stress-free stay.
Finally, don’t forget to book your trains in advance if you plan on using this mode of transportation during your trip. During high season, trains can also book up quickly, and waiting until the last minute could leave you without a seat.
In summary, planning a trip to Machu Picchu requires some forethought and preparation, but the experience is well worth the effort.
While it’s not mandatory to have a tour guide, it’s highly recommended. A guide can provide you with valuable information about the history and significance of the site, as well as help you navigate the complex network of paths and buildings.
No, it’s not recommended to hike to Machu Picchu without a guide. You’ll need to join a guided tour or hire a tour guide for better experience.