High in the Andes mountains, at 8,000 feet above sea level is Machu Picchu, Peru’s most famous archaeological site and one of the most famous ancient treasures. This Inca citadel is hidden between Huayna Picchu (or new peak) and Machu Picchu (or old peak), and on the edge of the Urubamba River.
Built by the Inca ruler Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui around the 1500s, Machu Picchu was his royal estate and religious retreat. There were about 200 buildings made up of residences, temples, storages, baths, public places, and massive pre-Columbian agricultural terraces. Today, this ancient city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it’s a place in Peru that attracts millions of visitors each year.
Is Machu Picchu on your bucket list? Trippy users Katia and Mike had it on their list, but when it came time to plan the trip, they knew it wouldn’t be that easy. So they got help from locals and other travelers who traveled to Machu Picchu before. These were their questions:
When is the best time of the year to trek the Machu Picchu?
I’m planning a trip to Peru from New York this year and trying to figure out the best time of the year to go to Peru and trek the Machu Picchu. Is it a challenging trek, and does it require specific training and physical endurance?
Thanks for the tips.
We’re going to Peru for a friend’s wedding in Lima. We want to visit Cusco & Machu Pichu, arrive in Cusco Tuesday AM, leave Thursday PM (back to Lima). Is it possible/worth it in this little amount of time?
Here’s a travel guide to Machu Picchu:
Best time to visit Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is open year-round, but it’s best to go during the dry season, from May to October. Rain and fog can happen throughout the year in Machu Picchu. The warmest months are November to March, which is also the rainy season. Landslides and flood may occur during the rainy season. February is when Inca Trail is closed for maintenance. So avoid February (the wettest month) if your travel plans include going on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
Peak season, the busiest time in Machu Picchu is in June, July, and August. Kate from Salzburg advised:
The best time you can visit is September because it is still in the dry season and will be less busy at that time of the year.
How to get to Machu Picchu
First, fly into Cusco since most guided tours start there. You have a choice of hiking, taking the train or going on a vehicle to Aguas Calientes before heading to Machu Picchu by bus.
Those who like hiking and adventure would be happy going on one of the guided hiking trips from Cusco to Machu Picchu. The most popular hiking route is the Inca Trail where you hike to Sun Gate Machu Picchu.
You can also look into Salkantay Trek and Lares Trek. These hiking trips end in Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo.
If you prefer comfort and luxury, take the easy route – go on the train to Aguas Calientes. You have a choice of three train companies – Belmond Hiram Bingham, Peru Rail, and Inca Rail.
Peru Rail and Belmond Hiram Bingham trains leave from Poroy station, a small town about eight miles from Cusco central. Apart from departures from Poroy, Peru Rail also offers departures from Ollantaytambo. Inca Rail has limited service and runs only from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes.
Belmond Hiram Bingham is a luxury train with a look of the classic 1920s parlor cars. Peru Rail is a cheaper version and takes you on the same route as Belmond Hiram Bingham from Poroy to Aguas Calientes. This three and a half hour scenic ride offers views of the Urubamba River, canyons walls and more.
Nadia from Adelaide shared this:
First, the plane, then the bus, then the train and you will arrive in a little town named Aguas Calientes.
If you’re wondering how to get to the citadel once you arrived in Aguas Calientes, Trippy user Kate from Salzburg wrote:
There are two ways to get to Machu Picchu, you can take the bus, around 25 minutes to get to the entrance, and it will drop you off at the entrance of the citadel. You can also do the hike, it is steep and with tropical weather, but you get beautiful views on clear days. You should be in good shape to walk all the way up; I believe it will take at least 2 hours to finish the trek.
Permits and tickets
1. Inca Trail permits
There are 500 permits issued per day for Inca Trail. About 300 of these are for the cooks, guides, and porters. It’s best to reserve your tickets at least six months in advance. The Peruvian Government sells these permits on a first-come, first-serve basis. You can visit Machu Picchu without a guide, but you can’t go on the Inca Trail on your own.
The Inca Trail is closed in February for maintenance.
Trippy user Oliver wrote:
One of the best trekking tours to Machu Picchu is the Inca Trail; I’d personally recommend the 4-day trail.
