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The Ultimate Guide: Best Months to Visit Machu Picchu for Ideal Weather
Machu Picchu, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, is a bucket-list destination for many travelers. Nestled high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, this ancient Incan citadel offers breathtaking views and a glimpse into an ancient civilization. However, planning your visit to Machu Picchu requires careful consideration of the weather conditions. In this guide, we will explore the best months to visit Machu Picchu for ideal weather.
The Climate of Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu experiences a subtropical highland climate due to its elevation. This means that the weather can be unpredictable and change rapidly throughout the day. Understanding the climate patterns is crucial in determining when to visit this iconic site.
At Machu Picchu, there are two distinct seasons – the dry season and the wet season. The dry season runs from May to October, while the wet season spans from November to April. Each season has its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to visiting Machu Picchu.
The Dry Season (May – October)
The dry season is considered the best time to visit Machu Picchu due to its clear skies and minimal rainfall. This period offers visitors optimal visibility of the ruins and surrounding landscapes. It is also popular among hikers who wish to trek along famous routes like the Inca Trail or Salkantay Trek.
During these months, temperatures at Machu Picchu tend to be mild during the day but drop significantly at night. It is essential for visitors to pack layers and warm clothing if planning on staying overnight or exploring early in the morning.
The Wet Season (November – April)
While visiting during the wet season may involve more rain showers, there are still advantages for travelers who choose this time of year. The landscape becomes lush and green, creating a picturesque setting. Additionally, the wet season attracts fewer tourists compared to the dry season, allowing for a more tranquil experience.
It’s important to note that heavy rainfall and occasional storms can lead to landslides or trail closures in the region. Travelers should keep an eye on weather forecasts and be prepared for changes in their itineraries.
Shoulder Months and Considerations
The months of April and November are considered shoulder months, meaning they fall between the peak seasons. During these months, visitors can enjoy a balance between good weather and fewer crowds. However, it is still advisable to pack accordingly for potential rainfall.
When planning your visit to Machu Picchu, keep in mind that the site has a daily visitor limit. It is crucial to book your entrance tickets well in advance, especially if you plan on visiting during the peak season.
In conclusion, Machu Picchu offers awe-inspiring beauty regardless of the time of year you choose to visit. The best months to visit will depend on your personal preferences and priorities – whether you prioritize clear skies or want to experience the lush greenery of the wet season. By understanding the climate patterns and considering your travel goals, you can make an informed decision about when to embark on this unforgettable journey through ancient history.
This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.
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Machu Picchu treks & tours
- Machu Picchu treks & tours
As the mist lifts off the mountains and over the Inca ruins, Machu Picchu evokes an otherworldly feeling.
It’s one of the world’s most incredible archaeological sites, with a breathtaking location to match. With all that Machu Picchu has to offer, it’s easy to understand why so many are drawn to the visitor heartland of Peru . The ultimate decision is how to get there. Choose a trek or take the train? You could hike through cloud forests along the classic Inca Trail, fulfil your Andes experience on the Quarry Trail or challenge yourself on the Choquequirao trek – it's up to you. We don’t need to tell you why the adventure is worth your while. Our local leaders will keep you safe, informed and inspired at every step of the way.
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Which route is right for you, classic inca trail.
With its spectacular natural scenery and profound cultural encounters, the Inca Trail is an international beacon for trekking. Attracting thousands of hikers each year, it's a challenging yet rewarding hike that stays with you for a lifetime. Although rated moderate, the relentless uphill (and downhill) hiking is tough - the fitter you are, the more you’ll enjoy it.
Inca Quarry Trail
For an impressive hike off the beaten path, consider the Inca Quarry Trail. This lesser known trek offers the same magical scenery of the Andes mountains, passing through local villages and visiting three smaller archaeological sites the other trails don’t. Another bonus is that the hike doesn’t require a permit – so once you book, you’re set.
Take your boots further with a challenging eight-day hike moving through high-altitude cloud forests, over mega mountain passes and along an ancient trail leading to the well-preserved Inca city ruins of Choquequirao. This trail might be secluded and not for the faint-hearted but it's also one adventure you'll never forget, and that's a promise.
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Only got one day to spare?
The One Day Inca Trail is a great four-hour trekking option for those wanting to set their sights on Machu Picchu and experience a taste of trekking in Peru, without doing one of the multi-day Classic Inca, Quarry or Choquequirao trails.
Learn more about the One Day Inca Trail
Not the hiking type?
On every Intrepid trip that visits Machu Picchu, you can choose the rail journey instead of the hike – simply specify while booking that you’d prefer the train option. There is no extra cost for this, though please note fees may apply if you decide to change to the train option after your Inca Trail permit has already been purchased.
Learn more about the train to Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu highlights
Choose your own route to Machu Picchu
There’s no right or wrong way to get to Machu Picchu. On most of our trips, you can choose your own adventure with three incredible ways to travel through the Sacred Valley; the Inca Trail, the Quarry Trail and the train journey. That way, if hiking’s not your thing, you can still retrace the steps of the Inca and reach your final, breathtaking destination.
Walk the ruins on an expertly guided tour
So, you’ve made it to Machu Picchu – now what? Your ancient Incan adventure doesn’t have to end once you reach the Sun Gate (and fill up your phone’s camera roll). Embark on a guided tour of the ruins themselves, stopping to marvel at temples and wander around palaces while learning about a fascinating civilization from centuries ago.
Explore the Sacred Valley
Sometimes the stops you make along the way can be just as extraordinary as the destination itself; the Sacred Valley is one of those unforgettable stops on your journey to Machu Picchu. From terraced valley walls covered in maize crops to bead and poncho-filled market stalls, this special place has been a source of livelihood for the locals for centuries and stopping here gives you a chance to learn all about it.
