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Machu Picchu

Lost City of the Incas

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.

  • Elevation Citadel plaza: 7,970 ft (2,430 m)
    Huayna Picchu summit: 8,920 ft (2,720 m)
  • Temperature Daytime: 68 to 80°F (20 to 27°C)
    Nighttime: 50 to 64°F (10 to 18°C)
  • Dry Season From April to October
    While clear, sunny weather is the norm, scattered rain showers are not uncommon even in the dry season. Evenings are clear, but cold.
  • Wet Season From November to March
    Bring an umbrella and a rain jacket and be ready for the possibility of weather-related travel delays. But fear not, clear weather is also likely. Evening temperatures are cold.
Built on a terraced pyramid within the citadel, the Sacred Plaza is the principal religious center of Machu Picchu.
The “Hitching Post of the Sun” aligns with the solstices and the four cardinal directions. Once found throughout the Inca Empire, this carved boulder is one of the few that survived the Spanish Conquest.
Located on the Sacred Plaza, three enormous trapezoidal windows overlook the mountains beyond.
A semicircular structure with a window that aligns with the winter solstice in June.
Two massive boulders resting at sharp angles form the wings of this condor-shaped rock formation.
A large rock outcrop with two raised indentations shaped like bowls that reflect the sky overhead when filled with water.
Beginning in the emperor's quarters, a system of 16 fountains descends from a spring through the residential zone of the Machu Picchu citadel.
A simple stone structure with sweeping views over the ruins is the only building with a restored thatched roof that shows the traditional Inca methods.
Known as Inti Punku, the ceremonial entryway into Machu Picchu boasts memorable views of the ruins hundreds of feet below.
Planks of wood span a large gap in a narrow stone path carved into a sheer cliff face on the backside of Machu Picchu Mountain.
Join a tour with our expert local guide and learn about the history and significance of the Inca citadel as well as the brilliant engineering features that have ensured its longevity.
Choose the classic 4-day trek or the shorter 2-day trek - either one gives you privileged entry into Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate.
Spend 2 days at Machu Picchu, booking one night in Aguas Calientes or at the Sanctuary Lodge, and make the most of your once-in-a-lifetime trip to Peru.
Climb this steep, narrow footpath up the iconic Huayna Picchu peak where the views down to Machu Picchu are simply incredible. Permits are limited.
Take on a gentler but longer alternative to Huayna Picchu. The step-filled trail up Machu Picchu Mountain offers panoramic views of the Inca citadel and the mountain range that shelters it.
Get a tiny taste of the Inca Trail by walking from the Caretaker’s Hut to “Inti Punku” or the Sun Gate.
Enjoy a gentle walk around the backside of Machu Picchu Mountain for views of the Inca Bridge and the plunging river valley below.
Soak your sore muscles in the natural hot springs that give Aguas Calientes its name; located at the northeastern end of Av. Pachacutec.
Treat yourself to a rejuvenating massage or facial either at your hotel or one of the spas along Avenida Pachacutec.
You can buy food outside the entrance gates to Machu Picchu or plan ahead and pack a boxed lunch.
Machu Picchu snack bar
Located to the right 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 at the Sanctuary Lodge
Tinkuy Restaurant is a nice place to escape the crowds of Machu Picchu and enjoy a daily buffet lunch from 11:00 am to 3:30 pm. Choose from an elaborate spread of international or Peruvian food options.
Bring a box lunch
Select cafes and hotels in Aguas Calientes are happy to pack a box lunch (for an additional fee) that you can enjoy outside the ruins. These lunches usually include a sandwich, snacks (nuts, cereal bars, or fruit), and a drink.
Aguas Calientes is packed with restaurants serving traditional Peruvian food, novo-Andean cuisine, and familiar international favorites like pizza, burgers, and pasta.
The Tree House Restaurant
Located up a steep alleyway on the edge of town, this excellent restaurant serves a menu of Peruvian fusion cuisine with Andean, Italian, Asian, and Latin American influences. Try the salmis de lomo (fettuccine with tender beef), pork ribs in elderberry and tamarind sauce, or alpaca anticuchos (grilled skewers).
Calle Huanacaure 105
Incontri el Pueblo Viejo
Satisfy your craving for carbs with homemade pastas 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 6 (no number)
Chullpi Machupicchu
Serves mouth-watering Peruvian fusion dishes including trout ceviche, osso bucco, perfectly grilled chicken breast, and delicious salads and tasty appetizers. If you’ve got room for dessert, go for the Tres Leches cake.
Av. Imperio de los Inca 140
La Boulangerie de Paris
The place to go for sweet and savory treats after a long day of exploring Machu Picchu. Try the croissant, lemon tart, bruschetta or a baguette.
Jr Sinchi Roca (above the bus station)
El Indio Feliz
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. Enjoy drinks at the quirky Captain’s Bar before or after dinner.
Calle Lloque Yupanqui 103
Toto’s House
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 (no number)
For something more refined, make dinner reservations at one of these hotel restaurants:
  • Inkaterra Cafe at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Hotel - recommended
  • Restaurant La Cabana at La Cabana Machu Picchu Hotel
  • Qunuq Restaurant at Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel
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6 Days
Cusco, Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu Express
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Cusco, Inca Trail & Machu Picchu

