Survival guide for Machu Picchu

Hello Machu Picchu Fans. When I was about to book my trip to Machu Picchu last year, I had a lot of questions and tried to google all the information I needed. I thought I will help you and summarise the major ones and share some practical tips I found very helpful:

How to get there:

There are a few options available.

1. If you are keen on trekking and want the whole experience of slowly reaching Machu Picchu and accessing the magic place through the sungate, then do the 4-day Inca trail to Machu Picchu. You will be camping in the magnificant nature.

2. If you are not keen on camping but still want to hike, there is the option of a one-day machu picchu hike. Please refer to my previous post: one day Inca trail hike.

3. Another option is to catch the train from either Cusco or Ollantaytambo to Agua Calientes. The link for the Peru rail: Peru-rail. The train was very comfortable, they serve drinks and snacks. The roof of the train is made of glass, which let’s you enjoy the great scenery. The train ride from Ollantaytambo was approximately 3 hours.

Agua Calientes
the train station from Agua Calientes

It is recommended to stay for one night in Agua Calientes and get up early in the morning to watch the magnificant sunrise. Catch the bus to Machu Picchu. Agua Calientes is a nice little town to stay in with plenty of nice tasty restaurants.

4. Another option is to do the one day hike, stay overnight in Agua Calientes and come back the following morning to experience the sunrise. That way you have more time to visit the Inca site and you could explore Huayna Picchu but check before you go, you will need a specific ticket for that. The Machu Picchu site is huge and you will be able to spend all day just in here. You are also on holidays and may want to enjoy each single moment instead of rushing through the site.

Entrance tickets to Machu Picchu

Please note that you cannot purchase the tickets at Machu Picchu. It is advised to buy your Machu Picchu tickets in advance, depending on the season you might not be able to get the ticket for the time you will be there. Only 2,500 people are granted access to Machu Picchu per day.

Some housekeeping rules to help you planning your day

No food is allowed inside Machu Picchu, so make sure you had a decent breakfast before you go.

There are no toilets inside. Once you are inside the Machu Picchu site you have to go all the way back to the entrance.

Any garbage has to be taken with you until you leave the site. Garbage bins are outside at the entrance.

Make sure you have some water to hydrate you.

Backpacks larger than 20 litres are not allowed.

Weather in Machu Picchu

When you plan your trip you will need to consider that there are two seasons: the dry season is from April through October and the wet season from November through March. I was there at the beginning of November and was still fine.

Even when it is raining in the morning, don’t get frustrated. We had very strong rain in the morning but still got onto the bus and walked up to Machu Picchu. The rain stopped, some magic clouds came in and moved out of the scene. In the end we had beautiful sunshine. The weather can change quickly. Have a positive mind.

Physical difficulty

Machu Picchu has quite a few steps but a bus will take you from Agua Calientes to the ruins. Much of the area is flat and manageable for people who are not as fit. There are a few steps though if you want to see it all but they are not too difficult. You could also just sit at some of the magic spots and watch the scenery, that alone is already worth it. Below are some photos to give you an idea how steep it can be but as i said you don’t need to go everywhere if you cannot:

inca site terraces
the residential huts from the Machu Picchu Inca site
steps in Machu Picchu
stairs to heaven.
Machu Picchu Altitude

Machu Picchu is only 2,450m above sea level and therefore much lower than Cusco (approximately 3,000m) meaning you should not have any altitude problems. If you are planning to trek the Inca trail or visit Machu Picchu it is advisable to stay in Cusco for a couple of days to acclimatise.

Some people have some headache and are short on breath once they arrive in Cusco but after one day you will be fine. Don’t take any pills as the problems get worst. Do what the locals do: drink some Coco tea or chew on some coco leaves. The best advise is not to overthink it too much. You can get sick from just thinking of it. It is advised to have only a light dinner as the digestion slows down at higher altitude.

There is no need to rush to Machu Picchu, the Sacred valley is worth a visit too. Please refer to my previous posts about the Sacred valley: why you should take your time travelling through the sacred valley.

Machu Picchu site
amazing view from Machu Picchu Inca site

Have a great day and happy holiday planning. Feel free to post any questions you may have or any advise from your side.

In my following post I will write about Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. Stay tuned.


0 Replies to “Survival guide for Machu Picchu”

  1. Eek! I got slammed with altitude sickness(?) when I went up Jungfrau in Switzerland last year, but seems like the Machu Picchu isn’t quite so high 😀 How long were you traveling in Peru?

    1. Hi Kim, i was in Peru for 15 days. We started in Arequipa which is 2,325m above sea level, so we slowly could get used to it. I suffered from headaches though but then again I had a cold. So in the end i can’t tell if it was me being sick with a cold or if it was the altitude. I blame it the altitude:) We then had another 2 days in Cusco which is 3,000m above sea level. One day struggle and then I was fine. Some people have some diarrhea problems. It helps not to eat or eat very little the first night. I have never been to Jungfrau in Switzerland. I should try.

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