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16 Things to KNOW Before Visiting Machu Picchu, Peru

16 Things to KNOW Before Visiting Machu Picchu, Peru

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While we have no hard data to back it up, we’d definitely put money on the fact that Machu Picchu is on most travelers’ bucket lists. 

This modern wonder of the world is one of the highlights of visiting Peru with over 1 million tourists coming every year, and for good reason. It’s staggeringly beautiful, steeped in history, and is one of the best-preserved archeological sites from the Incan empire. 

However, we know first-hand that planning a trip to Machu Picchu can be confusing. Between all of the different hikes, tours, tickets, and attractions, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. 

For that reason, we’ve put together this list of 16 things you should know before visiting Machu Picchu. Hiking one of the trails here might not be easy, but planning your trip should be after reading this blog! 

Don’t have time to read the full article? Machu Picchu is definitely worth the trip, but you have to purchase tickets well before you visit. We recommend booking this 2-day tour by train if you are limited on time, but if you have more wiggle room, this 5-day hiking tour was amazing and easily one of the best parts of our travels.

1. About Machu Picchu 

Machu Picchu Inca Site, Peru
Temple of the 3 windows at Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu is an ancient Incan citadel, located in present-day Peru, that was built in the 15th Century. It’s situated on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley of the Incas and is surrounded by lush vegetation and stunning views. 

Machu Picchu is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World so no surprise it’s also one of the best places to visit in Peru! It’s located in the Urubamba region of the Cusco Province. It was built on a saddle between two peaks: Machu Picchu Mountain and Huayna Picchu. 

Sometimes, people get confused between the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain, since they have the same name. The difference is that hiking up Machu Picchu Mountain is an incredible add-on to your trip to escape the crowds with a challenging hike to a viewpoint overlooking the ruins (more on this later!).

The ancient city of Machu Picchu has an elevation of 2,430 meters (7,970 feet) and consists of more than 150 buildings. These include temples, palaces, baths, storage rooms, and residential houses. It’s the most well-known and best-preserved example of Incan architecture in Peru. It’s no surprise it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Given its fascinating history and the fact that it’s located in a lush, green region of Peru, it’s really no surprise that visitors flock to Machu Picchu in droves. 

And in addition to tourists, you’ll also find llamas and alpacas roaming around the site, as they have done for centuries. 

The Circuits 

Another important thing to note about Machu Picchu is that there are 4 circuits or trails, that you can take. Depending on the ticket or tour you select, the circuit may be chosen for you.

With an official entrance ticket, you’ll be able to pick which circuit you can do, but you can only pick one, so choose wisely!

Circuit 1 takes you to the upper and lower parts of Machu Picchu and lasts around 2.5 hours. You’ll also get to take the famous Machu Picchu postcard photo. 

Circuit 2 again takes you to the upper and lower parts of the site, as well as to the Sun Gate and Inca Bridge. It takes 3-4 hours in total to complete (this would be my personal choice!)

Circuit 3 is shorter at 1.5 hours. It takes you to all the main attractions including the Temple of the Sun, the House of the Inca, and the Hall of Mirrors. You’ll also get to see the agricultural area. 

Circuit 4 is quite similar to Circuit 3, but instead of visiting the agricultural area, you’ll get to see the Sacred Rock. 

Related Read: Before booking your plane ticket, read our complete Peru travel guide!

2. History of Machu Picchu 

Machu Picchi as seen from across the valley
Can you spot the light green grass of Machu Picchu?

Buckle up, because we’re about to take a quick journey through time! 

The first thing you should know about Machu Picchu is that it was built by the Incas, who were the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. They had a huge empire that stretched from Ecuador to Chile, and Machu Picchu was one of the many strongholds that they built. 

Experts aren’t sure exactly when Machu Picchu was built, but most estimate that it was sometime between the 1420s and 1450s. 

