Even though you may have seen so many photos of Machu Picchu, it almost feels as though you’ve been already, seeing the wander in person is something that is hard to describe but magical is a prominent word that comes to mind. It doesn’t disappoint in any way and is definitely somewhere that should be visited in your lifetime.
If you are planning to not do the trek or visit independently, here is an 8 step guide, which reveals everything you need to know to visit one of the 7 wonders of the world stress-free.
Get Your Train Booked to Aguas Calientes aka Machu Picchu Pueblo
The two companies who are able to take you to the town just below Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu Pueblo) are Peru Rail and Inca Rail. Peru Rail is the bigger company, with more trains running but there’s not a huge difference between the two. They both have different classes, which change the inclusion of things such as food or more windows. We personally went with PeruRail on the Vistadome train, which provided panoramic views with windows on the roof. It also came with food, a fashion show and a traditional dancer; we had the perfect journey. If you can, try to catch them during a sale, as we managed to get 60% off during a Cyber Monday deal!
Book Accommodation in Aguas Calientes
There are plenty of options available for accommodation, the most extravagant being the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge right next to the ruins. However, for those on a budget there are also hostels and cheap private rooms. If you’re up for some spontaneity, it is cheaper to book a place on arrival and you will have a few people telling you prices on the street.
Book Your Tickets to Enter Machu Picchu
To try to reduce the amount of people in the site at one time, the tickets have now been allocated to morning slots (6am-midday) and afternoon slots (midday-5.30pm). A lot of people prefer the morning slot to see the sunrise but it’s completely up to you. If you’d like to stay for the whole day then you will need to buy a separate ticket for each slot. During peak season (June-August), it is best to buy in advance online. Otherwise, you should be okay to purchase tickets from a tour operator in Cusco or without extra fees, straight from the Machu Picchu Cultural Centre in Aguas Calientes, just off the main square. If you’d like to climb Machu Picchu mountain or Huayna Picchu, tickets need to be bought separately for this. You will also need your passport to book.
Get Stocked Up
Aguas Calientes is a town that is getting more prepared for tourists as each second passes so unfortunately this has produced a town with overpriced food/drinks and usually at a low quality. If you’d like to avoid this, bring some of your own food and definitely bring your own water to avoid being ripped off. If you forget, the best prices can be found in the area near the football pitch, where more of the locals are. Be warned also, a lot of the restaurants here like to add a surprise “tourist tax” onto the bill so it’s best to mention this at the start to avoid.
Get from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
Bus tickets can be bought near to the train station, where you’ll see a miniature model of the bus. There’s constantly a queue around here so it’s hard to miss. Alternatively you can walk it but it is quite a tough trail up the mountain, so not for the faint hearted. You can also buy a bus one way and walk the other.
Getting into Machu Picchu (as just having a ticket isn't enough!)
It is a rule that you can only enter the site with a tour guide. Fortunately for you, there are copious amounts of tour guides waiting outside. The best bet to save money is to team up with other visitors and split the price between you. We paid 50 soles each with a group of around 8 people. The guide does add great value to understanding Machu Picchu more and you only have to do 1/3 trails with them, leaving you with plenty of time to explore on your own after.
If you have some spare time on your hands, aside from visiting Machu Picchu, there are also some hot springs available in Aguas Calientes to relax in. These are best visited in the morning so it can be a nice stop off before you head back to Cusco. We also recommend a day or even 1 night spent in Ollantaytambo on the way to or back from a visit to Machu Picchu. Ollantaytambo is a very charming town, full of narrow cobbled streets and there are more Incan ruins to admire there too.
Don’t Forget to Get Your Passport Stamped!
It is actually possible to get a Machu Picchu stamp in your passport so don’t forget or miss out, as there’s nowhere else you’re going to be getting it!
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