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How To Visit Machu Picchu, Peru


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Berri Colston



Perched high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, Machu Picchu is one of the most awe-inspiring ancient cities in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage site attracts millions of visitors each year, who come to marvel at its enigmatic ruins, breathtaking landscapes, and rich historical significance.


Visiting Machu Picchu is a dream come true for many travelers, but it’s important to plan your trip carefully to make the most of this remarkable experience. From securing permits and tickets to packing the right essentials, there are several steps to consider before embarking on your Machu Picchu adventure.


In this guide, we will walk you through the essential steps and provide valuable tips to help you plan a successful visit to Machu Picchu. Whether you’re a history lover, an adventure seeker, or simply curious about the wonders of the world, this article will equip you with all the information you need for an unforgettable trip to Machu Picchu.


So, without further ado, let’s begin our journey to explore this magnificent Inca citadel nestled amidst the stunning Peruvian Andes.


Step 1: Planning your Trip to Machu Picchu

Planning is key when it comes to visiting Machu Picchu. Here are some crucial aspects to consider:

  • Decide on your travel dates: Machu Picchu can be visited year-round, but it’s important to choose a time that suits your preferences. The peak tourist season is from June to August when the weather is generally dry and sunny. However, keep in mind that this period can be crowded, and it’s essential to book well in advance. Shoulder seasons, such as April-May and September-October, offer a good balance of smaller crowds and favorable weather conditions.
  • Consider duration: Decide how long you want to spend at Machu Picchu. Many travelers opt for a day trip from Cusco or Aguas Calientes, the gateway town, while others prefer a multi-day trek, such as the famous Inca Trail or the challenging Salkantay Trek. The duration of your visit will impact your itinerary and the type of experience you wish to have.
  • Choose your route: There are several ways to reach Machu Picchu, each offering a unique experience. The most popular option is to take a train from Cusco or Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, followed by a bus or hike up to the site. Alternatively, you can embark on a multi-day trek, allowing you to immerse yourself in the stunning Andean landscapes and discover hidden archaeological sites along the way.
  • Research tour operators: If you choose to trek or join a guided tour, it’s essential to research reputable tour operators. Look for companies with positive reviews, experienced guides, and a commitment to sustainable and responsible tourism practices. Booking with a reliable operator will ensure a safe and well-organized trip.
  • Check visa requirements: Depending on your nationality, you may need a visa to enter Peru. Ensure that you have a valid passport with at least six months of validity remaining. Check the visa requirements for your country and apply in advance if necessary.

Remember, planning ahead will help you secure the necessary permits, choose the best route, and make the most of your time at Machu Picchu. Take your time to research and consider all aspects to ensure a seamless and enjoyable journey to this iconic archaeological wonder.


Step 2: Getting to Machu Picchu

Getting to Machu Picchu involves a combination of transportation modes. Here’s how you can reach this extraordinary destination:

  • By air: If you’re traveling from abroad, your journey will likely begin with a flight to Lima, the capital of Peru. From there, you can take a domestic flight to Cusco, the closest major city to Machu Picchu. Several airlines operate daily flights between Lima and Cusco, making it a convenient option for many travelers.
  • By train: Once you arrive in Cusco, the next leg of your journey to Machu Picchu starts with a train ride. The most popular route is from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the town located at the base of Machu Picchu. The train journey offers breathtaking views of the scenic Andean landscapes, and there are various train options to choose from, ranging from budget-friendly to luxury.
  • By bus and hike: From Aguas Calientes, you have the option to take a shuttle bus or hike up to the entrance of Machu Picchu. The bus ride takes approximately 20-30 minutes and is a convenient option for those looking to save their energy for exploring the ruins. Alternatively, if you’re up for a challenge and want to experience the famous Inca Trail, you can embark on a hike that usually takes four days.

It’s important to note that all visitors must have a valid entrance ticket to access Machu Picchu. This can be purchased online in advance or at the official ticket office in Aguas Calientes. Additionally, if you plan on hiking one of the trails, such as the Inca Trail, you’ll need to secure a permit well in advance, as they have limited availability.


Whichever mode of transportation you choose, the journey to Machu Picchu is part of the adventure, offering stunning views of the Andes and a taste of the rich Peruvian culture along the way. Plan your transportation logistics in advance to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip.