Archaeologists generally believe that it was built as a royal estate for Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, one of the great Inca rulers. Pachacuti was the ninth Incan emperor, and he’s credited with expanding the Inca Empire to its greatest size during his reign, which lasted from 1438 to 1471.  

Pachacuti conquered countless territories and clearly was not a man to be messed with. It’s believed that he built Machu Picchu as a retreat to reward himself after a military victory. 

Around 750 staff lived at Machu Picchu permanently, to ensure that it was a pleasant and comfortable place for Pachacutec to stay when he visited. They were responsible for tasks like farming, cooking, and general maintenance. Interestingly, skeletal remains found at Machu Picchu indicate that most people who lived there were immigrants from all over the Inca Empire, rather than locals. 

Machu Picchu was abandoned around the time of the Spanish Conquest, in the 1530s. No one can be sure exactly why this happened, but there are several theories, including disease, civil war, or that it simply faded from importance and collective memory. 

In any case, it remained largely unknown to the world until 1911, when it was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham, an American historian. 

After the lost city was rediscovered, it became a popular tourist destination, and in 1983, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

3. Where is Machu Picchu? 

Beautiful stone work at Machu Picchu, Peru
The stones fit together perfectly!
Bailey walks through a stone doorway at Machu Picchu on a guided tour

Machu Picchu is located in the Cusco Region of Peru, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the city of Cusco. Because it’s so close, visiting Machu Picchu from Cusco is one of the best things to do in Cusco!

The ruins are in between Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu mountains, which are part of the Andes mountain range. The lost city also overlooks the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the Urubamba River. 

4. How much is the Machu Picchu entrance fee? 

First off, the most important thing to note here is that all tickets to visit Machu Picchu MUST be purchased in advance. Unlike other tourist attractions, there are no tickets sold at the gate when you arrive.

There are also only a limited number of tickets sold for each day – which is why you want to buy as soon as you have your travel dates confirmed. Also, tickets don’t allow for re-entry, so once you leave the site, you can’t get back in with the same ticket.

You can purchase a Machu Picchu admission ticket here with a few different options, depending on what you want to do during your visit. The standard ticket is $79 USD for adults, $50 USD for youth, and free for kids under 8. You must pick a time slot to enter between 6 am and 2 pm. These tickets will also give you access to all of the circuits, but remember, you can only pick one to walk.

If you aren’t sure what time of day you want to come and want more flexibility, select the VIP Circuit 3 ticket. This ticket is $173 USD for adults and $141 USD for all teens and kids (no free tickets here). It gives you access to Circuit 3 only, but you can show up at any time on the day you’ve chosen – even if those timeslots are sold out elsewhere.

If you happen to be a resident of Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, or Bolivia, make sure you have government-issued ID and you can purchase cheaper tickets for $43 USD for adults and $34 USD for youth.

You can also purchase tickets via the main Machu Picchu site, but it is harder to navigate (especially if you don’t speak Spanish). Tickets will be slightly cheaper through the official site, but we’ve heard it can be glitchy with credit cards and there is no option to change your date or get a refund.

Another option if you’re staying in Peru for a while and want to buy tickets in person, is by going to the Ministerio de Cultura in Cusco or the Ministry of Culture in Aguas Calientes.

While all of these ticket options include access to various “circuits/trails” in the site, these don’t include access to the major hiking trails that many visitors want to do before arriving at the ancient city, such as the Inca Trail. These trails have additional costs and need to be booked well in advance (like 6 months or more!), but we’ll get more into that in a moment. 

Related Read: While in Peru be sure to also visit the city of Arequipa – there are lots of fun things to do and see in Arequipa!

5. What are the best hikes to Machu Picchu? 

The circuits we’ve mentioned already are the short hikes you do once inside the gates of Machu Picchu. But, one of the most iconic things to do in Peru is to actually hike to Machu Picchi itself – as the Incas did back in the day!

