Here are The Traveling Professor's tips on how to plan a trip to Machu Picchu.
When to Go: Probably the best time to go is in October or November. There are less crowds. Avoid the rainy season of December, February or the beginning of March. Avoid holidays seasons.
How to Get There: From North America, non-stop flights can be found on LATAM and American Airlines.
Basic Itinerary: In almost every situation, travelers need to start in Cusco. I recommend staying in Cusco for 2 days to acclimate to the high altitude, plus there are plenty of great things to see and do there. Then, the only practical way to get to Machu Picchu is to take the train, or walk. To get to the train, most people take the 2-hour bus to Ollantaytambo from Cusco which for me, is a long winding and not-so-great tip. If possible, take the train from the closer Poroy station. For some reason I simply cannot understand, most people take a day trip to Machu Picchu which is probably the biggest mistake people make. I strongly recommend staying in Aguas Calientes (the town at the base of Machu Picchu) for 2 nights. That means upon arrival, the traveler can have a tour of Machu Picchu and the next day return for a full day and perhaps do an excursion like hiking to the Sun Gate or the adventurous Huaynu Picchu. It's also good to plan a 2-day trip in case bad weather (it can rain - A LOT) shuts you out one day.
Where to Stay: In Cusco, I like the Aranwa Boutique Hotel for it's luxury and intelligent oxygen system that practically eliminates the issues of high altitude. The price is right, too. In Aguas Calientes, at the base of Machu Picchu, the El Mapi Hotel is perfect, and the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo adds some luxury.
Other Important Tips on How to Plan a Trip to Machu Picchu
- Book Early: Good hotels, especially in Aguas Calientes fill up well in advance. Trains sell out and the daily allocation of tickets to Machu Picchu can sell out in advance. Don't go all the way to Peru without reservations - you may be greatly disappointed.
- Enter Machu Picchu Early or Late: The lines to get to Machu Picchu are usually hours long unless going early in the morning (430-600 am) or after 2 pm.
- Side Trips: Lima is a great, modern city with some of the best food in the world. Lake Titicaca is an adventure. My favorite side trip from Machu Picchu is to visit the Amazon at the famous Inkaterra Amazonica lodge.
- Be Prepared: This is a physically demanding trip. Travelers should expect high altitudes and rigorous hiking surfaces.
Join The Traveling Professor on a small group tour to Machu Picchu.