Machu Picchu. It is on most people’s list, and for good reason. It is one of the most amazing and transcendental places in the Americas. But many folks wonder how you get to the Peruvian Andes, and what do you do to make the trip easy, comfortable, and memorable?
It’s Not the Attitude, But the Altitude
Cusco, the gateway to Machu Picchu, is 11,152 feet, a height that can cause altitude sickness, especially for travelers coming from sea level. Machu Picchu is at 7,972 feet, so the best plan to mitigate altitude sickness is to arrive in Cusco in the morning and then take the first train immediately to Machu Picchu. However, if you are planning to do one of the incredible hikes into Machu Picchu we recommend you spend 2 to 3 days in Cusco before your adventure begins.
How Do I Get There?
There are many airlines that provide direct service from the United States to Lima, and from there you’ll take an hour flight to Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inkas. LAN Airlines has more direct flights and flies to major cities in the U.S., including Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Miami, with a direct link to Cusco.
Once in Cusco, the major options are either taking a train or hiking to Machu Picchu. There are several hiking options to accommodate your itinerary, but the most popular is The Inka Trail. This is a four-day hike over some high passes. It is a spectacular way to enter the Machu Picchu citadel, but requires a certain form of physical conditioning. For those looking for a faster, or more leisurely trip to Machu Picchu, it is easy to take a train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, which is approximately 70 miles. Once in Aguas Calientes, you are a 25-minute bus ride away from the Sacred City of the Inkas.
The Peruvian government now limits the number of visitors to 5,000 per day, divided into two daily shifts. The first opening is from 6:00 a.m.to 12:00 p.m. and the second is from 12:00 p.m.to 5:00 p.m., and each shift allows for 2,500 people to enter. It is highly recommended that you get your ticket in advance to avoid being turned away at the gate due to visitor limitations. You can make your own arrangements or book through Inka Power Peru. After all, we are experts in organizing tickets, transportation, accommodations, and tours around Peru!
When Should I Go?
Machu Picchu is open throughout the year, allowing you to visit anytime. October to April is the rainy season, and therefore has fewer visitors. The inconvenience of the rain is compensated by the lack of tourists; lines are shorter, but Machu Picchu is always alive with visitors, rain or shine.
As mentioned above, there are two times of day to visit Machu Picchu. To avoid crowds and appreciate one of the most spectacular sunrises in the world, opt for the morning shift (6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.). We recommend taking the first bus to Aguas Calientes, which departs at 5:30 a.m., meaning you must wake up at 4:00 a.m., small price to pay for the spectacular views.
For those who have more time, we recommend visiting Machu Picchu in the afternoon (12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.) since most travelers visit Machu Picchu in the morning and fewer visit in the afternoon. We guarantee that you will be the last person in Machu Picchu and enjoy a beautiful sunset in this mysterious city.
Things to Remember
There are no toilets, restaurants, or drinking water once you enter Machu Picchu, but there are facilities just before the entrance. Your ticket will allow you to enter the site two times during the day, meaning you can exit just once to use the restrooms or grab a bite to eat, so be sure to plan accordingly. You’ll want to remember sunscreen and a hat, as well as water. The climate in the Andes can change in an instant, so you should also bring a waterproof jacket. Durable water-resistant shoes are essential as well. If you're ready for an extra hike while in Machu Picchu, buy tickets for Wayna Picchu mountain, the famous peak within the ruins that appears in most of the photos. Only 400 people can do the extra hike to Wayna Picchu daily, so we recommend booking your tickets in advance.
What Makes Machu Picchu So Special?
Machu Picchu is a place of harmony of the elements; the one made by man and the natural one. It is an impressive integration of architecture, configuration, function, space, and form. The Inka knew something that we seek: when order is combined with complexity, when elegance appears effortlessly and when there is a coherent but not expressed relationship between the parts, then there is a lasting beauty.
Come with us to see and feel this indescribable place for yourself! What are you waiting for?