Visiting Machu Picchu
How and When is Best to Visit Machu Picchu?
After taking the decision of travelling to the location, the first questions a traveler asks it how to get there and when is the best time of the year?
We are trying to answer to these basic questions to help you plan your Machu Picchu trip!
This resource will take you through all main issues and aspects.
Getting to Machu Picchu
You have 2 main choices:
Hike the Inca Trail by booking at least 3 months ahead at an agency
Benefits: see wonderful scenery and other Inca ruins; get to Machu Picchu before other travelers
Risks, Difficulties: medium difficulty level; cannot do individually, must book from an agency
Access to the trail is limited, certain numbers of tourists are allowed to pass during certain periods (numbers are subject to change).
Individually you are not allowed to go through, only with organized groups.
If you book for such a trip from an agency, then you will be guided by authorized English-speaking guides and will get to know other travelers as well.
You need acclimatization, must get used to height level, therefore you should stay at least 7 days in Cuzco before taking the trip. Hiking experience and a thorough medical checkup is necessary before taking on the ancient Inca Trail.
Our Inca Trail to Machu Picchu hike article will give you further information and advice on getting prepared.
Take the train from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes and from there by bus or on foot all the way up to the ruins
Benefits: doable in 1 day; cheaper
Risks, Difficulties: expect crowds of tourists; possible access limitation to some parts of the city
The easy way is cheaper, but less fun. As it is in life in general or the road to Mecca (in Muslim philosophy).
If you are travelling with your family, then this is the only way.
Trains leave from Cuzco and arrive at Aguas Calientes. Buses go up to Machu Picchu from there. Prices and schedules are presented below this phrase, but keep in mind that they can change at any time!
Cuzco to Aguas Calientes Train
The distance between Cuzco and Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo) is 112 km (70 mi). The duration is approximately 4 hours and the scenery in the Sacred Valley is breathtaking.
There are 2 train stations in Cuzco: the trains to Aguas Calientes leave from the San Pedro Station (located at the Calle Cascaparo).
There are 3 trains that will take you from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes: Hiram Bingham, Vistadome and Backpacker. The prices are highest on the Hiram Bingham train and lowest on the Backpacker train.
Check the Machu Picchu train schedule for further details.
Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu Buses:
The departure time of the 1st bus is at 5 AM.
The price of a single trip is approximately 5 - 6 USD.
The Best Time for Visiting Machu Picchu
Due to its location in the Andes where precipitation levels are high, the mountains around swim in dense fog and receive heavy rain most of the time every year.
If you want to clearly see Machu Picchu as it is in photos, then you will have to travel there when there's less precipitation.
The best time to visit Machu Picchu is in the April - October interval
Rain still occurs, fog is frequent, but you have the best chance of seeing it in its full splendor.
The period when most travelers arrive is in June - August
This time of the year there are large crowds of tourists, one can hardly get around in some parts of the site, lines are formed at the entrance. Most of the travelers are arriving through Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo), fewer will hike the Inca Trail, which is the harder way.
Where to Buy Entrance Tickets to Machu Picchu?
There are 2 ways to buy tickets:
Buying the Machu Picchu entry tickets in Cuzco
Instituto Nacional de Cultura, Avenida Pachacútec, Cuzco (close to the Plaza de Armas)
Buy the tickets in whole when booking for a trip from an agency
Normally they should sell you the tickets when you book for the Inca Trail hike or even if they sell you guided tours with train and bus tickets included.
The average price of a Machu Picchu train ticket is about 43 USD.
Practical Advice for Visiting Machu Picchu
After you have understood when and how you can reach the spot, some advice will be useful on how to better enjoy the city. First of all think about why exactly you want to visit it and what you would like to see.
Certainly our advice below will be of good use to many of you...
Advice for Photographers
In order to catch the best sunlight and avoid fog and crowds, we advise you to travel the following way, if you have hiking skills and feel ready for going through the mountains.
Take the Inca Trail hike and arrive to the ruins before the crowds who come from Aguas Calientes
If you want to take the easy way and still get a good glimpse of the city, then you will have to travel by a combination of train and bus or train and then on foot to Machu Picchu.
In this case...
Get the train from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes and then stay several days at
a hotel in the town. Stay several days there at a hotel and get up to
Machu Picchu in the morning before other tourists with the help of local
Quechuan guides who know good shortcuts through trails all the way up to
Please note that if you walk from the town to the ruins, it can even take 2 hours if you're well loaded and not used to physical effort. The Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu distance is 8 - 9 km (5 mi) approximately. Count for at least 1 hour duration.
What to Bring and what not to Bring to the Ruins?
There is a luggage storage place/office where you can leave your luggage on the mountain top at the entrance to the archaeological site. You will have to leave your large bag/large backpack there, only small carry-on luggage and items, such as cameras, tripods are allowed inside.
Make sure not to leave any valuables in the luggage, if you decide to leave it at the left-luggage office.
Drinks and food are not allowed to be taken in to the ruins.
Portable music device with earphones, they will distract your attention from the sight, the smells, the sounds, winds up there... These kinds of items are better not to be taken to the ruins.
Before departing, you might need to use insect repellant crème or spray on yourself due to the fact that mosquitoes and other insects roam in the humid warm environment.
What to Wear - Preparing for Rain, Fog, Cold
Sometimes temperatures go very slightly below 0º C (32º F), maximum temperatures are around 20 - 22º C (69 - 70º F). All these in the "adequate period for visiting".
Variations of temperatures and moisture levels are intense. Make sure to prepare for very hot and very cold, but be prepared for moist as well.
During the dry season (April to October), one should expect night-time lows of 0º C (32º F) and daytime highs reaching 26º C (78.8º F)
There is 77 % humidity during the dry months and up to over 91 % during the rainy months. This does not mean rain necessarily, but air humidity, water vapor and myst.
Humidity is high, so make sure to bring impermeable clothes, a raincoat.
It is a general rule that days are warm and nights are ice-cold.
Comfortable impermeable boots are recommended for footwear. The grass is often wet, there's mud and pebbles, small rocks, even if you don't hike, you should take boots. If you do hike, it's a must.
If you are going to hike to Machu Picchu, then get help for preparing accordingly.
Parts with Limited Access
The Huayna Picchu Cliff is visited only by part of those who enter the site. Some don't know about it, others don't get there in time.
The entrance to Huayna Picchu is usually closed after 16:00 o'clock, but you might find the access blocked before if there are many visitors.
For getting access to Huayna Picchu, we recommend you to get up very early in the morning and arrive there by 6 o'clock.
How to Get the Best out of a Visit to Machu Picchu?
It's very important to check the weather reports, no matter how you choose to get to the spot. Regardless of what the weather report will tell you, keep in mind that the earlier you arrive, the colder and the wetter it will be up there. Always bring impermeable clothes, like a thin raincoat.
In order to best enjoy the views of Machu Picchu and avoid the large crowds, we advise you to get there through the Inca Trail. Most itineraries take 4 days of effort and high costs, but you will get to see the wonderful city by passing through Intipunku (the Sun Gate) before the large crowds, with luck you will even have fine weather.
Plus: you will see a number of other ruins along the trail and get glimpses of Machu Picchu from unusual angles that others will not see.
When in Machu Picchu, make sure you climb the peak of Huayna Picchu, from up there you can admire an unforgettable view over the main quarters of the city below.
Don't hurry, enjoy the splendor of the ancient Inca city!
Make sure you have a very good camera with you and some spare accumulators/batteries. Immortalize the magic moments in the dreamlike city.