How to travel to Machu Picchu?
This has to be one of the questions that the traveler has to find an answer to before making plans to actually go to Peru.
It doesn’t make any difference where you are. There are lots of ways to get to Peru and Machu Picchu. It is usually recommended that you arrive at Machu Picchu during the dry season. However, if you want you can travel to Machu Picchu during the wet season (Dec.-March), you should take the weather into consideration.
Before you get to Machu Picchu, you first have to get to Cusco. You can come to Cusco overland or by air, depending upon where you are. Most travelers choose to travel by air from Lima. When you arrive in Cusco, don’t forget to allow time for your body to adjust to the altitude. Cusco is at 3400 masl. You might get surprised by altitude sickness.
Once you are in Cusco, you can find plenty of travel agencies that operate the route to Machu Picchu. If you use an agency, then that agency will be in charge of all the transportation and your entry tickets, etc. But if you like adventure, then you could decide to get to Machu Picchu on your own. Here are some of the alternatives.
Via train. Whatever class of service you choose, Peru Rail and Inca Rail both run trains from Poroy station and from Ollanytaytambo station. To arrive at either of these stations you would travel by car. Both rail companies will get you to Aguas Calientes. From Aguas Calientes you can ride the bus up to Machu Picchu, or you could walk up if you prefer.
Do you need a visa to visit Machu Picchu
NO. But you must have your passport. This is obligatory if you want to visit the great tourist attractions of Cusco and Machu Picchu. On the contrary, they won’t let you into Peru or Machu Picchu without a passport.
Entry Ticket into Machu Picchu
You have to reserve your entry ticket into Machu Picchu in advance, and to decide which turn you prefer, 6 am until 12 noon, or 12 noon until 5 pm. If you are going to stay overnight in Aguas Calientes, we recommend that you reserve your entry ticket for the 6 am. time slot. If you are going to arrive in Aguas Calientes on the same day, you have to reserve your entry ticket according to the hour that your train is due to arrive. Please remember that the trip from Cusco to Aguas Calientes takes about 4 hours. And, depending on the season, the line that you have to wait through to catch the bus up to Machu Picchu can take an hour or two. Actually, even if you have an ISIC student ID card, you are still not eligible for a discount on your entry ticket into Machu Picchu. Thus, even if you are a student, you will have to pay full price to enter Machu Picchu.
- Entry ticket into the Citadel of Machu Pichu. (with this ticket you can only visit the citadel, the Incan Bridge, and the Gateway of the Sun)
- Entry ticket for Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu. (with this ticket you can visit the citadel, the Incan Bridge, the Gateway of the sun, and climb up Huayna Picchu Mtn. This ticket must be purchased 3 months in advance during the high season, and 2 months in advance during the low season. You must also make note of the time that you are allowed to begin your climb up Huayna Picchu.
- Entry ticket for Machu Picchu + Machu Picchu Mountain (always available).
- Entry ticket for Machu Picchu + the museum (always available).
If there are no more entry tickets available for Machu Picchu, you could try to purchase an entry ticket for Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain. This ticket allows the visitor to enter the Citadel of Machu Picchu to also climb up Machu Picchu Mountain which is located in front of Huayna Picchu Mountain. Another option would be to buy your Machu Picchu entry ticket in person in Aguas Calientes. In Aguas Calientes you have to buy the ticket for that same day or for the following day.
Train ticket and journey to Machu Picchu
There are various options. You can go to Machu Picchu on a train ride in one day, or you can get there in 9 days by hiking the full Choquequirao trek. And there are many options in between these two extremes. The most traditional and fastest way is via train. The route is Cusco / Ollantaytambo / Aguas Calientes / Machu Picchu.
Peru Rail and Inca Rail are the two companies that offer rail service to Machu Picchu, One of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The trains leave throughout the day from Poroy and Ollantyatambo. It is a beautiful train ride which passes through some spectacular scenery. You will ride through the Valley of the Urubamba River, and arrive at Aguas Calientes. There are different fares and classes of tickets available.
Hiram Bingham (Belmond)
This train offers the travelers all the luxuries. It is said to be one of the most luxurious trains in the world. You will enjoy first class service as you ride through the beautiful countryside. There is a bar car (with free drinks) and an observation car. There will be live music. Your hosts will be at your beck and call. You will be served brunch, lunch, afternoon tea at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, and a gourmet dinner. This train usually leaves from the Poroy station which is 30 minutes from Cusco. (During rainy season this train departs from the Sacred Valley.)
