High in the Peruvian Andes you will find Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas, which is a must see for every traveler. As we’ve been to Peru’s highlight more times than we can count, we know that there are certain things to know before visiting Machu Picchu.
Did you know that the ruins of Machu Picchu were built as early as the 15th century? Even though a lot of time has passed since then, they are still in great condition as they have been taken care of very well. The remains are located on a mountain surrounded by rainforest and the Urubamba river.
The trip to the New Wonder of the World will undoubtedly be an unforgettable event for you. However, in order to prepare for the visit as well as possible, we have written this article about the 10 things to know before visiting Machu Picchu. Let’s get started!
Things to Know Before Visiting Machu Picchu
10. Have All Your Travel Documents With You
Always bring your original passport to enter Machu Picchu.
What you shouldn’t forget under any circumstances is the train-, bus- and entrance tickets. It’s fine if you have them on your phone as electronic tickets. However, to be on the safe side, it’s better to print them out in case you have internet problems or an empty battery. Don’t worry if you didn’t print out the tickets at home, as your hotel in Cusco or Aguas Calientes can help you with that.
The same holds for your passport. Always take your original passport with you for your Machu Picchu tour.
9. Shuttle Bus Ticket Instead of Hiking
After a 25-min bus ride, you’ll reach the entrance of Machu Picchu.
From Aguas Calientes you can either hike to the entrance of Machu Picchu or take the shuttle bus.
The hike takes around 90 minutes and is rather unspectacular as there are no great views from the path. It’s a hike through the jungle and it’s rather strenuous, as the route leads steeply through the jungle. There is a good chance you will be exhausted and sweaty by the time you reach the entrance.
For this reason, we recommend the 25-minute bus ride. When you’re at Machu Picchu once, let’s make sure you can enjoy it to the fullest.
Read our blog post for more info about how to get to Machu Picchu.
8. Take the Right Equipment
The right clothes are essential for having an amazing time in the Peruvian Andes as the weather might change rapidly.
If you visit Machu Picchu you should take into account that your backpack has a regular size. In case it’s larger than 15.7 inches x 13.7 inches x 7.9 inches, you’ll be refused entry to the ruins and have to put it in a locker.
You are only allowed to take a camera, mobile phone, a small water bottle (a reusable one is best), sunscreen, mosquito spray etc. in your backpack. However, it’s strictly forbidden to take any food with you. For that reason we highly recommend you to eat enough for breakfast or take snacks with you on the way to Machu Picchu.
Furthermore it is not allowed to take tripods, drones or selfie sticks with you.
Make sure to put on the right clothes, as the weather in the Andes can change very quickly. Usually, in the mornings it’s rather chilly and during the day it can get quite warm (during high season). That’s why we recommend sturdy shoes, multifunctional clothing, rain ponchos, a hat or cap, zip-off pants and shirts.
7. There is a Fixed Route
Over 150 buildings are awaiting you during the guided Machu Picchu tour.
During the guided tour of the Machu Picchu ruins, you always have to follow a fixed route. This means that you can only walk in one direction. It’s not possible to go back to one of the previously visited spots. Check out our Machu Picchu Guide to learn more.
This regulation was introduced to bring more order to the Machu Picchu tours. However, we have a few tips on how you can still make the most of your tour despite everything.
6. Don’t Get Your Passport Stamped
We recommend you avoid getting a Machu Picchu stamp in your passport as that can lead to complications when traveling to other countries.
Perhaps you have seen other travelers on Instagram or Facebook that have immortalized their passport with a Machu Picchu stamp. Without a doubt, this sounds very exciting and is a great memory, but we can only advise you not to do it.
Now you are probably wondering: why? We already heard from many travelers that they’ve had problems entering other countries, as this stamp is not an official passport stamp.
If you really want to have a stamp, it’s better to take a postcard or something similar with you so that you can avoid these kinds of problems. Currently, it’s not possible to get the passport stamp due to reasons related to COVID-19.
5. Book Your Tickets Early Enough
After hiking for 1-1.5h, this incredible view will await you on Machu Picchu Mountain. The path is narrow but it’s absolutely worth it.
In case you plan to visit Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain you should book your tickets early enough. But what does “early” mean?
In the high season from May – October, you should book your tickets for Huayna Picchu at least 2-3 months in advance, as only 400 daily travelers are allowed. For Machu Picchu Mountain, it’s usually a few weeks before.
