9 Simple Steps To Visit Machu Picchu

by | Apr 5, 2024 | Machu Picchu | 0 comments

How To Travel To Machu Picchu

If you’re curious about how to travel to Machu Picchu from the US, you’ve found the right resource. I’ve made numerous trips to Peru from the Bay Area, departing from either San Jose or San Francisco airports following my advice in this Travel post.

Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan city perched high in the Andes, has captivated the hearts of travelers and historians alike for centuries. Today, it remains one of the most iconic travel destinations in the world, a testament to the power and resilience of the Inca civilization.

This comprehensive guide How to Visit Machu Picchu from California is designed to walk you through every step of your Machu Picchu adventure, from the initial spark of wanderlust to the post-visit reflections. Whether you’re an intrepid hiker, a lover of history, or simply seeking a once-in-a-lifetime experience, we’ve got you covered.

1. Introduction: Unveiling the Mysteries of Machupichu Guide

Machu Picchu, the “Lost City of the Incas,” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Built in the 15th century and later abandoned, the ruins remained hidden from the outside world until their rediscovery in 1911 by American historian Hiram Bingham III. The site’s precise purpose and the circumstances of its abandonment remain a mystery, adding to its allure.

Today, This Inca Lost City attracts over a million visitors annually, each drawn by the specter of its mist-shrouded peaks and the rich history they hold.

From the stunning terraces that cascade down the mountain slopes to the engineering marvels of its stone structures, every angle of this ancient city tells a story.

But how does one go about stepping into this living museum? The next sections will guide you through the intricate process of how to get to machu picchu from us, ensuring your exploration is both awe-inspiring and practical.

2. The Path to Peru’s Crown Jewel – Machu – Old Mountain

Pre-Travel Planning: Timing Is Key Best Time to Travel to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu’s environment is just as dynamic as its history.

Choose the Right Time: The best time to visit Machu Pichcu is during the dry season, from May to October, to avoid the rainy period that lasts from November through April.

However, the dry season is also the busiest, so plan your visit well in advance to secure your entry machu picchu tickets.

If you are planning to hike the classic Inca Trail, the government limits the number of trekkers, (500 permits, including tourists, guides, and support staff). making tickets even scarcer.

Consider shoulder season alternative treks like the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu 5 days or Lares treks with a short inca trail 4 days, offering quieter trails and breathtaking landscapes.

Securing Machu Picchu Entry Tickets

Book in Advance: Machu Picchu has a daily visitor limit of 4,060 a day, and tickets often sell out, especially during peak season. Reserve your machu picchu tickets, accommodations in Cusco and Aguas Calientes, and transportation well in advance.

Acquiring entry tickets can be a logistically intricate process due to the high demand and restrictions.

Purchase them through the official government website or a certified tour operator. Ensure you have your passport and a credit card ready for online booking, ideally at least six months before your intended visit.

Prepare for Your Visit to Machu Picchu

Pack Essentials: Bring comfortable trekking gear, and layers for changing weather conditions.

The key to enjoying your Machu Picchu adventure is preparation. Here’s a list of essentials to include:

  • Sturdy Hiking Boots: You’ll be trekking on diverse terrains, from uneven stone paths to high-altitude mountain trails.
  • Weather-Appropriate Clothing: Layers are your best friend due to the fluctuating Andean weather. Don’t forget a rain jacket!
  • Quality Backpack and Water Bottle: Stay hydrated and keep your essentials within reach.
  • Sun Protection: The high altitude means intense UV exposure. Pack sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.
  • Personal First Aid Kit: Altitude sickness, blisters, and minor scrapes are common. Be prepared.
  • Travel Documents: Passport, entry tickets, and any required permits.

Guided Tours: Consider hiring a knowledgeable guide to enhance your experience and learn about Machu Picchu’s history and significance.

RELATED: Machu Picchu Packing List

3. The Intricate Journey Begins to Get Cusco City

How to get to machu picchu from Lima?

  • By Air: Fly into Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ) in Cusco. Many international flights arrive via Lima, the capital of Peru. From Cusco, you’ll proceed to Machu Picchu.
  • By Bus: You can also travel overland from Lima or other cities in Peru, but it’s a long journey.

