Anyone can plan a trip to Machu Picchu, but it takes a real travel ninja to see the site in the wee hours of dawn, avoid the crowds, and hike to the top of Huayna Picchu. Commit these 6 insider tips to memory and you’ll get the Machu Picchu experience you’ve been dreaming of.
1. Go to the Site in the Morning
Machu Picchu is open from 6 am to 5 pm each day. We recommend you get there as close to 6 am as possible so you can witness the most spectacular sunrise of your life and avoid the masses. Most people who arrive by train that day, or hike the Inca Trail, arrive at the site mid-morning; that means from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, it’s more crowded than Times Square. The few hardy souls who woke up at 4 am and lined up at the Aguas Calientes bus depot in the pre-dawn hours get to enjoy Machu Picchu at its best time. The site feels almost empty in the dim morning light and you’ll get a prime spot for watching the sun crest over the adjacent mountain ridge, illuminating each tier of Inca ruins bit by bit. This does require sleeping in Aguas Calientes (aka Machu Picchu Pueblo) the night before.
2. Don’t Worry about Staying Right Outside the Ruins
There’s only one hotel right outside the ruins and it is not cheap: the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge. The vast majority of people overnight in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes, which is 20 minutes away by bus. This transfer is very well-run and conveniently scheduled so you have almost no waiting time at all. And with so many buses making the trip each way daily, from pre-dawn to closing, there’s no real advantage of staying at the Sanctuary Lodge.
3. Climb Huayna Picchu Later in the Morning
There are two time slots for climbing Huayna Picchu: 7:30 am and 10 am. We recommend the latter so you can fully enjoy the rest of the site before the crowds come and actually witness the sunrise over the nearby mountains (see Tip #1 above). If you’re going to climb Huayna Picchu, you should also arrange this in advance to ensure you get a permit. The permit will run you about $15 a person and typically sell out 4 to 6 weeks in advance.
4. There’s No Need to Stay More Than 1 or 2 Days
While Machu Picchu looks massive, there’s only enough within the official site to keep you occupied for a day or two. Good thing there’s so much else to do in the immediate vicinity like exploring the Sacred Valley’s ruins, visiting traditional Andean villages, and of course, hiking the Inca Trail into Machu Picchu. When you book a Machu Picchu trip through Detour, we ensure you stay for the right amount of time at Machu Picchu and take the guesswork out of planning.
5. There is No Off-Season or Discounted Season
Machu Picchu is open all year long and hundreds of visitors pour through the entrance gate every single day. February is a wet, rainy, and admittedly miserable time to visit, but people still make the effort. The point is that you shouldn’t go looking for an off-season discount, a last-minute deal, or an unpopular of year: it can’t be found. To avoid the crowds, you should visit early in the morning; to save money, stay in a simpler hotel or do group tours. Detour can help you find the right balance of splurge, savings, and adventure with our variety of Peru tours.
6. See The Other Ruins in the Sacred Valley and Cusco
OK, Machu Picchu is definitely worth the hype and a special spot on everyone’s bucket list. But the other nearby, expansive, and intricate Inca Ruins are also fascinating; plus they provide context to the entire Inca empire and your experience at Machu Picchu. You’ll learn that Pisaq’s stonework is considered more impressive; the village of Ollantaytambo was built by the Incas is still in use today; and archeologists are still trying to decipher the meaning of the circular Moray ruins and stones at Saysayhuaman. And further away, Choquequirao is much much bigger than the Machu Picchu complex and they’re still uncovering it today!
Now that you’re know what to expect, you can plan an unforgettable, unique, and stress-free visit to Machu Picchu.
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