Travel Guide to Machu Picchu

by Freddy March 20, 2023
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The citadel of Machu Picchu continues to be one of the most important and visited tourist destinations in Peru and throughout the world. If you are planning to visit the Lost city of the Incas, we would like to help you organize an unforgettable trip using our detailed travel guide. Below you can find everything you need to know about its history, location, climate, altitude and the best route to travel to Machu Picchu.

Best time to visit Machu Picchu

The mountainous Andean region surrounding Machu Picchu experiences two primary climatic seasons throughout the year. The rainy season runs from December till April and the dry season runs from April to December. The winter months are June-August, making them the coldest, but with 12 hours of high-altitude sunshine a day, you will only tend to feel the cold throughout the night. Daytime temperatures typically range from 20°C (68°F) to 25°C (77°F) for most of the year.

It is for this reason that we recommend that visitors favour the dry season, with the best months for exploring Machu Picchu being between May and October. Not only are the conditions during the dry season more preferable, but your souvenir photo of the citadel is almost certain to be much more glorious throughout the drier months.

However, if you plan to Travel to Machu Picchu during the rainy season, we recommend that you prepare for your visit with clothing suitable for wind and rain. It is prudent to consider however, that although the rainy season experiences more challenging weather conditions, visitors can take advantage of fewer tourists and less crowds. Providing you with an opportunity to share the beautiful green scenery with less people and perhaps even accompanied by a colourful rainbow.

How to get to Machu Picchu

There are several options to get to Machu Picchu:

1. Hiking : There are many trails that lead to the Lost city of the Incas, the most famous being the Inca trail 4 days starting from Kilometre 82 in the community of Piskaqucho. There is also a short Inca trail 2 days starting from Kilometre 104 near Chachabamba. Alternatively, visitors can hike the Salkantay trail from Soraypampa.

2. Train : the most popular access route for tourists is to take a train to Aguas Calientes. Trains to Machu Picchu town depart from Cusco, Poroy or Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley.

3. Car : The final option is to travel 6 hours by car from Cusco to Santa Teresa and then on to the town of Hidroelectrica. However, as there are no roads into Aguas Calientes from this point, visitors will then need to walk for 3 hours from Hidroelectrica to the town of Aguas Calientes.

The most recommended route for tourists who do not want to walk and wish to have a more relaxing experience, would be to travel by train along the railway to Aguas Calientes. Peru Rail and Inca Rail are the two main railway companies that are authorized to offer transportation within the national park and to the town of Aguas Calientes.

1. Machu Picchu by Train

The fastest and most comfortable route to Machu Picchu is by train. Visitors who opt for this method of transport are able to visit the citadel in just one day from the city of Cusco. Trains operate from Cusco, Poroy or the town of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley and terminate in Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town). There are 2 companies that provide train services to Aguas Calientes, both offering different types of services according to the needs of the passenger. Trains to Machu Picchu run throughout the day and operate 7 days a week, allowing visitors the flexibility to plan a trip around a preferred itinerary.

For those who wish to extend their visit to Machu Picchu for more than one day, the town of Aguas Calientes has a multitude of hotels, restaurants and visitor sites that can facilitate overnight stays. The benefits of stating in Machu Picchu town overnight means that you can arrive at the citadel early in the morning and spend more time exploring the Sanctuary without limited time constraints.

Between January 2 and April 30 (the rainy season), trains only depart from Ollantaytambo train station. During this time, we operate a comprehensive service that combines travel by car and train. The service starts and ends in the city of Cusco and the town of Aguas Calientes and can facilitate either one or two day tours to Machu Picchu.

servicio tren expedition

2. Hike to Machu Picchu

The famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the principal attractions of Peru. Known locally as ‘Camino Inca’, it consists of a network of ancient Inca paths that lead to the lost city of the Inca’s through the Sanctuary of Machu Picchu. The ‘Classic 4-day Inca Trail‘ is a 43km route, considered to be 1 of the 10 best hikes in the world. It is notoriously challenging since it ascends and descends over the Andes Mountains, through Amazonian cloud forests and alongside ancient archaeological centers. Therefore, physical ability and thorough preparation, both mentally and logistically is recommended.

