The trip to Machu Picchu must be arranged in advance, whether you are visiting on a tour or on your own. If you are traveling with a tour, you must choose a formal tourism agency. If you are coming on your own, you must choose whether to travel in one, two or more days. If you make your trip to Machu Picchu at the last minute, without planning it, there is the possibility of taking some unpleasant surprises or, unfortunately, staying without entering Machupicchu.
Travel with a tour or on your own?
The first step in planning the trip to Machu Picchu is to decide if you will visit with a tour or on your own.
Keep in mind that traveling with a tour is safer and more comfortable since the tourist does not need to buy any tickets. However, going on a tour can be more expensive compared to traveling on your own.
Also, keep in mind that traveling on your own requires maximum organization: buying entrance to Machu Picchu, train tickets, bus tickets, tourist guide service, etc. Still, traveling on your own can be cheaper compared to traveling with a tour.
Most people who travel as a family decide to get a tour to visit Machu Picchu. People who travel in a group of friends, as a couple or alone; they prefer to travel on their own.
After deciding if you will travel with a tour or on your own, you must choose the date to visit Machu Picchu and, accordingly, schedule flights, hotel reservations, visit additional tourist attractions in Cusco, etc.
What is the best tour for me?
If you decide to travel to Machu Picchu with a tour, you must choose a tourism agency that offers you safety, comfort and quality. As most tourists do not know which tourism agency to choose, an excellent option is to check travel forums online (such as TripAdvisor) and read comments from other tourists about the tourism agency they are planning to choose.
There are two tours to Machu Picchu that are highly requested by visitors: the 1-day tour to Machu Picchu and the 2-day tour to Machu Picchu.
The 1-day Machu Picchu tour is preferred by visitors who do not have much time available. Includes: hotel pick-up, transportation to the train station, train ticket, bus ticket, entrance to Machu Picchu and tour guide service.
The 2-day Machu Picchu tour is preferred by tourists who want to visit the Inca city with patience. Services include: hotel pick-up, transportation to the train station, train ticket, dinner in Aguas Calientes, hotel in Aguas Calientes, breakfast at the hotel, bus to Machu Picchu, entrance to Machu Picchu and tour guide service.
Tours can be purchased both online and in person in the city of Cusco. It is best to buy services in advance.
How can I go on my own?
If you decided to go to Machu Picchu on your own, you must organize the purchase of these services in advance (online): a) entrance to Machu Picchu and b) train ticket. Once in Machu Picchu you can buy bus tickets and request the tour guide service.
The entrance to Machu Picchu must be purchased online with an anticipation of 2 or 3 weeks. If you want to buy the entrance to the Huayna Picchu mountain, you must make the purchase 3 or 4 months before. This ticket is in high demand so it can only be purchased in advance.
The train ticket can be purchased through the websites of Peru Rail or Inca Rail, the only two companies that currently offer trains to Machu Picchu. The train schedule you choose must be organized according to the time of your entrance to Machu Picchu. Foreign visitors can only purchase tourist train tickets. Peruvian citizens can buy the local train ticket (cheaper).
Bus tickets to Machu Picchu can be bought in the same place (town of Aguas Calientes). Tickets are highly available all year round so there is no danger of running out. The ticket allows you to make the trip by bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu (10 kilometers of route). Some visitors prefer to walk although this is exhausting at least on the outward (up) section. If you like, you can choose to return on foot (descent) totally free. The return walk takes approximately 1 hour 30 minutes. The bus ride, only 30 minutes.
At the door of Machu Picchu there are dozens of tour guides offering their services. These are optional within the Inca city.
Upon leaving Machu Picchu you can have lunch in the town of Aguas Calientes. There are dozens of restaurants of different levels and prices. In this town you take the train back to the city of Cusco. Train tickets for the return must also be purchased in advance.
This is how you should organize your day trip
If you decided to go to Machu Picchu on your own in a trip of just one day, you must take into account the schedules.
