Ultimate Guide to Machu Picchu

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

Machu Picchu is a photographer and history lover’s paradise. There are breathtaking views everywhere you look.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

Of course everyone wants to take that “iconic” photo. Don’t worry — You’ll get it within the first 10 minutes of being there. It’s at the beginning. There’s a large observation deck. I’ll tell you exactly how to get there.

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Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

You can take your classic picture, get it out of the way, and have the rest of the time to explore all the other amazing hikes, ruins, and views Machu Picchu has to offer — and maybe find your own unique angle you like even better!

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

Getting to Machu Picchu and knowing what to do once you’re there can be a bit tricky if you’ve never been. This guide will explain exactly how to get to Machu Picchu, everything you need to know about the train, the bus, how to buy entry tickets, where to stay, when to go, and what to do once you get there.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

How to Get the Iconic Machu Picchu Photo

After you enter the gates, you’ll keep going straight and follow the path for 2-3 minutes until the path splits. You’ll see stairs on the left going up, or you can continue straight. Take the stairs up.

After 5-10 minutes of stairs under the trees, the path will open up to “the view”. You’ll see a large observation deck with 2 levels where you can find the best spot to take your picture.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

How to Get To Machu Picchu

There is only one way to Machu Picchu — by train. You can take a train from Cusco, Urubamba, or Ollantaytambo. NOTE: The train from Cusco only operates from May to December. We were there in April, so we took the train from Ollantaytambo.

We booked with PeruRail. It is definitely recommended to buy your tickets as early in advance as possible. Book your tickets online and in advance from PeruRail’s official website: PeruRail.com

Buy roundtrip tickets, because no matter where you depart, you will need to come back to get your luggage. You can only take a backpack or small bag with you to Machu Picchu. You can store your luggage for free at the train station or your hotel.

Print your tickets. You’ll need printed tickets and your passport to board the train.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

About the Train

There are different “classes” of trains. We took the cheapest one, the Expedition. It was perfectly nice. The windows go all the way up and over the ceiling, and there’s a complimentary beverage and snack service during the trip.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

Luggage on the Train

You cannot bring a large suitcase onto the train. You can only bring a backpack or small bag. I didn’t even see anyone with a carry-on size suitcase. You can store the rest of your luggage for free at the train station or your hotel. We left ours at the hotel so we didn’t have to drag it to the train station.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

Bus to Machu Picchu

Once you arrive at the train station in Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes) you’ll then need to buy a bus ticket up to the Machu Picchu site itself. The bus tickets cannot be purchased online, but you can buy them from a small kiosk when you arrive. Buy your bus tickets as soon as you arrive — don’t try to buy them in the morning if you’re going the next morning!

The kiosk is located across the street from where you board the bus. Here is the {GPS Location} for the Machu Picchu Bus Ticket Kiosk.

The bus takes about 20-30 mins to get from the town to Machu Picchu.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

How to Buy Entry Tickets to Machu Picchu

Book your tickets to Machu Picchu as early in advance as possible. They can sell out, especially during high season. They do not sell tickets at Machu Picchu, so you need to buy and print your tickets before you go. Buy your Machu Picchu tickets online from the official website: Machupicchu.gob.pe

The website is a bit tricky to use. Be sure to change the language to English.

See this post for a step-by-step guide, including screen shots of exactly what to click on: How to Buy Machu Picchu Tickets Online

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

Which Tickets to Buy?

The only thing that’s not covered in the tutorial above is on Step 2, under Select Entry Route, you’ll see these two options:

  • Machupicchu 1er Turno
  • Machupicchu 2do Turno

These are the different times you can enter Macchu Picchu:

  • Machupicchu 1er Turno — 6 AM to Noon
  • Machupicchu 2do Turno — Noon to 5:30 PM

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

You’ll also see tickets for Machupicchu + Montaña and Machupicchu + Waynapicchu (with different times). These are the hikes you can do at Machu Picchu. If you want to do one of the hikes, you’ll buy one of these tickets. It gives you entry to Machu Picchu, plus access to the hike.

I’ll talk more about the hikes in a bit. Only 400 people a day are allowed on the hikes, and the tickets sell out super far in advance, so buy your tickets as early in advance as possible if you want to do one of the hikes!

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

Print your tickets. You must show your printed tickets and your passport to enter Machu Picchu.

Don’t forget your passport!! If you forget your passport you will not get in, and it’s not easy to just run back to your hotel and get it.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

When to Go to Machu Picchu

The best time to visit Machu Picchu is during the dry season, from April to October. June to August is considered peak season with the most crowds. We were there in mid-April, and the weather was very nice and there were not too many crowds.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

Sunrise at Machu Picchu?

A lot of people want to go for sunrise. However it’s often foggy in the morning and too cloudy to see the sunrise anyway. If you want to be there for sunrise, you’ll have to start lining up for the bus at least by 5 AM. The first bus leaves at 5:30 AM. But if you wait until 7-8 AM, you can start your day at a much more reasonable hour and the crowds will have died down significantly. You’ll still have plenty of time to explore Machu Picchu — even if you have the morning ticket, they weren’t kicking people out once you’re in.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

Best Way To Visit Machu Picchu

There are many options.

  1. If you just want to take your picture and see the main ruins of Machu Picchu and not do any of the hikes, you can visit Machu Picchu as a day trip.
  2. You could also take the morning train, visit in the afternoon, stay one night, then leave the next day.
  3. If you want to do one of the hikes, they start in the morning, so you’ll need to be there the night before. You could take an afternoon train, spend the night, then go to Machu Picchu in the morning with your hike + Machu Picchu combo ticket. You could book a late afternoon / early evening train back to where ever you started, or stay one more night and leave in the morning.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

Our Experience

Here’s how we did it: We booked a morning train from Ollantaytambo and had Machu Picchu tickets for that afternoon. We saw the classic view and visited the main sites that afternoon. We spent the night there, in Aguas Calientes.

