Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, Cusco
Machu Picchu inspires awe and elation at first sight. This marvel of Inca engineering straddles a mountain ridge at the meeting point of the Andes and the Amazon. Forgotten after the fall of the Inca Empire, and then re-discovered 400 years later, Machu Picchu is Peru’s top attraction. Browse our destination guide below for essential facts, travel tips, and top attractions on a Machu Picchu tour.
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At A Glance
Machu Picchu was built to perfection without any cement. Remarkably, the ancient Inca city survived centuries of abandonment in a part of Peru that suffers frequent earthquakes, heavy rains, and landslides. It's stone temples, terraces, and water channels remain intact and its rock-hewn path receive thousands of awe-struck visitors every year. Machu Picchu was declared a Historic Heritage by UNESCO in 1983 and more recently named a New World Wonder in 2007. Yet, as famous as the ruins are today, we actually know very little about the purpose Machu Picchu served. Visit Peru to explore the beautiful Inca citadel and unravel its mysteries.
Machu Picchu offers more questions than answers. Why was it built? What purpose did it serve? Why was it abandoned? Very little of what we know about Machu Picchu actually comes from the Incas themselves because they never developed a writing system. Instead, the history of this ancient site is peices together from scientific research, decades of ethnographic research, and deep historical content.
1300 to 1500 AD - The Inca Empire developed as a city-state. Over the next two centuries, the Inca first co-existed with, and then absorbed neighboring ethnic groups. Cusco was established as the Inca capital city and they built foot trails to connect the different cities of their empire, expanding through present-day Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, and Colombia.
1450 AD - Construction for Machu Picchu probably began during the mid-14th century at the height of the Inca Empire during the reign of Pachacutec, the powerful 9th king.
Why was Machu Picchu built?
Most scholars agree that Machu Picchu was built as a royal estate. Others speculate the Inca city was a sacred center where the great political, religious and economic minds of the Inca Empire gathered.
How was Machu Picchu built?
The Inca didn’t use steel or iron tools, nor the wheel, to construct their city comprised of over 170 buildings, more than 600 terraces, thousands of stone steps, temples, and 16 fountains. Instead, they utilized simple materials such as stone, wood, and bronze. Granite stones were chipped, chiseled, polished and fit together with meticulous precision using no mortar. Rows of terraces were constructed along the mountainsides for support. Without them, Machu Picchu would have tumbled down, unable to withstand centuries of earthquakes and heavy rainfall. The genius of Inca design is further demonstrated by the aqueduct system they built to bring water to their terraces for irrigation and drinking water to its residents. See Machu Picchu sites for more details.
1527 AD - Internal strife weakens the Inca Empire. The death of Huayna Capac, the 11th Inca king, sparked a war of succession between his sons Huascar (based in Cusco) and Atahualpa (based in Ecuador). The civil war ended when Atahualpa’s generals occupied Cusco and captured Huascar.
1531 - 1533 AD - Francisco Pizarro and his Spanish troops arrived to the shores of present-day Peru. They devised the capture of Atahualpa in Cajamarca and later executed the Inca king, marking the formal end of the Inca Empire.
Why was Machu Picchu abandoned?
The Machu Picchu citadel was never finished. Some researchers believe the importance of the city gradually declined after the death of Pachacutec. Other theories speculate that the inhabitants of Machu Picchu fled in fear of the Spanish. Over the centuries, widespread knowledge of the city was lost to official memory, with the exception of some locals in the region.
1911 - American archeologist and Yale professor Hiram Bingham traveled to the Cusco region with a small team in search of the legendary town of Vilcabamba where rebel leader Manco Inca retreated to safety from Spanish troops. A local farmer told Bingham about the existence of abandoned ruins he called Machu Picchu. On July 24, 1911 locals guided Bingham up the mountain where he saw the citadel overgrown with trees and moss for the first time.
