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Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is the Lost City of the Incas and inspires awe at first sight, especially if you journey there on the Inca Trail. Browse our destination guide below for essential travel details and top attractions to check out on your visit.


Only a few places in the world possess the kind of natural beauty and historic charisma that can capture the hearts and minds of visitors in an instant. Machu Picchu is one of them. Morning or afternoon, rain or shine, crowded or not - the sight of the stone temples and endless terraces set amid green-clad granite mountains never disappoints.

Forgotten after the fall of the Inca Empire and rediscovered 400 years later, Machu Picchu remains shrouded in mystery. Some questions may never be answered, but the former Inca city remains as irrefutable evidence of their highly advanced stonemasonry.

Whether by train or on your own two feet along the Inca Trail, getting to Machu Picchu is part of the adventure. Most visitors spend at least one night in Aguas Calientes, the small town at the base of the mountain from the Inca ruins. We recommend exploring the UNESCO Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu and New World Wonder with an expert guide, so you don’t overlook the brilliant engineering features and asserted significance built into the design of sacred temples.

Climate & Weather

Machu Picchu is at the intersection of the Andes and the Amazon, where the mild subtropical climate has warm days and cooler nights. Humidity is also higher than in Cusco and the Sacred Valley.

Rainy Season
Weather at Machu Picchu changes quickly and is unpredictable throughout the year. Similar to other high altitude destinations in Peru, the region has a dry and rainy season, but these conditions changes in the weather aren’t as clearly defined. The dry winter season for Machu Picchu is from April to October, and the wet summer season is from November to March. Remember, the northern and southern hemispheres experience opposite seasons.

Best Time to Visit

  • The peak season for Machu Picchu is June, July, and August. These months coincide with the region’s dry season when sunny conditions are most probable and considered by many the best time to go to Machu Picchu. Hotels, entry tickets, and other services fill up quickly, so make your reservations well in advance.
  • The low season for Machu Picchu is from December to February during the rainy season. There are fewer tourists and less crowding around attractions within the citadel. Still, the tradeoff is a much higher probability for rain, so don’t forget your raingear.

Geography & Map

  • Machu Picchu is located 50 miles (80 kilometers) northwest of Cusco in the Urubamba Province of Peru, where the eastern slopes of the Andes meet the Amazon Rainforest. The Inca built their city on a high mountain ridge overlooking the lush cloud forest surroundings. Far below, Urubamba River flows along the valley floor, past Aguas Calientes.
  • Elevation7,970 ft (2,430 m)
over view section


Construction for Machu Picchu began at the height of the Inca Empire around 1450 AD. Most scholars agree the mountaintop city was the royal estate of Pachacutec, the powerful 9th king. Others speculate it was a sacred center where the great political, religious, and economic minds of the Inca Empire gathered.

World Heritage Site Machu Picchu surrounded by mist, with its traditional terracing and iconic Inca stone ruins.

Before the construction of Machu Picchu began, they surveyed the mountaintop site. They built canals to carry freshwater to different sectors of the city. Incredibly, the Inca didn’t use steel or iron tools, nor the wheel, to make the temples, living quarters, and stone steps. Instead, they utilized simple materials such as stone, wood, and bronze. Rows of terraces were also constructed along the mountainsides for support. Without them, Machu Picchu would have tumbled down, unable to withstand centuries existing in a region prone to earthquakes and annual heavy rain.

Less than one hundred years after the construction of Machu Picchu began, during the 1530s, the city was abandoned in the aftermath of the Spanish Conquest. Widespread knowledge of the city was lost to official memory over the centuries except for some locals.

In 1911, Yale history professor Hiram Bingham chanced upon Machu Picchu while looking for the legendary city of Vilcabamba where resistance rebel leader Manco Inca retreated to safety from Spanish troops. After years of silent existence, Machu Picchu had been rediscovered and was flung into the international spotlight.

Machu Picchu Mountain towering about the ruins of the ancient Inca citadel on a partly cloudy day and surrounding flora.

Today, Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Sanctuary and the most visited attraction in Peru. The Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism counted 800,200 visitors to Machu Picchu in 2007, when the attraction was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and since then that number has nearly doubled. In 2019, the famous Inca ruins were visited by 1,585,300 people from around the world.

How to Get to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is in a remote region of Peru, and transportation there is limited. No roads connect Cusco and the Sacred Valley with Aguas Calientes, so your only two options are to take the train or trek there.

Train to Machu Picchu

Most travelers choose to take the train to Machu Picchu for the convenience of time and comfort. PeruRail offers different train services - from budget Vistadome, upgrade Expedition, and luxury Hiram Bingham - with several daily morning and evening departures.