Acclimate to Altitude Before Travel Machu Picchu:

Cusco sits at an elevation of around 11,000 feet (3,400 meters), and Machu Picchu is at about 7,970 feet (2,430 meters). Take it easy for the first couple of days to acclimate and prevent altitude sickness.

If your journey includes a lengthy trip to Machu Picchu with an overnight stay in Cusco, and your primary destination is Machu Picchu.

We suggest you take the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes (officially Machu Picchu Pueblo) directly. This town, nestled closest to Machu Picchu, is the ideal place to acclimate.

Spend a night or two here, adjusting to the town’s relatively modest elevation of about 6,700 feet, before venturing out to explore the majestic Machu Picchu. Additionally, you may choose to explore the Sacred Valley, which sits at a lower elevation than the surrounding mountains, offering a gentler acclimation experience.

During this acclimatization period, it’s advisable to avoid alcohol and strenuous activity, while ensuring you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water or coca tea, aiding your body’s adjustment to the higher altitude’s thinner air.

Choose Your Route:

  • Inca Trail: The Inca Trail is the classic trek to Machu Picchu, taking 2-4 days. It’s a challenging but rewarding experience with breathtaking scenery and Inca ruins along the way. Several other treks of varying difficulty levels are also available. The 4 days cover approximately 26 miles (42 kilometers) through stunning Andean landscapes, ancient ruins, and diverse ecosystems.
  • Alternative Treks: If the Inca Trail permits are sold out or you prefer less crowded routes, consider the Salkantay Trek, Lares Trek, or Inca Quarry Trek.

What’s the best way to get to Machu Picchu?

Train and Bus: If hiking isn’t your preference, take the train from Cusco or Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo) and then a bus up to the entrance of Machu Picchu.

There are three train companies to choose from: Inca Rail, Peru Rail, and the Belmond Hiram Bingham train. The Hiram Bingham service is on a gorgeous train gleaming with brass and polished wood and includes a white tablecloth meal with wine during your journey.

It is notably pricier compared to Inca Rail and Peru Rail, both providing comfortable journeys on various trains — some even feature panoramic windows for an extra charge. Regardless of your choice, booking well in advance is advisable as tickets can get fully booked weeks ahead in certain months.

From Cusco to Aguas Calientes

how to get to Machu Picchu without hiking?

Cusco, the historical capital of the Inca Empire, serves as the gateway to Machu Picchu. The first leg of the trip typically involves a winding bus or van ride to Ollantaytambo, a charming town nestled in the Sacred Valley.

From there, you’ll board a scenic train to Aguas Calientes, the town situated at the base of Machu Picchu. The train ride itself is an adventure, with panoramic views and the occasional sighting lot of inca ruins along the tracks.

The Last Stretch: Aguas Calientes to the Citadel

Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, is the last stop before reaching the famed archaeological site.

It’s a bustling hub filled with shops, restaurants, and the soothing hot springs that lend it its name. Spend the night here before the final ascent the following day, either by hiking the steep Inca steps or taking a bus for a quicker, but no less scenic, trip.

PRO TIP: Reserve Your Hotel Before Arrival. At times, rooms may be fully booked, so we strongly advise booking at least four months in advance to ensure availability.

4. Arrival at the right time to Machu Picchu

First Glimpse of the Citadel

Few moments in a lifetime match the first gaze upon Machu Picchu. Arriving at the site early in the morning offers spellbinding views as the mist rises to reveal the city’s ancient stone structures.

Take your time absorbing the sheer grandeur of your surroundings – it’s a sight many consider spiritual and profoundly moving.

Reach Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes (also called Machu Picchu Pueblo) is the jumping-off point for Machu Picchu itself. You can reach the citadel by:

  • Bus: Public buses run frequently and cheaply between Aguas Calientes and the entrance of Machu Picchu. The ride takes about 20 minutes with switchbacks up the mountainside.
  • Walk: Approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to ascend, with a slightly shorter time for the descent (Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu). Elevation gain from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu: 390 meters (1,280 feet). Terrain includes dirt tracks, stone-stepped pathways, and shuttle bus routes. Recommended footwear: Opt for training shoes or lightweight walking boots for optimal comfort and support.

