Machu Picchu sunrise

Machu Picchu is a traveler’s dream! An archeological wonder that still remains a mystery as to how it was created. 

You can plan a trip to Machu Picchu on a wide range of budgets, with as much or as little luxury as you would like. No matter which road you take to uncover the Lost City of the Incas your journey to Machu Picchu will be a trip of a lifetime! Here are my tips and tricks on how to plan your trip and navigate Machu Picchu. 

Machu Picchu travel guide


This is always one of the most important questions because overcast and foggy weather could make, or break, your entire experience of Machu Picchu. You’ll find the best time to visit Machu Picchu is during the dry season from May through August. However, Peru’s weather is notoriously unpredictable, and brief showers are known to appear regardless of what time of year it is.


  • If you can, avoid visiting Machu Picchu on Sundays because that’s when people who live in the Cusco province can go there for free.  
  • The least busy time of the day at Machu Picchu summit is between 6am-8am, and then 2pm-4pm. This is because most visitors haven’t arrived by train yet, or haven’t left for their trains to go back.  
  • Between October-April is the rainy season, but you’ll find less crowds.
  • Dry season is May-September. You’ll see more crowds especially in July and August
  • Try to visit at the beginning, or end of peak season (May or September) for better rates and weather.



A popular misunderstanding is that people think the only way to get to Machu Picchu is by camping with the four day hike on the Inca Trail, or by taking the train. I was one of those people who didn’t really know about the other options available!

Three popular Treks are: the Classic Inca Trail, the Inca Jungle Trek, and the Salkantay Trek. These all end with Machu Picchu on the final day, but it’s your choice how you choose to get there.


Inka Jungle Trail Lorenzo's Expeditions

After comparing the three options I decided on the three day Jungle Trek with Lorzenzo’s Expeditions, and I’m so happy I did! The Inca Jungle Trek Lorzenzo’s Expeditions offers was the perfect balance between trekking and a little adventure along the way (white water rafting and mountain biking to name a few!). 

Lorenzo’s Expeditions is Peruvian owned, and they also offer all three treks to Machu Picchu, not just the Inca Jungle Trek. The guides are excellent and very knowledgeable, and the entire trek couldn’t have been run smoother.


Inka Jungle trail Lorenzo's Expeditions
Mountain Biking with Lorenzo’s Expeditions

You’ll find hundreds of different tour operators to choose from offering hikes to Machu Picchu. It’s important to choose your tour company carefully. The last thing you want is a poor guide, or a disorganized tour company. Here are some important tips to consider:

  • Book ahead. If you want to hike the Classic Inca Trail you must book at  a minimum of six months in advance. Once you know your dates, make this your first priority!
  • Don’t be Cheap. When it comes to safety and comfort, the cheaper option isn’t always the best way to go. While it may be a pricer a tour that includes additional meals, equipment and activities, the most expensive one may save you less hassle in the long run. It’s best to book directly through a local tour operator instead of a foreign travel agency, since they may charge you double the price.
  • Research Companies. I was referred to Lorenzo’s Expeditions by a coworker, and I was so happy with our decision to book with Lorenzo’s. From start to finish, the entire experience was excellent! They provide great communication before your trip, and during your trek the guides are great at making you feel comfortable. Lorzenzo’s offers Inca Jungle Treks in addition to the Classic Inca Jungle and Salkantay Trek.
  • Support Local Business. Lorenzo’s Expeditions is the largest tour company in Cusco that is owned by a Peruvian. Most of the other tour companies are owned by an American, or Brit. Despite the number of tourists visiting Machu Picchu, Peru still has the third poorest economy in South America. I strongly encourage you to choose to book with Peruvian owned and operated companies to support the country you’re visiting.


During a 3-hour train ride you’ll see scenery changes from high-Andes landscape to cloud rainforests. From 18,000 ft. glacier-covered peaks, to jagged, jungle covered mountains, this will be one of the most memorable and picturesque trips of your life.

You can visit Machu Picchu as a day trip by purchasing round-trip train tickets from Cusco at the Poroy Station, or if you’re trekking up, you’ll only need to purchase your return ticket for your trip back to Cusco.