News of the “Lost Inca City” in Peru traveled like wildfire. Bingham believed that the Machu Picchu he chanced upon was in fact the lost Inca city of Vilcabamba. It wasn’t until after his death in the 1950s that what’s now believed to be Vilcabamba was discovered further west of the Machu Picchu citadel.
April 1913 - National Geographic published an article by Hiram Bingham detailing his first visit to Machu Picchu.
October 1948 - The zigzag road linking Aguas Calientes to the famous ruins was named the Hiram Bingham Highway.
1951-1977: Ongoing construction of the region’s railway connected Cusco to Santa Teresa (Km 129) in 1951 and Quillabamba (Km 172) in 1977. The train station for Machu Picchu in Aguas Calientes exists along the track between Santa Teresa and Quillabamba.
1983 - Machu Picchu is inscribed as a UNESCO Historic Sanctuary.
2007- Machu Picchu is announced as one of New 7 Wonders of the World; along with Christ Redeemer statue in Brazil; Great Wall of China; the Taj Mahal in India; Roman Colosseum in Italy; Petra in Italy; and the Pyramid at Chichén Itzá in Mexico.
2011: Machu Picchu celebrated its 100th birthday after being rediscovery in 1911.
2012: The last shipment of more than 35,000 archaeological pieces Hiram Bingham had removed from Machu Picchu during his 1911-1915 expeditions were returned to Peru. These ceramics, stone objects, and skeletal remains were previously in custody of Yale University. Some of these artifacts are now on display in Cusco at the Museum Casa Concha (320 Santa Catalina Ancha, admission fee).
Today: Machu Picchu is the most visited attraction in South America. Since the 80s, the number of visitors has increased from the low 100,000s to an all time high of 1.3 million in 2013. The conservation of Machu Picchu is put front and center with tourism on the rise and a new airport being built in the Sacred Valley.
The Sacred Valley winds through the eastern slopes of the Andes down to tropical mountain forests bordering the Amazon Rainforest. It’s here, some 50 mi (80 km) east of Cusco, that the Inca built Machu Picchu on a high saddleback ridge formed between Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountains. Surrounding dome-shaped peaks covered in thick green vegetation rise to towering heights. Far below, the Urubamba River flows along the valley floor past Aguas Calientes, the gateway town to Machu Picchu.
The Machu Picchu citadel rests high on a mountain ridge at 7,970 ft (2430 m) above sea level. Popular hikes go to the summits of Huayna Picchu (8,920 ft / 2,720 m) and Machu Picchu Mountain (10,100 ft / 3,080 m).
Located on the cusp of the Andes Mountains and upper Amazon basin, the mild subtropical climate of Machu Picchu is more humid than Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Day temperatures are warm and cool off, especially at night. Water never freezes at Machu Picchu. See Seasonal Info for more details.
Machu Picchu & Altitude Sickness
Altitude sickness is a common health concern for folks going to Machu Picchu. Everyone reacts differently, but severe reactions to high elevations are rare and hard to predict. Many travelers only experience minor symptoms, such as shortness of breath, headache, loss of appetite, or nausea, as a result of the altitude. Cusco and the Sacred Valley are at higher elevations than Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu Weather
Warm and humid during the day. Cool at night, though usually warmer than Cusco. Evening temperatures in the rainy season are warmer.
- Daytime: 68-80 F (20-27 C)
- Nighttime: 50-64 F (10-18 C)
Dry Season Vs. Rainy Season
- Dry season: April to October
- Rainy season: November to March
**Note that in this part of Peru, there’s no strict separation between the rainy and dry seasons. On the one hand, rain is possible at any time of year. On the other, even in the rainy season, clear blue skies are not uncommon after a rainstorm.
When is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?
- Travel during shoulder months (April, May, September, and October) for smaller crowds and generally good weather.
- The most popular time to visit Machu Picchu is during the dry season (April to October) when sunny blue skies are more common. June, July, and August tend to be the busiest months at Machu Picchu.