Passengers can board the train in Cusco at the Poroy Station (a 20-minute taxi ride from the city plaza) or in the Sacred Valley at the train station in Ollantaytambo and then continue along the tracks to Aguas Calientes. Upon arrival at Machu Picchu Station, the final leg of your journey is a 20-minute shuttle bus (ticket required) or uphill walk to the main entrance of Machu Picchu.

Routes & Travel Times:
  • The train from Cusco to Machu Picchu is 4 hours
  • The train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu is 2 hours
  • The train from Urubamba to Machu Picchu is 3 hours (*limited weekly departures)
Train Luggage Restrictions:

You have to travel light when you take the train to Machu Picchu because storage room onboard is limited. Each passenger is only allowed one carry-on luggage that weighs no more than 11 lbs (5kg). Many hotels in Cusco and the Sacred Valley offer free luggage storage, where you can leave a separate bag filled with belongings you won’t need for this leg of your trip.

Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

Aguas Calientes town is located 5.5 mi (9 km) from the Machu Picchu archeological site and 1,310 ft (400 m) of altitude lower. From the bus stop located only 3 to 5 minutes walking from the train station in Aguas Calientes, buses ferry passengers between the town and the ruins, using a zigzagging switchback road to go up and down the steep mountainside. Most tours to Machu Picchu include the bus tickets in the total price of the package. Tickets for the bus can also be purchased in Cusco or in Aguas Calientes in front of the bus stop.

The first buses depart at 5:30 am, arriving at the entrance of Machu Picchu just before the gates open at 6:00 am. Lines are usually the longest in the morning between 5:30 am and 6:15 am and when the mid-morning trains arrive from Cusco and the Sacred Valley between 9:00 am to 10:00 am.

Trekking to Machu Picchu

Adventurous travelers should trek to Machu Picchu! Trekking packages are organized so you trek to the famous archaeological site and return by train on the return leg of your journey.

The iconic 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is the most popular trek in South America. The journey takes you through high Andean passes, past lesser-known Inca sites, and culminates with a memorable entrance to Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate. There’s also the 2-day Inca Trail if you are on a tight schedule or prefer a less demanding walk.

To hike the Inca Trail, you must reserve a permit in advance. There are wonderful alternative treks to Machu Picchu that don’t require a permit if Inca Trail permits are already sold out.

The 5-day Salkantay Trek is an excellent alternative trek to Machu Picchu for travelers who appreciate nature. This Andean trail passes by the imposing snow-capped Salkantay mountain, for which the trek is named, and crosses highland pampas before dropping down into a river valley cloud forest and then onto Machu Picchu. Read more about the Salkantay Trek.

The 4-day Lares Trek is another alternative recommended for trekkers whose interest lies in cultural immersion. Follow a route through the Lares Valley, passing remote villages with rich Andean traditions, beautiful mountain scenery, and lesser-known Inca ruins before touring Machu Picchu on the final day. Read more about the Lares Trek.

Visitor Guidelines

Machu Picchu Tickets

Tickets to Machu Picchu are limited and must be purchased in advance. There are general entry tickets and ones that include the hikes for Huayna Picchu (only 400 daily available) or Machu Picchu Mountain (only 400 daily available). Demand for Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain is especially high during the peak June, July, and August dates. Advanced planning - sometimes 4 months in advance - is a must. Reserve your spot at the time you book your Machu Picchu tickets.

Stamp in Passport given upon entry to the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, a perfect memory of any Peru vacation.

Tickets are not sold at the main entrance. If you’ve waited until the last minute, your final opportunity is at the National Cultural Institute (INC) office on the main plaza in Aguas Calientes.

Time in Machu Picchu

The time designated for you to enter Machu Picchu is selected when you buy your tickets in advance. For whichever assigned time indicated on your ticket, you have the full hour to enter the archaeological site. We suggest you arrive at the bus stop in Aguas Calientes at least one hour before your entrance time at the Machu Picchu ruins.

  • An entry ticket to Machu Picchu is valid for 4 hours.
  • An entry with a Huayna Picchu ticket gives you 6 hours to go on a Machu Picchu tour and do the hike.
  • An entry with Machu Picchu Mountain ticket gives you 7 hours to take a guided tour and do the hike. This hike is longer than Huayna Picchu hence why you have more time in Machu Picchu.

Walking circuits around Machu Picchu help control foot traffic. Routes 1 and 2 (indicated in green and red on the map) pass similar attractions but explore different sections of the agricultural zone near the main entrance gate. Route 3 in blue is an alternative walking route so visitors with hiking permits can do Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain.

