Machu Picchu Guide 2021
exclusive insider tips written by PERU HOP experts

IT'S OFFICIAL: PERU HOP VOTED THE BEST WAY TO GET TO AND FROM CUSCO (MACHU PICCHU) IN 2021

Peru has some great news!

Machu Picchu is OPEN again after a huge drop in covid-19 cases in Peru! To ask our team about any question regarding Machu Picchu contact us here.

Remember, when traveling around Peru, Peru Hop is the only company offering flexible date changes until 2024 at NO extra cost. No airline, bus company or tour company offers such flexibility, on top of our stringent covid-19 protocols and safety procedures.

Machu Picchu Guide 2021: What agencies DON’T tell you! The most detailed guide ever written with tours, trekking and train options explained in full!

Machu Picchu has been voted one of the new 7 Wonders of the World and is a must-visit for all travelers in South America! These majestic ruins were built by the Inca Empire and are located in the scenic Andes mountain range, surrounded by beautiful cloud forests and mountain scenery.

Machu Picchu is only accessible from the city of Cusco, which you can reach by bus or air travel.

Traveling by Bus to Cusco: Peru Hop have buses in all directions to and from Cusco allowing you to Discover the Real Peru along the way.

Traveling by Air to Cusco: Latam Airlines are the best option. Make the most of any stopover in Lima with a Day Trip from Lima to discover some hidden gems of Peru.

WHERE IS MACHU PICCHU

Cusco is the main access point for Machu Picchu. From Cusco, you need to reach Aguas Calientes. Aguas Calientes can be reached via train, trek, or else a combination of bus and walking. Once you get to Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu lies at the top of the mountain above the small town.

Getting from Cusco to Aguas Calientes

There are 3 options for you to choose from –

  • Trekking from Cusco to Aguas Calientes
  • Taking the Train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes
  • Taking the Bus from Cusco to Aguas Calientes(Not recommended)

Getting From Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

  • Walk up the steep hill (around 2 hours, semi-difficult)
  • Take a bus (quite expensive for a short journey)

Note: If you book a tour to Machu Picchu (via a trek or train), most companies will have a local guide assisting you with getting from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and then up to Machu Picchu.

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.

It is NOT recommended to buy your own ticket and make your own way to Machu Picchu, as it will end up probably costing more money and being a lot of hassle. You cannot enter Machu Picchu without hiring a local guide, and figuring out the transport can be a pain. For this reason we recommend a tour or trek.

Be careful with the company you choose for a tour or trek. There have been hundreds of tourists scammed in the past. Usually if a price seems too cheap to be true, it usually is.

We recommend the following formal companies who have years of experience and good feedback from our 250,000 customers:

Visit our guide to Machu Picchu tickets for more information about how to get your tickets.

Peru is open!

Peru Hop is the only company offering flexible date change until 2024 at NO extra cost.

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COMPARE TREKKING OPTIONS

Multi-Day Treks

  • Treks are ideal for those who want to experience what it was like to be an Inca
  • 3 to 4 days of walking required
  • All treks start in Cusco and end at Machu Picchu so there is no other planning needed
  • Trekking companies include transportation back to Cusco after your visit to Machu Picchu
  • Most treks are all-inclusive (transport, food, accommodation, etc) but make sure to check your itinerary
  • MAKE SURE to book with reputable companies. AVOID “too cheap to be true” prices.

The Classic Inca Trail

  • Most famous trek to Machu Picchu
  • Must book 6 months in advance due to number of permits
  • Considered to be a difficult trek
  • Sleeping in tents every night
  • Closed every year in February
  • Prices range from $600-$1500
  • 4 Days of trekking, stopping at famous Inca sites along the way

Check tour operators, compare prices and book your trek here!

The Inka Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu

  • Combination of trekking and adventure sports
  • Medium level difficulty (3 days is easier than 4 days)
  • Treks available all year round
  • Booking 2-3 weeks in advance is usually fine
  • Prices range from $250-$350
  • 4 day option includes trekking on a part of the official Inca Trail

Check out tour operators, compare prices and book the trek here!

The Salkantay Trek

  • 4-5 full days of trekking
  • Incredible scenery as the trek passes through the Cordillera Vilcabamba
  • Difficult trek- some say harder than the Inca Trail
  • One of the best treks in the world according to National Geographic
  • Booking 2-3 weeks in advance is usually fine
  • Prices range from $280 to $450

Check out tour operators, compare prices and book the trek here!

The Lares Trek

  • Visit native Andean communities
  • See stunning mountains, glacial lagoons, hot springs and cloud forest valleys
  • Prices range from $200 to $400
  • Departures every few days

Peru is open!

Peru Hop is the only company offering flexible date change until 2024 at NO extra cost.

Find My Perfect Trip

Day Hikes Inside Machu Picchu

Once inside the citadel, you have the option to climb either Huayna Picchu (the famous peak seen in pictures of the citadel) or Machu Picchu Mountain.

Huayna Picchu

  • The highest peaked mountain of Machu Picchu
  • There are Inca structures on the top
  • Reaches an altitude of 2,720m.
  • 50-minute hike to the top of the mountain.
  • Difficult hike- a good level of fitness is required

Machu Picchu Mountain (Montaña Machu Picchu)

  • Located at the southwest end of Machu Picchu.
  • A longer trek than Huayna Picchu- around 1 hour 30 to the summit
  • Less steep and less crowded than alternatives
  • Offers great views over Machu Picchu and surrounding area

IMPORTANT NOTE: All treks to Machu Picchu start in the historic center of Cusco. If you’re still deciding how to get to Cusco, Peru Hop is the recommended way to get there. Find all their passes here!

