The top things to know before you visit Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu inspires awe and elation at first sight. Forgotten after the fall of the Inca Empire, and then re-discovered 400 years later, Machu Picchu is without a doubt Peru’s top attraction. Browse our guide below for essential facts, travel tips, and top attractions on a tour to Machu Picchu.
1.- You must buy your tickets in advance
Don’t even consider trying to purchase tickets the day of at the gate. Tours typically recommend you plan your trip at least six months in advance and in some cases, the Inca Trail hike that culminates at Machu Picchu fills up almost a year out, especially during high season. If you’re lucky, it may be possible to get your ticket weeks or even days ahead of time during low season, but in order to avoid disappointment and to make sure you enter the site on your desired day, it’s best to plan as far ahead as possible. If you plan to do any of the treks to places with limited entrances, such as nearby Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, booking early is essential.
2.- You Can Pay Extra to Hike the Famous Mountains
If you’re hoping to hike the mountains surrounding the ruins, you can pay extra when purchasing your ticket — you’ll also be assigned a specific time range when you can begin your hike. Those hoping to hike Huayna Picchu should plan to buy their entrance tickets at least three months ahead of time and for Machu Picchu Mountain, three to four weeks before you go. If you want to do a small trek that’s included in the price of your ticket, consider the hikes to the Sun Gate or the Inca Bridge, which are both family friendly.
Huayna Picchu Mt offers a shorter hike of about one to two hours with very steep drop-offs and you may have to use your hands or crawl around the rocks in spots where there aren’t guardrails. It’s a popular trek, too, so that means it’s also more crowded. If you suffer from vertigo or are afraid of heights, do not do this hike.
Machu Picchu Mountain is a longer hike of about two to four hours up steep stone steps. There are a few drop-offs but it’s not quite as vertigo-inducing a trek as Huayna Picchu — this mountain is much higher and the hike is longer though. Note that both hikes are extremely steep and not appropriate for anyone with mobility issues. Though challenging, each offers incredible views of the ruins and surrounding mountains. Be extremely careful, too, as rescues here are very difficult due to the remote location of the ruins.
3.- The altitude isn’t actually that bad
Machu Picchu is 2,430 meters (7,972 feet) above sea level, which is much lower than the city of Cusco — 3,400 meters or 11,152 feet — so it’s likely you won’t suffer from altitude sickness if you’ve already spent time acclimatizing in Cusco first. But if you plan to hike Machu Picchu Mountain, know that the altitude at the top is more than 3,000 meters (~9,842 feet) and Huayna Picchu is about 2,700 meters (~8,858 feet) tall, so you may feel it, especially if you’re being active. If you’re concerned about altitude, take it slow and drink plenty of water. Sipping coca tea or taking an altitude sickness pill — available at local Peruvian pharmacies. You should consult your doctor at home about altitude before you come to Peru.
4.- In which Schedule should you visit Machu Picchu?
Thanks to the new regulations, you can now only enter Machu Picchu at this specific schedules, see the list of schedule options bellow.
I.- Entrance schedule ONLY for Machu Picchu.
With this ticket you can tour and explore ONLY Machu Picchu Inca city, also you can hike to the Sun Gate & Inca Bridge.
- Entrance to Machu Picchu from 6 am
- Entrance to Machu Picchu from 7 am
- Entrance to Machu Picchu from 8 am
- Entrance to Machu Picchu from 9 am
- Entrance to Machu Picchu from 10 am
- Entrance to Machu Picchu from 11 am
- Entrance to Machu Picchu from 12 pm
- Entrance to Machu Picchu from 1 pm
- Entrance to Machu Picchu from 2 pm
The visitor can stay in Machu Picchu up to 4 hours after admission.
For the first schedules, you need to book way in advance, at least 2 or 3 months.
You are NOT allowed exit and re-entry during your visit
II.- Schedules to enter Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu
With this ticket you can enter the Inca City of Machu Picchu and also ascend to the Huayna Picchu mountain .
- Group 1 : Entrance to Machu Picchu from 6 am Entrance to Huayna Picchu between 7 am – 8 am
- Group 2 : Entrance to Machu Picchu from 7 am Entrance to Huayna Picchu between 7 am – 8 am
- Group 3 : Entrance to Machu Picchu from 8 am Entrance to Huayna Picchu between 10:30 am – 11:30 am
The tourist can stay inside the citadel gates up to 6 hours after the moment of entrance.