From both mountains, you have an unforgettable view of the Machu Picchu ruins and the surrounding landscape. For more information, check out our blog on the differences between Machu Picchu Mountain and Huayna Picchu.
An excellent alternative to one of the two mountains is the hike to the Sun Gate, also known as Inti Punku. From there, you also have an impressive view of the Machu Picchu ruins.
4. Use the Restrooms Before Entering
Going to the restrooms before visiting Machu Picchu is probably one of the best tips we can give you before entering.
One of the things to know before visiting Machu Picchu is that there aren’t any restrooms inside. That’s why you should definitely make use of the restrooms before entering Machu Picchu. Once you have passed the entrance, you can no longer leave Machu Picchu and re-enter.
In other words, once you are outside, there is no way in, unless you have bought a second entrance ticket.
A little tip from us: many restrooms in Peru don’t have any toilet paper, so it’s advisable to have a couple of tissues with you. The toilet usage usually costs S/1 ($0.25).
3. Explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas
Did you know that there are more than 5.000 salt ponds in Maras?
Cusco is located at over 11,000 ft. in the Andes, which is why it is very important that you acclimate yourself to avoid altitude sickness.
After your arrival in Cusco, it’s advisable to explore the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu first before doing any high-altitude tours. This will help your body get used to the altitude gradually.
We recommend exploring the Sacred Valley before visiting Machu Picchu, as this gives you a better understanding of the history of the Incas and allows you to put the context in chronological order. Another reason is because the Sacred Valley was formed before the legendary Machu Picchu.
At the end of our tour after visiting Ollantaytambo (last site), you have the possibility to take the train to Aguas Calientes to spend the night there. This brings us straight to the next point.
2. Decide on the “Best” Train Option
Apart from Peru Rail, the other company that organizes train rides to Machu Picchu is called Inca Rail.
When it comes to heading to Aguas Calientes, you have the choice between three different trains: Expedition, Vistadome and the luxurious Belmond Hiram Bingham train.
So let’s briefly look at the individual train options and the differences:
The Expedition train is the standard train that brings you to Machu Picchu town and is equipped with half-panoramic windows.
The Vistadome train is the more elegant version and is equipped with large panoramic windows, so you can enjoy the beautiful landscapes on the way even better.
Belmond Hiram Bingham:
The most luxurious and expensive version enchants with an on-board bar, a brunch /lunch with a variety of wines and an extravagant view through the open-air roof of the wagon.
Our general recommendation is combining the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu tour. In this case, after the Sacred Valley tour you’ll take the Expedition train to Aguas Calientes at night. This way, you can enter Machu Picchu the next day early in the morning and don’t have to travel so much in a single day. As it’s dark at night, the Vistadome train upgrade wouldn’t be too value enhancing.
However, if you return to Ollantaytambo before 5 pm the next day, it’s worth upgrading to the Vistadome train. This way you can enjoy an unforgettable view of the Sacred Valley through the panoramic windows.
For more detailed information about our trains, check out our blog on the different train options to Machu Picchu.
1. Overnight in Aguas Calientes
Aguas Calientes is a small town from where you start your Machu Picchu adventure.
Why spend the night in Aguas Calientes? Well, if you plan to enter the Machu Picchu ruins at 6 am before the crowds arrive, this is by far the best option.
The early Machu Picchu day tours from Cusco start at 2.30 am in the morning. The first train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes leaves at 5.05 am, making it impossible to enter Machu Picchu before 7.30/8 am.
If you spend the night in Aguas Calientes, you can sleep a bit longer and start the day more relaxed, because you don’t have to sit in the car and train for about 3 hours before getting to Aguas Calientes.
Both the day tour from Cusco and from Aguas Calientes are great options. However, if you want to be among the first at Machu Picchu, then you should stay in Aguas Calientes.
Machu Picchu: An Unforgettable Adventure
During your Machu Picchu tour, you will get many unique views, such as this one.
As you can see, there are a few things to know before visiting Machu Picchu in Peru. One of the most important points is to book the tour with enough time in advance.
You should also keep in mind that the weather in Cusco is great from April to October. Without a doubt, this is the best time to visit the New Wonder of the World. In the remaining months, the probability of rain is significantly higher and thus cloudy weather at Machu Picchu.
We hope that we could help you with the tips above so that you can prepare yourself as well as possible for your Machu Picchu adventure. If you need more inspiration, check out our different Peru tours and learn more about the other fascinating places.