The entrance to Machu Picchu offers the following entry times: a) from 6 am, b) from 7 am, c) from 8 am, d) from 9 am, e) from 10 am, f) from 11 am, g) from noon, h) from 1 pm and i) from 2 pm.
For the 1-day trip to Machu Picchu, you must choose the schedule: from 9 in the morning, from 10 in the morning or from 11 in the morning. This way you will have time to return to Machu Picchu and take the train back to Cusco.
There are numerous train schedules to Machu Picchu. For the 1-day trip, you must choose one of the following times: 6.10 am or 7.05 am. So you can arrive early to Machu Picchu and have enough time to return to Cusco in the afternoon. The return train times to Cusco that you must choose for that same day are: 4.22 pm or 5.23 pm.
Once with the tickets to Machu Picchu and the train tickets purchased at the correct times; You must follow these steps on the day of the trip:
- Get up very early (around 3 am. and take the bus to Ollantaytambo on Pavitos Street at around 4 am.
- Arrive in Ollantaytambo before 6 am to board the train that will take you to Machu Picchu.
- In Aguas Calientes you can buy the bus ticket for the final stretch to Machu Picchu.
- At the door of Machu Picchu you can request a tour guide at the entrance door.
- After the tour of Machu Picchu of approximately 2 or 3 hours, you must return to Aguas Calientes by bus.
- In Aguas Calientes you can use your free time for lunch. Finally you must board the train that will take you back to the town of Ollantaytambo.
- In Ollantaytambo you must take one of the many buses that offer to take you back to the city of Cusco.
This is how you should organize your two-day trip
If you decided to go to Machu Picchu on your own on a two-day route, the organization of the trip is much more flexible.
To organize your trip, the first thing you should do is buy your tickets to Machu Picchu. The recommended times are: at 10.32 am, 11.52 am, 12.55 pm or 1.27 pm. This way you will have enough time to take public transport (on Pavitos street) to Ollantaytambo. In addition, you can arrive in Aguas Calientes to have lunch and find an available accommodation.
In the town of Aguas Calientes there are lodgings and hotels of various levels. You can find yours online or in town. The best option, of course, is to reserve one in advance online.
The 2-day trip to Machu Picchu allows you time to get to know some tourist attractions of Aguas Calientes such as its thermal baths.
The next day, very early, you can take the final bus that will take you to Machu Picchu. Bus tickets are widely available so you will have no problem getting your ticket.
Arriving early to Machu Picchu (choose the ticket from 6 am or 7 am); You will have more time to visit the Inca city with patience. At the entrance door you can hire a tour guide (optional).
After the visit to Machu Picchu, you must take the bus back to Aguas Calientes. There you will have time to have lunch, shop for handicrafts or simply rest in town. Then you must board the return train to Ollantaytambo (the time you must choose is at 4.22 pm or 5.23 pm.
Finally, in Ollantaytambo you will have to board a public transport that will take you to the city of Cusco.
How to plan other destinations in Cusco?
During your visit to Machu Picchu you will have the opportunity to know other tourist destinations in Cusco. Some of the most famous sites to visit are: the mountain of the 7 colors, the sacred valley of the Incas, the Humantay lagoon or the archaeological sites of the city of Cusco.
Most tours to these destinations can be purchased in the same city of Cusco or online through the tourism agency of your choice.
The only tour that must be purchased with great anticipation is the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, a 4-day hiking route to the Inca city. This tour must be purchased online 6 or 7 months before. Otherwise, you will not find availability.
Remember that you can also visit the main tourist attractions of Cusco on your own. To do this, you must buy the Cusco Tourist Ticket that includes entry to: Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Puca Pucara, Tambomachay, Museum of Contemporary Art, Regional Historical Museum, Museum of Popular Art, Qoricancha Site Museum, Qosqo Center of Native Art, Monument to the Inca Pachacuteq, Pikillaqta, Tipón, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero and Moray. The ticket has a cost of 130 Peruvian soles (about 37 dollars approximately).
In any case, Cusco and Machu Picchu are one of the best tourist destinations in Peru. Whether you come with a tour or on your own, enjoy your trip!