Machu Picchu is a site that seems to be on every traveler’s bucket list. It’s regularly featured as “the most visited tourist attraction in the world” and sees over one million visitors every year. Due to the consistent increase in tourists who visit, the country had to make some very important changes to their policies to help protect the world wonder from the effects of over-tourism.
But that won’t stop you from seeing this impressive site for yourself. Continue reading to learn all about your travel options from Cusco, where to stay, the rules and restrictions, and how we can help you visit this spectacular “World Wonder of the Modern World”.
Rules & Restrictions
UNESCO aims to protect and preserve designated World Heritage Sites. With the increase in tourist numbers, there has been pressure from the organization for the Peruvian government to implement stricter regulations for visitors. The new rules can throw a wrench in your plans to visit if you aren’t prepared for them. Therefore, it’s important you understand the changes.
– Tickets are limited and to guarantee your visit they need to be pre-purchased. Contact us so we can help you book tickets before your arrival.
– You must hire a guide – this rule was implemented in the past, however, it was not as enforced as it is today.
– You must follow a strict route – no longer are visitors able to climb and explore as they please. There is now a designated route that all visitors must follow to protect the ruins.
– Adhere to your designated entry time – there are three types of tickets you can choose from, and each has a designated time slot.
Available Ticket Types
There are a few ticket options, and most people will opt for only the entrance to Machu Picchu. However, there is also an option to book combo packages that include either Machu Picchu Mountain or its larger brother Huayna Picchu Mountain.
Machu Picchu Ruins – this ticket type allows you to visit Machu Picchu, but you will not be allowed to enter Machu Picchu Mountain, nor Huayna Picchu Mountain.
Hourly slots are available beginning at 6 AM and ending at 2 PM. All visitors will have four hours to tour the site. In the past, you were able to buy a general “morning” ticket which allowed many visitors to the site at 6 AM for the sunrise. Today, only a limited amount of 6 AM tickets will be guaranteed entrance at that time.
Machu Picchu Ruins & Huayna Picchu Mountain Combo – Huayna Picchu Mountain is an incredibly steep and rigorous climb to the top, but it offers unparalleled views of the ruins. The hike is strenuous and takes about 2-3 hours, so make sure you are ready for it.
Only a limited of these combo tickets are available for three specific morning time slots:
1. Entrance to Machu Picchu at 6 AM, followed by entry to Huayna Picchu between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.
2. Entrance to Machu Picchu from 7 a.m., followed by entry to Huayna Picchu between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.
3. Entrance to Machu Picchu from 8 a.m., followed by entry to Huayna Picchu between the hours of 10.30 a.m. and 11.30 a.m.
Machu Picchu Ruins & Machu Picchu Mountain Combo – Machu Picchu Mountain is the less intense version of Huayna. Still, it provides some spectacular views of the surrounding area. The hike takes about 2 hours and only a limited amount of daily tickets are available.
1. Entrance to Machu Picchu from 6 AM, with entrance to the Mountain between 7 AM – 8 AM
2. Entrance to Machu Picchu from 7 AM, with entrance to the Mountain between 7 AM – 8 AM
3. Entrance to Machu Picchu from 8 AM, with entrance to the Mountain between 9 AM – 10 AM
Keep in mind that if you book your tickets directly, without going to a recognized travel agency, you will need to hire a guide. Tickets include entry, but no official tour.
Visit Machu Picchu with Maximo Nivel
While participating in a program with Maximo Nivel, you’ll find it convenient to book a trip to Machu Picchu directly with our travel partner. Let the on-site staff handle all of the logistics so all you’ll need to do is take incredible photos and make unforgettable memories.
The package includes bus transport to Ollantaytambo, train tickets from Ollantaytamboto Machu Picchu’s gateway city, Aguas Caliente, admission ticket and guided tour, one night’s hotel accommodation, and a one way bus shuttle to the entrance.
Though some visitors prefer to spend the night in Aguas Caliente, the expedited train service allows you to save some time and money by making your trip a one-day excursion. If you’re interested in doing either of the hikes mentioned above, you can add it on to your package for just $25. The bus back down from Machu Picchu will also incur an additional fee of $15.
Though we recommend traveling with our partners, as we can ensure proper service, transport, and accommodations. You have the option of booking with any other travel agents in Cusco. For a shoestring budget trip, you can opt out of the train option and choose a 2-3 hour hike into Aguas Caliente, instead. This package typically includes van transportation to Hidroelectrica, lunch, overnight accommodations, a guided tour, and the shuttle bus to Machu Picchu’s entrance. From Hidroelectrica you’ll walk along the scenic train route until reaching the entrance to Aguas Caliente.
It’s a straight walk, with only a few minutes of climbing at the very beginning. Other travelers will be taking the walk as well, so it isn’t hard to find the trailhead. If you’re not yet acclimated to the elevation, not physically agile, or you’re traveling with heavy luggage, this probably isn’t the best route for you. But if you’re comfortable with the idea of long treks with other random travelers and want to save some cash, it could be ideal!
