What's Involved in Visiting Machu Picchu?

A Good Plan is Absolutely Necessary to Visit "The Wonder"

Author: The Traveling Professor/Tuesday, September 17, 2013/Categories: Peru & Machu Picchu

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The town of Aguas Calientes is at the base of Machu Picchu.  Unless you are willing to spend upwards of $1,000 per night to stay at the Sanctuary Lodge at the entrance to the Citadel, you will be staying in Aguas Calientes, a harrowing but safe 25 minute bus ride from MP.

There are two ways to get to Aguas Calientes:  Walk or take the train.  There is no car/bus service into Aguas Calientes.   The 4 day trek into Machu Picchu is grueling and requires reservations months in advance with a licensed tour company.  I prefer to take the train from Poroy, just outside of Cusco if possible.  Otherwise, the train from Ollantaytambo, a 90 minute ride over the mountains from Cusco is the other option.   It is important to make train reservations at least a month in advance.   The two most commonly traveled trains are Peru Rail's VistaDome and Expedition versions, both virtually the same, at prices of about $55-$80 each way.

I also recommend purchasing tickets to Machu Picchu in advance.   The number of visitors per day is limited.  I have seen people travel all the way to MP and not be able to get in because it was sold out for the day.  Tickets are not cheap and are constantly going up.   Right now they are about $75 per day.

There are a couple of hotels I recommend in Aguas Calientes.   My favorite for the adventurous traveler who wants an authentic feel is Gringo Bill's.  You will feel like you are staying in comfort in a jungle outpost.   For a more traditional approach, the El Mapi hotel is a good choice.   In both places, you'll have all the comforts of home.

Don't make the mistake of visiting Machu Picchu for the day.  It is an amazing place and you will be doing yourself a disservice by not taking at least 2 days there.    When we get there, we usually do a guided tour in the afternoon.  The next morning we are up before dawn to either hike to the Sun Gate or up Huaynu Picchu for sunrise at Machu Picchu.  Sometimes we do both in one day! Another optional hike is the 5K relatively flat trek to the Gardens of Mandor.

A visit to MP is good any time of the year except during the rainy season which starts in December and goes to the beginning of March.

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