- Traveling to Machu Picchu during the rainy season (November-March) has benefits too. Of course there’s a higher chance of showers, but the ruins aren’t as crowded and flowers are in bloom.
Temple of the Sun
The Temple of the Sun likely served as a sacred site where high Inca priests performed rituals and solar observatory. The temple has a distinct semicircular shape with a polished rock outcrop in the middle that forms an altar. A trapezoid window was positioned along its curved wall to capture sunlight during the winter solstice on June 21st. There is a mysterious cave underneath the Temple of the Sun that may have been a royal mausoleum.
Intihuatana, also called the Hitching Post of the Sun, is a large granite boulder that’s been carved and polished on a raised platform above the Sacred Plaza. Each of the structure’s corners point in the cardinal directions and align with nearby sacred mountains, or apus.
Temple of the Condor
Utilizing a natural granite formation at Machu Picchu, the Inca created the Temple of the Condor in the lower urban sector of Machu Picchu. The condor’s wings are represented by two large boulders resting at sharp angles. Stones on the floor create its head and collar. The souls of people who died were carried to eternity on its wings.
The Sacred Plaza rests at the highest location of the Machu Picchu citadel. Two remarkable buildings, the Main Temple and the Temple of Three Windows, border the Sacred Plaza. The Main Temple (Templo Mayor) has a classic style typical to Inca religions architecture. The stones forming the back wall of the temple are unsettled, likely from movement caused by an earthquake. The Temple of Three Windows is fitted together with large polished stones.
Water still runs through the original 16 fountains at Machu Picchu. The Inca built a canal that brought fresh water to the agricultural terraces and the series of fountains in the residential zone of the citadel.
Machu Picchu Short Hikes
A hike is undoubtedly one of the best ways to take in the natural beauty surrounding Machu Picchu.
Tips for hiking at Machu Picchu:
- Pack plenty of water and snacks in your daypack.
- Spend a couple of days adjusting to the altitude before your hike.
- If you bring hiking poles, make sure they have rubber tips!
The ancient Inca footpath leading up Huayna Picchu -the dome-shaped peak rising up behind the Inca citadel - is the most sought after hike at Machu Picchu. Terraces and stone ruins cling to its mountainsides and compliment stunning views all the way to the top. Some of the higher sections of trail are narrow with steep drop-offs. There are handrails and ropes to grab onto, but it’s a frightening experience for anyone with a fear of heights.
Foot traffic along the trail is limited to 400 people each day. At the time of your ticket purchase, you have to decide if you want to hike the trail at 7:00 hr or 10:00 hr. Demand for Huayna Picchu tickets is high, especially during the dry season (April to October). Plan ahead and talk with your travel advisor early because tickets book up months in advance!
Admission: A Huayna Picchu ticket must be purchased jointly with general Machu Picchu admission
Time: 45 mins - 1.5 hrs to reach summit
Summit Altitude: 8,920 ft (2,720 m) above sea level
Tip: The Machu Picchu Mountain hike is a good alternative if you have a fear of heights.
Temple of the Moon (Huayna Picchu add-on)
Shortly after the entry checkpoint for Huayna Picchu, the trail forks and a sign indicates an alternative route to the Temple of the Moon. Likely used as a place of worship, the site contains a series of stone walls within a shallow cave covered by a huge rock overhang. The natural beauty along the trail more so than the actual temple.
The hike to the Temple of the Moon is not easy. The temple resides on the backside of the mountain and the steep path (with some ladders) down to and then back up to rejoin the original Huayna Picchu trail is very demanding.
Admission: Huayna Picchu ticket required
Time: Detour to the temple adds between 2 to 3 hours onto the Huayna Picchu hike
Machu Picchu Mountain (Montaña Machu Picchu)
Machu Picchu Mountain is nearly double the height of Huayna Picchu. Large granite steps comprise most of its trail and wind all the way to the top. It’s a steep, but rewarding hike and the 360-degree views at the top are gorgeous. The entry point to the mountain is open daily between 7:00- and 11:00hrs. It’s best to get an early start during the peak dry season months to avoid the midday heat.
