12 Things to Know Before Visiting Machu Picchu

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to visit Machu Picchu. I’m obviously not alone in this. In terms of ‘bucket list’ destinations, Machu Picchu is probably near the top of places to visit for most travellers. This past week I finally flew to Peru and couldn’t be more excited – I was almost at one of the 7 Wonders of the World.

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Here are some things to know when you plan to go to Machu Picchu:

1. Purchase your tickets beforehand

You’ll need to purchase your tickets to Machu Picchu before you arrive. Tickets are limited to 2500 a day, and sometimes in the high season, these can sell out. It’s best to purchase tickets once you know for sure you’ll be headed to Machu Picchu. It’s possible to buy tickets in Cusco upon arrival, or you can even buy them in Aguas Caliente, but the easier and more convenient way is to buy them online. You cannot buy tickets to Machu Picchu at the gate. 

2. How to get the best price for your tickets to Machu Picchu?

Definitely try the Ministry of Culture website first. Prices are as follows.

  • Machu Picchu foreign adult: 152 soles
  • Machu Picchu + Montana Machupicchu foreign adult: 200 soles
  • Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu foreign adult: 200 soles
  • Children under 8 are free of charge (with proof of age).
  • You cannot get the discounted children or student fare on this website. It must be done with a tour operator. See more info regarding student fares here.

Follow the steps and enter payment at the end. When you get your ticket number, write it down and take a screenshot of your ticket. I never received an email confirmation from the site, but because I had the reservation number I was able to get my hotel to access it and print it out.

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3. Have your ticket printed

The gate agents will be checking for your tickets before you enter Machu Picchu. You will need to hand them a hard copy of your ticket and your pasaport.

4. Bring your Passport

You will need your passport number to purchase tickets for your visit to Machu Picchu and also you need to make sure you actually bring your passport to the site when you visit. The gate agents will check that the name and passport number on your ticket matches your passport, so don’t forget it!

5. You can get your passport stamped

Another reason you may want your passport is to get it stamped! After exiting Machu Picchu you will find a small stand with a stamp and inkpad to document your trip to one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The stamp is also free!

A quick Google search will yield many tour operators acting as a middleman to sell tickets to you. The cheapest option is to buy them off the Ministry of Culture website. We bought our tickets from this website, which actually doesn’t look like it’s been updated it since 1995, but it is indeed the real and cheapest deal! Be patient as the website can take awhile to load and make sure to switch it to English if you are not a Spanish speaker.

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6. There are two ways up from Aguas Calientes

Once you reach Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu town you still have some work to do to reach Machu Picchu. The site sits about 600m above the town and the valley floor.

Bus

Buses run regularly to and from Machu Picchu town to the ruins. They cost $12 or 40 Soles a person one way and it takes around 25 minutes to reach the top. This is tourist price gouging at it’s best! The road is bumpy and zig-zagged, so be prepared if you get motion sick easily.

Buses start running at 5:30 am and you’ll have to make sure you’re on this bus if you want to catch the sunrise over Machu Picchu. Just be aware this is probably one of the busiest times you can take the bus up so you’ll likely need to be in line at 4:30 am.

Hike

You can also hike up to Machu Picchu from town. The hike up is steep, but stairs are well maintained and wide. It took us about an hour to hike up. It was very enjoyable.

The hike up or down from Machu Picchu is the free option, but depending on your physical ability it may tire you out.

7. What are the hikes around Machu Picchu?

The fun doesn’t have to stop after you marvel at the magnificent Inca ruins. There are a number of hikes you can do to make the most out of your visit to Machu Picchu.

IMG_0889.jpgHuayna Picchu

The most popular hike to do is Huayna Picchu, or sometimes called Wayna Picchu. Huayna Picchu is the mountain directly behind every photo of the famous Inca ruins. It’s been nicknamed the mountain of death for its incredibly steep climb and terrifying stairs.

Only 400 permits to climb Huayna Picchu are issued a day and usually sell out months in advance. Since we planned this trip months in advance I made sure to buy our tickets to Hayna Picchu as soon as the ticket system opened for the season. The 400 are split into two – 200 groups so that visitors are staggered by time. Tickets are purchased and combined with your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu.

Montana Machu Picchu

If you can’t get tickets for Huayna Picchu but want to hike try for Montana Machu Picchu (or Machu Picchu Mountain). 800 passes are granted per day for Machu Picchu Mountain so you are more likely to get a ticket here if you are booking last minute. Machu Picchu Mountain is definitely considered the less scary of the hikes as the trails and stairs are wider and not as steep, although it is a much higher elevation at 3082 meters above sea level.

Sun Gate

The Sun Gate, or Inti Punku, was once the entrance to Machu Picchu. This hike is the least demanding of all the hikes mentioned and takes 3-4 hours round trip to complete. Once you enter Machu Picchu you’ll find signs pointing you in the direction of the Sun Gate. The Sun Gate is the only hike that is free with your ticket to Machu Picchu.

8. What should I pack for Machu Picchu?

Make sure to pack in layers for Machu Picchu as mornings and evenings can be cool, but when the sun pops up during the day things can turn hot. You’ll also be walking a lot so it would be best to not to arrive with a sweater on and nothing underneath.

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9. Do you need a guide for Machu Picchu?

While a guide is certainly helpful in providing you with information and leading you through the site it is not necessary.

If you do want a guide and don’t have one booked don’t worry. When you arrive at Macchu Picchu there will be plenty of guides outside the entrance offering their service to you.

10. Are there bathrooms?

There are no bathrooms once you enter Machu Picchu so prepare yourself beforehand. The only bathrooms nearby are located outside gates and cost 2 soles.

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11. How long should I spend at Machu Picchu?

The site of Machu Picchu is huge and in my opinion, deserves two days of exploring. It is incredible and looks unreal to the point it’s overwhelming when you first visit. It’s hard for me to even believe it was built hundreds of years ago as it would be hard enough to build in modern time.

12. Bring enough water!

Especially if you are doing any hiking and if it is the dry season. I brought two water bottles. Take note that once you enter through the gate you won’t be able to purchase any water, but just outside you will be able to buy a few bottles for triple the price that you would down in Aguas Calientes.