You are allowed only one exit and re-entry during your visit.
III.- Schedules to enter Ticket Machu Picchu + Mountain
With this entrance you can enter the Inca City and also ascend to the Machu Picchu mountain .
- 1st. Group : Entrance to Machu Picchu from 6 am Entrance to the Mountain between 7 am – 8 am
- 2nd. Group : Entrance to Machu Picchu from 7 am Entrance to the Mountain between 7 am – 8 am
- 3rd. Group : Entrance to Machu Picchu from 8 am Entrance to the Mountain between 9 am – 10 am
The tourist can remain in the place until 7 hours after the moment of entrance.
You are allowed only one exit and re-entry during your visit.
5.- There are no bathrooms beyond the main entrance
You’ll find a small snack bar, restaurant and bathroom just outside the gate at Machu Picchu before you enter the site. You are NOT allowed exit and re-entry during your visit UNLESS you have a ticket for Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mt, which you can use to go to the bathroom or buy snacks, but make sure you have tickets for both.
6.- bring your passport with you and get it stamped
This one is simple: Don’t forget your passport since you’ll need to present it with your ticket to enter. To commemorate your visit, you can also get a special Machu Picchu stamp in your passport — look for a small desk just past the entrance or ask a staff member where to find it once you get in. Sometimes it is located just outside the exit.
7.- You shouldn’t enter without a guide, but…
I saw many people entering the site without guides — the staff didn’t check to see if I had one either. If you don’t hire a guide and have any issues entering, know that there are many licensed guides walking around offering their services near the entrance gate, so you can hire one on the spot.
8.- Wear pants, not shorts
The biting insects in Machu Picchu are merciless. Call them whatever you want — sandflies, mosquitoes or gnats — but whatever they are, their bites itch for weeks and sometimes regular repellent doesn’t deter them. Wearing pants and long sleeves, even if the weather is warm, is the best way to avoid these itchy red welts.
9.- Bring these five things, but not a large backpack
Be sure to bring sunblock and bug spray — or shampoo, if you want to give the local anti-mosquito method a try. It’s also a good idea to wear comfortable walking shoes, bring a raincoat and several layers of clothing. It can be very chilly in the morning, very hot at midday and very rainy at any time. Having a small or regular-size backpack is allowed, but one rule they were enforcing involved large backpacks. If your bag is larger than 40 cm x 35 cm x 20 cm (15.7 inches x 13.7 inches x 7.9 inches) it won’t be allowed in and you’ll have to pay to store it in the lockers before you can enter the site.
10.- You can still brign in water bottles
The staff will not look inside backpacks, so an easy way around the rule against bringing in plastic water bottles and snacks is to hide them there. During my visit, I noticed people openly carrying huge water bottles inside and no one batted an eye — it was obvious the staff was not enforcing this particular rule in any way. If you want to play by the rules, reusable water bottles are allowed, so take one of those instead. And no matter what, take any trash or wrappers with you.
11.- Take the bus from Aguas Calientes
You can walk up to Machu Picchu, but it will take one to two hours and it’s extremely steep. The bus ride to the top takes about 25 minutes and you can purchase your tickets in Aguas Calientes at the bus stand the night before. Tickets are $12 each way and you’ll need to show your passport to purchase them, no exceptions. It’s expensive because the bus company, like the trains, are a monopoly. They can charge whatever they want, and they do. However, it really is worth it because the trail is dusty and the stairs are very irregular and feel endless.
If you decide to take the bus, plan to line up about three hours before your allocated entrance time. It may seem crazy, but hundreds of people are lining up to take these beginning at 5:30am, so if you line up at 5:30am, you might not make it up to the ruins until 8:30am or 9:00am. To get there for sunrise around 6:00am, you used to have to arrive by 3:30am to wait in line. (This is changing with the new scheduled times for entering Machu Picchu. The lines are much shorter now that they used to be.) If you get carsick, consider taking motion-sickness pills, as the ride is short but somewhat harrowing, with several switchbacks and curves.
The wait to get back down can be almost as long as going up. When I left Machu Picchu at 3:45pm, I had to wait in line until about 5:15pm to take the bus back down. Again, this is different now with the limited entrance times. I’ve heard that now people only wait 10 to 20 minutes.
The TOP thing to KNOW before you visit Machu Picchu was updated on July 2019.