Vistadome (Peru Rail)
This train is very spectacular because it features picture windows on both sides and on the ceiling. So you’ll have a panoramic view. It is also a rapid and a comfortable train. This train leaves from the Poroy station once every day. From Ollantyatambo there are 7 departures every day. It is a1 and 1/2 hour ride to Aguas Calientes from Ollantaytambo.
Expedition (Peru Rail)
This train is designed for those traveles who are looking for a bit more adventure. It also leaves from Poroy once every day, and from Olllantaytambo 7 times per day.
Premium Executive Service (Inca Rail)
This service from Inca Rail offers large, panoramic windows, wide comfortable seats, organic snacks (without preservatives), and refreshing natural drinks. This train leaves frequently every day from Ollantaytambo, and once a day from Poroy.
First Class (Inca Rail)
This service is much more comfortable. It is designed for those travelers who want a more relaxed atmosphere and all the comforts a coach can offer. Gourmet meals are served on board. The decorations are exquisite, and the service is spectacular. This train leaves 3 times a day from Ollantaytambo.
Inca Princess (Inca Rail)
This service allows you to enjoy the journey in comfort, luxury, and privacy. It is designed for the exclusive traveler. The coaches are colorfully decorated, the windows are panoramic, and you will be served delicious meals with dishes representative of the finest of Peruvian cuisine. There will even be an opera singer on board.
Local Train (Peru Rail)
This is train is not available for tourists. It is supported by the government. It is reserved to take cargo and local residents to Aguas Calientes from Ollantyatambo. So tourists are not allowed on this train.
Tour of Machu Picchu
The tour begins very early in the morning. If you staying at a hotel in Cusco, you have to remember that the trip to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo) takes about 4 hours. The journey always involves two modes of transportation, a bus ride and a train ride. Here are 2 train stations with trains that go to Machu Picchu. The Poroy station is 25 minutes outside of Cusco. Only exclusive trains (Hiram Bingham, Vistadome, and Expeditions) leave from Poroy. The general station is in Ollantaytambo which is one hour and fifty minutes from Cusco. Both Peru Rail and Inca Rail have trains that leave frequently from Ollantyatambo for Machu Picchu.
Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu. After your journey from Cusco, you will arrive in Aguas Calientes station. From there you will take a bus up to the citadel of Machu Picchu. The buses are ecologically friendly and the ride up to Machu Picchu takes 25 minutes. Buses leave for the zig-zag ride through the cloud forest every day from 5:30 am. until 2 pm. The size of the line that you have to wait in to get on the bus depends on the season in which you are traveling. You have to take this time frame into consideration when you are traveling to Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu. The doors of the Machu Picchu Archeological Park are open from 6 am. until 4 pm. everyday. When you enter you can ask for a map of the Machu Picchu Archeological Complex. The map has the route which you can follow as you make your way around. In this way you will feel safer. You must enter the complex accompanied by a professional guide.
What do I need to bring
The climate in Machu Picchu varies depending on the season. It is usually recommended that you bring light clothes. But warm clothes are going to be important during the night. Also, bring comfortable hiking shoes with rubber soles that grip well.
If you come to Machu Picchu during the rainy season, bring waterproof rain gear, a rain poncho, and an umbrella. The rain can be intense. The temperature will not be real hot. If you come during dry season, it is important to protect your skin from the sun. So bring a hat or cap, sunscreen, insect repellant, and sunglasses. Two piece pants are a good idea during the dry season.
If you have never experienced the low level of oxygen in the air at high altitudes, you are sure to be surprised when you arrive in Cusco and take a deep breath; or when you try to move fast; or when you feel weaker than you usually do.
Altitude sickness results when your body does not adjust quickly to the lack of oxygen in the air at high altitudes. It is technically called hypoxia. It is usually most noticeable when you first arrive in Cusco which is at an elevation of 3400 masl. If you take it easy for the first day after you arrive, your body will adjust. You can eat candies with coca in them to relieve the symptoms, and the pharmacies sell anti-soroche pills.
- Decide what time of year you are going to visit Peru, and plan accordingly.
- Make your reservations well in advance, so you can avoid any last minute surprises.
- If you would like personal assistance during you trip, contact a travel agency.