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How to get to Machu Picchu: 8 ways to visit the sacred city

Isabella Biava PERU, South America Leave a Comment

HOW TO GET TO MACHU PICCHU FROM CUSCO

Whether it’s for being one of the 7 wonders of the world which makes it on top of all travel bucket list, or because it is indeed a spectacular place to visit, Machu Picchu has been attracting flocks of travelers of all sorts, backpackers, hikers, lazy travelers, touristy traveler, flashpackers, all those who have been affected by the travel bug must have Machu Picchu on their must-see-places list, if only to get a glided Instagram picture.

In order to preserve the magic of the exceptional place, reducing the human impact on the environment and the precious historical heritage, the government had applied some restrictions on the number of visits per day and the duration time on site.

Here I will tell you what are the several ways to get there and the entry fees.

ENTRANCE TO MACHU PICCHU FEES

1. Price Ticket Machu Picchu Only 70 USD/Adult, 41USD/Student below 25ys and CHD 8-17ys  

  • The Machu Picchu Ticket is valid only for one day and for the chosen turn.
  • The admission ticket to the optional enclosures like Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, can’t be sold separately.
  • Capacity: 2500 people per day.

Purchase Machu Picchu entry only ticket here. 

2. Price Ticket Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu 86 USD/Adult, 57 USD/Student below 25ys and CHD 8-17ys

  • Entry schedule to Huayna Picchu:
    • First Group: 07:00 – 08:00 hrs.
    • Second Group: 10:00 – 11:00 hrs.
  • Capacity: 400 people per day, divided into two groups of 200 c / u.

Purchase Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu ticket here

3. Price Ticket Machu Picchu + Mountain Picchu 86 USD/Adult, 57 USD/student below 25ys and CHD 8-17ys

  • This ticket gives you access to the ruins of Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain (located in front of the mountain Huayna Picchu).
  • Entry schedule to the Machu Picchu mountain:
    • First Group: 07:00 – 08:00 hrs.
    • Second Group: 09:00 – 10:00 hrs.
  • Capacity: 800 people per day.

Purchase Machu Picchu entry and mountain here

4. Price Ticket Machu Picchu + in site Museum 77 USD/Adult,  45 USD/Student below 25ys and CHD 8-17ys  

  • Entry schedule to Machu Picchu:
    • Morning shift: 06:00 – 12:00 hrs.
    • Afternoon shift: 12:00 – 17:30 hrs.
  • Hours of the Museum’s attention:09:00 – 16:30 hrs.
  • Capacity: 2500 people per day.

General Info

  • The optional entry to Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu Mountain, cannot be sold separately
  • Entry schedule to Machu Picchu
    • Morning shift: 06:00 – 12:00 hrs.
    • Afternoon shift: 12:00 – 17:30 hrs.
  • The Tickets are valid only for one day.

8 ways to get to Machu Picchu

TRAIN TO MACHU PICCHU: AVAILABLE OPTIONS

Hopping on the train to get to visit Machu Picchu is the quickest and more comfortable option. I would recommend though to get to Aguas Calientes the day before your visit to the citadel so that you can enter the site early morning and see the sunrise from the Sun Gate, where all the hikers arrive as well. It was foggy when I got there. Bummer! But it was still magical.

There are three kinds of trains that you can book. Here they are:

Expedition

Is the basic train, with a  regular service and big windows from which you can admire the staggering views.

Vistadome

Is the most scenic as the wagons are completely surrounded by glass offering staggering views of the surrounding overwhelming nature. Service on board is also personalized which adds up to the experience.  Honestly considering it’s only 15 USD difference among Expedition and Vistadome, I would go for this one.  I believe the unrivaled views make it worth it.

Hiram Bingham

Flashpackers, this is for you. A celebrity style train, the Belmond Hiram Bingham train offers a world-class all-inclusive luxury service on the way to Machu Picchu. it includes local dance for your entertainment on board, finest dining, excruciating views from the Observation Car, the best Peruvian Cocktails, a private guide in English or Spanish, tea time at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, VIP lounge at the train station, entrance ticket and bus to the citadel. Definitely, the most exclusive way to experience one of the 7 wonders of the world.

A few notes:

  • Busses from Aguas Caliente to the Citadel starts running at 5.30
  • During the high season, there are people queuing for the bus from 5 am
  • If you get to Aguas Calientes in early you have the time to visit the Museo de Sitio, which is packed with interesting information about the site
  • Prices of the Expedition train varies according to the time of departure. You can check schedule and rates on their official site, clicking here
  • Once you get off the train you can go and wait for your bus to the Citadel by the bridge close to the train station. There you will find a ticket office or you can buy it  through the company webpage (In Spanish)

HIKING INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU

The most popular trek to Machu Picchu is the classic Inca Trail, so intriguing because it follows the original path that the Incas supposedly traced to travel from the  Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu.