There are three main hiking trails that lead to Machu Picchu: the Inca Trail, the Salkantay Trek, and the Lares Trek. There’s also the Vilcabamba Trek, which we’ll dive a bit more into, but it’s really, REALLY difficult and thus not as popular.

Many of these trails require you to go with an organized tour. To make planning easier, check out our top picks of Machu Picchu hiking tours here!

The Inca Trail 

Scenic view along the Inca trail to Machu Picchu
The views on the Inca Trail are epic!

The Inca Trail is by far one of the most popular hikes in all of South America. It’s 43 kilometers (26.7 miles) long – so it’s slightly longer than a marathon. However, you spread it out over 4 days and see some AMAZING sights along the way. 

Highlights of the Inca Trail include the 16th Century town of Llactapata, where you can see some amazing Inca ruins. 

On day 2, you’ll reach Dead Woman’s Pass, the highest point on the trail at 4,200 meters (13,780 feet). The name might not sound that appealing, but it actually stems from the fact that you can see a mountain that looks like a woman lying down when you get to the top. 

We’re not gonna lie to you – the Inca Trail can be tough. It’s definitely achievable for anyone who is reasonably fit, but it will probably challenge you unless you’re a pro athlete. It’s a high-altitude trek with a maximum elevation of 13,828 feet (4,215 meters), which can be tough for some people to adjust to. 

You can only visit the Inca Trail on a tour, which is a good thing because, to be honest, it would be pretty difficult to do on your own. This 4-day trek is an excellent choice and you’ll learn a lot about the Inca people as you go. 

And if you’re a novice hiker and are worried about a 4-day trek, there’s also this 2-day option that takes you along a shortened route to Machu Picchu – it’s also a great option for those who have limited time.

The 4-day trek costs $880 USD and the 2-day option costs $500 USD. On both tours, you’ll be accompanied by porters who will carry all shared camping equipment which, trust us, is a blessing. 

As mentioned, the Inca Trail is hugely popular and needs to be booked at least 6 months in advance if possible. 

The Salkantay Trek 

Bailey takes a photo overlooking a valley on the Salkantay Trek, Peru
The Salkantay is a beautiful hike too!

The Salkantay Trek is a great alternative to the Inca Trail because it’s cheaper and you don’t need to book it as far in advance. We have a complete guide to hiking the Salkantay Trek that walks you through everything!

Legend has it that this was the route religious leaders took to Machu Picchu because they believed that the high elevation of the passes took them closer to the gods. 

This trail is more remote than the Inca Trail and takes you through fewer ruins, but you’ll see even more stunning scenery. It’s considered to be one of the best hikes in South America, so you’re not missing out if you opt for this hike, you’ll just have a different experience. 

However, we will say that it’s definitely a trail for hiking lovers and is probably too much for a newbie. 

This 5-day, 4-night trek will take you through the scenic Andean Highlands, past glacier lakes, and tropical forests. It’s 46 miles (74 kilometers) long, with a maximum elevation of 15,100 feet (4,600 meters), which means that you’ll experience a wide range of landscapes and ecosystems. 

Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to zipline, soak in hot springs, and see the Humantay Lagoon, which is an absolutely stunning blue-green lagoon at the base of a glacier. 

Again, you’ll need to visit as part of a tour. This is the tour that we did and I highly recommend it. We got to spend a night camping at Llactapata, the 16th Century Inca site. It’s an amazing experience because you get to watch the sunset over Machu Picchu from the ruins. 

The tour costs $695 USD and includes meals, a horse to carry up to 7 kg of your personal belongings, a coffee farm tour, a cooking demonstration, and a night in a 3-star hotel (which trust us, you’ll be very glad of when the time comes!).

The Lares Trek 

Llamas on the The Lares Trek ith views of the mountains
Just your typical view in Peru!

The Lares Trek is the least popular of the three main hikes, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. It’s a great option if you want to avoid the crowds on the other treks and get a more authentic experience of Andean culture. 