The ‘Short Inca Trail’ is a 2-day excursion that takes you on a journey through Inca history. Along the way, hikers will visit the impressive sites of Chachabamba and Wiñayhuayna, before culminating at the famous panoramic viewpoint atop the Inti Punku Sun Gate. The 13km trail treats visitors to not one, but two chances to get to know Machu Picchu, with the in-depth guided tour of the Inca citadel taking place on day 2.

The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is considered to be of the 25 best treks in the world by National Geographic. The Salkantay pass at 4,650 meters, has been a highlight for hikers on the way to Macchu Picchu the world over, and is the best alternative to the Inca Trail for hikers wanting to reach the Lost City of the Incas. The trail takes you on an epic journey through snow-capped glacial mountains to Amazonian jungle valleys, concluding in the town of Aguas Calientes, the official home of Machu Picchu.caminatas machu picchu

3. Alternative routes to Machu Picchu

The final route to Machu Picchu is more economical than the train but will require a longer journey from Cusco. Visitors who opt for this mode of transportation will need to travel for 6 hours by car from Cusco to Santa Teresa and then on to the town of Hidroelectrica. However, as there are no roads into Aguas Calientes from this point, visitors will then need to walk for 3 hours from Hidroelectrica to the town of Aguas Calientes. For this reason, visitors will need to stay in the town of Aguas Calientes overnight, since you will not be able to travel their and back again in one day. machu picchu by car

What Should You Carry in Your Backpack

Depending on the time of year and the preferred method of travelling to Machu Picchu, visitors will need to prepare a bag containing necessary items that facilitate a comfortable and resourceful journey. Please be aware however that the train services have weight restrictions on luggage (5kg per person) and only permit one item of hand luggage per passenger. Machu Picchu itself also has limits and restrictions on the size and contents of your rucksack, so please only take essential items with you inside the citadel.

Below we have created a list of important items visitors should consider taking to Machu Picchu:

  • Original passport or identity document.
  • Comfortable light footwear or trekking shoes.
  • Waterproof jacket or raincoat.
  • Sunscreen (high SPF).
  • Mosquito repellent.
  • A bottle of water.
  • Essential medicines.

When planning a trip to Machu Picchu, visitors will first need to arrive into the city of Cusco. The ancient capital of the Incas is the tourist center of the region and is the layover point for tourists on route to the citadel. As the city is located at an altitude of 3,300 meters, we recommend that visitors stay in Cusco for a day or two to acclimatise before embarking on their tour to Machu Picchu. With a multitude of hotels, restaurants and tourist sites to choose from, visitors will have plenty of options, depending on their preferences, throughout their stay in Cusco. If you are planning your trip during the months of May-October, we advise booking your entrance tickets and accommodation in advance since this is the high season for tourism in Cusco and Machu Picchu.

Tourist Places to Visit in Machu Picchu

The Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is a vast expanse of natural and archaeological beauty. For this reason, we recommend that visitors spend as much time as they can reasonably afford exploring the sites and surroundings of the citadel.

Below is a list of sites that tourists can explore when visiting Machu Picchu.

  • Inca citadel of Machu Picchu
  • Inca bridge
  • Sun Gate
  • Machu Picchu Mountain
  • Huayna Picchu Mountain
  • Manuel Chávez Ballón Site Museum
  • Putucusí Mountain
  • Mandor waterfall
  • Aguas Calientes Hot Springs

Rules inside Machu Picchu

Before entering Machu Picchu, you must comply with the regulations set forth by the Ministry of Culture. Details below:

  • Original Passport or identity document must be presented with your ticket at the entrance gate.
  • The entry time and date must match the ticket. Otherwise, you will not be able to enter the citadel.
  • You can only enter Machu Picchu with a bottle of water; you cannot enter with any type of food.
  • Selfie sticks, camera tripods, and spiked trekking poles are all prohibited inside the citadel.
  • When inside the citadel, you must keep moving forward. You cannot go back or retrace your steps.
  • Once you have exited the citadel after your tour, you are not able go back in using the same ticket.
  • Umbrellas are prohibited inside Machu Picchu. So, if it rains you need to wear raincoats or ponchos.
  • Smoking is prohibited at all times inside the historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu.

Finally, the most important recommendation for all visitors is to preserve and take care of the archaeological and natural complex. When visiting the sacred and historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu, please try to comply with all provisions and measures set by the tourism board. Every visitor should be aware of the cultural and historical value of Machu Picchu so that the next generation can learn and enjoy this architectural wonder.

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