How it works: Visiting Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is one of the world's true bucket list destinations. Here's the skinny on how to make the most of your visit there.
There are a number of different ways to visit Machu Picchu, and an online search will turn up a plethora of options, from day trips from Cusco, to multi-day Inca Trail hikes to luxury trains and more. It can be overwhelming and difficult for first-time visitors to decide what makes the most sense for them. And while there's no one right answer or one size fits all way to visit Machu Picchu, there's one simple rule of thumb that we always go by for our travelers: Stay overnight and visit the ruins at least twice.
Overnight stays can be in Aguas Calientes, the town just below the ruins and site of the "Machu Picchu" train station stop, or at the Sanctuary Lodge, which is right outside the entrance to the ruins. There are a number of lovely hotels in Aguas Calientes, including Sumaq and Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel (see below) and from the town it's a 15 minute shuttle bus ride up to the ruin entrance (shuttles depart at frequent intervals throughout the day). Staying overnight allows visitors to make a first visit on their arrival day to Aguas Calientes, with your guide, to get a good overview of the ruins, learn more about the history, and visit some of the main points. Then after a relaxing night at the hotel, a morning return visit on the second day which really takes the Machu Picchu experience to the next level.
Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel
Right along the Urubamba River in Aguas Calientes, Sumaq is an upscale luxury hotel and one of the best options for stays while visiting iconic Machu Picchu. The shuttles up to the ruins are only steps away and depart regularly throughout the day. Sumaq offers superb gourmet cuisine, refined accommodations, and an ideal location from which to explore the most unique of all Incan sites.
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel
Just steps from the train station in Aguas Calientes, the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel is a sanctuary of luxury rooms and casitas in tranquil, jungle-like setting. The shuttle ride up to Machu Picchu is about 20 minutes and the shuttles depart regularly from right near the hotel. The hotel also has superb gourmet cuisine, a lovely spa, and excellent wildlife viewing right on the hotel grounds. A fantastic option for your nights at Machu Picchu.
Getting there early from town means you'll be able to see the ruins with far fewer people around, as the trains do not start arriving until later in the morning.
Getting there early from town means you'll be able to see the ruins with far fewer people around, as the trains do not start arriving until later in the morning. See the ruins with a different sun and weather (perhaps the famous mist), visit areas of the ruins you didn't on day one, and take the opportunity to do one of the excellent hikes within Machu Picchu: Huchuy Picchu, Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain. We always include the "add-on" ticket for one of these two hikes for our travelers and it's a great opportunity for a unique, active experience, and amazing views.
Generally, this afternoon you'll take a train back to Cusco and arrive in the evening. But it's also possible to stay another night in Aguas Calientes for those who wish and who have the time to spare in their itinerary, but spending at least that one night is really something that makes visiting Machu Picchu just that much more memorable and worthwhile. Check out any of the itineraries below to see it in action, and give us a holler for a customized Peru and Machu Picchu itinerary of your own!
Sample itineraries that include Machu Picchu
Lima, the Amazon and Machu Picchu
Colonial Lima, wildlife exploration and iconic Incan history
Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu
The iconic Peruvian Highlands
Lima, Machu Picchu, Iguazu Falls and Rio de Janeiro
A trip full of iconic wonders of the world
Peru and Colombia Highlights
The best of Peru and Colombia
Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands
The best of Peru combined with the iconic Galapagos