How to visit Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu: the 15-century Incan citadel, is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated at 2,430 m above sea level, amidst tropical rain forest, in the eastern slope of Peruvian Andes, this spectacular site bears the symbol of the Incan legacy. Once you are at Machu Picchu, you are in front of an archeological wonder.
Be prepared to be enthralled by the giant stone wall, temple, terraces. You are about to step into an awe-inspiring historical sanctuary.
The location of mystical Machu Picchu is unique. No wonder, that the ancient city was never conquered by Spaniards and was completely hidden until Hiram Bingham's explorations in 1911.
The astonishing fact is that no mortar or metal is used to build this city. It is an engineering marvel. Every traveler visiting Peru should never miss Machu Picchu.
Three important tips while planning for Machu Picchu:
Disclaimer: All the information provided here is based on my experience. Due to COVID-19, there might be additional rules and regulations. Before planning you should always check the official website for updated information.
I have listed three not to miss points while planning for Machu Picchu. Here they are:
1. Get the entrance ticket: This is the first thing that needs to be done. Tickets are not sold on Machu Picchu itself. Before your arrival, buy the ticket online from here. Once you enter the website, you need to follow the steps mentioned:
Select your ticket type and date,
Choose the sites and time
Enter information about yourself as exactly written in your passport
Purchase the ticket following payment method
Once your purchase is complete, you shall get an email with a reservation number
Once you receive the reservation number check-in on the home page with that number to get the entrance ticket. That is the real ticket that you have to show at the entrance.
Save and print it out
**Do not forget to read the ticket description before buying because there are different tickets available.
2. Based on the time of visit, book transportation from your starting point to Machu Pichu,
way back and accommodation
3. Do not forget your passport while visiting Machu Picchu. You will not be able to enter inside without it.
If you want to buy tickets locally on spot, visit Ministry of Culture (Dirección Desconcentrada de Cultura Cusco) in Cusco or Machu Picchu Cultural Center at Aguas Calientes
Irrespective of how you plan to visit Machu Picchu, you must buy the ticket before your arrival. It is not wise to wait for the last minute to buy. Secondly, the train ticket for Machu Picchu is a bit expensive, you might be disappointed if you do not get the entrance tickets after you traveled all the way. Huayna Picchu has a limited number of entry and limited slots. If you plan to climb up to Huayna Picchu, you might not get the tickets if you wait till the last minute. To avoid all such circumstances, book your ticket early.
It is good to have an overnight stay plan at Aguas Calientes
Start early as you need to buy shuttle bus tickets for Machu Picchu for Aguas Calientes. There might be a long queue for getting into the bus. If you are not early, you might miss your slot.
Machu Picchu is huge. You need at least 3 hours to just visit the temple, terraces... If you have also an appointment for Huayna Picchu, you need to arrive there at the mentioned time. The hiking trail is very steep and depending on the fitness level you might need more time to climb. Overall, for visiting Machu Picchu properly and climbing Huayna Picchu, one full day is essential.
This is the main reason, I mentioned having an overnight plan.
Carry cash as you might need it (e.g; food, souvenirs)
Hiking Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, another famous option to visit Machu Picchu. But I did not do that. My blog does not include any information regarding the hike.
Take a light backpack, sunscreen, a good camera and wear good hiking shoes,
Without a good camera, it is really hard to get good pictures because Machu Picchu is big and you will stumble upon numerous viewpoints. I took so many pictures, but I still feel, my photos could have been much better with a good camera.
Use a reusable water bottle because it is officially allowed
There is no bathroom inside the Machu Picchu complex, so you have to get your business done before entering the site.
There are a lot of restaurants from high to moderate prices in Aguas Calientes. So, plenty of options for food after and before your visit.
What is Huayna Picchu?
Huayna Picchu: Another mountain just near Machu Picchu. If you want a good view of the Machu Picchu from the top, you should hike up to Huayna Picchu. The number of visitors at Huayna Picchu is restricted to 400. There are only two times that visitors may enter the Huayna Picchu Trail. The first one is 7.00-8.00 am and the second one is from 10.00-11.00 am, 200 visitors at a time. The trail is very steep especially when you are about to reach the summit. You might need to use your hand as well as feet to reach there. The mysterious Temple of Moon and great Cavern is also situated on the sides of this mountain.
While buying the ticket for Machu Picchu, be sure you take the ticket which includes Huayna Picchu if you plan to hike.
How did we visit Machu Picchu:
We did not join any group or organized tour. We booked our ticket on our own for almost three months before our visit. We already visited Ollantaytambo and Sacred Valley before.
From Ollantaytambo, we traveled by Inca rail till Aguas Calientes. We stayed overnight on that day. The next day we started around 5.30 in the morning, took the tickets for the bus to Machu Picchu.
Funny thing is, even if it’s that early, we needed to stand in a huge queue and we were worried we might miss our slot 😂. But thankfully we made it. We reached on time at the entrance. Our ticket covered Huayna Picchu + Macchu Picchu and our slot for Huayna Picchu was from 7-8 am. We started climbing Huayna Picchu first. The hiking to Huayna Picchu was another level of experience. It was very very steep and considering my fitness level, it was a nerve-racking experience for me. But the view from the top was amazing. Since I am not an experienced hiker, I took a bit longer time to climb up. But I am glad, we did it.
We visited Machu Picchu afterward and came back to Cusco at night on the same day. On our return journey, also we traveled by Inca rail.
How to book a ticket with Inca rail or Peru rail?
When you enter the website of Peru Rail or Inca Rail, you will see different types of trains along with different offerings. You can compare the price and decide on your own which ticket you want to buy. We booked our ticket with Inca rail. We traveled one way with Voyager. On our way back we traveled with 360 Bimodal. Both are good and very comfortable. But do not forget to check the luggage permit and the regulations while buying the ticket.
Also, at Ollantaytambo, we had to go to Inca rail office to get our actual ticket because online, you get just the purchase voucher, not the real ticket. You still need to collect the ticket showing your credit card that you used to purchase the tickets before boarding. The Inca rail office, as well as the Peru rail office, are very close to the train station at Ollantaytambo. It is not at all complicated to find them.
As per my experience, if you are on time and have tickets sorted, this is one of the well-organized trips that you are going to have. There are so many tourists, well-defined directions, and officials to help you, you can never be lost.😊
Visiting Machu Picchu was one of the lifetime experience for me. I wished to visit Machu Picchu so long, when I finally reached there, my feeling was out of the world. It was definitely one of the most memorable days of my Peru Diary. 💕