On the Road to Machu Picchu: Planning Your Visit

March 24, 2019

Posted in  South America, Travel Tips, Travelogues

Visiting Machu Picchu has always been on my bucket list, and I had the amazing privilege of going in December 2018.

Whilst planning however, I realized that one does not simply show up at Machu Picchu.

Image from iOS.jpg

There are many ways to reach this incredible wonder of the world, each with their own set of considerations.

In this post, I’ll briefly cover three which should be helpful if you’re any of the following:

  1. Short on time
  2. An adventurous culture-buff
  3. Planning less than 6 months in advance

Getting to Machu Picchu:

1. Short on time

You could technically do Machu Picchu in a day, but may be quite the whirlwind day trip depending on where you’re coming from.

From Cusco, it’s approximately 3 and a half hours one way by train.

If you have the option available to you, I recommend that you stay in the town at the foot of Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes, the night before to start queuing early to get the first shuttle buses up.

Aguas Calientes is in-your-face touristy, but you’ll find several nice restaurants to have some memorable meals and is still worth a wander.

2. An adventurous culture-buff

If you want to experience the very same trail that the Incas used to take, plus hiking mountains and camping in tents over several days sounds like an ideal holiday, then you’ll probably want to consider the ‘classic’ Inca trail.

I highly recommend training a month or two beforehand, as hiking at the high altitudes that Incas and alpacas used to go at can be quite challenging.

This goes without saying, but you’ll also want to invest in a pair of good, reliable hiking shoes.

Things to consider if you want to do the classic Inca Trail:

a) License to Hike –

To do the Inca Trail, you’re going to need a permit issued by the government.

Only a limited number are available per day, so it’s highly recommended that you start planning and booking 6 months in advance.

This provider gives a good idea of which dates still have permits available:

b) Season –

June to August is the high season, as they’re the driest and best conditions for hiking.

September to November and March to May are the shoulder seasons with some rains and less crowds.

December to February are the wettest months. The Inca Trail is closed during the month of February.

3. Planning less than 6 months in advance

If you’re thinking: “I’d love to walk the paths the ancients did but those permits are all sold out! Looking at the available dates is worse than a booking.com site!”

Fret not. There are “alternative” hikes you can go on which don’t require any permits. The other benefit is also a route that is much less-crowded, whilst still leading you through fantastic Andean landscapes.

For myself, I went on a ‘multi-sport’ alternative trek with Guiding Peru.

I do recommend the guide and company, however 4 days is pretty long if you’re not huge on hiking lol.

You can check out the exact itinerary here:

Tips for when you’re at Machu Picchu:

The crowds start really packing in from 10am so you’ll want to be there (and possibly done) with the visit before then.

I arrived early enough to catch the early sun breaking through the morning mists, which was absolutely breath-taking.

A leisurely stroll through Machu Picchu would take approximately 2 to 3 hours.

Note that it’s a one-way route without any toilets, so you’ll definitely want to make sure to use the public loo before you head in.

Some people hike up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes, but in my opinion taking the bus up and down is totally worth it as there isn’t much of a view along the way.

Along with your Machu Picchu ticket, you can also add on the option of hiking to the top of a summit that overlooks Machu Picchu, as well as the nearby Huayna Picchu.

In case you couldn’t already tell, I’m not a big fan of hiking, and so did neither. Hah! Honestly though, the view from the regular ticket was spectacular enough.


Planning your own visit to Machu Picchu soon? Or already been, and have your own tips? Let me know in the comments!

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