Travel Tips

What to Bring to Machu Picchu

Here is an essential Machu Picchu packing list:

  • Passport and Entry Ticket
    You need to present both documents at the entrance gate. Bring your original passport.
  • Daypack
    Only small backpacks can be brought into Machu Picchu.
  • Water
    Fill up your reusable water canteen or buy bottled water to bring in your daypack to stay hydrated as you walk around Machu Picchu, especially if you do the Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain hikes.
  • Clothing
    Weather changes quickly at Machu Picchu, so it is best to dress in layers so you can add or remove layers as needed. Cloudy conditions quickly turn sunny and vice versa.
  • Sun Protection
    The sun is very strong at Machu Picchu’s high elevation, especially from June to August during the peak of the dry season. Bring sunglasses, sunblock, and a hat.
  • Rain Protection
    During the wet season from November to March, pack a rain poncho or travel-size umbrella in your daypack to be prepared for any unexpected showers.
  • Footwear
    Comfortable hiking boots or athletic shoes with good traction are best for walking around the stone steps at Machu Picchu.
  • Camera
    A camera with a zoom lense gives you more flexibility to capitalize on different angles and capture stone ruins far away.
  • Hiking Poles
    Make sure your hiking poles have protective rubber tips if you want to bring them to Machu Picchu.

What NOT to Bring to Machu Picchu

  • Camera tripods, selfie sticks, and drones are not allowed inside Machu Picchu.
  • Luggage and large backpacks are not allowed. Many hotels offer complimentary luggage storage. There are also storage lockers at the entrance of Machu Picchu.
  • Alcohol is not allowed.
  • Baby strollers are not practical with all the stairs at Machu Picchu. Instead, a baby backpack style carrier is recommended.
  • Metal-tipped canes and walking poles are only allowed inside Machu Picchu with protective rubber tips.

Safety Tips

Aguas Calientes isn’t known for crime (it is virtually non-existent in Machu Picchu), but travelers should always remain wary of petty theft. This particularly applies when in large crowds of people such as at the train station where pickpocketing can go unperceived by the victim. Never leave bags or other valuable items unattended.

Local Currency & ATMs

From bottles of water to meals at restaurants, prices for food, goods, and services are a bit higher in Aguas Calientes compared to anywhere else in Peru. This is because tourism is the town’s only industry and everything has to be shipped by train. Be sure to budget accordingly. There are ATMs on the major streets, but these are known to be unreliable. Most hotels and restaurants accept major credit cards. There are no ATM machines at Machu Picchu. Read about money in Peru.


Most hotel representatives in Aguas Calientes and staff aboard the train to Machu Picchu speak Spanish and English. Tours are conducted in many languages. All Peru

Things to Do

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Sun Gate

The Sun Gate, also known as Inti Punku, was the original entrance to Machu Picchu. Today trekkers make their grand entrance to the citadel through the Sun Gate on the final day of the Inca Trail.

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Huayna Picchu

The footpath leading up Huayna Picchu, the dome-shaped peak rising behind the Inca citadel, is the most popular hike at Machu Picchu. It takes about one hour to reach the summit of Huayna Picchu, and stunning views over the ruins are your reward. Higher sections of the trail are narrow with steep drop-offs, so you shouldn’t do this hike if you are afraid of heights. Entry for this trail is limited to 400 hikers per day and you must reserve your spot (if space is still available) when you purchase an entry + hike ticket in advance.

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Machu Picchu Mountain

Montaña Machu Picchu is another hike at the Inca ruins and nearly double the height of the adjacent peak called Huayna Picchu. The one and a half to two-hour journey to the top is a strenuous climb with several long sections of stone steps and a spectacular 360-degree view awaits you at the summit. Access to Machu Picchu Mountain is also limited, and you must reserve your spot in advance when you buy an entry ticket + hike ticket.

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Temple of the Sun

The Temple of the Sun is easy to pinpoint at Machu Picchu because it is the only semicircular structure. On the winter solstice, the southeast facing window of the temple aligns with the direction of the rising sun and illuminates the sacred rock in its center. Many scholars believe the temple was used by high Inca priests to honor Inti, the sun god.

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The Intihuatana was chiseled out of a larger piece of granite rock and presumably used for casting shadows for astronomical observations. In the Quechua language, Intihuatana translates to “a place to which the sun is hitched,” which is a direct reference to the positioning of the rock structure at a high point within the Machu Picchu.

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Sacred Rock

The Sacred Rock is a massive granite monolith positioned just before the beginning of the checkpoint for Huayna Picchu. The top of the rock has been carved to mirror the silhouette of Yanantin Mountain across the valley from Machu Picchu. For the Inca, the surrounding mountains were sacred spirits, and the Sacred Rock may have been a place for spiritual ceremonies.