Admission: A Machu Picchu Mountain ticket must be purchased jointly with general Machu Picchu admission
Time: 1.5-2.5 hrs to reach summit
Summit Altitude: 10,100 ft (3,080 m) above sea level
Sun Gate (Inti Punku)
The hike to the Sun Gate (or Inti Punku) is much easier compared to the steep climbs up Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain. Beginning near the Caretaker Hut (or Guardhouse), wooden signs for “Inti Punku” point you in the direction of its cobbled trail that inclines gradually up the mountain away from the main citadel. The trail is free to enter and can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours to reach the Sun Gate at the top, depending on your fitness level and how acclaimed you are to the altitude.
Once upon a time, imperial guards of the Inca Empire controlled passage into Machu Picchu at the Sun Gate. Today hikers doing the iconic Inca Trail enter the citadel through this iconic stone gate on the last day of their multi-day trek.
Time: 30 minutes - 1.5 hours to reach the Sun Gate
The trail to the Inca Bridge wraps around the backside of the mountain away from the Machu Picchu citadel. It’s not a strenuous hike, though the sheer drop-offs may be fighting for anyone with a fear of heights. At the trailhead, just beyond the Caretaker’s Hut (or Guardhouse) on the high terraces, you must login with your name and time of entry at the checkpoint. The fairly level trail offers spectacular views over the plunging valleys below. Along narrow stretches of trail there are metal and rope grips jutting out of the wall to grab onto.
At the end of the stone path you reach the Inca Bridge, which consist of four long wooden planks spanning a wide gap in the stone path. The bridge is believed to have been part of a secret entrance to Machu Picchu. You can take as many photos of the Inca Bridge as you like, but it’s prohibited to cross.
Level: Easy (with sections of steep dropoffs)
Time: 20 - 30 minutes to reach the Inca Bridge
Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu Hike
Most travelers take the 20-minute bus ride along the Hiram Bingham Highway to the entrance of Machu Picchu. The other option is to walk up. To do so, follow the road out of Aguas Calientes along the Urubamba River to the bridge checkpoint. The clearly marked trail begins on the other side of the river and follows a stone pathway that cuts up the hillside to Machu Picchu.
Time: 1.5 - 2 hours to reach the top at the entrance gate to Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu Site Museum (Museo de Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballón)
Few travelers know about the Machu Picchu Site Museum, but its displays of metal, ceramic and stone pieces from early archaeological exploration and multimedia displays are a great introduction to the famous ruins. The official name of the museum is Museo de Sitio Manuel Chavez Ballon in honor of a late Machu Picchu archeologist.
Admission: Museum tickets can be purchased at the entrance or jointly with general Machu Picchu admission
Location: 1 mi (1.7 km) from Aguas Calientes; across the bridge en route to Machu Picchu
Amazing Machu Picchu Views
Sunrise at Machu Picchu: Hikers doing the Inca Trail wake up early and walk through the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu for sunrise. On a clear day, morning rays of light stretch over the mountaintops and beam down for an amazing first look at the ruins. Another option is to catch one of the first buses up to the ruins (at 5:30 hrs) from Aguas Calientes and watch the sunrise from the classic Machu Picchu postcard view from the Caretaker’s Hut.
Machu Picchu Mountain: The 360-degree views at the top of this peak are stunning! Many people actually think the view over the citadel atop Machu Picchu Mountain is more impressive than its lower sister peak, Huayna Picchu.
Close-up: Natural beauty surrounds Machu Picchu, but don’t forget to take a close look at the impressive Inca walls pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle with no binding agent.
Spanish is the official language of Aguas Calientes, the gateway town to Machu Picchu. Most hotel representatives, ticket sales operators, and staff aboard the train to Machu Picchu speak Spanish and English. Machu Picchu tours are conducted in many languages.
