Who does not know Machu Picchu, ? The most famous place in South America e one of the 7 wonders of the world. For anyone who goes in Perù, the visit of Machu Picchu represents the apex of the journey and it could not be otherwise. As with other super famous places, of which we are used to seeing photos from every angle, even in this case I was afraid that the reality could be below my expectations. Nothing more false! Seeing him live was something incredible and I must say that I was also particularly surprised by the Peruvian management of the site. Despite the large number of tourists, one never gets the impression of being in a crowd; the entrances with time slots allow a visit at the right times and without any overcrowding.
Being such a famous place though, the accesses are limited Than we you have to get organized in time (especially in high season). In this article you will find all the information that allows you to organize your visit to Machu Picchu independently without having any surprises (but there is no lack of information for those who want to buy a package already made .. "without beating").
The best time to visit Machu Picchu is during our summer, which is the months of June, July and August. In Peru they are winter months and correspond to the dry season, in which it rains very rarely. Avoid the month of February if you want to reach Machu Picchu with the Inca Trail because it is closed for maintenance. Find more info on when to go to Peru in the article How to organize a trip to Peru.
The first thing to do when planning a trip to Peru is buy tickets to Machu Picchu. Tickets can be bought from Official site and you should do it as soon as possible (even months before!), especially if you intend to climb the Huayna Picchu or the Montaña Machu Picchu. Alternatively you can also buy them from the Get-your-Guide site (see box below) which also has many options for buying train tickets.
The entrance to the site is in fact allowed to no more than 2500 people a day, while the entrance to the 2 mountains (Wayna Picchu and Montaña Machu Picchu) to 400 people (so tickets run out early!). To protect the site, from 1 January 2019 they made new rules for the visit, that is entry by time slots: you can enter every hour from 6 to 14. It can stay on the site for a maximum of 4 hours (which are calculated from the time of entry); 6 and 8 hours are allowed respectively for those who choose to visit also the Huayna Picchu or the Montaña Machu Picchu. The site closes at 17:30 pm (no sunset!).
If you don't have time to organize everything, you can always buy a package already made from the site of Denomades (a super reliable and, above all, certified agency of Sustainable Tourism, which has competitive prices). This tour, for example, lasts 2 days, it starts from Cusco and includes transfers and entrance tickets.
Let's talk about the two mountains that you will find on the "opposite sides" of the archaeological site and which require an extra ticket. There Huayna Picchu it is the best known and most requested destination by visitors, it is 2693 meters high and takes about 1 hour and a half to climb. The path is of medium difficulty, narrow and steep (those who suffer from vertigo may have problems), but the panoramic view over the whole Inca City is truly wonderful (it is the one you see in the photo below). There Machu Picchu Mountain it is higher (3082 meters) and the view you will have from here includes the whole archaeological site and the Huayna Picchu. The path is quite wide and mainly made up of steps and steps; between ascent and descent you must calculate at least 3h and 30 '. To climb the mountains you will find checkpoints that will check your tickets and mark the start time of the climb; you will then have to enter the return time (you always exit from the same point).
The entrance ticket to the archaeological site costs 152 Soles (approx 41 €). If you buy the combined ticket archaeological site + Huayna Picchu (or Montaña Machu Picchu) instead the price is 200 Soles (approx. 54 €).
Unless you decide to hike the Inca Trail (see below), to visit the archaeological site of Machu Picchu you must first reach the town of Aguas Caliente (also called Machu Picchu Pueblo), which is the town at the base of the site. This town is located in the narrow valley below the ancient ruins and was built specifically for tourists. Here you will find only hotels, shops, bars and restaurants of dubious taste, but sleeping here will allow you to go up to the archaeological site at dawn. Here's how to get there:
The means that I recommend. Ollantaytambo it is located just over 70 km from Cusco and, in addition to being the perfect starting point to reach Mache Picchu, it is also a town worth seeing. Ollantaytambo is an ancient Inca city and the ruins of the temple-fortress that rise above the village are of rare beauty. Calculate the times well: leave Cusco in the morning (by bus it will take about 1h and 30 'at a cost of 30 Soles, 8 euros), visit the site of Ollaytaytambo (calculate about 3h between site and town) and take the train to Aguas Caliente in the afternoon. The two companies that operate the Ollantaytambo-Aguas Calientes route are PeruRail e IncaRail (prices are comparable) and you can buy tickets directly from their sites using any type of prepaid or credit card (including PayPal), then printing the ticket purchase receipt. Depending on the type of train and service (there are also luxury private carriages in which lunch is served!), The price varies from 180 to 630 Soles (from 50 to 170 euros one way). I have traveled on the Vistadome train (which has panoramic windows to admire the landscape) and costs 287 soles (77 euros, one way). As for Machu Picchu tickets, even train tickets sell out easily so they must be bought well in advance!
