Planning your trip to Machu Picchu

Arranging your trip to Machu Picchu Independently in 8 easy steps.

 

Information about trekking to Machu Picchu is covered in the relevant sections of this website (see our webpage Treks to Machu Picchu for more details).

 

If you are planning on visiting Machu Picchu without using the services of a tour company then you will need to book all of the separate components of your trip yourself. This website has been written to help independent travellers plan their trip from Cusco to Machu Picchu. However as the numbers of visitors to Peru and Machu Picchu is on the increase each year it becomes more important that you arrange your trip further and further in advance and as you'll see below it can sometimes be a difficult and frustrating process. You may end up deciding to make your life easier and just pay a reputable travel company to arrange everything for you. At least by reading through the information below you'll be in a better position to decide what suits you best.

 

 

Step 1: Research. Decide which Machu Picchu Entrance Ticket you want - ticket types and prices

 

The official Machu Picchu government website can be found at www.machupicchu.gob.pe Sometimes you can buy tickets for Machu Picchu but frequently it just doesn't work so you have to have a lot of patience and just keeping trying. However the website can be quite useful for checking ticket availability (see step 3 below).

 

A note about the government website. The official website www.machupicchu.gob.pe was initially designed to allow authorized tour operators in Cusco to reserve entrance tickets to Machu Picchu and trek permits for the Inca Trail. It was never designed to be a high-tech interface and never intended to be a gateway for independent visitors to buy entrance tickets. A few years ago the government updated the website to allow visitors to check ticket availability and then, in association with Visa, to allow visitors to buy their Machu Picchu entrance tickets online. The website doesn't look professional, is far from being user friendly, the foreign language versions are incredibly poor, it frequently doesn't work and generally is just a big embarrassment for Peru's Ministry of Tourism that relies on tourism as a major source of income. Having said that, with a little bit of help, a lot of patience and a Visa card you can still use the website to successfully buy your entrance tickets. If the booking process gets too frustrating for you then you can always buy a ready-made tour package to Machu Picchu and help spread some of the benefits of tourism with local businesses.

 

 

There are basically three ticket types: (i) Machu Picchu only, (ii) Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu and (iii)  Machu Picchu + Machu Picchu Mountain

All tickets are valid only for the date indicated on the ticket. You can enter and leave Machu Picchu as many times as you want throughout the day but if you want to return to Machu Picchu again the following day you have to buy a new ticket.

 

Machu Picchu Only

2016 price: Adult 128 soles (approx US$43)

This is the most popular ticket and allows entry to Machu Picchu all day from 6am to 6pm.

 

Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu

2016 price: Adult 152 soles (approx US$51)

Allows all day entry to Machu Picchu from 6am to 6pm plus allows you to climb Huayna Picchu. When buying this ticket you have to select which time you want to start the climb. Only 400 tickets are available each day. 200 entrance tickets to start between 7am and 8am and return by 10am and 200 entrance tickets to start between 10am and 11am returning by 12pm.

 

Machu Picchu + Machu Picchu Mountain (Machu Picchu Montana)

2016 price: Adult 142 soles (approx US$48)

Allows all day entry to Machu Picchu from 6am to 6pm plus allows you to climb Machu Picchu Mountain. Only 400 tickets are available each day. You must start the trek between 7am and 11am.

 

 

When should you buy your tickets to Machu Picchu?

Well this depends on when you plan to visit. If you plan to visit during the low season January, February and March then you should be fairly safe arriving in Cusco and buying your Machu Tickets just one day in advance.

If you have spend a small fortune on international flights and accommodation then why take the risk in waiting until the last minute to buy your tickets. During the high season June, July & August and around Easter and Christmas the tickets are likely to sell out several days in advance.

 

For full detailed information about ticket prices and how to buy your ticket visit our webpage Machu Picchu Entrance Tickets

 

 

Step 2: Decide how many days do you want to spend at Machu Picchu.