The currency of Peru is called the Nuevo Sol. Prices are abbreviated as S/.(# amount). The Sol circulates in small copper-colored 10, 20 and 50 centavos and larger 1, 2 and 5 coins. Bills are produced in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 Soles. There is only one ATM in Aguas Calientes and no ATM up at the Machu Picchu citadel. Some restaurants accept US dollars for payment and give you any leftover change in Soles (although the exchange rate might not be the best).
Tipping in Peru is accepted practice and a great way to show your appreciation. Of course, tip at your own discretion.
Tour guides & trekking staff tipping recommendations
- Half Day Tour: 10-30 Soles per person
- Full Day Tour: 20-60 Soles per person
* The tip ranges represent a total amount that varies on the number of people in your tour and can be divided amongst everyone.
Machu Picchu & Quechua Beliefs
The Inca didn’t simply chose the location for Machu Picchu for the breathtaking views. In Inca mythology, natural forms and materials, including Andean peaks, are holy and have a life. Many structures within the site where built to honor their beliefs and the sacred mountain spirits, or apus, that surround the citadel. There is no written documentation from Inca times since they didn’t have a system of writing, but many of the cultural practices of the Inca live on through their descendants, the Quechua people.
The Inca built a pathway from the main citadel at Machu Picchu, up to the summit of Huayna Picchu (or Young Mountain in Quechua) which is believed to have been a place of worship for high priests. Among temples and terraces atop Huayna Picchu, a carved rock formation called the “Throne of the Inca” faces directly south to the apu Salkantay. Apu Salkantay is one of twelve sacred apus, or sacred spirits, who serve as protectors of the Quechua people and their crops and livestock.
The Sacred Rock is a large polished monolith rock resting upon a pedestal just before the checkpoint for the Huayna Picchu hike. An offset triangular shape was carved into the top of Sacred Rock and mirrors the formation of Putucusi Mountain behind it. Although the specific purpose for this site has been lost to time, locals today continue to pay homage to their mountain spirits by leaving coca leaf offerings.
At the Temple of the Condor at Machu Picchu, two large boulders create the bird’s expanded wings and stones laid out on the ground make its head, beak, and collar. The Inca believed that when a person died their soul was carried to eternity on the wings of the condor. Present-day Quechua beliefs continue to honor this animal who connects them and the cosmos.
In present times, Machu Picchu continues to be a spiritual haven for the Quechua people and travelers from all over the world respect its otherworldly essence.
How to get to Machu Picchu
Transportation options to Machu Picchu are limited. There is no road that goes all the way to Aguas Calientes, the gateway town to Machu Picchu, so you cannot take a bus or car there.
Train to Machu Picchu
Most travelers take the train to Machu Picchu. There are various morning and evening departure times to chose from as well a different train classes, from first-class luxury to budget-friendly options. Each passenger is allowed one carry-on luggage no more than 11 lbs (5kg) because space aboard the train is limited. While visiting Machu Picchu, many hotels offer complimentary luggage storage where you can leave a separate bag filled with belonging you won’t need for this leg of your trip.
Ask your travel advisor what train route works best with your customized travel itinerary.
|Region||Train Station||Estimated Time|
|Cusco||Poroy Station-Machu Picchu Station||4 hours|
|Sacred Valley||Ollantaytambo Station-Machu Picchu Station
Urubamba Station - Machu Picchu Station
In Cusco, passengers board the train at the Poroy Station (a 20-minute taxi ride from the city plaza). The railway from Cusco winds through a narrow gorge before dropping into the Sacred Valley . The train makes a stop in Ollantaytambo to pick up more people and then continues along a stretch of track hugging the Urubamba River through lush green foliage to Machu Picchu. Exclusive railway service to Machu Picchu is operated by PeruRail from the Urubamba Train Station at the Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado.