This is the trek I did when I visited Peru for the first time.

I did it in March, and although it was raining all the time, especially in the afternoon, I had the time of my life. You might want to check this post on the best time to visit Machu Picchu

Waking up every morning literally in the clouds surrounded by impressive views of spectacular Inca sites, breathtaking landscapes, it was a dream come true and as the first time I was doing a trek it opened up a new world to me.

One of the sites we explore during the trail is the superb Wiñay Wayna, an Inca site near the final campsite of the same name. 

The Inca Trail became so popular that the government had to limit the daily entries to 500 people of which 300 are porters and guides. Therefore only 200 visitors per day are allowed.

Its cost ranges from 600 to 800 USD per person approximately, depending on the agency.

8 ways to get to Machu Picchu

RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL NOTE Mind that normally when you pay lower prices the ones that get affected are most of the time the porters, as those are the first wages they cut in order to lower the rates and be competitive. I learned my lessons when I climbed the Kilimanjaro and now I am more conscious when I have to book a trek.

For being so demanded if you really want to do this trek you will need to book it way in advance, especially if you intend to travel in the high season- end of June through August.

Here below a few tour options

HIKING THE SALKANTAY TREK

The Salkantay trek is the second most popular hike to Machu Picchu. I just heard about it a couple of years after I did my tour on the Inca trail, which was great but if I knew I would probably have chosen this one.

Although the original  Inca trail has more allure for being the original path stepped by the Incas to reach their sacred city, or so they say, for what I am seeing from the pictures, the Salkantay trail offers even more spectacular views including a turquoise-colored beautiful lake.

The hike last 5 days / 4-night which is a little longer but all worth the challenge.

Besides the dramatic views and the dazzling lake, the highlight on the trek is Nevada Salkantay, the 6,271m iconic Andean peak. 

If you are still doubting about its beauty, just keep in mind that the Salkantay trail has been nominated by National Geographic among the 25 most beautiful treks in the world. Go figure!

Book your 5 days Salkantay treck here

If you wish to get more detailed information on the Salkantay trek, I have found this very detailed article that will answer all your question. (disclaimer: I have no affiliation whatsoever with this site)

8 ways to get to Machu Picchu

Lares Trek

The Lares trek is a less strenuous trail than the iconic Machu Picchu, and off the beaten track.

It also gives you a chance to interact with local Andean communities, since you will hike through some local villages, and take a bath in hot springs, besides still enjoy sweeping views of the Andean peaks and green valleys.

It is the most cultural trek among all.

The Lares trail begins near the town of Lares, 40 miles north of Cusco and 35 miles south-east of Machu Picchu and continues through the Lares Valley, east of the Urubamba mountain range, still part of the Sacred Valley.

You can either do this trek as a stand-alone for 2 or 3 days hike or combine it with a visit to Machu Picchu. In this case, it’s going to be about 3 or 4 days.

The Lares trek doesn’t require any permit or any limitations so you don’t need to book it in advance as you need for the Inca trail.

However, you do need to book your train ticket from Ollantaytambo (where the trek ends) to Aguas Calientes and the entrance ticket to the citadel.

Permits are not required for the Lares Trek. This means that you can in effect arrive in Cusco and depending on the season (not June-August) be on the trail within a day or two.

Of course, you will still need to book your train tickets to Aguas Calientes as early as possible during peak season, as well as your entrance tickets to Machu Picchu.

Reasons  why you might want to prefer Lares Trek:

  • It’s much quieter than the Inca Trail and less crowded.
  • The hike is much easier and less challenging, although altitude can be still an issue if you suffer from altitude sickness as you will pass through 3 high altitude passes over 4200 meters.
  • As we mentioned before besides the exercising and the wicked views you will also have a fulfilling cultural experience as you pass through different indigenous villages where the communities have lived there for 500 years although it seems that time had stopped then. They just live like they used to, with no influence of the modern era whatsoever.
  • The area is famous for its homemade textiles, that you can buy directly from the source helping the local economies without any middlemen fees. Which means they charge a fair price for their work and you pay less.

To have more detailed information on this trek I am leaving you with this link to Gemma’s blog Two Scots Abroad. She is a blogger that I am following and wrote a very detailed article on her experience on the tre8 ways to get to Machu Picchu

Choquequirao Trek

Choquequirao, meaning Cradle of Gold, is an Incan City built during the late 15th and early 16th century and commissioned by the so much worshipped Inca emperor Pachacuti.