The easiest way to get to/from Machu Picchu is to take the train to Aguas Calientes from the Cusco ( the nearest station in Cusco is the Poroy Station). It’s a beautiful 3.5-hour trip each way along tracks that run right along the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley.   


The easiest way to purchase is only through PeruRail’s website once you’ve narrowed down your tour. You’ll choose from Inca Rail, or PeruRail both are similar and use the same track. I recommend Peru Rail because they have more options as to the type of train to take, and do run sales at times.  I was able to find a sale on Peru Rail’s website 8 weeks before my desired travel date.

You can purchase tickets at any of the Peru Rail, or Inca Rail ticket offices in Cusco, but if you’re going during peak season, I highly encourage you to purchase train tickets in advance online as trains often sell out.  

Popover Tip: In order to sit together, you’ll need to buy the train tickets in one transaction.


PeruRail Tips and tricks
Vistadome PeruRail

PeruRail is a little more luxurious, when compared to Inca Rail and has three options of trains for you to choose from! The Expedition, which is the cheapest option, Vistadome has huge windows all around you, and the most expensive one Hiram Bingham.

Looking for a luxurious way to explore the Lost City? The Belmond Hiram Bingham will set you back around $578 for a one way ticket, and is certainly the most spacious and lavish set-up with gourmet meals, large windows, and live onboard entertainment. It also includes the Machu Picchu entry fee, afternoon tea at the Sanctuary Lodge outside Machu Picchu, and a 2.5 hour tour of the site.

I passed on the Belmond Hiram Bingham train this time around and booked the Vistadome, which I really enjoyed.  The seats were very comfortable, and you’re served drinks along with a light snack. The main difference between the Vistadome and the Expedition is that the seats are more comfortable in the Vistadome,  and the Vistadome also has larger windows. A highlight was the show they perform for the travelers onboard. I won’t spoil it because I want you to be surprised.


PeruRail tips and tricks
PeruRail Train
  • Whichever ticket you buy, be sure to arrive 30 minutes before departure and have your passport ready.
  • The train does not have in-seat power, or WiFi onboard. Come with a fully charged portable charger, and some entertainment to keep you busy.
  • The Cusco train station is located one town over in Poroy. Cusco can experience heavy traffic, so be prepared to budget around an hour to and from the station.  
  • A taxi ride from Poroy to the city center of Cusco will be around 30-40 Peruvian Soles. When your train arrives to Poroy you won’t have a problem finding a taxi driver. 


Machu Picchu photo pose

Machu Picchu Chullo hat

Machu Picchu Sunrise

Machu Picchu Sunrise

Machu Picchu Passport stamp

Machu Picchu Ruins

Machu Picchu travel guide


  1. Bus or Walk?  I highly recommend taking the bus to ensure you’ll have enough energy to explore the rest of Machu Picchu. The bus is only 20 minutes where the hike up 1,500 stairs will take around two hours of your precious time.  Save you energy for exploring Machu Picchu. You’ll get plenty of walking in-trust me!
  2. Purchasing Bus Tickets:  The bus tickets are $12 each way to the top of Machu Picchu summit, and another $12 for the trip down. The first bus leaves at 5:30AM.   
  3. Rise and Shine: Be in line no later than 4am to catch one of the first busses up to the gates. If you need a coffee boost when you’re in line, the cafes will be open to sell coffee and breakfast to tired travelers. Catching the first bus will give you the best photo opportunities, and a chance to catch the sunrise. 
  4. No Bathroom Break: Machu Picchu does not have any bathrooms once you pass through the main gates. Bathrooms are right outside the gates and cost 1 Peruvian Nuevo Sol.    
  5. Need a Snack? Food and water are not sold inside, but you can purchase food outside the gates. Be aware that anything purchased at the top of mountain will run you three to four times the price.  For an easy cost saving tip – pickup snacks before you arrive to the top of the mountain in Aguas Calientes. I had brought fresh avocados from the market, and I couldn’t have asked for a better snack!   
  6. Camera Ready:  The Guardhouse is where you’ll find the postcard perfect photo you’ve always seen of Machu Picchu.
  7. Birds Eye View: The Sun Gate overlooks Machu Picchu – giving you a beautiful panoramic view. You don’t need to make a reservation for the Sun Gate in advance, but save your energy for the hike up to it.
  8. Daring Climb: If you want to hike up Huanya Picchu you can reserve your tickets through your trekking company, or through this website here.Try to reserve them at least four-six months ahead of time.  Be aware if you’re afraid of heights, Huanya Picchu may not be for you. The path winds up along the very edge of the mountain, sometimes with sheer drop-offs thousands of feet down.
  9. Jetsetter: Don’t leave Machu Picchu without stamping your passport! Look to your left after you exit the gates for a hut where you can stamp your passport with the official Machu Picchu stamp. It’s proof you walked throughout the Lost City…. and that’s something worth celebrating!