The Machu Picchu train station is centrally located in the town of Aguas Calientes near the artisanal market. To get to Machu Picchu, you need to take a 20-minute bus ride (ticket required) up the hill to the citadel’s entrance gates or hike up. The bus station in Aguas Calientes is a few blocks from the train station.
Machu Picchu train tickets are in high demand during peak season (June, July, August) and regularly sell our several days in advance. Waiting to purchase your tickets in Cusco is not recommended as the desired dates and times you want may not be available.
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is the most popular trek in South America. Its trail goes through high Andean passes and past lesser-known Inca sites. The grand finale of this 4-day adventure unfolds as trekkers enter Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate for sunrise. There’s also a 2-day Inca Trail for trekkers on a tighter schedule.4-day Inca Trail at a glance:
- Distance of hike - 26 mi (42 km)
- Trailhead - Km 82 of the railroad tracks
- Highest Point of Trail: 13,780 ft (4,200 m) above sea level as Dead Woman’s Pass
- You must be accompanied by a professionally qualified guide.
- You can hire a porter to carry your personal backpack along the trail. Pack animals, like mules and llamas are not permitted on the the trail.
- The Inca Trail is closed each February for annual maintenance.
To hike the Inca Trail, you must reserve your permit in advance. Only 500 people can be on the trail each day, which includes out-of-town trekkers and persons of the professional trekking teams. In the high season from May to October Inca Trail permits should be bought 2 to 6 months in advance.
Machu Picchu Tour
Enjoy a private or small group tour through the main sites at Machu Picchu and get the insider’s perspective from your guide about the legends of this ancient Inca city. On a private tour, you have the undivided attention of your own guide and more flexibility with start times.
Go on a Hike
It’s a heart pumping climb up to the summits of Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain, but the views at the top are stunning! Entry for both hikes require tickets that need to be purchased with your general entry ticket in advance. Alternative hikes to the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) and the Inca Bridge at Machu Picchu are easier and free.
2-Day Machu Picchu Visit
Many travelers spend one day at Machu Picchu. But if you have the possibility, visiting on two separate days is even better! On the first day you can take a guided tour of the citadel to learn more about the site’s history and engineering genius that went into building it. Unwind at your hotel later that evening while appreciating the surrounding landscapes. Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel in Aguas Calientes has an exceptionally beautiful property next to the Urubamba River. A series of paths criss cross through its gardens filled with native species of orchids, birds and butterflies and the views along the way definitely steal the show! After a restful night, you can head up to Machu Picchu for a second round of exploration at your own pace and do a hike if you’re feeling adventurous.
Trek to Machu Picchu
If you are an outdoor lover, skip the train ride to Machu Picchu and trek there instead. The classic 4-day Inca Trail goes all the way to the Sun Gate of Machu Picchu. It’s the most popular hike in South America for good reason!
Options for Machu Picchu hotels range from 5-star luxury resorts to backpacker dorms and everything in between.Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, operated by Orient Express, is the only hotel up on the mountain next to the ruins. All other accommodations in Aguas Calientes are concentrated in the tiny town that has sprung up around the train station. Popular hotels book up quickly so be sure to make reservations as soon as you know your Peru travel dates. We use these hotels as our preferred choice.
Kilometer 110 Via Ferrea, Aguas Calientes The Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel is a naturalist’s haven. Conveniently nestled in the verdant Andean cloud forest, this lovely hotel is the perfect place to catch a glimpse of the astonishing flora and fauna of the region. The eco-friendly hotel resembles an Andean village and is comprised of charming white-washed cottages decorated with modern indigenous art as well as authentic pre-Columbian artifacts. With a commitment to indulging the whims of its guests, this luxury hotel expertly combines nature and comfort to create a one-of-a-kind Machu Picchu experience. Try some regional dishes at the excellent restaurant overlooking the Urubamba River.