 

The vast majority of people visit Machu Picchu as part of a day tour from Cusco. However sometimes people fail to appreciate just how far it is from Cusco and most visitors don't arrive at the ruins of Machu Picchu until mid-morning when the sun can be high in the sky and not ideal for photos and up to 2500 people are crowding the ruins. Day-trippers usually leave Machu Picchu by around 3pm to have lunch back in Aguas Calientes and take the late afternoon train back to Cusco. If you really want to see Machu Picchu at its best then you need to get there early as soon as it opens at 6am. That means spending the night in the nearby village of Aguas Calientes and taking one of the first shuttle buses up to the ruins departing at around 5.30am.

 

If you decide to spend a night in Aguas Calientes then a really good recommendation would be to book one of the trains that leaves Ollantaytambo for Aguas Calientes the evening before you want to visit Machu Picchu such as the Expedition 75 train service with Peru Rail (full list of train times and prices can be found on our webpage Trains to Machu Picchu). Of course you will have to book a night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes.

 

Trains: Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley) to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu)

The Peru Rail Expedition 75 service departs Ollantaytambo at 7pm and arrives at Aguas Calientes at 8:45pm. Return price US$??

 

 

Since the train doesn't depart Ollantaytambo until 7pm you could buy a Sacred Valley Tour from Cusco and then just ask to leave the tour in Ollantaytambo. Sacred Valley tours run everyday and are quite cheap. Most Sacred Valley tours leave Cusco around 9am, first stopping at Pisac and Pisac Market (some tours visit the ruins at Pisac which are well worth seeing but you'll have to check), the tour will stop in Urubamba for lunch and then arrive in Ollantaytambo for around 2pm where you'll get a guided tour of the ruins. Ollantaytambo is a great little town to visit and there are plenty of restaurants where you can relax in before catching the train in the evening.

 

The other advantage of staying the night in Aguas Calientes and visiting Machu Picchu early the next morning is that you will get there early enough to be able to climb Huayna Picchu. It's a bit of a steep & hairy trek along a narrow path with near vertical drops at the side so its not suitable for everyone, but if you are fit and adventurous and don't have problems with heights then the view from the top can be breathtaking on a clear day.

 

 

 

Step 3: Book your international flights to Peru including domestic flight from Lima to Cusco

 

Probably the most important (and expensive) part of your trip to Machu Picchu is buying your international flights. Best prices are usually obtained by booking as far in advance as possible. Your international flight will arrive at Lima, Peru's capital city. There are no direct international flights to Cusco. You will have to book a flight from Lima to Cusco which is the nearest airport to Machu Picchu. If you have plenty of time and a very adventurous spirit and want to save money you could take a long and bumpy 24 hour bus ride from Lima to Cusco. However most sane people will want to fly to Cusco (1 hour 15 minutes). Cusco is a beautiful city and a great destination in itself and an easy place to spend 3 or 4 days. Again, domestic flights are best booked well in advance and can sometimes be much cheaper if you book your international and domestic flights together. Last minute flights are often much more expensive in Peru so don't wait until you arrive in Lima to book. Once you have booked your flights you are ready to book your tickets to Machu Picchu.

 

For information to help you book your domestic flights visit our webpage Flights Lima to Cusco

 

 

Step 4: Buying your Machu Picchu entrance tickets

 

As discussed in Step 1 above, the official website for buying your Machu Picchu tickets is www.machupicchu.gob.pe  The website is useful for checking prices and availability of tickets but quite often, when it comes to actually buying a ticket it frequently isn't working or doesn't allow you to complete the booking process. However if you are feeling really lucky and want to give it a try then you'll find more detailed information to help you on our webpage  Booking Machu Picchu Entrance Tickets Online

 

If you have problems with the official government website then you can buy a Machu Picchu Entrance Ticket from one of the licensed Machu Picchu Tour Companies

 

 

Step 5: Buying your train ticket from Cusco to Machu Picchu.

 

Detailed information about getting to Machu Picchu by Train

 

 

 

Step 6: Book your accommodation

 

There is plenty of information on this website to help you book your accommodation:   Hotels in Cusco / Hotels in Machu Picchu  /  Hotels in Ollantaytambo

 

 

Step 7: Getting from your hotel in Cusco to the Train Station

 

I am sure that your hotel receptionist will be happy to arrange a private taxi from your hotel to the station or call you a taxi from your hotel to the place where the local buses or collectivos depart for Poroy or Ollantaytambo. You can get an idea of the approximate prices below. Make sure you agree the price and the currency! it's not unheard for visitors to bargain a taxi price down to 75 only to find out the price was in US$!!