GETTING TO MACHU PICCHU BY TRAIN

2 Day Train

  • Arrive in Aguas Calientes on day one and spend the night there
  • Trek or take the bus up to Machu Picchu early in the morning
  • Prices range from $200-$350

1 Day Train

  • Leave Cusco at 3/4 am, catching the first train to Aguas Calientes
  • Take the bus from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu
  • Explore the citadel and return to Cusco a few hours later
  • Prices from $300

Check out tour operators, compare prices and book the train here!

Peru is open!

Peru Hop is the only company offering flexible date change until 2024 at NO extra cost.

Find My Perfect Trip

GETTING TO MACHU PICCHU BY BUS

2 Day Bus/Walk

  • Take the bus from Cusco to Hidroelectrica (the last stop) via Santa Maria
  • 3 hour trek alongside the train tracks to Aguas Calientes
  • Spend the night in Aguas Calientes and either trek or get the bus up to the citadel early the next morning
  • Walk back to Hidroelectrica and drive back to Cusco
  • Can be dangerous because of the quality of the roads and driving
  • Prices range from $150 to $200

MACHU PICCHU FACTS

  • In Quechua, the language of the Incas, Machu Picchu means old mountain. Huayna Picchu, on the other hand, means young mountain.
  • You can get your passport stamped for S/.1 at the entrance of Machu Picchu for an original souvenir.
  • The building technique that the Incas are so famous for is called ashlar. Stones are cut in such a way that they fit perfectly together without even having to put mortar between them.
  • Machu Picchu also served as an astronomical observatory. The sacred Intihuatana stone indicates the two equinoxes and twice per year, the sun sits directly over the stone creating no shadow.
  • Because of erosion, only 500 people are allowed on the Inca Trail each day and in February, the trail gets closed for maintenance.

WHAT TO BRING TO MACHU PICCHU?

  • Your passport! You cannot enter without it!
  • Your ticket to Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu / Huayna Picchu Mountain.
  • Some money for a passport stamp (s/1), bathroom (S/1) and for souvenirs you may want to buy as well as dinner or lunch at the restaurant (expensive).
  • A camera (and maybe a selfie-stick).
  • Good walking shoes.
  • Water.
  • A lunchbox and some snacks.
  • Sunscreen and/or small foldable umbrella depending on the weather.

WHAT NOT TO BRING TO MACHU PICCHU?

  • Tripods are not allowed at the historical site. You can leave yours in the lockers outside.
  • Professional cameras are not allowed. Permits for professional cameras are over $300 so avoid bringing a professional-looking camera in to save some money.
  • You cannot come to Machu Picchu with your travel backpack. Only smaller models are allowed so leave your backpack in Aguas Calientes if you’re stuck with it. You can pay a hotel a small amount of money to take care of it.
  • Walking sticks are not allowed unless the person needs them.
  • Only small foldable umbrellas are allowed so avoid bringing a big umbrella with spikes.

MACHU PICCHU SAFETY TIPS

  • If travelling to Machu Picchu on your own, you will probably go by minibus or taxi (at least part of the way). They often drive dangerously on narrow roads on steep cliffs with hairpin turns. Accidents happen all the time so try to avoid travelling like this or at least make sure not to drive after sun down or during rainy season.
  • Tour operators need two certificates, one from the city and one from the tourist board. Make sure they have one of each hanging in their office.
  • Like all touristic sites, keep an eye on your valuable items.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu is located 80 km from the City of Cusco, Peru in South America. The nearest town is Aguas Calientes which you can get to by train or by walking.

What is Machu Picchu?

It’s the most impressive archaeological Inca ruin in South America, named a World Cultural and Natural Heritage by UNESCO in 1983, and is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the World. Machu Picchu is a city of stone, built in the middle of the Cordillera de Vilcabamba, without the use or help of wheels or iron tools. Most of the citadel’s structures remain intact today, which is why many consider it the perfect example of the Incas’ brilliant engineering.

How to get to Machu Picchu?

You can get to Machu Picchu by bus, train or walking. Traveling from Lima to Cusco by bus is the best way to discover Peru and avoid altitude sickness.

Once in Cusco, you would have to make your way by train or bus to Aguas Calientes Town, where you finally can take a public bus to the Citadel.

You can also make your way on the Classic Inca Trail trek, the Inca Jungle Trek or other famous treks.

How high is Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu is 2,430 meters (7,970 ft) above sea level. Cusco, on the other hand, has an elevation of 3,400 meters. If you are coming from Lima we recommended making your way with Peru Hop buses to progressively acclimatize to the height.

How to get Machu Picchu Tickets?

You should buy your Machu Picchu Tickets at least 6 months before your trip. Tickets are sold on the official government website, can be paid with credit or debit cards and are NOT sold at the entrance gate.

What is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?

Consider visiting Machu Picchu from April through May and from September through October. The high-tourist season months are June, July and August when it doesn’t rain.

When was Machu Picchu discovered?

Machu Picchu wasn’t exactly ‘discovered’ because local people have always known about its existence. In 1911, the American explorer Hiram Bingham made public his findings and -wrongly- called it ‘The Lost City of the Incas’.

Nine years before Bingham had arrived, the Peruvian Agustin Lizárraga had found the ruins and left his signature on one of the walls of the Three Windows Temple in the Citadel. You can also discover Machu Picchu for yourself with Peru Hop passes.

Peru is open!

Peru Hop is the only company offering flexible date change until 2024 at NO extra cost.

Find My Perfect Trip