Your departure from Cusco is likely to be at about 6AM. Expect to arrive in Aguas Caliente around 4PM. You don’t want to leave any later from Cusco because you need to make sure you arrive in Aguas Caliente before the sun goes down – especially if you’re walking along the tracks.
With that in mind, please note that your Machu Picchu tour won’t begin until the following day, so you’ll spend at least one night enjoying the tourist friendly city.
Shoestring Budget Options
Booking with an agency might be ideal, but it isn’t necessary. If you have the time and experience planning your own excursions, it’s absolutely doable. You’d have to book each item separately, but it could be worth your while.
Hike from Ollantaytambo – a “combi” or shared van from Cusco to Ollantaytambo costs about 15 soles ($3). There is a route that will allow you to take the 18KM hike along the tracks starting as early as the Sacred Valley. The hike is about 7-8 hours, but you can break this up into 2 days if you decide to stay in a hotel on your route for the night.
Though it’s the most affordable route to Machu Picchu, it’s also the most dangerous and we do not recommend it.
Hike from Hidroelectrica – a much shorter hike would be to take the route from Cusco to Hidroelectrica. A bus ticket costs about 40 soles ($12), and then you can hike the 9KM from there, which takes about 2-3 hours.
The Train from Cusco to Machu Picchu
If you’re willing to shell out a couple of hundred dollars for the train, there are a few options. The most convenient, albeit most expensive, option is to catch Peru Rail or Inca Rail from the Poroy station, about 20 minutes from Cusco, or you might decide to opt for the train from Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo is a city located in the Sacred Valley, about 1.5 hours from Cusco. You might choose to spend a few days exploring Ollantaytambo before your trip to the world wonder. Round-trip cost: $140
Arriving at Aguas Caliente
Aguas Caliente literally translates into “hot water” as the city is named for the natural thermal springs found about a 10-minute hike outside of the city. Other than being able to relax your sore muscles in the hot springs, you’ll realize the city is mostly a tourist service center.
The city was first established in the early 20th century when the railroad was constructed through the mountains. It served to connect to the city of Cusco which is only 68 miles away. Before tourists found their way to the ancient sites, the city was nothing more than a tented camp for railroad workers. But that took a dramatic change when trains packed with tourists came into town.
The city quickly adapted to visitor needs in what seemed like an overnight transition. Hotels, restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops suddenly popped up. Today, more than 1,500 tourists arrive by train every day.
You will quickly realize how much more expensive it is in this city compared to anywhere else in Peru you’ve traveled. The city produces nothing of its own, so all its goods are shipped in on the train. You will find that basic items can be double the price in this city, so if you have space in your bag, make sure to pack extra snacks and don’t forget any of your necessary items and toiletries.
If you chose to book your tour with our travel partner, everything will be planned for you. If you decided to book everything separately (bus tickets, train tickets, tour tickets, accommodations), then you’ll have plenty of options in Aguas Caliente.
Budget hostels include dorm beds for as little as $10 per night at some hostels. Basic accommodations should be expected, fans, shared bathrooms and showers. Some will provide free Wi-Fi and breakfast. If you are on a tight budget this is the ideal option for you.
Plenty of mid-range hotels are available throughout the town. If you feel like splurging, luxurious accommodations can be priced as high as $595 per night! One such example is the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. The captivating property includes stone pathways, waterfalls, and is surrounded by 12 acres of natural beauty where you can spot over 200 bird species. The tranquil environment is alluring for those looking to be removed from the bustling little tourist town.
Exploring Machu Picchu
If you booked through our travel partner, you will meet your group and their professional tour guide in the main square at about 5AM on your second day in Aguas Caliente. You’ll notice a number of other tour groups meeting in the same area and heading the same way – toward the shuttle bus that takes you to the entrance.
The bus doesn’t start running until 6AM so, you’ll be waiting in line for some time before being able to board. Another option is to hike to the top and meet your group at the entrance. The hike is a long staircase carved into the jungle. There’s no real scenic view, just a challenging uphill climb. However, you’re likely to get to the top faster this way than by waiting for the bus. The choice is yours.
Once you meet your group, you’ll explore the ruins with an experienced guide who will take you to the most popular lookouts and provide information on the various temples and notable points. Prepare to wait in line for the epic Machu Picchu photo, and don’t forget to get your passport stamped before you head out!
Most people will opt for the earlier tour to watch the sunrise. With the new changes, there are only a limited number of visitors who will be allowed in, so make sure to let our travel partner know if watching the sunrise over the ruins is important to you.
Now that you have all the information you need to make your epic Machu Picchu visit, plan accordingly. Decide how you want to get there, where you will stay, and which ticket will give you the experience you’re looking for. The easiest way to enjoy your experience is to simply book with our travel partner and let them handle the logistics. But if you’re set on customizing every aspect of your adventure, this is absolutely possible. Just make sure you set your sights on the impressive ancient ruins and world wonder of Machu Picchu while participating in a program at Maximo Nivel Peru.