This trek is the best if you’re most interested in cultural experiences, like visiting local schools and farms, where you can learn all about how farmers take care of their llamas and alpacas. 

It’s also a really beautiful trail, offering sweeping views of mountains, crystal clear lakes, and quaint villages. 

Again, this trek is fairly challenging and you’ll need to be pretty fit. It’s 39 kilometers (24 miles) long and reaches a maximum altitude of 4,700 meters (15,420 feet), so it’s not exactly a walk in the park. 

This 4-day trek costs around $698 USD and includes a friendly and knowledgeable guide, as well as a ride on the Vistadome train, which has huge windows from floor to ceiling so that you can take in the amazing scenery as you travel. 

It also includes a night in a comfortable lodge in Aguas Calientes, where you’ll be able to treat your sore muscles to a soak in the thermal baths. 

Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu 

Last but not least, we have the Vilcabamba trek, which is undoubtedly the most difficult of the options. 

It’s around 60 kilometers (37.2 miles) long and takes you through some very challenging mountain passes. You need to be an experienced hiker in excellent shape to attempt this one. 

The rewards, however, are definitely worth it. You’ll get to hike through some of the most beautiful and remote scenery in the area. You’ll also have the chance to see some incredible ruins that very few people get to experience including the Vitcos-Rosaspata, the ruins of a noble residence and ceremonial site. 

Vilcabamba is not for the faint of heart, but if you love hiking, REALLY know what you’re doing, and are up for the challenge, then it’s an incredible adventure. 

Related Read: Whether you’re hiking around Machu Picchu or elsewhere in the country, check out all you need to know before trekking in Peru!

6. What are the best day tours to Machu Picchu from Cusco? 

The Peru Rail train travels through valley to Machu Picchu
This is one train journey not to miss!

Of course, you don’t have to go on a hike at all to get to Machu Picchu! 

There are plenty of tours that will take you straight to Machu Picchu from Cusco. This is perfect if you’re looking for a day trip from Cusco and are short on time, aren’t able to hike, or simply can’t stand the thought of lugging your backpack around for days on end. 

Machu Picchu day trip from Cusco 

This all-inclusive day tour is the most popular option! It will take you on a guided tour of Machu Picchu, with plenty of time to explore the ruins and take in the incredible views. 

You can choose between different train ride options, including a vista train that gives you 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains. 

The tour includes entrance fees, lunch, and transport to and from Cusco. Prices start from $349 USD per adult or $299 USD for children aged between 2-11. 

Machu Picchu by train 

Take this early morning train ride to Machu Picchu and enjoy a tour of the ruins with a professional guide. You’ll have plenty of time to explore the site and this option includes hotel pickup and drop-off, so you won’t need to worry about anything. 

It’s a full-day tour leaving around 7 am and returning to Cusco around 8 pm. All your transportation and entrance fee to Machu Picchu is taken care of for the $379 USD price.

2-Day Tour: Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu by Train 

What’s better than a 1-day tour of Machu Picchu? A 2-day tour, of course! 

Explore multiple ruins in the Sacred Valley, such as Ollantaytambo and Pisac, before spending the night in Aguas Calientes, where you can enjoy the thermal baths and get a good night’s sleep before exploring Machu Picchu the next day. 

You’ll head to Machu Picchu early in the morning to watch the sunrise over the ancient citadel. This is the kind of experience that will send chills down your spine, and for that reason, this tour comes highly recommended! It’s easily among the best tours of the Sacred Valley from Cusco. It’s only $479 USD which includes all your transportation, admission to Machu Picchu, hotel stay, and breakfast.

Tour Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu 

On this tour, you’ll travel to Aguas Calientes to spend a night in a 3-star hotel before rising early in the morning to watch the sunrise over Machu Picchu.

After exploring the site, you’ll then see the valleys and viewpoints of Huayna Picchu, which offers some truly amazing views. 

The number of people allowed to visit Huayna Picchu is very limited (around 400 per day), so you can guarantee your spot with this tour. This once-in-a-lifetime tour is $515 USD and includes transport, accommodations, and all your entrance fees.

Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain 

As we mentioned earlier, Machu Picchu archeological site and Machu Picchu Mountain are not the same things. On this tour from Cusco, you get the chance to explore them both! 

You’ll start by heading up Machu Picchu Mountain to view the ruins from above. After that, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the archeological site itself before heading back down to Aguas Calientes for an afternoon of enjoying the many eateries, shops, and the famous thermal baths.

It’s a long day (starting at 3 am!), but you’ll pack in some incredible sights on this well-organized tour. It’s $418 USD and should be booked as far in advance as possible since Machu Picchu Mountain tickets are limited.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

7. When is the best time to visit Machu Picchu? 

Morning fog over Machu Picchu, Peru
First thing in the morning, the site is the least busy but you can get morning fog!

In terms of the time of day, first thing in the morning is the least busy. The ruins open at 6 am and close at 5 pm. When you buy a ticket, you’ll have to choose a time slot. If you pick one of the earliest ones, you’ll beat all the late morning and afternoon crowds. You’ll also catch the sunrise, which can be spectacular!

Another option is arriving late in the afternoon, so around 2 pm. This still gives you a few hours to explore after the majority of the tourists have left.

The best time of year to visit Machu Picchu is during the dry season, which runs from April to October. During this time, there is very little rain and the skies are usually clear, which means you’ll have perfect conditions for exploring the ruins and taking in the incredible views. 

The absolute optimum months for visiting are generally considered to be April and May. The scenery is at its greenest after the end of the rainy season, but you’ll still get to enjoy the good weather. You’ll also avoid the peak season crowds of June, July, and August. 

As for the worst time to visit, that would have to be February, which is the wettest month. The Inca Trail actually closes during this time, although Machu Picchu itself stays open. 

8. What are the must-see attractions at Machu Picchu? 

Temple of the 3 Windows at Machu Picchu, Peru
Temple of the 3 Windows at Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu terrace
Machu Picchu terraces

The Watchman’s Hut 

The Watchman’s Hut is where you can take one of those amazing, postcard-worthy shots of Machu Picchu. It’s one of the best viewpoints around, and although you might get a bit out of breath as you work your way up there, it’s definitely worth it! 

The Inca Bridge 

The Inca Bridge was actually built as a secret entrance to the city, in case of an attack. Somehow, we think the fact that it was meant to be a secret makes it 10 times cooler! 

It’s a short, flat walk from the main site to the Inca Bridge. Head to the Watchman’s Hut viewpoint in the upper circuit, where you’ll find the trailhead. You’re not allowed to cross the Inca Bridge, but it’s still really cool to see. 

The Sun Gate 

The Sun Gate is one of the most important (and famous) buildings at Machu Picchu. This was where people entered and left the city, and it’s also an amazing spot to watch the sunrise. If you hike the Inca Trail, this is where you’ll enter Machu Picchu at the end of your trek. 

Huayna Picchu 

Huayna Picchu offers incredible views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding area. You’ll need to buy a climbing permit to visit on top of your Machu Picchu entry fee. It’s a pretty straightforward climb so there’s no need to worry about being able to do it, so long as you have a basic level of fitness. 

Some of the day tours we mentioned will also take you up Huayna Picchu. 

Condor Temple Machu Picchu, Peru
Condor Temple Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu Mountain 

Machu Picchu Mountain is the other peak that overlooks Machu Picchu, and it’s actually the taller of the two, and therefore more difficult to climb. Again, you’ll need to buy a ticket to access this mountain. 

The climb is medium to moderate in terms of difficulty, especially due to the altitude, but you’ll be rewarded with awesome views. 

Temple of the Sun 

Only priests and high-ranking Inca officials were allowed to enter the Temple of the Sun, which is one of the most important buildings at Machu Picchu. It’s thought to have been used for sacrifices and other religious ceremonies. 

