Traveller’s tips – the Machu Picchu

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If you are going to Peru, the Machu Picchu is a must to see. Every year, one million of tourists visit this archeological Inca site.

The Machu Picchu, a lost site surrounded by mountains

The Machu Picchu is a site lost in the mountains. Perched on a mountainside, at its bottom there is the Aguas Calientes village (also named the Machu Picchu village) which is not reachable by road with your own vehicle. We left the sidecars in the previous village, Ollantaytambo. To reach Aguas Calientes, many options are possible…

  • The easiest solution but also the most expensive is to take the luxury train going through the valley and stopping directly in Aguas Calientes. The time of the journey is around 1h30. But it will cost you around 100€ including the return from Ollantaytambo. It’s also possible to take the train from the main train station in Cusco.
  • Two companies are offering these trips: Peru-Rail and Inca-Rail. Both have similar prices. 
  • The alternative solution is to yo take a shared taxi (named “bus colectivo”) to the Hidroelectrica station (its the name of the closest parking to the Aguas Calientes village which is at the bottom of a hydroelectric plant). This will cost around 5€ per passenger. The “colectivo” arrives from Cusco around 9am and parks on the main square of the Ollantaytambo village. This trip is like a little adventure, 3 hours on the road in the mountains ending by thirty kilometres on a path alongside a ravine!
    Once arrived at the dam, there is a nice 10-kilometre hike between the railway of Peru-Rail and the river, all of this in a deep forest. When looking up, we can see the Machu Picchu for the first time.

Climbing up the Machu Picchu

To climb up to reach the entry of the Machu Picchu, there are two possibilities: 

  • By foot: this is a hike of one hour with around 1 700 steps to climb. 
  • By bus: with air conditioning and heating, it will take 20 minutes and  around 30€ including the return.

Buying tickets

To buy your tickets for the entry of the Machu Picchu site, it’s possible to book online before your trip.

If, like us, you can’t know the date of your visit, you can buy tickets at the office of the Tourism Ministry (open until 9pm) in the town centre, on the day before your visit. 

Three different tickets are offered to visit the Machu Picchu 

  • Simple ticket for the Machu Picchu (2 500 visitors per day)
  • Ticket for Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu (400 victors per dayr)
  • Ticket for Machu Picchu + Montaña Machu Picchu (800 visitors per day)

Usually, there are availabilities for the simple ticket to visit the Machu Picchu. The Montaña is not as famous and there is usually no need to book in advance. However for the Huayna Picchu, the tickets are sold out very quickly, specially during the high season (May to September) which means the tickets need to be booked one month in advance.

It’s not possible to buy a ticket to climb both summits: Huayna Picchu and La Montaña, it’s a hard choice to make if you wish to climb up one of them.  

Climbing up the Huayna Picchu

During a previous trip (in 2011), I have climbed the Huayna Picchu with the group going at 7am. 

The sunrise over the site is a magical moment, the crowd is not there yet. The empty site offers a breathtaking atmosphere. 

During the ascent, there are still a few people (well, much more than during the ascent of La Montaña).

The path to the Huayna Picchu is shorter (around two hours to go and come back) but harder: steeper, several stairs, narrow and winding paths (if you suffer from vertigo, it’s better to climb La Montaña). 

The Huayna Picchu offers an unusual view over the Machu Picchu. However, the most famous view that you can see on any postcards, is the one with the Huayna Picchu in the background, that you will not be able to see here. 

Climbing up La Motaña of the Machu Picchu

Climbing La Montaña, the mountain overlooking the Machu Picchu, is less famous than the Huayna Picchu and offers a beautiful panoramic view to its visitors.

The path of La Montaña is the longest (2h-3h to go and come back) but less challenging (for the ones who have the vertigo, there are a few impressive passages but which should be fine as the path is quite wide). Once we climbed the 2000 steps and the 500m of difference of height, the viewpoint offers a panoramic stunning view over the Machu Picchu site and the Urubamba valley, the river crossing the Sacred Valley of Incas. 

Our stay between Ollantaytambo and the Machu Picchu

  • Day 1:
    Arrival in the evening in Ollantaytambo
  • Day 2:
    6am – waking up

    7am – looking for a “collective” bus  d’un bus colectivo
    (we learn that the bus coming from Cusco will not be on the main square of the village before 9am so we opted for a mini-van leaving Ollantaytambo at 9am)

    9am – leaving by mini-van 

    1pm – arriving at the Hidroelectrica station 

    4pm – arriving in the Aguas Calientes village 

  • Day 3 :

    5am – waking up

    5:3l0am – breakfast at the French bakery

    6am – starting to go up to reach the Machu Picchu

    7:30am – arriving at the door of the archeological site

    9am – starting to climb the Montaña of the Machu Picchu

    11am – lunch break on the top of La Montaña of the Machu Picchu

    12:30pm – visiting the archeological site

    3pm – going down by foot towards Aguas Calientes

    9pm – leaving with the last train* with Inca Rail to go to Ollantaytambo

  • Day 4 :
    Leaving Ollantaytambo

(*) The colectivo buses leave the Hidroelectrica at around 3pm to reach Ollantaytambo at the end of the day. We haven’t opted for this option, to take our time on the  Machu Picchu site. Indeed, with the time for hiking and go to the Hidroelectrica station we would have needed to leave the site at 1pm at the latest.