Machu Picchu is pretty! No. GORGEOUS!
It blew my mind how beautiful this ancient city, nestled in the Andes Mountains of Peru, was truly. Yes, I’ve seen the google/instagram pictures but those photos definitely don’t do this place justice. If Machu Picchu isn’t on your travel bucket list, well, you better make room (near the top).
I was lucky enough to travel to Peru (my first time in South America! Won’t be my last.) and visit Machu Picchu. I’m sharing my tips, tricks and tales of my adventure.
Best time to go to Machu Picchu
When will Peru provide you the most picturesque/Instagrammable weather of Machu Picchu? Peru, like other equator closer countries, have two seasons, wet and dry.
Dry season will be the best time to see Machu Picchu which is from May to October. There’s a lower chance of rain, the morning mist is thinner and the weather is cooler. No one wants to hike up approximately 2,000 stairs in summer weather.
If you do find yourself visiting in Peru’s wet season–November to April–the early mornings might be better because it isn’t hot yet but there might be heavy fog, making it harder to get a good view. Just a heads up!
Peak season is June to August, the summer months when travelers are using their PTO, taking a holiday, vacation, taking their kids out, whatever you want to call it. Everyone and their mothers are out of the house and Peru is one of the destinations on their list.
I visited in May and it was PERFECT! I couldn’t have picked a better day it was nice weather, a clear sunrise shot and bearable hiking weather.
How to get to Machu Picchu?
Getting to Machu Picchu is a JOUR-NEEEEY!
Like most people, you probably don’t live in Peru and will be flying into the country.
Part 1: Getting to Lima
First off, you’ll have to fly into Lima, the capital and the largest city in Peru.
We were coming from Tijuana, Mexico so we took a flight from TIJ to MXC to Lima. I did all my airlines booking through Skyscanner which connected us to Kiwi.com where we got the best deal and flights that worked with our schedule.
Part 2: Lima to Cuzco
Then, you’ll make your way from Lima to Cusco, the largest and only city with an airport, if you decide to fly, near Machu Picchu. You’ve got three options: airplane, bus and car.
For all my travelers that prefer train there’s also a train/bus route but it isn’t advised. The journey would require switches in transportation (train 1 to a bus to train 2), a limited schedule (train 1 has only one scheduled trip PER MONTH) and is more expensive than the other options (train is a luxury train at ~$220 one way). Just don’t do it…
We flew from Lima to Cusco. And though we missed our plane, due to a delay at Mexico City, Kiwi.com booked us the next available flight no questions asked.
Peru has a couple domestic airlines (Peruvian Airs and Star Airlines to name a couple). The plane ride takes about 2 hrs. Our flight in May cost: $60 one way.
Part 3: Cuzco to Aguas Calientes
You made it to Cuzco! Now it’s time to go to Aguas Calientes, the town next to Machu Picchu.
Option 1: Train
There are two train companies that service to Aguas Calientes, PeruRail and Inca Rail.
We used PeruRail which leaves from Poroy, a city a little bit on the outskirts of Cusco. The journey will take you 3 hours and 20 minutes. They have three prices/experiences of travel, depending on your budget: Budget-friendly: Expedition (~$80), Mid-Range: Vistadome (~115), Luxury: Hiram Bingham (~$585). Sometimes, they have a promotion discounting the fare so look for that on their website.
We opted for the mid-range option going there and budget-friendly coming back. There was a promotion going on when we went so we received our fares with 20% discount.
What’s the difference between the Vistadome and Expedition (other than price)? The Vistadome provides an audio tour during the train ride, giving historical facts, food, drink and more leg room. Plus, the train ride was cleaner and had more modern decor.
Overall, I think we did it right. Having the audio tour and food for a couple more dollars was nice and coming back we really didn’t need the amenities since we were tired and asleep almost the entire train ride.
Option 2: Bus or Taxi & Train
If you are or want to see the beautiful archaeological sites in Sacred Valley’s Ollantaytambo before (or after) Machu Picchu, you can take a bus or taxi here and then take the train.
Oollantaytambo is the one and only stop for PeruRail. Visit the ruins and then hop on the train to Aguas Calientes. This is also a good option of tickets sell out from Poroy.
Option 3: Trekking
For all you hikers, trekking is an option. There 3 popular trails that take 3-5 days depending on difficulty and route. It is totally worth it if you have time in your schedule.
Part 4: Aguas Calientes
You made it to Aguas Calientes!
On our trip, we had half a day in Aguas Calientes and planned to go to Machu Picchu the next morning so we did some exploring and resting. Depending on your schedule, it wouldn’t be difficult to do Machu Picchu as a day trip from Cusco.
If you plan to only do a day trip, I’d suggest taking the first train ride from Poroy which is 6AM so you would get to Aguas Calientes around 9:30AM.
Part 5: Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
You’re almost there! To get to the Lost City of the Incas, you’ve got two options: bus or walking. Bus is the most convenient. We took the bus.