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel
Kilometer 110 Via Ferrea, Aguas Calientes
The Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel is a naturalist’s haven. Conveniently nestled in the verdant Andean cloud forest, this lovely hotel is the perfect place to catch a glimpse of the astonishing flora and fauna of the region. The eco-friendly hotel resembles an Andean village and is comprised of charming white-washed cottages decorated with modern indigenous art as well as authentic pre-Columbian artifacts. With a commitment to indulging the whims of its guests, this luxury hotel expertly combines nature and comfort to create a one-of-a-kind Machu Picchu experience. Try some regional dishes at the excellent restaurant overlooking the Urubamba River.
El MaPi Hotel
Av. Pachacutec 109, Aguas Calientes
Ideally located near the Aguas Calientes train station and close to where the buses depart for the short ride to Machu Picchu, the recently renovated El MaPi Hotel is perfect for travelers who want to catch the sunrise over the ruins. The modern and stylish hotel aims to be the best in its category and offers great value services and décor. It also boasts beautifully landscaped gardens and a hot tub where guests can relax at night with a cocktail after a delicious dinner.
Casa Andina Classic Machu Picchu
Prolongacion Imperio de Los Incas E - 34, Aguas Calientes
The newest addition to the Casa Andina Classic brand offers modern and comfortable accommodations to guests seeking a quality Machu Picchu hotel. Located on the banks of the Vilcanota River and adjacent to the Aguas Calientes train station, the hotel enjoys a top location for easy access to the Machu Picchu ruins.
Rupa Wasi Lodge
Calle Huanacaure 105, Aguas Calientes
Budget-friendly and wholly comfortable, the excellent Rupa Wasi Lodge provides a scenic setting that will nicely round out any Machu Picchu tour. Perched on a hill above the bustle of the main streets, this small hotel boasts wood architecture, panoramic windows, and outdoor balconies that create a sense of immersion into the surrounding forest. With just three suite rooms and two standard rooms, the friendly staff is able to provide caring hospitality to all its guests. The attached Tree House Restaurant is amongst the best eateries in town and also prepares boxed lunches if you’ll be spending the day exploring the spectacular Machu Picchu ruins.
Where To Eat
Eating options outside the entrance gates to Machu Picchu are convenient, though limited and pricey compared to restaurants in Aguas Calientes. The other option is to plan ahead and pack some food in your daypack.
Machu Picchu Snack Bar: Off to the right hand-side of the entrance, the snack bar (with outdoor seating) is a convenient place to grab a bite to eat. Food options include sandwiches, empanadas, burgers, and pizzas.
Lunch Buffet: Tinkuy Restaurant at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge is a nice place to escape the crowds of Machu Picchu and enjoy a buffet-style lunch. Choose from an elaborate spread of international or Peruvian food options. The hotel’s sit-down Tampu Restaurant is also open for breakfast (5:30-9:00 hrs), lunch (12-15:00 hrs), and dinner (18:30-21:30hrs).
Take a box lunch: There are box lunches for sale at a number of cafes and hotels in Aguas Calientes. Many include a sandwich, snacks (nuts, cereal bars, or fruit), and a drink.
Machu Picchu Tickets
Did you know that there are different types of tickets for Machu Picchu? Check out the different options, and then talk with your travel advisor about booking your own ticket early. Space is limited and tickets with additional hikes can sell out weeks in advance.
|Machu Picchu Ticket Type||Admission includes|
|General Entry||Entry to the Machu Picchu citadel.|
|General Entry + Huayna Picchu||Entry to the Machu Picchu citadel + hike to Huayna Picchu. At the time of purchase, choose between two start time slots: 7:00-8:00 am or the 10:00-11:00 am.|
|General Entry + Machu Picchu Mountain||Entry to the Machu Picchu citadel + hike to Machu Picchu Mountain. Ticket holders must begin the hike before 11:00 am.|
|General Entry + Machu Picchu Site Museum||Entry to the Machu Picchu citadel + entry to Museo de Sitio Manuel Chavez Ballon next to Urubamba river bridge at the bottom of zigzag road to Machu Picchu.|
Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo)
Aguas Calientes is the gateway town for Machu Picchu. A popular option is to stay at a hotel in town and then wake up early to go Machu Picchu the next morning. If you do the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, then you’ll at least pass through town en route to the train station.