Step 3: Choosing the Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu

When planning your trip to Machu Picchu, it’s important to consider the best time to visit in terms of weather, crowds, and overall experience. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Weather: Machu Picchu is located in the Andes Mountains, which means the weather can be unpredictable. The dry season, from May to September, is generally considered the best time to visit. During this period, the weather is typically sunny and dry, with cooler temperatures. However, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for sudden changes in weather and pack layers to accommodate varying conditions.
  • Crowds: Machu Picchu is a popular tourist destination, and during peak seasons, it can get quite crowded. If you prefer to avoid large crowds and have a more tranquil experience, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons, such as April-May or September-October. These months offer a good balance of smaller crowds and favorable weather conditions.
  • Festivals and events: Peru is known for its vibrant festivals and events, and experiencing one during your visit can add an extra layer of cultural immersion. The Inti Raymi festival in June, celebrating the Inca Sun God, is one of the most significant events in Cusco. If you’re interested in witnessing traditional rituals and colorful festivities, plan your trip accordingly.
  • Hiking and trekking conditions: If you’re planning on embarking on a trek, such as the Inca Trail or the Salkantay Trek, it’s essential to consider the hiking conditions. The dry season is generally preferred for trekking due to more stable weather conditions. However, if you want to see the lush green landscapes and vibrant flora, the wet season from November to March might be a better choice.

Ultimately, the best time to visit Machu Picchu depends on your preferences and priorities. Whether you prioritize favorable weather, smaller crowds, or experiencing cultural events, planning your trip during the optimal time for you will enhance your overall experience at this magnificent archaeological site.


Step 4: Securing Permits and Tickets

Securing permits and tickets is a crucial step in planning your visit to Machu Picchu. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Entrance tickets: All visitors to Machu Picchu are required to have a valid entrance ticket. It’s recommended to purchase your tickets well in advance, especially during peak seasons, as availability can be limited. You can buy tickets online through the official website or from authorized ticket offices in Cusco or Aguas Calientes. Keep in mind that there is a daily limit on the number of visitors allowed, so it’s best to secure your spot ahead of time.
  • Inca Trail permits: If you’re planning to hike the iconic Inca Trail, you will need to obtain a separate permit. These permits are limited and sell out quickly, so it’s essential to book well in advance. The permits are issued on a first-come, first-served basis and can only be obtained through authorized tour operators. Make sure to choose a reputable operator that includes the permit in their trek package.
  • Other treks and permits: Aside from the Inca Trail, there are other treks and routes to Machu Picchu, such as the Salkantay Trek, Lares Trek, and Choquequirao Trek. While these routes don’t require permits as strict as the Inca Trail, it’s still essential to book with a reputable tour operator in advance to secure your spot and ensure availability.
  • Valid identification: When purchasing tickets or permits, you will need to provide valid identification, such as your passport. Ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your planned visit to Machu Picchu.
  • Keep digital and physical copies: It’s essential to keep both digital and physical copies of your tickets and permits. Print out hard copies and also save digital copies on your phone or email. This will ensure you have the necessary documentation to present at checkpoints throughout your journey.

Securing your permits and tickets in advance is crucial to guarantee your entry to Machu Picchu and to ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience. Make sure to plan ahead, choose a reputable tour operator if necessary, and keep all necessary documentation readily available to make the most of your visit to this ancient wonder.


Step 5: Packing Essentials for your Machu Picchu Trip

Packing the right essentials is essential to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable trip to Machu Picchu. Here are some items you should include in your packing list:

  • Appropriate clothing: The weather at Machu Picchu can be unpredictable. It’s important to pack layers so you can adjust to changing conditions throughout the day. Include lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing for warmer temperatures, as well as warmer layers for cooler mornings and evenings. Don’t forget a waterproof jacket or poncho in case of rain.
  • Comfortable footwear: Exploring Machu Picchu involves a fair amount of walking, so comfortable and sturdy footwear is a must. Opt for hiking boots or shoes with good traction to tackle the uneven terrain. Make sure to break in new shoes before your trip to avoid discomfort and blisters.
  • Sun protection: Machu Picchu sits at a high elevation and can be quite sunny. Protect yourself from the strong Andean sun by packing sunscreen with a high SPF, a hat or cap, sunglasses, and lip balm. It’s also a good idea to have a lightweight scarf or long-sleeved clothing for extra protection from the sun.
  • Insect repellent: To ward off pesky bugs, especially during the wet season, pack a reliable insect repellent. Look for one that contains DEET for maximum effectiveness.
  • Daypack: A comfortable and lightweight daypack is essential to carry your belongings during your visit to Machu Picchu. Make sure it’s big enough to fit your essentials, such as water, snacks, camera, sunscreen, and extra layers of clothing.
  • Water and snacks: Staying hydrated is crucial, so bring a refillable water bottle and pack some snacks to keep your energy levels up during your exploration of Machu Picchu. There are refill stations available throughout the site.
  • Camera and batteries: Machu Picchu offers countless photo opportunities, so don’t forget to pack your camera or smartphone to capture the magnificent views. Ensure you have extra batteries or a portable charger to keep your devices powered throughout the day.
  • Personal medications: If you take any prescription medications, make sure to pack enough for the duration of your trip. It’s also a good idea to have a basic first aid kit with essentials like band-aids, pain relievers, and any necessary medications for altitude sickness.

Remember to pack light and only bring what is necessary to ensure that you can comfortably carry your belongings throughout your visit to Machu Picchu. By packing the right essentials, you’ll be prepared for the unique conditions and have a more enjoyable experience at this incredible archaeological site.


Step 6: Arriving at Machu Picchu

Arriving at Machu Picchu is an exciting moment, but it’s important to be prepared for the logistics and make the most of your visit. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Arriving in Aguas Calientes: Most visitors to Machu Picchu start their journey in Aguas Calientes, the town located at the base of the mountain. Depending on your chosen transportation method, you will either take a train or a combination of bus and hiking to reach Aguas Calientes. Take some time to explore the town and relax before your visit to Machu Picchu.
  • Reconfirm your entrance: Once you arrive in Aguas Calientes, double-check your entrance tickets to ensure that they are valid for the correct date and time. It’s also a good idea to review the entrance requirements and guidelines to familiarize yourself with the regulations in place.
  • Getting to the entrance: To reach the entrance of Machu Picchu, you have the option to take a shuttle bus or hike up. The bus ride takes about 20-30 minutes and can be purchased at the ticket office in Aguas Calientes. If you choose to hike, allow ample time and start early to catch the sunrise and beat the crowds.
  • Security checks: Before entering Machu Picchu, you’ll go through security checks, including bag inspections. Be prepared to show your entrance tickets, identification, and any necessary permits. Follow the instructions of the staff and respect the rules in place.
  • Guided tours: Joining a guided tour is a popular option for visitors to Machu Picchu, as it provides valuable insights and historical context. If you’ve booked a guided tour, make sure to coordinate with your guide and gather at the designated meeting point. If you prefer to explore on your own, be sure to pick up a map or guidebook to enhance your understanding of the site.
  • Respecting the site: Machu Picchu is an archaeological marvel and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Practice responsible tourism by staying on designated paths, not touching or removing any artifacts, and preserving the natural and cultural integrity of the site. Also, remember to respect the tranquility of the site and fellow visitors by keeping noise levels low.
  • Enjoying the views: Once inside Machu Picchu, take your time to soak in the mesmerizing views of the ancient citadel and the surrounding mountains. Allow yourself to be captivated by the magnificence of this awe-inspiring place and take plenty of photos to capture the memories.

Arriving at Machu Picchu is an exciting moment, but it’s important to be mindful of the logistics and guidelines in place. By following these steps and respecting the site, you’ll have a memorable and enriching experience at this iconic landmark.


