Complete Guide to Machu Picchu: a Private Experience

How to get to Machu Picchu

Complete Guide to Machu Picchu

The most famous attraction in Peru, Machu Picchu, draws visitors from around the world. The ruins are located on a remote mountain ridge where the Andes Mountains meet the Amazon Rainforest. This enchanting location limits the ways to get to Machu Picchu. Especially if you have limited time, coordinate all segments of your journey and book tickets in advance before arriving.

The three stages of transportation to Machu Picchu:

  • First, you need to get to Cusco. Then, from Cusco, you can choose to take the train or go on a hike.
  • Most travelers enjoy the comfortable train journey to Machu Picchu Station in Aguas Calientes. Hikes also pass through Aguas Calientes before visiting the ruins, except for the Inca Trail, which ends at the Sun Gate, the entrance to Machu Picchu.
  • Finally, take a short bus ride from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu for your tour. Have fun discovering why this 15th-century Inca landmark is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World!

Cusco Transport & Tours organizes every step of your journey to Machu Picchu as part of any customized vacation package to Peru.

Steps to Get to Machu Picchu

Getting to Cusco

Cusco is the starting point in the Andes for planning transportation to Machu Picchu. Most travelers fly to Cusco and land at the Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cusco (CUZ). Others arrive by bus.

Desde Lima hasta Cusco:

Lima is the coastal capital city of Peru. Foreign travelers go through immigration at the Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima and then take a domestic flight to Cusco. Flying from Lima to Cusco is a direct flight of an hour and a half.

THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN CUSCO FOR FREE

Main Square of Cusco

From Cusco to Aguas Calientes

The options to proceed to Machu Picchu from Cusco become limited. Most travelers prefer the comfort and convenience of the reliable railway system. Nevertheless, many adventurers choose to embark on a hike to Machu Picchu.

Complete Guide to Machu Picchu Aguas Calientes in machupicchu

Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

Whether you arrive in Aguas Calientes by train or through the Salkantay, Lares, or Choquequirao treks, the final step of the journey to Machu Picchu is to ascend towards the main visitor entrance. The town has limited motorized transportation. Walking is the only way to reach local restaurants, hotels, and shops, and the only available means of transportation to the main entrance of Machu Picchu is by bus. There are no taxis or independent drivers offering alternative transport.

Complete Guide to Machu Picchu Buses to Machu Picchu

Aguas Calientes

Taking the Shuttle Bus

Buses operate daily between Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu. In total, the journey takes twenty to thirty minutes. Passengers line up at the bus station in Aguas Calientes, on Hermanos Ayar Avenue, between 5:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Buses to Machu Picchu depart every ten minutes or as soon as they are filled. The same fleet of buses also transports passengers back to Aguas Calientes at regular intervals.

Two tickets are required for a round-trip bus journey from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. Bus tickets for Machu Picchu are available on the Consettur website and at sales offices.

Complete Guide to Machu Picchu Taking the Shuttle Bus

Bus to Machu Picchu

Hiking

Once you arrive in the town of Aguas Calientes, you are within walking distance of Machu Picchu. Some travelers opt out of the bus journey and hike for about two hours to the main visitor entrance. This route consists mainly of stairs and follows the zigzagging path up the mountain. The hike is challenging but rewarding.”

Hiking Machu picchu

zigzagging path

The Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu

Learn about the best time to visit Machu Picchu before you plan your trip with our comprehensive guide.

The best time to visit Machu Picchu

So, when is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?

This is perhaps one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves when planning a trip. With its unique climate, the best time to visit Machu Picchu may not be as evident as with other destinations.

After weighing the pros and cons of the dry, rainy, and shoulder seasons and checking the hour by hour weather forecast, you’ll find that there isn’t just one answer. The best time to visit really depends on each traveler’s personal preferences. This is why many people will tell you that Machu Picchu is a year-round destination.

Below are some key pointers for the time of day and each season to help you decide which would be the best for your vacation.

User What’s the best time of day to visit Machu Picchu?

The time of day you choose to visit Machu Picchu, like everything else in this post, depends on your preferences. The ruins are open from 6 am until 6 pm, with the first bus departing Aguas Calientes at 5:30 am. Many travelers opt to get to the ruins as early as possible to get a chance to see the sunrise or hike either Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain. Many are also just coming in from the Inca Trail. This makes mornings at the ruins the most crowded time of day.

