There are straightforward ways to get to Machu Picchu, and there are also a few more challenging paths you can take. All routes include booking through a Machu Picchu travel agency, though. It is the easiest and safest way to plan your visit to the Inca citadel, primarily if the agency is Peru based since this means you will have access to an actual expert in Pru travel.
Taking The Machu Picchu Express Trip
The first and most common route to the Incan sanctuary is by way of a Machu Picchu day trip from Cusco. The tour starts in the highland city and former capital of the Inca empire called Cusco. The tour guide will stop by your hotel at 4:30 am to pick you up and drive to the train station. If you have booked this tour as part of a group, the driver will make several stops at the hotels in Cusco before finally heading out to the station.
The drive will take around an hour and thirty minutes into the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Your destination will be the village of Ollantaytambo, which also has its own set of Incan ruins you’ll want to explore. If you do not have time to have breakfast in Cusco, you could try one of the many cafes located in the town. You may also check in at the train station and head to the restaurants and cafes. If you don’t want to spend money, you can wait to be served breakfast or a snack on your train.
The train ride will take over two hours down the Urubamba valley before arriving at the cloud forest town of “Aguas Calientes.” The views are quite spectacular, so it would be a good idea to pull out your camera during one of the most beautiful train rides on earth.
Once you arrive at Aguas Calientes, you can walk through the little town in a few minutes. Our destination now will be towards the bus station just a few minutes away. Once we reach the station, you’ll board the shuttle taking guests up the mountain to the Machu Picchu main entrance. The Machu Picchu guide will ensure your entrance ticket is checked, and you can enter the complex with the rest of the group to begin the guided tour.
A Packing List For the Day Trip
Below is a brief packing list for travelers who plan to take the day trip to Machu Picchu:
- Comfortable footwear
- Hiking-style pants that turn into shorts are recommended.
- A jacket or sweater for the mornings and evenings.
- Rain poncho or jacket
- Long sleeve shirts, t-shirts to protect from the sun
- Cap or a hat to protect you from the sun
Hiking Trips To Machu Picchu
Another option which is a bit more adventurous is taking a hiking trip to Machu Picchu. Hiking trips involve camping out in the Andes mountains at night and trekking throughout the day for 2-5 days. Several multi-day treks will get you to the Inca citadel, like the classic 4-day Inca Trail, The 5-day Salkantay Inca Trek, or the 3-Day Lares trek.
The Classic Inca Trail
The classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is the most popular Andean trek to the Inca city. The trail takes hikers through the beautiful highland wilderness, where you’ll hike for several hours before arriving at designated camping sites. This trek will include permits, meals, camping equipment, and an entrance to Machu Picchu through the popular Intipunku, also known as the sun gate.
The Salkantay Trek To Machu Picchu
The Salkantay trek is the sister trail to the popular 4-day hike. The routes don’t cross at any point but rather run parallel. The biggest attraction of the Salkantay trek is that it is more oriented towards nature and doesn’t have marked paths like the traditional Inca Trail route. The Salkantay is also a more challenging hike because the track takes the trekker through higher elevations and more “off the beaten path” routes. After four full days of trekking the highlands, you’ll arrive at the small town of Aguas Calientes, where the travelers will stay overnight in a hotel. The following morning the group will head up to Machu Picchu via bus and take the guided tour of the complex. That very afternoon the hiking group will board a train that will return to the city of Cusco.
Packing Lists For Multi-Day Hikes To Machu Picchu
Below is a brief list of items to pack for a hiking trip to Machu Picchu. Some are optional, while others are necessary for a successful trip to the Incan city.
- Valid documentation like your passport. Copies of documentation will not be accepted to enter the hike or Machu Picchu.
- Comfortable hiking shoes are essential to having a good trek. They should be broken in when you use them for the hiking trip.
- If you are a student and booked the trip with your student card, always have it on you.
- A high-quality 25-35 liter backpack is essential for a hiking trip.
- Sunscreen, insect repellent, lip balm, or chapstick
- Trekking poles are optional, but we recommend them for the hiking trip. Once in Machu Picchu, they won’t be necessary, though.
Vacation Packages To Machu Picchu
A third and very popular route to Machu Picchu is taking a vacation package that includes a day trip or a multi-day trip to Machu Picchu. A vacation package can also have a hiking trip like the Inca trail or the Salkantay trek. The great thing about vacation packages is that you can include several day trips like a visit to the rainbow mountain, the sacred valley, or highland lakes like Humantay.
Vacation packages include accommodations, airport pickups, all the necessary permits, bilingual guides, meals, and 24-hour travel assistance while in Peru. If you plan on traveling in a large group or with your family, a vacation package to Peru might be the most affordable and complete way to visit Machu Picchu and other parts of Peru.