Step 7: Exploring Machu Picchu

Exploring Machu Picchu is a remarkable experience that offers a glimpse into the captivating history of the Inca civilization. Here are some tips for making the most of your visit:

  • Start early: Arrive at Machu Picchu early in the day to beat the crowds and have more time to explore the site. The early morning light also offers stunning photo opportunities and a serene ambiance.
  • Take your time: Machu Picchu is a vast archaeological site with numerous structures, terraces, and viewpoints to explore. Take your time to wander and soak in the atmosphere. Pause at strategic spots to admire the breathtaking vistas and reflect on the ingenuity of the ancient Inca civilization.
  • Follow the trails: There are several marked trails within Machu Picchu that offer different perspectives and viewpoints. Follow these trails to discover hidden corners and lesser-known parts of the site. The most famous trail is the one leading to the Sun Gate (Inti Punku), offering panoramic views of Machu Picchu.
  • Visit the key sites: Be sure to visit the iconic spots within Machu Picchu, such as the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of the Three Windows, and the Intihuatana Stone. These sites showcase the impressive architecture and astronomical knowledge of the Incas.
  • Enjoy the Intihuatana Stone: The Intihuatana Stone is a unique feature at Machu Picchu, believed to have served as a sundial and astronomical observatory. Take a moment to appreciate its significance and importance in Inca culture.
  • Explore the agricultural terraces: The agricultural terraces played a vital role in supporting the city with food. Explore these terraces and marvel at the advanced engineering and irrigation systems implemented by the Incas.
  • Engage with a knowledgeable guide: To enhance your understanding of the site and its history, consider hiring a knowledgeable local guide. They can provide valuable insights, stories, and historical context that will enrich your experience.
  • Be aware of your surroundings: Machu Picchu is an archaeological site that requires preservation and respect. Stay on designated paths, avoid touching or climbing on the ruins, and follow all signage and instructions provided by the authorities.
  • Take breaks: Exploring Machu Picchu involves a fair amount of walking and stair climbing. Take breaks when needed to rest, hydrate, and enjoy the stunning views. There are designated resting areas throughout the site.
  • Capture memories: Be sure to capture the beauty of Machu Picchu through photographs. Whether you’re an amateur photographer or simply using your smartphone, take the time to find interesting angles, play with lighting, and capture the essence of this captivating archaeological site.

Exploring Machu Picchu is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. By following these tips, you’ll be able to fully immerse yourself in the history, beauty, and grandeur of this ancient citadel.


Step 8: Optional Hikes and Activities near Machu Picchu

While visiting Machu Picchu is undoubtedly the highlight of any trip to the region, there are also several optional hikes and activities that you can consider to enhance your experience and explore the surrounding areas. Here are some recommendations:

  • Huayna Picchu: Huayna Picchu is the iconic peak that overlooks Machu Picchu. This steep and challenging hike offers breathtaking views of the citadel from a different perspective. Note that a separate permit is required, and only a limited number of visitors are allowed each day.
  • Machu Picchu Mountain: Another hiking option is Machu Picchu Mountain (Montaña Machu Picchu). This less crowded but equally rewarding hike provides panoramic views of the entire Machu Picchu complex and the surrounding scenery. Like Huayna Picchu, a separate permit is required.
  • The Sun Gate: The Sun Gate (Inti Punku) is the final point of the Inca Trail and offers a more moderate hike with stunning views of Machu Picchu. This hike is suitable for those who want to experience a section of the famous Inca Trail without completing the full trek.
  • The Inca Bridge: Located on a trail near Machu Picchu, the Inca Bridge (Puente Inca) is a fascinating site that showcases the Inca’s engineering prowess. This short walk will take you to a suspended bridge built into the mountainside, providing a unique perspective on the region.
  • The Sacred Valley: Consider exploring the nearby Sacred Valley, a region filled with ancient Inca ruins and charming Andean villages. Visit sites such as Ollantaytambo and Pisac to delve deeper into Inca history and experience the local culture.
  • Moray and Maras: These lesser-known archaeological sites, located in the Sacred Valley, offer a glimpse into Inca agricultural practices and salt terraces. Explore the circular terraces of Moray and the picturesque salt mines of Maras.
  • Quad biking or horseback riding: Get adventurous and explore the stunning landscapes surrounding Machu Picchu on a quad bike or horseback riding tour. These activities allow you to discover hidden trails, enjoy the beauty of nature, and experience the thrill of adventure.
  • Explore Cusco: Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the charming city of Cusco, the gateway to Machu Picchu. Immerse yourself in the rich history, visit ancient Inca sites such as Sacsayhuaman and Qorikancha, and wander through the cobblestone streets lined with colonial architecture.