If you want to skip Ollantaytambo and reach Machu Picchu directly from Cusco you can buy train tickets (on the same sites) da Poroy fine ad Aguas Caliente. The Poroy station is located about 10 km from the center of Cusco and you can reach it by public transport or by taxi. The prices of train tickets are comparable to those of the Ollantaytambo-Aguas Caliente route.
Certainly the most suggestive way to reach the ruins is to do it on foot, following the Inca path, or the 38 km track traced by the Incas to connect the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu (for details, see the paragraph below).
As mentioned above, Aguas Caliente is anything but a charming town, but it remains the best starting point for visiting Machu Picchu. Having said that, I slept in this hotel and I highly recommend it:
Gringo Bill's Boutique Hotel (a little gem in the squalor of Aguas Caliente)
How to get to Machu Picchu from Aguas Caliente: on foot or by bus
The ruins of Machu Picchu, as we know, are located at the top and there are 2 ways to reach them:
On foot: there is a dirt road (which then becomes a long staircase) that starts from the town; to reach the entrance to the site it will take about 1 hour and a half. The path is surrounded by vegetation, so it is not panoramic. I recommend it only if you do not intend to climb the Huayna Picchu or the Montaña Machu Picchu, or if you are very fit. In case you decide to do so, bring a spare jersey.
By bus: there are minibuses that depart from Aguas Caliente every 10-15 'starting at 5:30 in the morning. The cost is 24 dollari A/R and you can also buy tickets the night before in the small office in the town. Remember to bring your passport because you will need it: the tickets are nominative. Usually people start queuing for the bus as early as 4:30 in the morning, but the queue is quite smooth.
To visit the ruins there are some things you absolutely need to know:
- Remember to bring your passport because you will need it: tickets are nominative and you cannot enter without a passport!
- Check the time slot of your ticket carefully and show up at the entrance in time.
- Find an official guide: from 1 January 2019 it can only be accessed accompanied by an official guide, who can accompany a maximum of 16 people and who will have to follow predetermined routes.
- Go to the bathroom before entering: you will no longer be able to go out to go there later (or rather, if you go out then you can no longer return!).
- The time spent inside the site is a maximum of 4 hours (starting from the time of entry), and it will no longer be possible to return once you have exited. The maximum stay is instead of 6 hours for those who choose to climb the Huayna Picchu and 8 hours for the Montaña Machu Picchu.
- The site closes at 17.30pm.
- Eat before entering (in theory it is not allowed to bring food inside and you will not find any bars or restaurants).
- Store your large backpack if you have it; you cannot carry heavy backpacks inside. over 8 kg. You will find paid lockers where you can deposit it.
- You will not find baskets inside; bring a garbage bag that you will take back out.
If you have enough time, there is no doubt that the most impressive and unforgettable way to get to Machu Picchu is on foot, using the same path followed by the Incas more than half a millennium ago. He is the famous Inca Trail, or the splendid path made of stones, stairs and tunnels through roads that lead from the gorge of the Urubamba river (2350 meters) to the peaks of the Andes (4200 meters). The 43km trail is interrupted by impressive Inca citadels that dominate the landscape and can be covered in 4 days starting from Piscacuchu (2700m). If you decide to do so you will need to contact a local agency e book it well in advance (especially if you go in high season) because there are only 500 seats a day! You can see the number of places available for each day on the official website. We leaned on Denomades and we enjoyed it very much! It is a certified tour operator that recognizes itself in the fundamental values of responsible tourism. This is the link to book the standard 4-day classic Inca Trail, and this is the "superior" version . To walk the Inca Trail you will have a guide who accompanies you, porters to carry all the camping equipment (personal luggage excluded), food throughout the trek (breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea and snack break), assistance and everything you need.