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

In PERU, SOUTH AMERICA by IsabellaLeave a Comment

Unlike when I went the first time when there were only the Inca trail and the train, there are currently at least 8 ways of getting to Machu Picchu. I have done some research, and if you are undecided on how to get to Machu Pichu, keep reading, and you’ll have a better idea of all your options.


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.

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.

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)

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 treck

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

THINGS TO DO ONCE YOU GET TO MACHU PICCHU

HIKE MACHU PICCHU

If you are a mountain lover and hiking freak, do yourself a favor and hike Machu Picchu mountain when you visit the famous citadel.

It is probably one of the most overlooked things to do and yet the most exciting.

The peak is towering over the citadel with an elevation of more than 3000 mt. The trail is well traced and although a little strenuous, it’s doable. And when you reach the top the jaw-dropping views will pay back

Useful tips about hiking Machu Picchu mountain:

Ascent time: 1h 30min to the summit. Descents are normally faster.

Elevation gain: 652 mt

Terrain: stone path and steps, with some grass and dirt parts

Tickets: Remember you need to purchase the ticket in advance with the entrance ticket

Opening time: 7-11 am

Best time to hike Machu Picchu – It’s open all year round although in the wet season is most likely to find a muddy terrain.

Book your ticket here

HIKE WYNAPICCHU

This is one of the most demanded treck within the citadel. And it is in fact what I did.

It’s a spectacular and relatively easy hike although very steep. I am afraid of heights, like, very afraid, and this hike really tested my self-control abilities.

I did it in March when it was drizzly and therefore the rocky steps a little slippery.

However, in the most difficult parts, you have iron handles sticking out of the mountain wall where to hang out.

You can choose between two trails the one that goes up to the peak and the one that walks around the mountain and takes you to the hidden Temple of the Moon first and then goes up again.

This one is the longest and more challenging.

I took the first one and once at the top I could enjoy amazing views of the Citadelle.

However, I am not going to lie it was scary.

There is no protection and, for what I can remember, the last part trail is very steep and narrow. So if you are scared of heights so much that you can get paralyzed at the view think twice before you do it.

In terms of physical effort though, well, if I made it, anyone in good physical health can do it.

You can check out this post for a more detailed description of the trail.

Useful tips about hiking Waynapicchu mountain:

Hiking time (short trail) – 1.30hrs – 2 hrs

Hiking time (long trail) – 3.30 hrs – 4 hrs

Altitude at the summit – 2,693 mt (8835ft)

Elevation gain from Machu Picchu 353 mt (1160 ft)

Elevation gain from The Moon Temple 427mt (1400 ft)

Terrain: rocky stones and dirt

Entrance time: 7-8 and 10-11 am

Tickets: there is a limited number of entries allowed which is 200 per each entrance time. Tickets need to be purchased in combination with the entrance ticket not separated.

Extra tip– this treck is not suitable if you have fear of heights as it’s extremely steep at times.

Book your ticket here

MUSEO DE SITIO MANUEL CHAVEZ BALLON

Aguas Calientes is the closest town to Machu Picchu citadelle. Once there, on the way back from you visit, you should definitely check out this museum if you are interested in the history and excavation of  Machu Picchu.  The museum is in fact packed with information and interesting details about the site. It’ s situated at 30 minutes walk from Aguas Calientes.

Click here to check out some reviews in TripAdvisor.


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