These optional hikes and activities provide opportunities to further explore the marvels of the region and immerse yourself in the fascinating Inca culture. Choose the ones that align with your interests, physical fitness, and available time, and make the most of your visit to Machu Picchu and its surroundings.


Step 9: Tips for a Memorable Machu Picchu Experience

A visit to Machu Picchu is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that can be made even more memorable with some helpful tips. Here are some recommendations to ensure an unforgettable trip:

  • Acclimatize to the altitude: Machu Picchu is located at a high elevation, so it’s important to acclimatize properly to prevent altitude sickness. Spend a couple of days in Cusco or the Sacred Valley before heading to Machu Picchu to allow your body to adjust gradually.
  • Stay hydrated: The high elevation and physical activity can dehydrate you quickly. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout your visit. Carry a refillable water bottle with you and take advantage of the refill stations available at Machu Picchu.
  • Take breaks and rest: Exploring Machu Picchu involves a fair amount of walking and stair climbing. Take breaks when needed to rest, catch your breath, and enjoy the stunning views. Pace yourself and listen to your body to avoid exhaustion.
  • Respect the site and guidelines: Machu Picchu is a precious archaeological site, and it’s important to respect the rules and guidelines in place to preserve its integrity. Stay on designated paths, do not touch or remove any artifacts, and be mindful of other visitors.
  • Embrace the early morning: Consider arriving at Machu Picchu early in the morning to catch the sunrise and beat the crowds. The early morning light offers a magical atmosphere and allows for better photo opportunities.
  • Engage with the history: Learn about the history and significance of Machu Picchu before your visit. This will allow you to appreciate the site even more and understand the impressive achievements of the Inca civilization. Consider hiring a knowledgeable guide for a more in-depth experience.
  • Be prepared for changing weather: The weather at Machu Picchu can be unpredictable. Dress in layers so that you can adapt to the changing conditions throughout the day. Carry a waterproof jacket or poncho in case of rain and be prepared for both sunny and chilly moments.
  • Capture the moment: Machu Picchu offers breathtaking views and incredible photo opportunities. Take your time to capture the beauty of the site but also remember to put your camera down and soak in the experience firsthand.
  • Immerse yourself in the surroundings: Take moments to sit, observe, and immerse yourself in the tranquility and magnificence of Machu Picchu. Find a quiet spot to marvel at the stone ruins, the surrounding mountains, and the grandeur of this sacred Inca site.
  • Appreciate the journey: The journey to Machu Picchu is as important as the destination itself. Enjoy the train ride, the scenic views, the interactions with locals, and the camaraderie with fellow travelers. The memories you make along the way will complement your experience at Machu Picchu.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to create an unforgettable and meaningful experience at Machu Picchu. Embrace the wonder, beauty, and history of this incredible archaeological site, and cherish the memories for a lifetime.



Machu Picchu, nestled high in the Peruvian Andes, is a destination that captivates travelers from around the world. This ancient Inca citadel offers a unique glimpse into the rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and remarkable architectural achievements of the Inca civilization. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can plan a successful and memorable trip to Machu Picchu.


From carefully planning your trip and securing permits and tickets in advance, to choosing the best time to visit and packing the essential items, each step is critical to ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience. Additionally, knowing how to navigate the site, explore optional hikes and activities, and immerse yourself in the history and culture of the region will enhance your journey.


Throughout your visit, remember to be mindful of the rules and guidelines that preserve the integrity of Machu Picchu. Respect the site, engage with its history, and take the time to appreciate the breathtaking views and mystical atmosphere. Capture moments with your camera, but also take moments to disconnect and immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of this ancient wonder.


A trip to Machu Picchu is not just about the destination; it’s about the journey as well. Embrace the adventure, the interactions, and the stunning landscapes along the way. Immerse yourself in the vibrant Peruvian culture, explore the Sacred Valley, and savor the local cuisine.


As you embark on your Machu Picchu adventure, remember to plan ahead, prioritize your interests, and be open to the unexpected. Allow yourself to be amazed by the ingenuity and beauty of this world wonder, and cherish the memories you create for a lifetime.


So, pack your bags, embark on the journey, and get ready to discover the ancient world of Machu Picchu—the jewel of Peru and a destination that will leave an indelible mark on your heart.