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Machu Picchu Travel Tips

Tickets for Machu Picchu must be purchased in advance.

  • There are limited tickets available to enter Machu Picchu daily between the hours of 6 am and 2 pm. You have the full hour to enter the archeological complex from the time indicated on your ticket. Entry before the stated entry time on your ticket is not permitted.
  • Admission is valid for 4 hours from the time of entry. Extra time is allotted for visitors who also purchase tickets with permits to hike Huayna Picchu (6 hours validity) or Machu Picchu Mountain (7 hours validity).


  • All visitors must follow a designated walking circuit through the ruins.
  • Guides are not required for either of the two additional hikes inside the ruins, Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain.

*Ask your travel advisor for more details about Machu Picchu entry regulations.

The 2 most popular options to get to Machu Picchu:

  • By train: Daily departures from Cusco (Poroy station - 3.5 hours) and Ollantaytambo (2 hours). PeruRail also operates 1 daily train to/from Urubamba station exclusively for guests of the Belmond Hotel Río Sagrado. Arrival is at Aguas Calientes station (Machu Picchu).
  • On foot: Hike the classic Inca Trail or the short Inca Trail.

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:

  • Salkantay Trek - usually ends in Santa Teresa with transport to Aguas Calientes on the Hydroelectric train and a next-day visit to Machu Picchu.
  • Lares Trek - 3 days of hiking with transfer from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes by train and next-day visit to Machu Picchu.
  • Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu - For thrill seekers, a combination of mountain biking, ziplining, and hiking to Machu Picchu via Santa Teresa.

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:

  • Entry ticket and passport - both are required to get into Machu Picchu
  • Rain jacket or umbrella for day tours
  • Warm layer for mornings and evenings
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Insect repellent

What to wear:

  • Long pants and long sleeves to protect against bugs
  • Comfortable walking shoes or light hiking boots

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.

  • April to October is the dry season and the most popular time to visit. In particular, June, July, and August are the busiest months at Machu Picchu.
  • November to March is the rainy season. There is a higher chance of showers of course, but the ruins aren’t as crowded and the flowers are in bloom.
  • April, May, September, and October: the shoulder months are the best time to visit for smaller crowds and generally good weather.

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.

  • A zoom lens gives you more flexibility to capitalize on different angles and the ability to zoom in on distant stone ruins.
  • The best natural light is in the mornings (7:00-8:00 am) and evenings (3:00-4:00 pm).
  • Weather changes quickly at Machu Picchu. Cloudy conditions quickly turn sunny and vice versa.
  • The ruins are home to a few lucky llamas. They can be spotted grazing on the grass covered terraces or walking through the stone structures. For a cool photo, try framing a llama in a photo with the citadel in the background.

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.

Getting in:

  • Trains from Ollantaytambo and Cusco arrive at Aguas Calientes Station.
  • Shuttle buses to Machu Picchu depart from the bus stop on Av. Hermanos Ayar parallel to the river.
  • Inca Trail hikers (4-day and 2-day) arrive on foot at Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate.
  • After visiting Machu Picchu, at the entrance, you can take a return shuttle bus to Aguas Calientes.

Getting around:

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.


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