How to Get to Machu Picchu: The Ultimate Guide How to Get to Machu Picchu: The Ultimate Guide

How to Get to Machu Picchu: The Ultimate Guide

Machu Picchu in Peru is an ancient Incan city built in the 15th century on top of a mountain. The once-lost city was rediscovered in 1911, covered by the Andean forest. It is an archaeological masterpiece, and just like the Pyramids in Egypt, Machu Picchu belongs to the world’s wonders. No matter if you visit via the stunning train ride or the world-famous Inca hike, it is set to become one of the highlights of your Peru Route.

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Machu Picchu Tickets

Visiting Machu Picchu is incredibly popular – With over 6500 people entering the archaeological site each day, it is necessary to purchase a ticket in advance.

Selecting a specific time slot for your visit is required when purchasing tickets (e.g. 6 AM – 12 AM). This allows the organization to control the number of people for a better experience.

In total, you will need 3 – 6 hours of exploring depending if you choose to climb on of the mountains.

Machu Picchu Ticket Types

When it comes to purchasing a ticket, you have three options. Book your multi-day tour here (includes Machu Picchu).

  1. Machu Picchu Ruins only
  2. Huayna Picchu Mountain + Ruins
  3. Machu Picchu Mountain + Ruins

We would recommend purchasing either option one or two.

Visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

Beat the crowds by getting up early and entering when Machu Picchu opens at 6 AM. Walk a short 5-min up to the first ruins and be on time for the incredible sunrise to appear from behind the mountain tops shining down on Huayna Picchu Mountain. (The large mountain behind the ruins)

It is simply mind-blowing when you see all the terraces in a valley with that incredible backdrop.

How to get to Machu Picchu

Bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

In order to get an early start, spend the night in Aguas Calientes, a small town located near Machu Picchu. From there, take the first shuttle bus (30 minutes) to the entrance. Please note that a return bus ticket costs 24 USD, which is high compared to standard rates in Peru.

Please note: It is prohibited to take food, tripods, selfie sticks, and drones.

The first bus departs at 5:30 AM. However, make sure to start queueing at 4:30 AM as the line can get extremely long. Don’t let the length of the line scare you; the shuttle buses are very convenient and fast.

Hike from Aguas Calientes

Your second option is to save a lot of money and hike about 60 minutes uphill to the entrance of Machu Picchu.

Inca Trail Trek

Another option is to walk the official Inca Trail and be earlier inside the site than everybody else. It is a 4 or 5-day trek that, undoubtedly, gives a huge satisfaction while finishing at Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu Ruins

After sunrise, explore the Inca ruins. Vast stone structures that used to be buildings for the people living here. The 600+ terraces were built and used for growing crops and as drainage. 

Huayna Picchu Mountain

If you bought a ticket that includes the hike to Huayna Picchu, please note that the gates to go up are only open between 7 and 8 AM or 10 to 11 AM (check the time on your ticket). To climb Huayna Picchu, it is recommended to book your tickets 8 weeks in advance.

The Passport Stamp

And when your time slot expires, head to the exit to place the official Machu Picchu stamp in your passport. It is allowed to do this in your passport but if you don’t feel comfortable with that, take a postcard with you to the top to stamp.

Getting from Cusco to Machu Picchu Town

Cusco is the gateway to Machu Picchu in Peru. Take the incredible 1.5-hour train ride from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, where each wagon has a see-through roof. The train is, next to hiking, your only option since there are no roads in the mountains.

Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes, better known as Machu Picchu Pueblo (town) is located just 30 minutes away from the world-famous site. This tiny traveler’s town is built around the train tracks and offers a handful of good restaurants and hotels. Other than that, there isn’t much to do, and it is just a relaxing village to be for one or two days.

Machu Picchu elevation and altitude sickness

Altitude sickness can be a very unpleasant feeling. Fortunately, the ruins are located at 2450 meters. That is below the 2500 meters where altitude sickness can start appearing. Spend a few days in the higher-located Cusco to acclimatize, followed by a visit to the Mapi Ruins.

Hotels to Stay

It is best to find a hotel in Aguas Calientes while visiting Machu Picchu. Another option is to stay in Cusco or Ollantaytambo, but this would require an earlier departure and a train ride. This would take up quite some time. If you’re backpacking in Peru, there are also plenty of hostel options near Machu Picchu (search for hostel availability here).

Best time to visit Machu Picchu

Weather-wise, it is best to visit during winter in Peru. Winter is the dry season and runs from May to September, whereas June to August are the busiest months tourism-wise. October to April is with the least tourists because of its wet season; however, a visit in October or April can be an excellent choice.

Blog comments (23)

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  • Nitin

    Excellent information about the tour and great pictures!
    Did you guys hike the Huayna Pichu mountain? If yes, is it the difficulty level moderate or hard?

    • Salt in our Hair

      Hi, thank you! We weren’t able to do the Huayna Pichu because those tickets were already sold out for our visit.

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