Option 1: Bus
You can buy tickets in person at Av. Hermanos Ayar S / N, before Puente Ruinas.
As of 2019, the bus tickets for foreigners are:
- Adult: $12 (one way) / $24 (round trip)
- Children: $7 (one way) / $12 (round trip)
When purchasing, make sure to have your passport and if you decide to use US Dollars, make sure they are CRISP-Y! No marks, nicks, tears or imperfections on your bills.
The trip takes 30 minutes and bus rides start at 5am until 3pm (last entrance to Machu Picchu is 4pm) are every 10 minutes, every 5 in the early morning. There’ll be a queue in the early morning but it goes quickly, so don’t worry.
Option 2: Walk
Want a morning and/or afternoon hike, you can walk from Aguas Calientes to the entrance of Machu Picchu. It takes approximately 2 hrs and consist of walking next to a road, up stairs that cut the slopes of the mountain and a short walk to the entrance.
How/When to buy tickets to Machu Picchu?
I highly recommend buying your Machu Picchu tickets as far advance as you can. There is a limited tickets for each day, each time slot.
As of 2019, the current prices admission for foreigners:
(Discounted fares for people from Peru, Columbia, Bolivia and Ecuador)
Machu Picchu only: (*2500 spaces per day)
- Adults (18+ years): 152 sol
- Students (under 25 years): 77 sol
- Children (8-17 years) 70 sol
Machu Picchu + Waynapicchu Mountain: (*400 spaces per day)
- Adults (18+ years): 200 sol
- Students (under 25 years): 125 sol
- Children (8-17 years) 118 sol
Machu Picchu + Machu Picchu Mountain: (*800 space per day)
- Adults (18+ years): 200 sol
- Students (under 25 years): 125 sol
- Children (8-17 years) 118 sol
If you plan to hike up Waynapicchu Mountain or Machu Picchu Mountain, book at least 3 months in advance, earlier if you’re going during peak months. There is only limited slots.
Tip: They are strict about your time slot. If you miss your slot by even 5 minutes, they will not let you in. We had a ticket for the Mountain and weren’t allowed to go. *crying sad face*
Sun Gate Hike
After we weren’t allowed to go up Machu Picchu Mountain, we headed to the Sun Gate, a free hike that is also where the people who trek from Cusco to Machu Picchu enter from.
The hike is rocky and is at a steady incline. A moderate hike. This is when I recommend hiking shoes because it is rocky. I wore these ones on my trip.
How much time should you spend to see Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu can be done as a day trip from Cusco.
However, I would recommend spending the night in Aguas Calientes.
If you have the time, spending the night can allow you to get to Aguas Calientes the first day, explore the small town and see the ruins first thing in the morning for a beautiful sunrise view. Many hotels offer early breakfasts for early risers and a luggage service to watch over your belongings if you are checking out and seeing the ruins on the same day.
As for the ruins, it’ll take about 2 hours to walk through the ruins, depending how fast you through it.
If you add a hike about either of the mountains or the Sun Gate (a free hike), expect to add about 2 hours.
We arrived at 7:30am. and left at 12:30pm. A solid 5 hours.
Things to know before visiting Machu Picchu.
- Will I see alpaca or llamas? Only Llamas here but you’ll see plenty!
- Is there re-entry? No
- Is there food inside? No. There is a snack bar outside.
- Are there bathrooms? No. There are bathrooms outside.
- Do we have to go at the time our ticket says. Yes. They are strict about time slots.
- Can I bring my drone? No.
- Do you need hiking shoes? I’d recommend but not needed if you are just going around the main city grounds. No heels though. There is a bit of a hike in the beginning but very doable.
- Do you need a tour guide? Technically yes. But they aren’t strict about it
We got a tour guide outside the gate. Private tours are $60 and groups are $20. We were lucky enough to only pay $20 per person for a group of two because our guide couldn’t find more people to join. He was a good guide. If you want more info, I would suggest getting a tour guide before in a tour group. Our last minute worked for us.
For all my basic bitches out there, like myself.
Morning is best for that morning golden hour shots. Soft light, less crowds. I would say, get a time slot before 9am. By 10am there were crowds and the light was getting harsher.
Bring that wide angle lens to really capture the landscape.
How much is a trip to Machu Picchu?
Breaking down approximately how much I paid for my to Machu Picchu. This is for one person and this includes an overnight in Aguas Calientes.
Bus to Machu Picchu: $24
Machu Picchu: $65
Grand total (one person): $363
The journey for me was rough though. It took basically 2 days to get here. Starting with a 17 hour airplane ride that turned into 27, then the whole journey from Cusco to Aguas Caleientes. It was looong. But ones there I just took it in.
I am so glad that I was able to visit Machu Picchu. It truly was breathtaking and I might be a broken record telling you how pretty it is, but I can’t help it. Oh well!
Is Machu Picchu on your bucket list?