The next morning we had morning tickets for the Wayna Picchu (also written as Huyana Picchu sometimes) hike. We did the hike, then visited some of the lesser popular sites at Machu Picchu like the Sun Gate and the Inca Bridge. We definitely stayed past noon with our morning ticket, but again, once you’re inside, no one was checking tickets and kicking people out. We did have afternoon tickets just in case, but we didn’t end up using them.

Keep reading below to see our pictures and reviews of the Wayna Picchu hike, Sun Gate, and Inca Bridge to see if you want to do it.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru


Huayna Picchu (Wayna Picchu) Hike

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

Huayna Picchu is the mountain you see in the “classic” Machu Picchu photo. See those ruins up at the top of the mountain? You can hike up there!

The other hiking option is Machupicchu + Montaña, AKA Machu Picchu Mountain. It’s the mountain behind you when you’re looking at the classic Machu Picchu view.

We decided to do the Huayna Picchu hike because there are ruins at the top — there are no ruins on Machu Picchu Mountain. And after you do the Huayna Picchu hike, you can hike to the Sun Gate which will give you a similar view as the Machu Picchu Mountain hike. You don’t need a ticket to hike to the Sun Gate.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

View from the top of Huyana Picchu

There are two timeslots for the Huyana Picchu Hike — 7 AM and 10 AM. The 10 AM tickets were sold out on the day we wanted to go, so we got the 7 AM tickets. This ended up being the best option anyway, because it gave us more time to explore Machu Picchu after the hike.

However we did have to line up at 5 AM to catch the bus — the line was already super long! The first bus leaves at 5:30 AM, and after that it went really quickly. There is bus after bus after bus. Even though we weren’t close to the front of the line, we still made it to the top before the gates opened at 6 AM.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

See those bright green ruins down there?? I can’t believe we started down there!

We had an hour before the hike, so we took our time and wandered through Machu Picchu. Since we were there the day before we knew exactly where to go for the hike, but if you haven’t been before, use this time to find where the hike starts. It’s right by the giant Sacred Rock.

We lined up for hike at 7 AM. There were already quite a few people in line. You have to show your ticket and sign in for the hike, so we didn’t actually start hiking until 7:30 AM. It takes about 1 hour to go up and 1 hour to come back down. We finished around 9:30 AM.

The hike is very steep — it’s a steep, ancient Inca staircase almost the entire way up. In some places the steps are very small, just enough to get a toe on. In most places there’s a rail or a rope (which you’ll definitely need!) to hang on to. Yes, it’s a bit of a challenging hike, but so, so worth it!!


Sun Gate

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

After the Huyana Picchu Hike, we hiked to the Sun Gate. The Sun Gate was once the main entrance to Machu Picchu, and where the Inca Trail ends for those doing the Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

The hike to the Sun Gate is much easier on a wide path, although it’s still uphill the entire way. It takes about 1 hour to reach the Sun Gate. From the Sun Gate, you’re basically at the same elevation as the peak of Huyana Picchu — actually the Sun Gate is a bit higher!

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

See that windy, switchback road down there? That’s the road the bus goes up to take you to Machu Picchu!


Inca Bridge

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

We kept seeing signs for the Inca Bridge, so we decided to check it out. I didn’t realize how far it would be! The hike to the Inca Bridge is about 45 minutes from the main Machu Picchu ruins. Although it’s not really a hike — it’s a flat path.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

Also, the bridge was a bit of a let-down. You can’t get to the bridge, you can only see it from a distance. And for some reason, I had cool, swinging rope bridge in mind. I mean, yes, of course it is amazing that they built this long path along the steep cliff with rocks, but by this point I was super tired from all the other hikes. We could’ve skipped this one.

However, some of my favorite views of Machu Picchu were on the way to this hike, so my recommendation would be to follow the signs up to the bridge, but once you start getting into the woods and no longer have a view, turn around and come back.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru


Important Things To Know Before You Go

Bring your passport. You must show your passport along with your printed ticket to get into Machu Picchu. If you do not have your passport, you will not be allowed entry, and it’s not easy to just run back to your hotel and get it. Don’t forget your passport!

You can only go “one way” in Machu Picchu. By this I mean, there’s a path, and you can’t turn around and go back if you decide you want to see something again. There are guards stationed along the path and they will not let you back. So you take your “classic photo” at the beginning and then explore the ruins, but you can’t go back to the classic photo spot again. You have to exit Machu Picchu and re-enter to go back.

You can only re-enter one time.

There are no bathrooms inside Machu Picchu, so make sure you go before you enter. The bathrooms right outside the entrance cost 2 soles to use.

Snacks are technically not allowed inside Machu Picchu, only bottled water. However when we went, they were not checking bags, and if you’re doing any of the hikes (Huyana Picchu, Sun Gate, etc) you may want to bring a small snack. There are plenty of places where you could sit out of the way and have a quick snack to refuel. Just be sure to take all your trash with you.

If you have afternoon tickets, you may can get in a bit early. We had no problem getting in at 11 AM with our Noon-5:30 PM tickets.


Where to Stay

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

The town at the base of Machu Picchu is called Aguas Calientes. It’s a super charming little village. The Urubamba River flows right through the middle of town. There’s a market, a main square, and many very good restaurants.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru

The best place to stay would be somewhere as close to the bus station as possible!

Here’s the {GPS Location} for the bus to Machu Picchu.

Everything you need to know about visiting Machu Picchu in Peru