Machu Picchu: How to get there on your own

Machu Picchu: How to get there on your own

From essential tips on ticket reservations to insider advice on the best routes, this article is your go-to resource for planning a memorable trip to the iconic Machu Picchu.

About

Machu Picchu, often referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas", is considered one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in the world. It is located on the territory of modern Peru, in the Andes, on a mountain plateau at an altitude of 2400 meters. 

Built in the 15th century during the height of the Inca Empire, this ancient citadel is believed to have served as a royal estate or a sacred religious site. 

The city remained abandoned for over 400 years until it was rediscovered by American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911. The discovery sparked a global fascination with Machu Picchu and brought international attention to its cultural significance. 

Today, Machu Picchu is considered to be one of the New Wonders of the World and attracts millions of visitors each year. The founder of the FindGuide app went to Machu Picchu and collected all the necessary details to help you plan your own trip to the Inca citadel!

Preparation for the trip

Preparation for the trip

A trip to Machu Picchu doesn't require the most complicated preparation, yet it will be one of the greatest memories in your life. You can choose to make your trip either an easy one or a more complicated one that involves hiking and mountain climbing. 

The entire journey has several stages. On average, we advise you to set aside 1 week for this trip. 

To avoid surprises, we recommend that you start preparing at least six months ahead of time. As soon as you decide on the dates, buy an entrance ticket to Machu Picchu. The sooner the better, because the entry is limited to 2,500 people per day!

In general, all tickets, including those for the train to Machu Picchu, are best purchased in advance. Later in this article we will provide all the necessary links to buy tickets. 

We suggest that you research the visa application process offered in your country the moment you know you're going to be traveling to Peru to ensure you start early enough. You can check a full list of countries not requiring tourist visas for Peru here.

When is the best time to go?

The best time to travel to Peru is from April to October, when there is no rain in the mountains. Most tourists visit the country during this time.

During the rainy season, there are fewer tourists. You may experience a little inconvenience of having to wear a raincoat, but it is a great opportunity to go sightseeing in more privacy.

Itinerary

The starting point of the itinerary is the city of Cusco. It is located in the middle of the Andes - a mountain range which includes Machu Picchu.

Cusco airport is international, but very small. We had a connecting flight from Colombia: Cartagena-Lima-Cusco.

The city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s a very interesting city to stop in for a few days. We spent 3 days there. You can use these days for acclimatization as it’s high up in the mountains and you might not feel so good.

Cusco, Peru

There are a number of ways to get to the actual site of Machu Picchu. The railroad was our choice because it's the most scenic and interesting way, and it's the one we'll tell you about.

The distance from Cusco to Machu Picchu is about 110 km. You have to take a bus or a taxi to the train station "Ollantaytambo" in the Sacred Valley. The trip takes about 2 hours. The buses usually leave the Cusco bus station at 2-3 am. This time is very convenient for one-day trips as you can reach Machu Picchu by 9am.

From there you can take the tourist train or the tourist cabin of the regular train to Aguas Calientes. Trains of different classes run several times a day. It's not cheap - most budget options cost 350-530 PEN. You can check the schedule and book a seat on the PeruRail website.

Ollantaytambo

We had a ticket for the Ollantaytambo - Machu Picchu train at 5:40 am. The ride took 1.30 minutes and it was a very scenic winding road along a mountain river! Pay attention: it is often written "Machu Picchu" on the tickets, but you should be aware that the train arrives in the town of Aguas Calientes. 

Aguas Calientes is a very pretty town, quite small and tightly wedged into a canyon of mountains and river. It has a few hotels and restaurants where you can stay for 1-2 days if you like.

There are two ways to get to the top of the mountain from here: by foot or by bus. We decided to take the bus up. This was the best option for us since we wanted to climb one of the peaks of Machu Picchu and we needed to save our energy for that. 

Bus tickets are bought on the spot. Be prepared: the bus drives on a serpentine road that looks very winding and dangerous, so it can be quite scary. 

Tickets for Machu Picchu are sorted by routes  routes and you can buy them  here. There are 5 types of tickets:

Type 1. Machupicchu City (Circuit 1 or 2) or Llaqta de Machupicchu (Circuito 1 o  2)

Machupicchu City

This is a regular route around the lost city of the Incas lasting 2-3 hours. It is suitable for all categories of citizens. 