|Visitor Information for Machu Picchu|
|Machu Picchu Site Hours||6:00 - 17:00 hrs|
|Bus Transport Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu||5:30 - 17:30 hrs|
|Entry Restrictions||Only 2,500 people with official tickets can enter Machu Picchu each day.|
|Restroom Facilities||There are bathrooms located outside the entrance to Machu Picchu. There are not any restroom facilities within the archaeological complex.|
|Bags||Only small backpacks or smaller bags can be brought inside the archaeological complex. We recommend leaving your larger suitcase at the hotel storage room. Or you can store your luggage at the entrance gate for Machu Picchu for 4 Soles per bag.|
|Cell Phone Reception||Yes, there is cellphone reception at Machu Picchu.|
Machu Picchu Packing Checklist
- Passport and Machu Picchu Ticket: You need to present both documents at the entrance gate. Bring your original passport because a copy will not suffice.
- Daypack: Bring a backpack with snug straps to tote around your camera, sunglasses, bottled water, and other Machu Picchu essentials.
- Watch: Having a phone or wristwatch to know the time is really handy. This is particularly true if you need to meet your tour guide at a specific time or report to the entrance of the Huayna Picchu hike between 7-8 hrs or 10-11 hrs.
- Water & Snacks
- Good shoes: Wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes or hiking boots with good traction. There are a lot of stone steps at Machu Picchu!
- Hiking Poles: If you want to use hiking poles at Machu Picchu, make sure they have protective rubber tips.
- Dress in layers
- Sun/Rain Protection: The sun is very strong at Machu Picchu’s high altitude. Bring sunglasses, sunblock, and a hat. During the wet season (November to March), put a rain poncho or travel-size umbrella in your daypack to be prepared for any unexpected showers.
- Insect Repellant
Machu Picchu Photography
- Don’t forget your camera! It’s true that many camera phones take great shots and make it easy to post to Facebook and Instagram. But a camera with a zoom lense gives you more flexibility to capitalize on different angles and zoom in on stone ruins far away.
- The best lighting tends to be in the mornings (7:00-8:00 hrs) and evenings (15:00-16:00 hrs).
- Weather changes quickly at Machu Picchu. Cloudy conditions quickly turn sunny or visa versa.
- Some llamas are lucky to call Machu Picchu home. They can be spotted grazing on the grass covered terraces or cruising through the stone structures. Try framing a llama in a photo with the citadel in the background.
What is included in a Machu Picchu tour?
Private and group tours for Machu Picchu are available. Your guide will take you on a 2-3 hour walking tour to the main attractions, tell you about the legends and myths of the ancient site, and answer your questions. Enjoy the rest of your day at Machu Picchu exploring and soaking in the marvelous views on your own. A private tour can be customized based on a traveler’s own preferences.
How much should I tip my tour guide?
Tipping is a great way to show your appreciate for a job well done. The amount of tip you leave is up to your discretion. For a guide that has done an excellent job, we recommend tipping 10-30 Soles per person for a half day tour and 20 - 60 Soles per person for a full day tour. These tip ranges represent a total amount that varies on the number of people on your tour and can be divided amongst everyone.
What is bimodal transportation to Machu Picchu?
Bimodal transportation to Machu Picchu is a combination of bus and train service offered during the region’s rainy season. The railway between Cusco and Ollantaytambo closes during this time because heavy storms can cause flooding or landslides along the tracks. So, bus service is first offered from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and then passengers board the train for the rest of their trip to Machu Picchu. The dates for bimodal transportation to Machu Picchu varies each year. If you buy round trip train tickets between Ollantaytambo (in the Sacred Valley) and Machu Picchu, then bimodal transportation does not apply to your travel itinerary.