A collectivo is the name given to a small public bus typically a 12-16 seater minibus. A private taxi will usually carry up to 4 persons, the price is the total price not the price per person!

There are some travel agents around the main Plaza de Armas in Cusco that can arrange a seat in a tourist bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo or Poroy for around US$5 per person. This is probably the best method as they can collect you from your hotel and drop you right outside the station.

 

Cusco to Ollantaytambo (2 hours)

A private taxi from Cusco to Ollantaytambo takes about 1 hour 45 minutes, 100 Soles (US$35)

Tourist bus or collectivo takes about 2 hours. 15 Soles (US$5)

If on a tight budget you could take a public bus Cusco to Urubamba 2 hours 6 Soles (US$2) + Collectivo Urubamba to Ollantaytambo 30 minutes 3 Soles (US$1)

 

Cusco to Poroy (30 minutes)

A private taxi from Cusco to Poroy takes about 25 minutes, 35 Soles (US$12)

Collectivo takes about 35 minutes. 6 Soles (US$2)

 

 

Step 8: Buying your bus ticket from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

 

The bus from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu takes about 25 minutes and costs US$12 each way (US$24 return). The ride itself is spectacular as the narrow track winds its way up the mountainside. It can be a bit scary at times with almost vertical drops plunging down into the Vilcanota Valley below especially when you meet a bus coming in the other direction! The scenery is lush cloud forest with great views of the sacred mountain Putucusi on the opposite side of the valley. If it wasn't for the rush to get to Machu Picchu this ride would be an attraction in itself. If you look closely out of the window you can see splashes of pink and orange flowers growing on the slopes - these are actually the orchid Winay Wayna which can be commonly seen throughout the region.

The buses are clean and modern with air-conditioning.

You have to buy your bus ticket before you get on the bus in the morning. There is a small ticket office just opposite the departure point which opens at 5am. The first group of buses depart from Aguas Calientes at about 5:30am then at 10 minute intervals throughout the day depending on demand until about 4pm. However if you really want to get to Machu Picchu early I would recommend arriving by about 4.45am since during the peak season there can be quite a queue for the buses by 5:15am!! It speeds things up if you buy your bus ticket in advance, either from the ticket office in Aguas Calientes the night before or from the Consettur offices in Cusco (located in Avenida Infancia 433 or just ask a taxi driver to take you there which will cost 3 Soles / US$1). Each bus departs when its full so by the time the 20th bus departs Aguas Calientes the 1st bus is already on its way back.

The last buses depart Machu Picchu at about 5:45pm, be sure to check the time of the last bus as it can be a long walk back to Aguas Calientes if you miss it (well about 45 minutes downhill if you follow the more direct route rather than follow the road)

 

 

 

 

 

Estimated cost for booking a 1 day tour to Machu Picchu independently on a budget (per person)

 

Estimated Independent Machu Picchu day trip costs

Cost per person US dollars

Private bus / taxi from Cusco to train station at Ollantaytambo (2hrs)

20

Train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes

(Peru Rail Expedition 83 service departing Ollantaytambo at 07:45 and arriving at Aguas Calientes at 09:15)

65

Shuttle bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu (20 minutes)

12

Entrance fee to Machu Picchu (standard day ticket) 128 soles

43

Guided tour of Machu Picchu (2 hour tour)

15

Shuttle bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu (20 minutes)

12

Train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo

(Peru Rail Expedition 84 service departing Aguas Calientes at 18:45 and arriving at Ollantaytambo at 20:18)

61

Private bus / taxi  from train station at Ollantaytambo to Cusco Plaza de Armas (2hrs)

20

Total Estimated Cost US dollars

248

 

If you booked the same tour with a travel agent in Cusco you can expect to pay between US$310 (large group size of 12+) and US$400 (smaller group sizes 6 - 12 persons). Remember travel agencies have overheads and profits to add to the operating price and will also be liable for much higher sales taxes than if you buy the individual parts of the tour yourself. Note that these costs are based on meeting up with a guide at Machu Picchu for a 2 hour guided tour and not based on a guide who is going to accompany you all the way to and from Cusco which can work out much more expensive. Some of companies operating larger group sizes may include a guide throughout your journey but expect to pay a hefty premium for this if you only have a small group. The above price is also based on using the cheapest Peru Rail Expedition train service. Expect to pay extra for the Vistadome service.