Here are the current prices for May 2024:

152 PEN (40 USD) Adult
77 PEN (20 USD) Students
70 PEN (18 USD) Children

Type 2. Machupicchu City (Circuit 1 or 2) + Inca Bridge or Circuit 1 or 2 + Puente Inka

Inca Bridge

This ticket is the same as the first one, except that it includes the walk to the Inca Bridge. The route is not difficult, takes 20 minutes one way and is suitable for everyone.

152 PEN (40 USD) Adult
77 PEN (20 USD) Students
70 PEN (18 USD) Children

Type 3. Machu Picchu Mountain + Circuit 3 or Montaña Machupicchu + Circuit 3

Montaña Machupicchu

The circuit takes 1.5 hours and the climb takes 2-3 hours. It is not suitable for little children, disabled and elderly persons. 

This is one of the most difficult routes, but it can be your personal achievement. The difficulty lies in the altitude and lack of oxygen, the steepness of the climb, especially in the second half of the hike, and the number of steps to be taken (3000 steps), but a 360 degree view is completely worth it!

200 PEN (53 USD) Adult
125 PEN (33 USD) Students
118 PEN (31 USD) Children

Type 4. Circuit 4 + Huayna Picchu or Circuit 4 + Waynapicchu

Waynapicchu

This route was our choice! The ticket includes Circuit 4 and the ascent to the highest peak of the mountain. There are some difficult parts on the route and a high difference in altitude, so the ticket is only for adults who are prepared enough. The time of ascent and descent is 3-4 hours.

200 PEN (53 USD) Adult
125 PEN (33 USD) Students
118 PEN (31 USD) Children

Type 5. Circuit 4 + Huchuy Picchu or Circuit 4 + Huchuypicchu

Huchuypicchu

The last one includes Circle 4 and the ascent to the smallest peak, 2497 meters. The ticket is suitable for adults and grown up children. It is not difficult to climb and the view is cool!

152 PEN (40 USD) Adult
77 PEN (20 USD) Students
70 PEN (18 USD) Children

You must check in when you enter and check out when you leave. Don't forget to bring your passport as you will be asked to show it.

If you want to learn the history of Machu Picchu and hear details that few people know, we recommend you to book a guide at FindGuide! You will find a personalized guide that will make your experience both interesting and comfortable - the guides speak the local language and know the area perfectly. Download our app via App Store and Google Play

The route may be difficult but real for those who go without any preparation - we climbed it without any problems. It's not suitable for children and there are many dangerous spots. Sometimes you have to climb using a rope. But it's completely worth it - the view of Machu Picchu and the valley is amazing!

The way back is the same and no easier. You can take the bus, but we decided to walk for 2 hours.

We had dinner in town. Took the train at 9:20 pm, took the bus and came back to Cusco.
That's it!

Tips

The weather can vary greatly in the mountains. For example, in September it was -6 at night and +25 during the day! So bring a raincoat, a warm or light jacket depending on the weather. Do not forget to bring sunscreen with SPF +50, a hat, water and comfortable shoes. You can only take a small backpack and a small umbrella, they won't let you in with the big ones. 

Take protein bars and things that replenish energy and water! Not everywhere there is a possibility to eat and the prices are very high. Also, do not forget your motion sickness pills as there are a lot of winding roads.

Professional cameras are not allowed. Permission to use them costs over 300 dollars, so try not to bring a professional looking camera to save money.

Conclusion

With proper planning and an open heart, the journey to Machu Picchu is sure to leave an everlasting mark on every traveler's soul!

For those seeking personalized experiences, FindGuide provides a platform to connect with knowledgeable guides, offering a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural significance of Machu Picchu.

Have a good trip!

Top reads
Travel Trends for 2024: What Tourists Will Prioritize?
Tourists

Travel Trends for 2024: What Tourists Will Prioritize?

Tips on how to recommend lunch places to tourists
Guides

Tips on how to recommend lunch places to tourists

Top 5 Inspirational Assouline Travel Books
Tourists

Top 5 Inspirational Assouline Travel Books

LGBTQ+ Travel Advice: The Most LGBT Friendly Countries You Can Visit
Tourists

LGBTQ+ Travel Advice: The Most LGBT Friendly Countries You Can Visit

How To Build Your Personal Brand as a Tour Guide
Guides

How To Build Your Personal Brand as a Tour Guide

10 Funny Bad Tips for Tour Guides
Guides

10 Funny Bad Tips for Tour Guides

Make it more than just a trip with personal guide

QR code

Scan the code to download the App

mobile
line