The Temple of the Sun is located in the uppermost part of Machu Picchu, in the more urban part of the citadel. You definitely shouldn’t skip this building because it offers a fascinating insight into Incan life and religion. 

Royal Tomb 

The Royal Tomb is right below the Temple of the Sun. Hyram Bingham who, as you may remember, rediscovered Machu Picchu in the early 1900s, dubbed it a tomb due to its shape and structure. 

It’s thought that the tomb was used to house mummies. The structure suggests that it wasn’t a dark, enclosed tomb but rather a light and airy space where the mummies could be on display. 

The Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu, Peru
The Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu, Peru
The Inca Bridge at Machu Picchu, Peru
The Inca Bridge at Machu Picchu, Peru

Sacred Square 

The Sacred Square is thought to have been the primary place of worship in Machu Picchu. It’s in the center of 3 of the most important buildings in the city: the Temple of the Sun, the Royal Tomb, and the Temple of Three Windows. 

Temple of the 3 Windows 

The number 3 was considered sacred by the Inca, and you’ll see this reflected in a lot of their architecture. 

The Incan worldview was actually summarized by “the Inca trilogy”, or the idea that there are three worlds: the world of the gods, the living, and the dead. The windows in the Temple of Three Windows are thought to represent these three realms. 

Condor Temple 

The Inca trilogy was often represented by three animals: the puma, the snake, and the condor. The puma represented the earth, the snake represented the underworld, and the condor represented the sky or the world of the gods.  

The Condor Temple is one of the most impressive buildings at Machu Picchu and was actually intended to reflect the shape of the bird’s wings. It’s thought that many sacrifices to the condor were made here. 

Cave of the Sun 

Also known as Intimachay, this spot is one of the more hidden features of Machu Picchu. The Cave of the Sun is shrouded in shade almost all year round, except for ten days on either side of the summer solstice (which takes place on December 21 in the southern hemisphere). If you’re visiting during this time, then don’t miss this rare opportunity to see the sun shining directly into the cave. 

9. How do you get tickets to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain? 

View of Machu Picchu from Machu Picchu Mountain, Peru
View of Machu Picchu from Machu Picchu Mountain, Peru

If you want to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, there are a couple of different options.

You’ll need to pick a tour or ticket that includes one of the climbs (see a few suggestions below!) or buy a ticket via the official Machu Picchu website that has the Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain add-on.

Whether you’re booking a tour or buying a ticket that includes one of these climbs, take note that they tend to sell out MONTHS in advance mostly because only a few hundred people are allowed on the hikes each day.

If you’re booking on the official Machu Picchu website, as we mentioned before, this is not the easiest site to navigate and a lot is in Spanish. There are four types of tickets you can choose from:

  1. Main ticket to see the Machu Picchu ruins only (called Llaqta de Machupicchu on the website)
  2. Machu Picchu site and climb up Huayna Picchu Mountain
  3. Machu Picchu site and climb up Machu Picchu Mountain
  4. Machu Picchu ruins and climb up Huchuy Picchu Mountain

Remember there are no cancellations, refunds, or date changes allowed if you book on the official site.

For more flexibility and peace of mind, I really suggest going on a tour that includes climbing one of the mountains or buying one of the combo tickets below. It takes so much of the guesswork out of booking and you’ll be able to change your dates (if a new date is available, mind you) or cancel if needed.

This combo ticket includes a climb up Huayna Picchu as well as access to the Machu Picchu site. Entrance tickets to both spots are included. You’ll start with the hike to get sweeping views of the ruins and the Sacred Valley before having a couple of hours to explore the ruins. This ticket is $103 USD and doesn’t include transportation to the site.

To access Machu Picchu Mountain and the ancient city, this admission ticket includes both! You’ll enjoy the incredible views of the mountains and ruins from above, before venturing back down to explore the site itself. The ticket is only $59 USD and doesn’t include transportation.

