Machu Picchu is a world heritage site made famous through being discovered over a century ago. The site was hidden by thick jungle and only known by local farmers. It is visited by 2000 people each day who travel a few ways to see the Machu Picchu citadel. The first is to trek the Inca Trail, Lares trek or Salkantay trek. The second is to catch the train to the main town of Aguas Calientes on either Peru Rail or Inca Rail.
From Aguas Calientes, you have two options of reaching Machu Picchu. The first is to walk up 800 metres of steps. This option will take you 2 hours to complete. The gate at the bottom of the site opens at 6AM. The second and most popular way is to catch a bus. It costs $24USD for a return ticket or $12USD for a one-way ticket. It is best to buy the ticket the dat before from the ticket office in town. Remember to take your passport.
To arrive at Machu Picchu before the crowds take over, line up at 5AM. This way you will be on one of the first buses. We arrived at 5.40 AM and waited about 40 minutes before jumping on the bus. The bus takes 20 minutes as it winds up the mountain. On the return journey we waited about 20 minutes before enjoying the air conditioning on the way back down.
Tickets for Machu Picchu are $60 USD for entrance to the heritage site or $70USD for entrance to Machu Picchu and one hike near the citadel. There are morning sessions and afternoon sessions. The morning session is 6AM–12PM and 12PM to 5PM. I recommend it to book these ahead of time so you are not disappointed. More on booking Machu Picchu tickets here.
Inside the Citadel you will find two other hikes—Machu Picchu Mountain and Huana Picchu Mountain. I would recommend hiking Huana Pichu peak (not suitable for those with fears of heights) The hike takes about 45 minutes on the way up and about 30 minutes on the way down. It allows only 400 people each day to hike. Choose between leaving between 7AM -8AM and 10AM - 11AM. The views from the top are breath-taking. You look down to the river and back onto Machu Picchu Citadel.
Throughout the citadel, there are no toilets and no eating allowed. Outside the entrance at the top of the hill, you will find public toilets which will cost 2 soles to use.
A few extra things to note include:
- You can leave to go to the toilet and re-enter once
- The majority of paths in the citadel is one way
- You can walk around by yourselves without a guide. Read up on the area first.
- Guides are available at the top of the mountain and cost about $15 USD. These guides have a mixed review.
- Llamas graze at the top
Aguas Calientes itself is a cute little town which is constantly building to cater for the growing number of tourists each year. Food is more expensive here than the rest of the country. It costs between 25 and 50 soles with mains about 35 soles. Majority of prices do not include tax. This is unique to Aguas Calienes. One restaurant to check out is Alpakitay. It is on the river, has great service and a nice selection of delicious food. Happy hour in Aguas Calientes is any time and you can usually pick up 4 x 1 for the price of 30 soles.
In the town of Aguas Calientes most places accept credit cards and there is a cash machine at the train station and 2 others throughout the town. It is best to take cash in case these run out. Coffee can be a hit or miss. Expect to pay about 10 soles for a cup. Hot Springs are there but take your own towel. Walk down the road and you will stumble across a butterfly research centre on the river side. It will set you back 10 soles but you have an English speaking guide and can relax by the river.
Markets for souvenirs and handicrafts are near the train station with everyone guided through the grid system before reaching other parts of the town.
If you have any questions, please hit us up on our socials – Facebook and Instagram.