The site is located above the valley of Apurímac river, 98 km from Cusco and in the Willkapamba mountain range, and covers an area of 6 square kilometers although it’s not completely brought to light, yet.

The hike to Choquequirao implies 3 days walk from the towns of Cachora, Huanipaca or Yanama.

The site is not considered so remarkable as Machu Picchu but it’s an amazing and interesting 8 days hike off the beaten path overall far from the touristy crowded trails.

The Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu can be done in many different variations as there are many trails from 5 to 10 days, including one option with a portion to Machu Picchu by bus.

I will give you this option to book, that I found in a website I use and where I also have an affiliation partnership.

However, you might want to check with different travel agents and compare itineraries and prices. to make sure you book what you really want.

I recommend always to look very well at what the tour includes and what doesn’t.

8 ways to get to Machu Picchu

VILCABAMBA TREK

The Vilcabamba trek to Machu Picchu is the most remote and challenging of all the treks but, and probably for these reasons the most fascinating and spectacular.

The trails you will walk by are still untouched and well preserved but you need to keep in mind that this trek is not for the faint of heart.

It’s normally a 5 days hike that ends at Machu Picchu and it comes with different variations and trail combinations.

Here on this site, you can check more in details about the itinerary and all the aspects of this hike.8 ways to get to Machu Picchu

INCA JUNGLE TREK

While doing my research about all the alternative options to Machu Pichu I am realizing how commercial this area has become and as I am writing this post I truly hope that all these tours are crafted with an eco-friendly mindset, in the respect of the environment and the local population and not only with a business goal.

Having said that, this particular itinerary looks to me the most suitable for adventure seekers for whom just walking by itself is not enough to trigger the fun-alert in you!

It’s, in fact, the most varied in terms of activities.

The itinerary includes a massive downhill mountain biking experience, river rafting on Grade III and IV rapids, jungle trekking, and optional zip-lining and of course, it rounds off with the visit at Machu Picchu.

You should also know:

  • The tours can be of 3 days/2 nights or 4days/3 nights, depending on the travel agents
  • Accommodation on the trek is normally in hostel or home-stays, with a night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes.

You can book your Inca jungle trek here. Please make sure you read all the information on what’s included and not.

Inca Jungle trek – includes:

  • transportation from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and the return to Cusco
  • Train tickets from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo
  • Bus from Ollantaytambo to Cusco
  • Zipline and rafting
  • A private, bilingual guide specialized in the Inca jungle
  • Full suspension mountain bikes, helmets, and gloves
  • The following meals: 4 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners (optional vegetarian)
  • 1 night in an eco-lodge with basic service (shared room)
  • 2 nights of hotel lodging (with private bathrooms and hot water)
  • The entrance ticket to Machu Picchu
  • Tickets to Huayna Picchu (when tickets are available) or Old Mountain
  • A complete first aid box

Book here 8 ways to get to Machu Picchu

Huchuy Qosco trail

This hike is perfect for you if you are not so fond of extreme hiking and strenuous workout, but still, wish to experience the adventure immerse in the Andine nature and history.

And also if you are short of time.

The Huchuy Qosqo trek is, in fact, the shortest and easiest of the alternative treks to Machu Picchu.

However, bear in mind that you don’t get to actually hike to Machu Pichu.

The route is situated just north of Cusco and most tour companies offer the trek on a two-day schedule, with one-night camping, and an additional night spent in Aguas Calientes before visiting Machu Picchu on day-three.

You will catch the train at Ollantaytambo, where the hike ends, to Aguas Calientes. There you will spend the night and get to Machu Pichu the following morning.

The first bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu leaves at 5.30. Therefore you will have the chance to get to the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) by the sunrise.

You can check out this tour for reference, although to be honest I find it a little too overpriced. I suggest you should check online and browse through some other travel agents’ options and compare itineraries and included services.

8 ways to get to Machu Picchu

AUSANGATE TREK + MACHU PICCHU

I was surprised to see this trek among the Machu Picchu alternative hikes.

I was planning to go this route to see the rainbow mountain. However, I just found out that you can combine the two routes which I find kind of cool. Exciting and time savings, but most of all, I am sure it’s going to be a less beaten path.

You will traverse the impressive Cordillera Vilcanota, a majestic mountain range comprehensive of several peaks over 6000 mt, including the sacred Ausangate (6372mt) famous for being the highest mountain in Cusco Region.

There you will be taken over several high passes, down into low alpine valleys and through traditional Peruvian villages.