Related Read: For another amazing hike near Cusco, you can climb Rainbow Mountain in Peru!

10. Do you need to purchase tickets to visit Machu Picchu in advance? 

The Intihuatana stone in Machu Picchu
The Intihuatana stone in Machu Picchu

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

Machu Picchu is extremely popular, and tours and tickets frequently sell out, especially during the high season. Plus, there are no tickets available at the entrance to the site, so don’t show up there hoping to find any!

Remember, there are only so many time slots and spots available each day. If you’re looking for the coveted early morning time slots to avoid the crowds and see the sunrise, those can be the first to go!

You can grab your entrance ticket here or book a tour that includes your ticket, like the ones we’ve mentioned throughout this guide. Those can also book up quickly, especially if you’re traveling during the busy season.

11. How far in advance should you book Machu Picchu? 

Scenic shot of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains
The entire site is so impressive!

As soon as you know your travel dates, you should book your Machu Picchu tour or buy tickets. Like immediately after you book your plane tickets!

Entrance tickets for the archaeological site itself can be booked a few months in advance. I’d recommend trying to book at least 3 months in advance. If you’re trying to get one of the add-ons like Machu Picchu Mountain, try booking more like 3-6 months in advance if you can.

It’s also worth noting that tour companies often buy up tickets in advance so that they can offer last-minute tours. This means that when official tickets are sold out, you can still visit Machu Picchu by booking an organized tour. 

If you want to hike the Inca Trail, then you need to book at least 6 months in advance to be safe. This trail is extremely popular and sells out well in advance, so book it as soon as you can! 

12. Can you get altitude sickness at Machu Picchu? 

Bailey poses for a photo with Machu Picchu, Peru
We had no problems with the altitude!

Nope, it’s not likely that you’ll get altitude sickness at Machu Picchu itself. 

While you might experience altitude sickness on some of the hiking trails on the way to Machu Picchu (like the Salkantay or Inca Trail), Machu Picchu’s altitude is lower than Cusco, so you’re very unlikely to have any problems at the archaeological site. 

In fact, Machu Picchu sits at an altitude of only 2,430 meters (7,972 feet) above sea level. That’s almost 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) lower than Cusco, which sits at 3,399 meters (11,151 feet) above sea level. So, if you were fine in Cusco then you’ll be fine at Machu Pichu!

Even if you do some altitude sickness, the most you’re likely to experience is a mild headache, although this is extremely rare! To reduce your chances, take deep breaths, walk slowly around the site, drink lots of water, and avoid alcohol.

13. Do you need a guide to visit Machu Picchu? 

A man walks towards the Inca Bridge at Machu Picchu, Peru
Walking to the Inca Bridge is a must, but also a little scary!
The stone pathway along the edge of the cliff that leads to the Inca Bridge at Machu Picchu
The path is literally built on a cliff without the use of glue or cement.

No, you don’t need a guide to visit Machu Picchu, but we highly recommend that you do visit as part of a guided tour

Put it this way, without a guide, you’re just looking at some old stone buildings. But with the knowledge and expertise of your guide, you will be able to understand the significance and context behind what you’re seeing. It really would be a shame to travel all the way to Machu Picchu and fail to grasp its significance. 

On top of that, the Peruvian people are so passionate about their ancestors and Machu Picchu itself. It is the country’s top tourist attraction, after all. With a guide, you can truly see how important the site is, and all that passion they have really rubs off on you.

Of course, there will be people reading this on a very tight budget (don’t worry, we have been there) and will likely want to explore without a guide. That’s fine! Just be sure to visit all the sites mentioned in this blog and do some reading up on them beforehand!

14. What should you bring to Machu Picchu? 

Bailey sits on a ledge while overlooking the main area of Machu Picchu Inca ruins in Peru
We spent around an hour just enjoying the view!

The most important thing to bring is your passport, don’t forget this! You need your actual passport to get in – photocopies are not accepted.