Aguas Calientes is the Main Town Nearby Machu Picchu

Your central connection point before you head up to Machu Picchu is the town of Aguas Calientes. Your first glimpse of Aguas Calientes will be of the cascading waterfall that flows into the river through the town that’s surrounded by a rainforest.

Aguas Calientes is small, but the downside is it comes at the price of being a tourist. Save your shopping for Cusco and splurge on some hearty meals here instead because you’ll notice the higher price in Aguas Calientes quickly!


Unless you’ve planned to hike the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you have two options to reach the gates of Machu Picchu – take the 20 minute bus ride up to the top and back, or walk the 1,500 steps up that can take anywhere from 60-90 minutes.


Avoid the crowded tourist restaurants with the employees standing outside ushering you in with menus.  Instead visit “The Treehouse”, or “Restaurant Indio Feliz both are  great for cocktails and a good meal before your train. They’re a little off the beaten path, but serve popular Peruvian dishes in a lively atmosphere. 


Skip the “hot spring” in Aguas Calientes, as it’s known to be very crowded and not very hot, and get a massage instead. Your muscles with thank you, and for only around 100 Peruvian Soles ($30 USD) for an hour full body massage that’s money well spent. Ask your hotel for recommendations, or you can walk down the streets to find a massage therapist’s studio.

Have you been to Machu Picchu before? If you haven’t been to Machu Picchu what excites you the most about visiting? 



Machu Picchu Essential Travel Guide

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      1. Love this guide. So helpful and I really wish I had it before I went. I definitely tried to do the Inca Trail but didn’t realize it needed to be booked like 6 months in advance. Lol. Next time I’ll read this first.

  1. Wow Machu Pichu is definitely near the top of my bucket list. Thanks for the thorough information on hiking the Inca Trail and what to pack. Do you think it would be suitable for a 3 year old? We may have to wait a few more years…

  2. Great guide! I’m going in November and hopefully it won’t be too rainy 🙁 I also pre purchased the tickets to Huanya Picchu but I’m kind scared. I don’t enjoy heights with narrow paths… maybe I’ll have to bail… did you climb it?

  3. I have never come across such a detailed post with so many options about Machu Pichu. It has always been on my bucket list since a kid when my father showed me it’s pictures. Fantastic post and i hope i can use this when i go myself.

    1. Thanks! I can’t wait for you to visit one day! No matter what way you choose to see Machu Picchu you’ll be amazed at how beautiful it is!

      1. Machu pichu is in my wishlist.thanks for sharing this useful guide .hope to visit soon

  4. You have literally thought of everything! This is such a useful post as i want to head to Machu picchu one day and I thought you had to hike up there!! Your pictures are insane!

    1. Thanks Amber!They have so many ways to get to Machu Picchu! If you want to splurge on a train up there I would definitely recommend the Hiram Bingham Luxury Train. Otherwise, I loved the Jungle Trek if you want a little adventure!

  5. I love how in depth and detailed your blog post is. Makes me want to plan to see Machu Picchu. Thanks for a wonderful post.

    1. Thank you Christina! I really hope you’re able to visit! Have you ever been to South America?

  6. This is a lovely guide. It’s always good to be prepared and research the places you are travelling to. Interesting to know that the locals have a specific day for a free hike. I didn’t know

    1. I thought that was interesting too! Machu Picchu required a lot of planning, and I agree it’s so nice to have a little direction when you’re researching.