 

For a list of recommended tour operators in Cusco offering day trips to Machu Picchu please see our webpage Machu Picchu Tours

 

 

 

Machu Picchu Useful Information

 

You can take small bags into the ruins but anything larger must be left at the luggage store near the entrance for 4 Peruvian Soles a piece (about 1.5USD) - remember to take exact change!.

Machu Picchu is a lot quieter before 11am and after 3:30pm. Monday is the busiest day, as many people head off to Machu Picchu after visiting Pisac market on Sunday. Sunday is one of the quietest days. June, July, August and September are the busiest months when entrance tickets can sell out several days in advance. Even during the low season Machu Picchu can attract between 1500 and 2000 visitors per day.

 

Arranging a Guided Tour of Machu Picchu

 

Guides are available at the site. Expect to pay around US$25-30 for a 2 hour private tour. You may be lucky and find a group that you can join for as little as US$5 per person depending on the size of the group. Check that the guide speaks a language that you understand !! If you don't want to spend half your time listening to the descriptions again in Spanish go with a guide that is going to speak just in English (the information will be more in-depth and informative). Guides are not mandatory and you can enter Machu Picchu and explore it on your own or with the help of a guidebook (or you can just stand next to one of the several places of interest and listen to the explanations given by someone else's guide!)

A description of the ruins in detail is beyond the scope of this web site. For an excellent guide try Peter Frost's Exploring Cusco which can be bought quite inexpensively in Cusco. As the name suggests it also has plenty of information about Cusco, the Sacred Valley and the Inca Trail. The website www.machupicchuperu.info has some good photos.

 

 

Huayna Picchu

 

Huayna Picchu is the large mountain that you can see behind Machu Picchu. There is a narrow winding path leading to the top where you can find some interesting Inca ruins. There are stunning views over Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains and the Vilcanota River below. Entry to Huayna Picchu is by way of a combined Machu Picchu - Huayna Picchu entrance ticket. The tickets costs S/.152 per person (S/.128 for the entry to Machu Picchu and S/.24 to climb Huayna Picchu). You must buy the entrance tickets well in advance. Although tickets can be bought from an official ticket office in Cusco they can sell out several days in advance so it is best to buy your entrance ticket online as soon as you can. A maximum number of four hundred persons per day can climb Huayna Picchu. Two hundred people will be allowed to start the climb between 07:00 and 08:00 (Group 01) and must return by 10:00. Another two hundred people will be allowed to start the climb between 10:00 and 11:00 (group 02) and must return by 13:00.

 

Aguas Calientes

 

If you want longer at the ruins or want to see them at sunrise when the light is more gentle and there are fewer visitors then you'll have to stay the night. You can stay at the super expensive US$900 a night Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, which is the only hotel adjacent to Machu Picchu ruins, or you can spend the night in one of the many hotels in Aguas Calientes.

 

There's not a great deal  to do in Aguas Calientes - it doesn't rate as a particularly pretty town being built mostly of concrete, much of which looks half finished, but I think visitors will agree that it does have its own individual charm and character. There's a feel of a frontier town about it, with the railway forming the high street and the steamy jungle-clad mountains closing in on all sides.

There are plenty of restaurants and hotels in the town and its main attraction are the thermal springs which gives Aguas (waters) Calientes (hot) its name. The outdoor springs are situated 15 minutes walk up from the town centre. They are fairly basic, with facilities to change and shower, and are used by the locals as much as the tourists, but it's a great place to relax, buy a beer, and enjoy the views.

 

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