The promise is a phenomenal landscape and exciting encounters such as glaciers, snowcapped peaks, herds of llamas, turquoise lakes surrounded by a staggering mountain range, but also a parade of wildlife it’s not improbable to see. That would include condors, vicunas, bobcats, and pumas. 

The highlights of the trek remain of course the mind-blowing rainbow mountain of Vinicunca for your “Instapicture” (just kidding).

This trek is so challenging that is suitable only for the few well trained expert hikers. If you want to go for it you will be more likely to enjoy this divine landscapes in total tranquillity and solitude far from the noisy crowds.

My South America route - Boundlessroads.com

Rainbow mountain

Normally the Ausangate treks are offered on  6 days itinerary but what I found out in my research is that some companies will be able to combine a visit to Machu Picchu with it.

You should inquire within different travel agents and compare itineraries and prices.

Other things you should know about Ausangate trek:

  • You don’t need a special permission to do that, just train book and pay 🙂
  • The Ausangate trek is one of the few treks in Peru that offers the option to ride a horse. However, if you don’t know how to ride, it’s better walking. Some parts are very steep.
  • Ausangate mountain is considered a holy mountain by local and since pre-Inca times it has been a place of worship and offerings and this tradition has perdured in time.
  • The Ausangate Trek is considered fairly difficult and long with several passes that reach the 5000 mt and over, therefore not suited for first-timers.
  • Weather can get quite hostile in the higher parts of the trek and you can also bump into blizzards and very cold temperatures.
  • It’s quite pricey indeed compared to the others. Around 1500 USD for what I am seeing so far.

The more I read and write about this trek the more I want to do it.

8 ways to get to Machu Picchu

HOW MUCH TO TIP YOUR HIKING GUIDE AND TEAM

I have done a little research and scanned through different websites from bloggers to travel agents and of course, I have my own experience. This is the conclusion I have come up with.

Tipping is not as voluntary as they might tell you.

It’s a common practice and guides, chef and porters are expecting a precise amount or more. But they expect something.

I am saying this because I have read almost everywhere that if you don’t tip, the team understand that they were not providing a good service and they would accept it and understand it. Well, nothing is further from the truth.

The issue here is a bit more extensive and goes back to underpayment and low wedges these people need to cope with.

You can see how much they work and how heavy is the bulk they have to carry all day long.

Although it seems like a piece of cake for them and they hop around on those trails with the agility of a steinbock, it is a very physically demanding job for which most of the time they are not paid enough.

The tipping suggestion I found online have very broad ranges so I couldn’t really get a proper idea.

However, this website is the one that looked to be more reasonable. I quote them:

“The actual amount you pay your porters is totally up to you, however, we recommend in the region of 30-35 soles per porter/guide. This amount is per group, not per person. Therefore, each person on the trek would usually pay in the region of 5 – 10 soles to each porter/guide. We always advise that you take plenty of small change so that you can give each porter your tip personally.”

They also suggest to tip directly each porter because it’s most likely that if you give the whole amount to the guide they wouldn’t distribute it fairly. That looked like a bit of an exaggeration to me but it can happen.

Some other sites would pay more to the guide and head chef and less to the porters and the tips should be given out separately.

So wrapping up this delicate topic, this is what I would do.

#1 Chose your travel agent wisely

Make sure they treat well their own staff, all of them. If more and more travelers are more sensitive and chose their tours with more concern towards this respect, it will help to make sure that also tour operators start to treat their staff with more respect and care. 

#2 Ask the tour operator you are booking with, how much is the staff expecting as a tip

I would recommend asking this question before booking, for many different reasons.

  • First of all, because you can understand a lot about the travel agent from the answer. If the agent tells you it’s not compulsory, you might investigate a little further about the staff wages.
  • You can get a better idea of the overall cost of the tour.

#3 Some suggest to go even further an ask how much the porters are getting

 I am not sure I would do that. I believe it’s a delicate topic.

#3 Take with you some change in Soles for the quantity you are intended to tip.

Receiving USD is annoying and much of a hassle to exchange it. And having spare change in SOLES  allow you to give each one of the staff their own tip separately.

#4  Don’t overtip.

Although it is fair to offer a reasonable tip, giving more than necessary wouldn’t do any good. Nor solve any problem. On the contrary, it will create a different perspective on the way the world works. I believe there is already a false belief that the tourists, just because they are there paying for the tour, are rich by default. They don’t understand that most of us sacrifice and save for years in order to afford such trips or to travel in general. Overtipping can only enhance this wrong perception.

8 ways to get to Machu Picchu

Thanks for making it through the post! it’s been a long reading.

I hope you found it useful and I would love to hear from you.

Especially if you have any further question or you wish to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment below.

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