The mysterious, sprawling Incan archaeological site of Machu Picchu in Peru is one of the world’s busiest tourist attractions. This UNESCO World Heritage site offers an iconic landscape of ancient ruins, lush terraces and hilltop views, receiving millions of visitors annually. While travel is getting easier these days and there are many more hoping to see Machu Picchu in their lifetime, it’s important to note that these iconic ruins are challenging to get to.
Check out our expert tips on how you too can conquer the Machu Picchu:
Taking the train is the usual choice but take note that there are three train companies to choose from: Belmond Hiram Bingham, Inca Rail, and Peru Rail. The Hiram Bingham is a luxurious option for those who want to go all out, while Inca Rail and Peru Rail are more affordable. Remember to book as early as possible as train tickets sell out weeks, or even months, ahead.
Other transport options include taxis or minivans from Cusco to Ollantaytambo then a train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. From the latter, you can take a bus heading up to the Machu Picchu.
While Machu Picchu is open all year-round, do take note that the peak season is between July and August while the rainy season is between October through April. Avoid Sundays if you can as the locals from Cusco are allowed inside for free. Take note that only 5,200 tourists are allowed to visit daily and tickets sell out especially during peak season.
Cusco is at 11,000 feet above sea level while Machu Picchu is at almost 8,000, so you’re bound to get experience fatigue, headache or nausea, the symptoms of altitude sickness. Take the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the town nearest to Machu Picchu, where you can spend a night or two adjusting to the thinner air. Make sure you hydrate yourself with water or tea and avoid alcohol.
Traveling independently to Machu Picchu is possible, but it can be a challenging task. Leave the planning to the experts so you can worry less and focus on enjoying the trip instead. Going with a tour will be more memorable, as the guides will not only help navigate and show you the way, they can also tell you more about the ancient ruins and even share with you the best spots to photograph.
Hoping to do the 4-day, 3-night Inca Trail hike? Note that you can’t hike independently and you’re required to travel with a sanctioned tour guide and travel group.
Machu Picchu is more than the Huayna Picchu, which appears in most, if not all, of the tourist shots. Look for the Intihuatana rock, the Temple of the Condor, Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Three Windows, to further enrich your trip. You can also take a Sacred Valley day tour from Cusco or Ollantaytambo, which should include key stops at Inca ruins, Ollantaytambo village, Pisac traditional market and the Salineras salt mines.
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