5. Exploring the Enclaves of Machu Picchu

Guided Tours vs. Solo Exploration

Engaging with a knowledgeable guide can provide invaluable context to the ruins, bringing the history and culture of the Inca people to life.

However, solo exploration offers the freedom to immerse yourself in the experience at your own pace. Most guides can be hired on-site or organized through your tour operator, or you can take advantage of the complimentary guide service provided with your entrance ticket at the main entrance.

How To Explore Machu Picchu

  • Arrive Early: Beat the crowds by arriving at Machu Picchu early in the morning. The site opens at 6:00 AM.
  • Stay Hydrated and Rested: Machu Picchu involves a lot of walking and climbing, so take breaks and stay hydrated.
  • Respect the Site: Follow the rules, stay on designated paths, and avoid touching or climbing on the ruins.

Marvels to Discover in Machu Picchu

Whether you choose to follow a guide or wander on your own, certain sites within the citadel demand attention:

  • The Temple of the Sun, with its astronomical precision and carved altar, highlights Inca engineering and devotion.
  • The Intihuatana stone is believed to have been used for astronomical observation and still holds a reverent energy.
  • The Room of the Three Windows is an impressively preserved structure with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
  • The agricultural terraces showcase the Inca’s advanced farming techniques in a challenging environment.

Choose Your Trail between Young Mountain or Machu Picchu MT

In addition to the citadel itself, there are optional hikes for the intrepid traveler. Perhaps the most famous is the trail to Huayna Picchu, the sheer peak that overlooks Machu Picchu.

For those seeking a less crowded experience, the trek to the Montana Machu Picchu or the Inca Bridge offers alternative vantage points and a deeper connection to the surrounding nature.

  • Machu Picchu Ticket Options: There are different types of Machu Picchu tickets, allowing access to specific areas like Postcard Mountain. Choose the one that suits your interests.

RELATED POST: Distinguishing Wuayna Picchu from Machu Picchu Mountain

6. Practical Tips for a Memorable Voyage

Picture-Perfect Spots

Machu Picchu is a photographer’s dream, with picture-perfect vistas at every turn. The classic view from the terraces requires patience to capture when the site first opens due to crowding, but it’s worth the wait.

To gain a unique viewpoint, make your way to the Guard House. Be sure to purchase the correct entrance ticket beforehand. ( Llacta De Machu Picchu Circuit 1 o 2 )

Health and Well-Being at High Altitudes

Altitude sickness affects many visitors to the Andes. To minimize its impact, acclimate in Cusco for a few days before the trip and stay well-hydrated.

If symptoms persist, descend to a lower altitude. Pay attention to your body’s signals and rest when needed.

Sustainable Travel Insights

The importance of responsible tourism cannot be overstated, especially in fragile environments like Machu Picchu.

Stay on designated paths, avoid disturbing wildlife, and respect the ancient structures. If you’re up for it, participate in a volunteer opportunity, such as a trail clean-up, to give back to the community.

7. Reflecting on the Experience

The profoundness of Machu Picchu leaves a mark, a combination of awe and gratitude for having witnessed such an incredible place. Take time to reflect on what the journey means to you. Savor the memories, share your stories, and consider how the lessons of the Inca civilization can inspire a more intentional way of living.

8. Sustainable Travel at the Heart of Adventure

Machu Picchu holds a unique position as a beacon for travelers and sustainable exploration advocates.

The conservation of this sacred site is critical for future generations. As you plan and carry out your excursion, keep in mind ways to minimize your impact, support local initiatives, and spread awareness of responsible travel practices.

9. Additional Resources and Further Reading

Extend your knowledge of Machu Picchu with reputable sources such as National Geographic’s comprehensive articles on the Incas and the wonders of the world. For a more hands-on approach, seek out blogs and vlogs from fellow travelers to glean practical tips and a personal perspective.


Armed with this guide How To Travel To Machu Picchu and a thirst for adventure, you’re ready to add your chapter to the rich tapestry of Machu Picchu’s legacy.

Travel well, and may the Andean spirits guide your steps through this extraordinary world wonder.


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Cesar Conde

I’m Cesar Conde, owner of Tour Leaders Peru & Travel Advisor and my other side job is Nomadic Digital. I share my own amazing Tour Experiences, travel stories, guides, and itineraries for travelers like you and me!


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