Machu Picchu

How to get to Machu Picchu - A Travel Guide

How to get to Machu Picchu - A Travel Guide

Mach Picchu is a 15th century citadel situated at 2430m above sealevel and built by the Incas. It is believed to be a sacred religious site for the Incans of the 15th century, but nobody truly knows what it was used for. It is an archeological masterpiece with over 600 terraces and thousands of steps, built into the side of the mountain. It was only discovered by the Western world in 1911 and has been UNESCO World Heritage site since 1983. It is considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.It is located close by the city of Aguas Calientes, about 3 hours away from Cusco.

Now, how can you get there?

There are a few different ways of getting to Machu Picchu:

  • The famous 4-day Inca-Trail
  • A 1-day tour starting and ending in Cusco
  • A 3/4-day "Jungle Trek"
  • Make your own way there

The Inka Trail

 If you want to do the Inca - Trail (the famous 4- day hike), plan well in advance, as places fill up early. Doing the Inca-Trail is only recommended if you're REALLY physically fit, so make sure you get lots of exercise before starting and stay a few days in Cusco beforehand to get used to the altitude. I've never done it myself, but here is a great blogpost that has all the details about it! Keep in mind that if you do want to hike the Inca-Trail, you're required to book one of the tours and go with a certified guide and organization.

How to get to Machu Picchu

Any other Tour to Machu Picchu

Any other trip can be booked (and is probably around half the price you could get it for online) when you get to Cusco in one of the local travel agencies situated all over the city. They usually have free spots even for people wanting to start the next day. Don't just book with the first agency - ask around a little bit, compare prices and then go with your gut feeling. Alternatively, you can always check TripAdvisor reviews of the individual agencies, but most of them sell tickets for the same tours anyways.

The Jungle Trail

The "Jungle Trail" also takes four days, but includes one day of hiking, one day of biking, one day of zip lining and kayaking and one more day of hiking to Aguas Calientes. This one is much less physically challenging than the classic Inca Trail but great fun and it also rewards you with breathtaking views of the Andes. The first day you're biking down the Andes into the Jungle, followed by a day of hiking part of the Inca Trail. The third day you can both Zipline and Kayak in the jungle and the last day is another hike along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes. You're in a group of about 15 to 20 people and the guides are great! 

Machu Picchu 2

The one-day tour

Another alternative is a one-day tour from Cusco, but prepare for a lot of sitting around in busses and trains and for a very full and tiring day. If you opt for this option, you'll get picked up at your hostel or hotel at around 3 am ("Hora Peruana") and your bus will take you to Ollantaytambo where the train station is located. You'll get on the train which takes you all the way to Aguas Calientes and from there you'll take another bus up to Machu Picchu where your tour guide is waiting for you. After spending a couple of hours at Machu Picchu you take the bus back down again, take the train again and then again the bus to Cusco where you arrive somewhere around 10 pm, depending on your train.


Make your own way to Machu Picchu

If you're looking to make your own way, you'll have to find yourself a transport to Ollantaytambo, get yourself a train ticket to Aguas Calientes & a bus ticket up to Machu Picchu and reserve your ticket for Machu Picchu beforehand. While it is more of a hassle, you'll definitely have more freedom and you might be saving a little bit of money.

My personal favorite

Personally, I went once for the 1-day tour and once for the jungle trail and I enjoyed the jungle trail much more. The 1-day tour was quite stressed and somehow we were already tired arriving at Machu Picchu while the 4-day jungle trail left sufficient time for rest and made Machu Picchu much more enjoyable overall. Nonetheless, if one day is all you have, I'd definitely say go for it! The famous Inca-Trail is still on my bucket list since I have to shamefully admit that when I was there I was in no shape to go for it.


You made it!

Once you're there, I highly recommend to also take the hike up to sun gate - the view is absolutely stunning and so worth the ~ 45-minute hike! Take your time to walk around and see everything and also to sometimes just sit down in less crowded places and let yourself be caught up in the magic of the place - imagining what might have happened right where you're sitting years and years ago.

What to keep in mind when planning your trip to Machu Picchu:

  • Plan a few days in Cusco to adjust to the altitude. If you're having a hard time adjusting to the altitude, chew coca leaves (don't swallow the leaves - you're only supposed to swallow the juice and spit out the leaves after), or drink coca tea. If you're skeptical of the coca leaves, you can also get soroche pills in any of the pharmacies.
  • Plan your trip well in advance if you want to do the Inca Trail. If you're planning your own way to Machu Picchu, remember that you also have to reserve a ticket to Machu Picchu itself. If you're doing any of the treks or tours, the agencies will do this for you. For current entrance prices to Machu Picchu, check out this website (if you're a student, get yourself the ISIC card - it'll give you a discount on the entrance!). Tour prices vary strongly, depending on the price for the train and the company.
  • Once you're inside Machu Picchu, you there's no place to buy food or water- you need to bring your own! Bring a ton of water & snacks, with the altitude you'll crave more than normally. Also, there's no bathroom inside and you can't just go into the woods. There are vigilant employees everywhere making sure you don't do anything stupid.
  • Don't litter or sit on the stone buildings. The huge amount of tourists passing through every day are enough of a strain.
  • If you want to learn a little more about Machu Picchu during your visit, there are lots of tour guides by the entrance who do great tours for small-ish groups. Don't believe their claims that you'll get lost without them though ;)
  • You can get a Machu Picchu Passport Stamp! Right by the entrance, there's a little table where you can get your stamp - definitely an amazing souvenir :D
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Author of this text is Viktoria, founder of the Female Travel Collective, wanderluster, photography enthusiast, outdoorswoman & theater geek!

Author of this text is Viktoria, founder of the Female Travel Collective, wanderluster, photography enthusiast, outdoorswoman & theater geek!