Visit Machu Picchu: when to go, how to get there and more info
Visiting Machu Picchu, one of the 7 wonders of the modern world, is probably the main reason for a trip to Peru. But how to organize the visit? When to go to Machu Picchu? How to get to Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes? How much? In this post I will try to answer the questions necessary to better organize a visit to Machu Picchu , thus creating a short practical guide that I hope will be useful for you when organizing a day trip to Peru .
Machu Picchu when to go
One of the questions that most worries travelers is: what is the best time for Machu Picchu? And for Peru in general, of course.
The best season is the dry one which coincides with our summer, that is from May to mid-September. The temperature is certainly lower, from them it is winter, but the rains are almost non-existent and during the day the climate is generally sunny and good. The situation is this in the Andean area, the one with more things to see in Peru when following a classic 2-3 week itinerary. For the Amazon area the climate is different.
Surely August will be the busiest month, but don’t worry about it if you can travel longer during that time.
We visited Machu Picchu in early October, we found fog and a light drizzle early in the morning but over time the sky opened up a bit and the temperatures were pleasant.
Ticket to Machu Picchu
Before discussing the question of how to get to Machu Picchu, you have to think about the ticket and if you want to go up on Huayna Picchu and Montaña too . These are 2 reliefs near the site from which you can enjoy a beautiful view of the site. Inform yourself well with those who have faced this excursion, because I know that the ascent to Huayna Picchu is very demanding. Think that in some places you are literally upright and you will have to go up with the help of ladders.
The ticket for Machu Picchu can be purchased in DIY mode on the only official website of the government (open it from a PC because it does not work on the smartphone). On the site you must pay with VISA card and remember to print the tickets to be presented in paper form. The ticket costs around € 40.
This solution is particularly recommended for those who travel in high season (August) and have their days numbered. In fact, there is a maximum number of daily admissions (2,500 people per day) and if you have tight stops it is best to book from home to avoid the risk of blowing up all the plans. Even more if you want to add to the visit of Machu Picchu also that of Huayna Picchu or Montaña, for which the daily entrances are even less (for the first 400 and for the second 800).
If, on the other hand, you do not travel in the classic high season or have several days available and not a precise itinerary, you can also take care of them when you arrive in Cusco.
At the beginning of October we booked everything (ticket + train) with an agency 2 days before the visit , without problems and without encountering a very big price difference. This is probably also because we were traveling in the low season.
How do the entrances work? The normal entrance to the site is divided into two shifts: from 06:00 to 12:00 and from 12:00 to 17:30. Always two shifts also for Huayna Picchu: from 7.00 to 8.00 or from 10.00 to 11.00. For Montaña Machu Picchu, on the other hand, there is only one shift: from 7.00 to 11.00.
Remember that you cannot enter and leave the site more than 2 times. And a little curiosity: we didn’t do it because we forgot about it, but if given your passport at the entrance, they will give you a beautiful stamp as if you had entered a new country.
Machu Picchu how to get there
The solutions to get to Machu Picchu are at least 3 and have different costs:
§ train to Aguas Calientes
Aguas Calientes is the town from which buses leave for the ruins of Machu Picchu and where you will sleep the night before in time to line up the night and go up.
Trains to Aguas Calientes leave from Poroy station , about 20 minutes from Cusco and slightly more expensive, or from Ollantaytambo in the sacred valley of the Incas. We started from the latter because the day before we had the opportunity to take a tour in the sacred valley .
The train can be booked independently on the PeruRail website, choosing from the various types. Trains to Machu Picchu are not cheap at all , especially in high season, and you’ll find yourself spending at least € 100 on the cheapest option (even more so if you leave Poroy instead of Ollantaytambo).
The train takes about an hour and a half from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes and on the return, up to Poroy, it takes almost three and a half hours. Don’t worry, the time will pass well because the train that leads to Machu Picchu passes through the mountains and you will enjoy a beautiful green landscape while sipping a tea kindly offered by the service on board.
§ mini bus to Hydroelectrica and then walk
The mini-bus solution to Hydroelectrica is the cheapest of all . The various agencies sell this solution to get to Machu Picchu at around 20/25 dollars. How does it work? Approximately 7/8 hours by bus to Hydroelectrica and then from there a couple of hours walk along the train tracks to the village of Aguas Calientes.
Surely this is the best solution for those who do not have time problems and want to save as much as possible. The only flaw is that the journey by mini bus seems to be very dangerous. If there are those who do not regret the choice at all, I also heard someone who was very afraid of the route due to road conditions in some places that became very narrow alongside various precipices.
Here, we also had the time but to take a scare or risk concretely to save € 100 even not. But everyone draws their own conclusions and talk to someone who has really experienced this cheap way to get to Machu Picchu.
§ trekking from Cusco
Another way to reach Machu Picchu, I would say the most fascinating of all, is to walk the ancient Inca path or some other similar trekking route like the Salcantay Trek.
These treks require from 2 to 4 days, they are not cheap at all (at least € 400 for the classic Inca Trail) and above all they must be booked months and months in advance. Definitely a nice expense but also a great satisfaction and test for trekking lovers.
From Aguas Calientes to the ruins of Machu Picchu
Once you get to Machu Picchu pueblo, so the town is nicknamed the foot of the ruins, you will spend a night here just in time to set the alarm very early and line up to go up to the site with the first buses.
The first buses leave at 5:45 and the site, which can be reached in 20 minutes, opens at 6:30 . To be able to take at least one of the first 10 buses, I recommend that you line up at least around 3/3: 30. We arrived at 3.45am and we did it anyway even though we weren’t among the very first.
The bus ride costs $ 24 return. You can also go up and down on foot but I find it really useless. The route is not panoramic, there is nothing to see, it is quite uphill and it will take you more than an hour. All energies taken away from the visit of Machu Picchu. At most, if you are really saving, you can decide to go down on foot, which will certainly cost less effort. But consider that the visit inside will tire you enough with all the up and down that there is.
Bus tickets can be bought right next to the line, on the other side of the road there are two small ticket offices that close late at night and open early in the morning.
Once you reach the entrance to Machu Picchu you can choose one of the many guides that are waiting for tourists. Visiting Machu Picchu without a guide does not make much sense , unless you are already an expert on your site.
Visiting Machu Picchu may represent the maximum moment of a trip in this country, but I assure you that with hindsight there will be many other places and experiences to do in Peru that will enter your heart : Arequipa , the Colored Mountain and the Lake Titicaca are are some.
I hope this post has been helpful in organizing the visit to Machu Picchu. If you have other questions, write to me!