Getting to see the sunrise at Machu Picchu

Is a spectacular moment but also quite rare, even during the dry season. Sunrise occurs just after 6 am at that time of year. However, it is very common for morning mists and clouds to obscure the first rays of light to hit the citadel. (During the rainy season, apart from the already high chance of clouds and rain, the sunrise happens before the site even opens).

the dawn at Machu Picchu

What’s the best time of year to visit Machu Picchu?

DRY SEASON

The dry season, and the high tourist season, starts in May and ends in September. During these months you will have the lowest levels of precipitation, with the absolute lowest levels in June and July.

This time of year makes Machu Picchu attractive not only for nearly guaranteed sunny days but also allows families to travel during summer vacation. (Although it’s also essential to keep in mind that it will technically be winter in the southern hemisphere. This means chilly nights at Machu Picchu and throughout the Peruvian Andes).
 
DRY SEASON MACHU PICCHU

Packing tips:

  • Prepare for the sun with hats, sunglasses, and sunblock. Remember you’ll be at high altitude and near the equator so the sun is very strong!
  • Bring layers. Although it will be sunny and pleasant during the day, temperatures drop significantly at night so bring a jacket, gloves, and a warm hat if you plan on being out late.
  •  

RAINY SEASON

The rainy season, corresponding to the low tourist season, falls from December to March. As the name states, these months have the most precipitation. Rainfall usually peaks in January and February. However, this time of year also sees warmer temperatures, especially at night, since it’s the southern hemisphere’s summer.

Many travelers hear the word “rain” and immediately strike the season off of their list of potential travel dates. However, most of the time the rain comes in scattered showers, and you can even experience some sunshine here and there. If you’re looking to avoid crowds—and get photos of virtually empty ruins with cool, mysterious-looking clouds—the rainy season is a great time to visit Machu Picchu. (Note, though, that there is a peak in visitors for Christmas and New Year’s).

RAINY SEASON IN MACHU PICCHU

Packing tips:

  • Have a poncho or rain jacket ready to go, but leave your umbrella at the hotel because they are not allowed inside the ruins.
  • Still carry some sunblock and sunglasses in your bag in case the sun does come out.

SHOULDER SEASONS

The shoulder seasons, April, October, and November, give you the best of both worlds. There is a higher chance of rain than during the dry season but not much more than a few scattered showers. Plus you have much fewer people.

So, is there a difference between visiting during April as opposed to October/November? Definitely. April lies just after the rainy season so you can expect to find the mountains much lusher. The landscape in October and November will be more dry and brown after so many months with little rain.

If you want to be on the more cautious side in regards to the weather, you can still plan for some extra time at Machu Picchu as you would with the rainy season. If you’re lucky, you may even get both those bright sunny photos of the ruins as well as the dramatic clouded photos. In any case, your backgrounds may have a handful of people in them, but it will be easier to get a nice shot without having to wait for tour groups to go by.

SHOULDER SEASONS Machu Picchu

Packing tips:

  • Bring layers suitable for both rain and sunshine.

Planning Tips

  • If you take the train to Machu Picchu, consider staying overnight in Aguas Calientes.

Organizing your trip this way helps break up the travel time and allows you to enjoy your Machu Picchu experience at a more relaxed pace. Planning a day trip to the famous ruins from Cusco can be exhausting. Since the train from Cusco arrives in Aguas Calientes around noon, and you have to catch the return trip around 5 p.m., there isn’t much time to explore the citadel if you plan on making it back the same day. Talk to your Travel Advisor about hotels in Aguas Calientes.

  • Give yourself time to acclimate.

Cusco is at an altitude of 11,155 feet (3,400 m), and altitude sickness is a common concern. Upon arrival, take it easy in Cusco for the first day or two. Drink water, climb stairs slowly, and eat light meals. The altitude of Machu Picchu is lower, at 7,970 feet (2,430 m).

  • Only consider trekking if you are in decent physical condition.

Trekking for four days through the mountains is not easy. Avoid this option if you are in poor health.

  • If possible, book all the entry tickets and transportation in advance.

This advice goes for both getting to Machu Picchu by train or trekking. For many, the best time to visit Machu Picchu is June through August.

Many details, from transportation to hotel reservations, influence the planning of a trip to Peru. Contact us to plan a customized vacation especially for you.

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