  7. This is one of the most informative posts I’ve ever read on Machu Pichu! It’s very high on my bucket list so I love reading about it and I had no idea there were so many different ways to get up there 🙂 I wish I could do like a combo of the classic Inca and the Inca jungle trail though, ha.

    1. Same! The best option would probably be the 4 day trek for you. The hot springs they take you to on the Inka Jungle trek in Santa Maria are so nice! You’ll really enjoy it when you go!

  8. Thank you for this super helpful post as I am planning to go to Macchu Picchu soon. Hopefully, next year. Great photos!! Also love your accessories!

    1. Thanks! I bought the headband and the poncho at the San Pedro Market in Cusco. You definitely need a hat there because it is pretty chilly in the morning!

  9. Great post! I also did a similar poncho photo shoot during my visit last year! I would love to do the hike next time as this time we took the train since we had little kids with us.

    1. That’s so funny you did the same photo with the poncho! Next time it’s definitely worth the hike. I hope you can make it back there!

  10. Ahhh! Can’t wait to see this masterpiece in person! These are really helpful guide and tips. Saving for future reference! ✨

  11. This has been on my bucket list forever! I’ll have to get my knees health to be able to hike this one. Thank you so much for the tips and details. I will bookmark this and save it for later!!


    1. Definitely take it easy on the knees when you’re there! Even if you take the train Machu Picchu itself does have lots of high stairs. I’m glad this helped!

  12. such a great guide! I was one of those people who didn’t know you can get the train until recently! But I would still prefer to hike in~

  13. What an incredibly detailed post! I’m definitely pinning this for later. I hope I can make it there one day. Thanks for all the info!

  14. This was a super interesting read! I must admit that South America or Peru is not really on my list so far but I love how you listed the different options and explained that you can also just take a train (something I learned only recently too). If I were to hike I would probably opt for the traditional Inca Trail though the hot showers do sound good 😉

  15. This is one of the most detailed guides on Machu Picchu I’ve ever read and it offers some very useful info an tips which are great for every first-timer there! Thanks for such a handy post!

  16. Wow. Wow. Wow. Heaps of information that I don’t think I would have found anywhere else except from experience! I love this guide and how thorough you are about the small details! I will definitely be looking back on this when I plan to go to Peru!

    1. Thanks Aaren! It was definitely longer when you compare it to most of my guides, but I really didn’t want to leave too much out. Sometimes it’s the little details that make the biggest difference!

    1. It does a take while to plan this trip! I’ll definitely admit to that! Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions!

  17. This is a lot of great info! I’m hoping to visit Machu Picchu sometime next year, I’ll save this post for when I go! 😁

  18. Machu Picchu is on my bucket list for next year and I’m so glad to find your travel guide! Your tips are really useful, especially those about choosing the right trekking company and preparing for no bathroom break.

  19. I like your photos and all the logistics you discuss in your post. The other day, one of my childhood friends and I were discussing going to Peru (when it is safe). It would be cool to visit with a long time friend.

  20. Thank you so much for providing so much detail. I have never even heard of Machu Picchu but everything you have here looks and sounds amazing! It is almost like a dream. I will add this to my bucket list. Thanks!

  21. This is such a great guide. I think I would love to do the Jungle Trek, but not sure if I’m in shape enough. LOL!. Thanks for giving me all of the information I need to plan my trip. I’m saving for future reference!

  22. I have never heard of Machu Picchu before so it was really interesting to read your post. This looks very much like a fairy tale place. The pictures are amazing. I don’ t know if I will ever get to see this myself but I am saving it just in case some day I get the opportunity because I think it would be amazing. Thank you for sharing.

    1. You’re welcome! I truly hope you can visit one day! It’s a stunning place! South America is gorgeous!

  23. This is a great guide to Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu was the highlight of my Peru trip. I took the train in, but Lorenzo’s Expeditions sounds like a great company to go through. I kind of want to go back to hike at least part of the trail.

  24. Machu Picchu is so high on my bucket list! I’m really hoping to go there sometime next year 😁 I never knew there were so many options for how to get there. I’ll definitely save this post for when I go!

  25. These photographs are all absolutely beautiful! Machu Picchu has been at the top of my bucket list for years now, but I have just never gone. Once the quarantine is over, however, I will absolutely be booking a one-way flight to Peru!

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