In this short article you will find everything you need to know to travel to Machu Picchu, so pay attention and follow these RESPONSible tips so that your trip will go smoothly.
Seasons. From April to October is the dry season with clear skies, while from November on clouds appear and strong rain showers start in late December until March, producing landslides on the road that can become problematic.
Time. The tour to Machu Picchu lasts a whole day. We suggest taking the earliest train to Aguas Calientes to seize the day and avoid crowds. An even better option is leaving in the afternoon and sleeping in Aguas Calientes, so that you take the climb up to Machu Picchu the following day in the early morning. Another alternative is sleeping in Ollantaytambo and leaving early the next day.
Tickets. Buy tickets in advance as they are highly demanded. Consider that there are different types of tickets that include Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu Mountain and another that only includes the citadel.
Trains. There are different types of trains to different tariffs to travel to Machu Picchu. They leave from the train station of Cusco, Poroy and Ollantaytambo. The companies are Peru Rail and Inca Rail. Another local train exists with special prices only for Peruvians.
Bus. You can take the 30-minute bus-ride up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes. The busses leave from 5:30am. However, you can also walk up.
Trekking. For those that want to arrive by foot, the routes to get to Machu Picchu are the Inca Trail, the Salkantay Trek and the Coffee Trail. You should always go with good guides and reserve your spot months in advance.
Car. Plan the way to the train station by car to not be late.
Clothing and accessories. Carry only a few things, only the necessities. A lightweight jacket, sunscreen, a hat, insect repellent, a camera, water bottle (…).
Guide. Hire a good guide, preferably by recommendation, to ensure a tour with valuable and accurate information on the citadel. In the same Machu Picchu it is also possible to get a guide, who usually charges between 30 and 60 dollars. All programs of RESPONS include a well-trained guide.
Lunch and drinks. It is recommended to buy food and drinks in the town of Aguas Calientes before you go up to Machu Picchu, because up there the prices are much higher. There is a restaurant; however it is very expensive, which is why we recommend taking our lunch box if you are going with us.
At RESPONS we recommend to take a break in Cusco for those who just arrived to acclimatize a little and avoid altitude sickness. To go to Machu Picchu (2400m) on your own, you have the advantage of managing your schedule and adjust the itinerary at any time, though you must deal with all the logistical issues: Coordinating the hotel shuttle to the train station, buying train tickets, the bus to Machu Picchu, the entrance ticket for Machu Picchu and the return.
Where to Stay
• Hands-down, the best place to stay in Aguas Calientes is the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, where I spent two nights. It’s a sprawling resort set on the edge of town, away from the crowds and abutting the forest. Actually, this Inkaterra hotel feels like it’s in the forest: narrow stone paths cut through thick greenery, leading you past colorful birds and up to white adobe casitas covered by thatched roofs. The spacious rooms feel very local and come with fireplaces to warm up the Andean highland evenings. Public spaces include cozy alcoves and a warm ambience that extends to the staff. The price includes a full breakfast buffet and excellent dinners, as well as a choice of several excursions with the resort’s naturalists.
• For something more affordable, check out El MaPi, also an Inkaterra property with a casual vibe in “downtown” Aguas Calientes.
• You could also spend the night at the Machu Picchu gates. The appeal is obvious: to be one of the first ones in and last ones out, with no long bus lines. But to do that, you have only one option: the small Belmond Sanctuary Lodge (Belmond is Orient-Express’s new hotel brand). And as you might imagine, it’s not cheap. Most room prices are in the four figures.
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