Go to Inca Trail Reservations to check availability and get more information on Machu Picchu hiking tours.
2. Train tickets and schedule information
Pablo from Chile said:
Well, the Inca Rail it’s really good and safe, If you want to take the train, there aren’t a lot of alternatives because the standard rail it’s only for Peruvian people as far as I know. Going on a vehicle I think that it’s dangerous because of the road, so I would definitely recommend using the train.
Check out Peru Rail, Inca Rail, and Belmond Hiram Bingham schedule and ticket prices at Inca Trail Reservations.
3. Machu Picchu tickets
There are four types of tickets:
- Machu Picchu (Inca City) only
- Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu
- Machu Picchu and mountain (Inca City and Machu Picchu mountain)
- Machu Picchu and museum
Tickets are available online at Ticket Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu is open at 6 am, and there are specific schedules to enter the citadel. It closes at 5 pm, and everyone must leave before that time. You can find out the details at Schedules and entry to Machu Picchu page here.
4. Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu’s Ciudadela Inca bus tickets
Bus tickets from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu entrance are available for purchase in Cusco and Aguas Calientes. It’s advisable to get the tickets in Cusco to avoid long lines in Aguas Calientes. You can get your tickets at two places in Cusco:
- Av. Infancia 433 – Wanchaq: from 8 am to 12.45 pm and from 3 pm to 6 pm
- Av. El Sol 380 – Banco Interbank: from 8 am to 12.45 pm and from 3 pm to 6 pm
The first bus departs from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu at 5:30 am, and the last is at 3:30 pm. The buses operate at a 10-minute interval, and it takes about 30 minutes each way. More information about the tickets is available at Ticket Machu Picchu.
This is Katherine’s advise to all travelers to Machu Picchu:
The altitude. As a travel professional, I am very wary and even hesitant to arrange any trips that don’t allow two nights in either the Sacred Valley/Cusco before heading to Machu Picchu as your body won’t have time to adjust. And no, it doesn’t matter if you are physically fit or not, anyone can feel the effects of high altitude (headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath are only mild symptoms) and the best way to cope with high altitude is to give your body time to adjust.
You may not get to see much of Cusco on your arrival day (seriously, you need some time here to relax and get used to the high altitude) and run the risk of being unwell as you reach Machu Picchu.
Trippy user Scott wrote:
A few things I would do to be prepared. Make sure you have Diamox, which can help with altitude sickness. It is also very important to try to acclimate if you can. If you have areas around you where you can get up higher in altitude to help your body adapt to higher elevations, that should help. Taking some hikes up to even a few thousand feet can help the body acclimate to less oxygen. If you have a day, or two, before you go to Cusco, try a lower altitude. You will probably fly into Lima, which is about 5,000 feet above sea level. Cusco is about twice that high. I live in Colorado at about 5,000 feet. I always suggest to people to spend a day around Denver, if they are coming from sea level, before heading up into the mountains. Regardless of whether those options are available, or not, make sure you are getting plenty of rest, and keep yourself hydrated. Have a great time and safe travels!
I was in Peru this past June to hike the Salkantay Trail and to see Machu Picchu. We arrived in Cusco three days before starting our hike. You should be okay if you just remember to walk slowly and take it easy. Also, be sure not to overeat until your body has acclimatized and drink a LOT of water to stay as hydrated as possible. Stay away from alcohol and caffeine if possible, as the effects of those things are much greater at high altitudes. I also took Diamox/Acetazolamide. If you’re generally healthy, I think you won’t have too much of an issue. I do believe the more fit you are, the easier of a time you’ll have there.
Where to stay in Cusco
Trippy user Claudia recommended these places to stay in Cusco:
Here are a few places you may like:
Andean Rooftop Guesthouse, located in the heart of Cusco, featuring a rooftop bar with amazing views.
Tierra Viva Cusco Saphi, a boutique hotel with comfortable rooms and just three blocks from Plaza de Armas.
Yanuy Culinary Guesthouse, a place that offers friendly service and good breakfast.
Where to stay in Aguas Calientes
In Aguas Calientes you may want to stay at the following places:
- Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel
- Tierra Viva Machu Picchu
- Andino Hotel