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Temple of the Condor

The Temple of the Condor showcases how the Inca used natural rock formations to extract spiritual meaning. Using two granite boulders resting as angles for the bird’s outstretched wings, the Inca placed stones on the ground for its head and neck feathers and enhanced the temple with stone walls. Some scholars speculate the head of the condor functioned as an altar. A mummy was found in the natural cave chamber underneath one of the condor’s wings, suggesting the site was for burial purposes.

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Stairway of Fountains

The Inca built a system of canals to carry water to the city’s agricultural and urban sectors using water from natural rain-fed springs on the north face of Machu Picchu Mountain. At the centerpiece of their intricate hydraulic system is the “Stairway of Fountains” through which water continues to flow. These sixteen fountains are linked together by stone channels and cascade down the mountain. Machu Picchu is a city comprising over 170 buildings, more than 600 terraces, thousands of stone steps, temples, and 16 fountains.


Options for Machu Picchu hotels range from 5-star luxury resorts to budget dorms and everything in between. Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge is the only hotel up on the mountain next to the main entrance of the archaeological complex. All other accommodations are in Aguas Calientes and walking distance from the train station.

It’s possible to make a whirlwind Machu Picchu trip in one day. Still, we recommend enjoying this highlight of your trip at a slower pace, if possible. Staying a night or two in Aguas Calientes spaces out the legs of transport to and from Machu Picchu and helps you stay rested for an active day of touring. The following are our Top Pick Hotels for travel to Machu Picchu.

Sumaq Machu Picchu

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Avenida Hermanos Ayar Mz 1 Lote 3, Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu

Expedia Logo9 |Exceptional
Tripadvisor Logo4.5 |Excellent
Free WiFi
Room Service
hotel cardplay button

El MaPi

★ ★ ★ ★

Av. Pachacutec 109, Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu

Expedia Logo8.8 |Excellent
Tripadvisor Logo4 |Very good
Free WiFi
Room Service
hotel cardplay button

Casa Andina Standard Machu Picchu

★ ★ ★

Prolongacion Imperio de Los Incas E - 34, Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu

Expedia Logo8.6 |Excellent
Tripadvisor Logo4.5 |Excellent
Free WiFi

Pucara Hotel

★ ★

Alameda los Artesanos 1508, Machu Picchu

Expedia Logo8.8 |Excellent
Tripadvisor Logo5 |Excellent
Free WiFi
Room Service


Eating options outside the entrance to Machu Picchu are convenient, though limited. You can take a pre-made box lunch with you to Machu Picchu (available options depend on your itinerary), eat a buffet lunch at Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, or grab a quick bite at the Machu Picchu Snack Bar.

Down the hill in Aguas Calientes the restaurant selection is far more varied. Enjoy a casual sitdown meal in Machu Picchu’s gateway town at one of the following restaurants:

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Chullpi Machu Picchu

Chullpi serves mouth-watering Peruvian fusion dishes, including trout ceviche, perfectly grilled chicken breast, and delicious salads, and tasty appetizers. If you’ve got room for dessert, go for the Tres Leches cake.
140 Av. Imperio de Los Incas, Aguas Calientes|website

Incontri del Pueblo Viejo

Incontri del Pueblo Viejo will satisfy your craving for carbs with homemade pasta and wood-fired pizzas featuring fresh toppings and real mozzarella. Wash it all down with a craft beer or an Italian or South American wine.
Av. Pachacutec, block 6 (no number), Aguas Calientes|website

Indio Feliz Restaurant Bistro

Indio Feliz is a perennial favorite among travelers for its menu of Peruvian classics with a French twist. Try the river trout or the grilled chicken, each prepared with seasonal Andean ingredients. Check out the quirky Captain’s Bar before or after dinner.
Calle Lloque Yupanqui 103, Aguas Calientes|website

The Tree House Restaurant

The Tree House is a few steps above the rest, in both the culinary and the literal sense. Located up a steep alleyway on the edge of town, this excellent restaurant serves a menu of Peruvian fusion cuisine shaped by Andean, Italian, Asian, and Latin American influences. Try the mushroom and goat cheese ravioli, pork ribs in sweet elderberry sauce, or alpaca tenderloin topped with blue cheese.
Calle Huanacaure 105, Aguas Calientes|website

Toto’s House

Toto's House is ideal for large groups, serving an all-you-can-eat buffet as well as an extensive a la carte menu. A convenient location close to the train station, views over the river, and live music in the evenings round out Toto’s offer.
Av. Imperio de Los Incas 600, Aguas Calientes|website

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