What’s cool is that you can get a Machu Picchu stamp in your passport here!

Other than that, we recommend bringing water, sunscreen, a hat, and comfortable walking shoes. Machu Picchu is a large site, and you’ll be doing a lot of walking around in the heat. Wear loose, thin clothes to protect you from bug bites and the sun while staying cool. Bug repellent is also a good idea. 

You might also want to bring some extra cash in case you want to rent one of the lockers or visit the restaurant. 

Don’t bring any snacks with you as you won’t be allowed to take these in. 

15. Where to stay in Aguas Calientes, Peru

The closest place to stay to Machu Picchu is in Aguas Calientes, Peru. The small town is at the foot of the mountain only 9 kilometers (5.5 miles) from the site. To get here, you can take a train or bus to Aguas Calientes from Cusco, which should take 3-4 hours.

I highly recommend staying in Aguas Calientes if you’re hoping to grab one of the early morning spots to see Machu Picchu. You’ll be all set to see the sunrise and explore the ruins before the crowds arrive.

While this is a small town, there’s a surprising number of accommodations to choose from! With that said, here are our top recommendations!

Supertramp Hostel Machupicchu – $

If you’re backpacking on a budget and looking for an affordable (but highly rated) hostel, Supertramp Hostel Machupicchu is the way to go. It has colorful and fun decor, comfy beds, nice common areas, and a free breakfast with great pancakes! There’s a mix of dorm rooms with bunks or private rooms if you want your own space. Book your stay online through HostelWorld.com or Booking.com.

Vilas Insight Hotel Machupicchu – $

The Vilas Insight Hotel Machupicchu is a simple hotel but has everything you need after spending your day hiking. The beds are comfy, the rooms are quiet, and there’s tea and coffee available 24/7. The best feature of this hotel is the family who runs it through – they are so kind and get up early to make you breakfast at 5 am before you head off to Machu Picchu. Check availability now to reserve your room.

Jaya Suite Machupicchu – $$

Jaya Suite Machupicchu is a charming hotel with all you’ll need for a quick stay while visiting Machu Picchu. They offer cozy but spacious rooms and an early buffet or à la carte breakfast from their scenic dining room. Soaking in the spa tub (in many of the rooms) will feel amazing after a day of hiking!

The friendly staff members are available 24 hours and can help you book tours and activities. Find a room online through Booking.com.

Hatun Inti Boutique – $$$

For a touch of luxury near Machu Picchu, Hatun Inti Boutique has large rooms with satellite TV, seating areas, private spa baths, and balconies! The hotel is located right in front of the Urubamba River, so you have stunning river views. It’s only a quick walk from the train station and a staff member even meets you at the station and walks you over.

The buffet breakfast is delicious and the hotel has no issue storing bags while you spend the day at Machu Picchu. Check availability to book now!

16. Is visiting Machu Picchu worth it? 

Machu Picchu, Peru
Yes!

Yes, absolutely. It really is one of the coolest places we have ever visited – and that’s saying something! 

Machu Picchu is super special and absolutely fascinating. It definitely lives up to the hype!

Visiting is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we would recommend it to anyone and everyone. 

Thanks for reading!

Bailey on the Salkantay Trek with views of Machu Picchu behind her
Thanks for reading!

Visiting Machu Picchu is definitely one of those bucket list things and if you’re reading this, you’re in for an amazing trip! While one of the coolest places we’ve been to, it can be overwhelming to visit the site since there are so many different hikes and tours. Hopefully, our guide helped you sort through all the options and you can find what works for you.

If you’re traveling around South America, make sure to check out our other blogs about Peru. We loved this country so much the first time we came, we overstayed our visitor visas and spent 3 months exploring! We have a ton of blogs to help you plan your trip to this part of the world.

How to Spend TWO DAYS in Cusco, Peru: An Ideal 2-day Itinerary

Best Colca Canyon tours in Peru

EXCITING Things to do in Huacachina, Peru