Where is Machu Picchu located?
Machu Picchu is about 50 miles (80km) northwest of Cusco, Peru. Whether you’re arriving to Peru from overseas or are coming in from within South America, your first stop en route to Machu Picchu should be Cusco.
This ancient city was once the capital of the Incan Empire and today is an eye-pleasing blend of old and new.
Original Incan stones now lay fused with colonial-era bricks in cathedrals and historical buildings throughout the city.
When to Go
Machu Picchu is open year-round. October through April is the official rainy season, but it can rain at any time. And while peak season is July and August, you should always expect crowds.
Sundays can be the most crowded, because that’s when people who live in the Cusco province are allowed into the site for free, in addition to the daily quota of 5,200 paying visitors.
Important: To access Machu Picchu, you MUST have an entrance ticket purchased in advance…they are NOT sold at the entrance to Machu Picchu. Tickets are usually included as part of any tour or trek to Machu Picchu.
Tickets are limited, so it is recommended to book a tour or trek at least a week in advance.
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is by far the most popular choice, and for good reason.
On this one you will walk along the original Inca road and visit plenty of ruins along the way.
This is a must for any Incan aficionado or history buff.
However, the government has recently implemented a new rule restricting the amount of tourists allowed on the trail every day, which means the Inca Trail gets booked out month in advance.
If you have your heart set on doing this hike to Machu Picchu, start looking at booking it up to six months in advance or you may miss out.
Another unintended outcome from the tourist restriction was a sharp price increase in tour costs as well.
Right now, the Inca Trail is one of the most expensive ways to get to Machu Picchu, but still one of the most popular.
Cost: $550 to $750 usd
Length: 2-day, 4-day, and 5-day options
Take a Train Departing Poroy Station
The easiest approach is by train from Cusco along the floor of the Urubamba Valley, then by bus up to the entrance of the ruins. Alternatively, from the station at Aguas Calientes you can opt to take a strenuous walk up to Machu Picchu – expect it to take 90 minutes to two hours.
One of the most fascinating things you’ll discover if you decide to go by foot is that at 7,972 feet, Machu Picchu elevation is actually lower than Cusco’s altitude, which is 11,152 feet. Whichever route you take – even if you choose the shorter Inca Trail – you’ll be going over 4,000 meters (13,123 feet). All routes are challenging so be sure to focus on training before you go. Stairclimbing and climbing a treadmill set on a challenging incline are two gym workouts that will prep your muscles for the steep hills you’ll encounter along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu as well as along other routes.
Hint: Even if you’re not trekking, it’s a great idea to get plenty of leg days in before your trip. The entire site is hilly, with thousands of stairs to climb as you explore. You’ll be thankful that you spent plenty of time working out once you arrive.
Inca Jungle Trek
From all of the possible ways to get to Machu Picchu in Peru, the most adventurous option is the Inca Jungle Trek, which includes a big variety of different adrenaline-filled activities. The most usual form of the Inca Jungle
Trek has a 4 day/3 night itinerary, but it is also possible to do so in this shorter version, which takes only
3 days/2 nights.
During these 4 days, travellers have the chance to test themselves in downhill mountain biking, river rafting, and even zip-lining. Hostels are the main form of accommodation used during the Inca Jungle Trek but like the Lares Trek, the last night before the visit to Machu Picchu you stay in a hotel in Aguas Calientes.
On day 1 the trek starts with a 3-hour drive to Abra Malaga Pass at 4,316 m altitude from where you will descend by bicycle to 1,196m in less than 60 km. The downhill is very steep at certain points, so you have to be careful.
In the afternoon there is optional rafting in Santa Maria (grade 3 and 4). On day 2 it is time for hiking in the jungle from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa.
The trek takes around 7 hours and you will have the chance to enjoy the beauties of the jungle in the Cusco region.
On day 3, those who are not tired of adventure can try the tallest zip-lining in South America, and the day is finished with a 3-hour trek from “Hidroelectrica” to Aguas Calientes. Day 4 is fully dedicated to visiting Machu Picchu.
Cost: $250 – $550 with the cheapest companies + optional activities
Duration: 3 days/2 nights or 4 days/3 nights
Visit Machu Picchu on a Budget Tour (Without a Train)
A new alternative route to get to Machu Picchu is an interesting one,
that allows you to skip the expensive train route. This Machu Picchu by car
tour will take you on a new paved road from Cusco to Santa Maria then on an unpaved road until Hidroeléctrica.
This is a car journey of 6 hours in total. From there, you will walk around 2 or 3 hours to get to Aguas Calientes.
Visit Machu Picchu on a Multi-Day Tour
If you want to take your time and not rush, I recommend booking a 2-day tour from Cusco. That way, you’ll get to stay a night at Aguas Calientes and get to Machu Picchu early in the morning.
Adventure seekers can also opt for multi-day active tours that will bring you biking and rafting in Santa Maria and trekking in Santa Teresa.
This tour includes entrance to Machu Picchu and the nearby Huayna Picchu mountain and Rainbow Mountain.
Some people do this journey on their own, but I’d recommend that only for those with lots of time.
It’s difficult to catch a colectivo on the unpaved road and you might be left stranded. This tour is much cheaper than the usual tours that go by train.
Prices start from US$150 for 2-day Machu Picchu by car.
Time limits have been set such that visitors are not allowed to stay in Machu Picchu for more than 4 hours at a time. Also, it’s not allowed to visit Machu Picchu without an official guide. For independent travelers, that means you can still make your own way here but you’ll need to hire a guide at the gates. There are also set routes that you need to follow.
I hope I aroused your interest and I wish you good luck.