Located in the Andes Mountains, Machu Picchu is the ruins of a 15th-century Inca city. The Incas built it around 1450, at the height of their empire, but abandoned it a century later during the Spanish Conquest. UNESCO declared Machu Picchu a World Heritage Site in 1983. It was also chosen as one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World” in an internet poll, along with sites such as the Great Wall of China, Chichen Itza and Petra. Over the last few years, it’s become a destination for adventure travelers, so I’ve prepared a list of Machu Picchu booking resources to help travelers arrange trips.
For what to see at there and photos, check out my post on Machu Picchu, which was the culmination of my Inca Trail Trek with Intrepid Travel. Or read on below for tips on planning your own Machu Picchu trip!
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As of July 1 2017, you must also have a guide in order to visit Machu Picchu. Inca Trail treks will include this, but other travelers will have to book a guide for their visit. Guides are available at the park entrance or by booking a tour with entrance tickets online ahead of time.
If you choose, you can book a tour or day-trip excursion leaving from either Cusco or Aguas Calientes, or even from Lima. Check out options with traveler reviews on TripAdvisor.
Or you can book your own Machu Picchu tickets via Peru’s official website. Warnings: 1) you’ll need to have Flash, 2) it’s not particularly easy to use, and 3) you must pay with a verified Visa credit card. First select the date, place of visit and entry route. Here you can choose the options of your visit: the 6AM-12PM first group or 12PM-5:30PM second group (primero turno or segundo turno). Additionally, you can book an AM slot with optional hikes of Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain. There are two time slots available for each of the hikes. You’ll have to click on fields in the grid to select the number of tickets in the “foreign category,” enter your name and passport number, etc. before you can progress to each next step. At the end you’ll use the reservation you just created to enter your credit card info as payment and, finally, get your tickets.
Be sure to print the tickets to take with you to the entrance and bring your passport. If possible, I would also bring the credit card you used to make the reservation, just in case.
If you have the option of being in the area for a few days, you might consider booking a morning visit one day and an afternoon visit the next. Some travelers prefer photos with the morning fog and the option of the additional hike, while others might prefer photos during the “golden hour” of the late afternoon.
Getting to Machu Picchu on your own requires several steps. The most direct route is to fly to Cusco, take a train to Aguas Calientes, and then a bus to Machu Picchu on the day of your visit.
- STEP 1: FLIGHT. Fly from Lima to Cusco: there are several flights daily. Search for flights The Cusco train station is in nearby Poroy. If you’ll travel immediately by train, allow a few hours in case of flight delays and traffic in Cusco. From Poroy, take a train to Aguas Calientes.
- STEP 2: TRAIN. There are several options to get to Machu Picchu via train. Peru Rail offers three levels of service: Expedition, Vistadome (upgraded and with panoramic views), and the Belmond Hiram Bingham. The Hiram Bingham service is a train modeled after Pullman cars of the 1920’s, and has many inclusions: park entrance, meals, bus from the train station to Machu Picchu, tea at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge hotel during your visit, etc. It’s also MUCH more expensive than the other options. Inca Rail offers two classes of service, first and executive. With Inca Rail you can choose your departure and end points – either Poroy or Ollantaytambo.
- STEP 3: BUS. From the train station in Aguas Calientes, it’s a short walk to the Consettur bus station. Tickets can be purchased in person at the departure point or at the Consettur office in Cusco. Here’s a map of the walk from the train to bus station. I would recommend getting your bus tickets the day before. The first bus departs at 5:30AM, although travelers queue up early, and every 15 minutes thereafter. Return trips from Machu Picchu continue until 5:54pm.
A note: when booking trains, be sure to check any luggage restrictions. You might need to store larger bags in your Cusco hotel, or check if the rail company offers storage.
Where to Stay
If you’ll stay in Cusco, search local hotels.
- Weather info for your travels at Holiday-Weather.com, Weather Underground’s Trip Planner or World Weather Online
Machu Picchu Visit Add Ons
- During my travels, I like to read histories or books by regional authors of the places I visit. Recommended Machu Picchu reading: Forgotten Vilcabamba: Final Stronghold of the Incas by Vincent R. Lee, available on Kindle or paperback