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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. Rain or shine, morning or afternoon, crowded or not — the sight of the stone temples and endless terraces set amid green-clad granite mountains rarely disappoints.
Forgotten after the fall of the Inca Empire and re-discovered 400 years later, Machu Picchu remains shrouded in mystery. Whether by train or on your own two feet along the Inca Trail, getting there is part of the adventure.
Tickets for Machu Picchu must be purchased in advance.
*Ask your travel advisor for more details about Machu Picchu entry regulations.
The 2 most popular options to get to Machu Picchu:
Note that during the rainy season, bimodal transportation (bus + train) is in effect for travel to/from Cusco only. This is in order to avoid delays due to heavy rain and landslides. Transport is by comfortable bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and by train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu).
Additional options to get to Machu Picchu include:
Aside from the shuttle bus to and from the ruins, walking is the only way to get around Machu Picchu and the town of Aguas Calientes. Be prepared for steep paths and lots of steps.
Shuttle buses up to the Machu Picchu entrance depart from the bus stop at Av. Hermanos Ayar - the location is hard to miss. Buses depart frequently, as soon as a bus is full or every 15 minutes, from 5:30 am to 2:30 pm. The last bus back from the ruins to town is at 5:30 pm.
There are no ATMs at the ruins. Be sure to bring enough cash for tips, drinks, and snacks. Just outside the ruins, the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge does accept credit cards at its restaurant.
Tipping/gratuities: Giving a tip to your guide is not expected or required, but it is a great way to show your appreciation for a job well done.
Down in Aguas Calientes, ATMs are located on the major streets, but these are known to be unreliable. Most hotels and restaurants accept major credit cards. Expect slightly higher prices for goods and services including bottles of water, meals at restaurants, etc, compared to Cusco or anywhere else in Peru. Tourism is the town’s only industry and everything has to be shipped by train.
Prepare a daypack for your tour of Machu Picchu. You can leave large luggage at your hotel.
What you need:
What to wear:
If you spend the night in Aguas Calientes, hotels provide complimentary luggage storage during your Machu Picchu tour.
Note that PeruRail allows a maximum of 11 lbs (5 kgs) of luggage per passenger. You can leave larger and excess luggage in storage at your hotel in Cusco or the Sacred Valley.
Traveling to Peru especially in the peak season (June, July, August) requires lots of planning several months in advance. This includes booking hotels in Cusco and Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu), flights to/from Cusco, train tickets to/from Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu tickets (limited to 400 and sell out weeks in advance) and Inca Trail permits if applicable. Last minute trips can be pulled off but limited availability for hotels and train tickets is an issue.
Your camera phone is sufficient to take quick photos to share instantly with your friends and family back home. But for higher quality photos, you will want to have a proper camera.
Machu Picchu is LOWER in altitude than Cusco. Compare Machu Picchu’s 7,790 ft (2,430 m) to Cusco’s 11,120 ft (3,400 m). Altitude sickness is therefore less of an issue at Machu Picchu, especially if arriving from Cusco as is the case for most travelers.
Nonetheless altitude sickness is a common concern. There’s no foolproof way to prevent the minor symptoms of altitude sickness such as headache, loss of appetite, nausea, and shortness of breath. But there are measures you can take to help you acclimatize with more ease. While at higher altitudes, be sure to drink plenty of water and eat light meals. During your tour of Machu Picchu, wear sun protection, walk at a comfortable pace, and take rest as needed.
Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, is the town at the base of Machu Picchu ruins. Nearly every traveler to Peru passes through this gateway to South America’s most famous ruins.
Aside from the shuttle bus to/from the ruins, the only way to get around town is on foot. If you have luggage, hotel porters are available to assist with getting bags to/from the train station. Note that due to geography, most streets in Aguas Calientes have either steps or steep inclines.