Wander the streets of Cusco
Cusco might be the entryway to the Sacred Valley, but it’s also a spectacular city in its own right with ancient fortresses, colonial houses, fascinating museums and public plazas around every corner. A perfect place to acclimatize before you continue your Peruvian adventure, this charming city promises local markets to wander through and plenty of tasty food (made with Andean ingredients) to eat.
What is Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu is a magnificent reminder of the power and ingenuity of the Inca civilisation. Built in the 15th century, the ancient citadel was abandoned only 100 years later and many mysteries remain. Listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1983 and announced as one of the Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, Machu Picchu makes a lasting impression.
Where is Machu Picchu?
Overlooking the Urubamba River, the site of Machu Picchu sits above the Sacred Valley – located in the Cusco region of Peru.
How can I get to Machu Picchu?
Many travellers fly into the capital of Cusco, before taking the train or choosing a hiking tour. The stepping stone to Machu Picchu is Ollantaytambo, which is about 1.5 hours away from Cusco by bus.
From Ollantaytambo the most common ways to get to Machu Picchu are:
- Hiking the Inca Trail (one way to Machu Picchu)
- Taking the equally scenic and rewarding Quarry Trail
- Trekking the challenging 8-day Choquequirao Trail
Learn more about how to get to Machu Picchu
Can I still hike if I take the train?
So, you want to experience the Inca Trail but aren't quite up for the entire hike? The one-day option takes you by train part of the way where you hop off and trek the trade highway of the ancient Inca empire. You'll arrive at the Sun Gate in the afternoon to take in the views of Machu Picchu.
When is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?
The good news is Machu Picchu can be visited year-round. The most popular time, and therefore the most crowded, is in June and July. Low cloud cover during the dry season from April to October also means cold nights on hiking trails – so make sure to bring some thermals for a good night’s sleep. The wet season takes place from November to March. This is when the temperature rises and the region receives heavy rainfall. The Inca Trail closes every year in February for trail maintenance.
Learn more about the best time to visit Machu Picchu
Can you get to Machu Picchu in a day?
Technically, yes you can. Starting with an early rise in the morning, take a 1.5 hour bus ride to Ollantaytambo, then a 2.5 hour train to Aguas Calientes, followed by a 30 minute bus to Machu Picchu. You will have a couple of hours to visit Machu Picchu then return to Cusco the same way.
None of our trips visit Machu Picchu this way, as we believe it doesn’t allow enough time to explore (and really enjoy) the site and the Sacred Valley area.
How high is Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu is found deep in the cloud forest at 2440 m (7972 ft) above sea level, sitting at 1000 m (3280 ft) lower than Cusco. What does this mean for you? In terms of altitude, it means that you are unlikely to experience any altitude issues at Machu Picchu itself. But be aware, trekking to Machu Picchu involves walking up and down a number of steep stairs, ramps and terraces at various altitudes, which can be strenuous.
Will the altitude affect me?
Most people can start to feel the effects of altitude at over 2000 m (6561 ft) regardless of age, gender or fitness level. While our leaders have basic first aid training and are aware of the closest medical facilities, it is very important that you make yourself aware of the cause and effects of travelling at altitude, monitor your health and seek assistance accordingly.
It’s important to take it easy, drink plenty of water and speak to your group leader at once if you feel unwell.
We recommend seeing your doctor if you have any health concerns before undertaking the trip. Particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition or are take any medication.
Learn more about how to prepare for Machu Picchu altitude
Do I need a permit to hike to Machu Picchu?
Everyone hiking to Machu Picchu via the iconic Inca Trail or the shorter Inca Trail Express will require a permit. You don't need a permit if you're trekking via the Quarry or Choquequirao trails.
If you’re tackling the Inca Trail with Intrepid, our adventure consultants can secure your permit for you so you can focus on getting excited, so just make you have your passport details handy at the time of booking. Permits are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so booking well in advance is imperative. We endeavour to purchase your permit within two working days of receiving all necessary information and relevant payment.
Learn more about permit requirements for Machu Picchu
What should I pack for Machu Picchu?
For a day trip exploring Machu Picchu, it is recommended to take a small backpack with the essentials: sunscreen, hat, water bottle (filled before departing for the day), a few snacks and mosquito repellent. It helps to wear breathable pants, a long shirt and to bring a waterproof jacket – since the UV index is higher in the Andes and the site is prone to receiving rainfall.
If you plan to trek before visiting Machu Picchu, be sure to read our detailed packing instructions in your Essential Trip Information.
Check out our ultimate Machu Picchu packing guide
What is Wayna Picchu?
Wayna Picchu (also known also as Huayna Pichu or Wayna Pikchu) means ‘young peak’ in Quechua – although the mountain appears anything but young towering behind Machu Picchu. Known as the ‘stairs of death’, the hair-raising climb takes about three hours return. More recently, a cap of 400 people a day has been introduced on the number of visitors allowed to climb.
Can I climb Wayna Picchu with Intrepid Travel?
We've performed risk assessments on all our optional activities and unfortunately, at this stage, we don’t consider climbing Wayna Picchu a safe activity for our travellers. Reaching Wayna Picchu involves climbing steep, narrow and exposed sets of stairs and we just can’t guarantee the safety of our travellers. Our leaders are specifically prohibited from assisting travellers to visit Wayna Picchu.
What are the toilet facilities like at Machu Picchu?
There are public toilets located at the main entrance of Machu Picchu and none after entering the site – so make sure you time your stop before heading off to explore. Take some coins with you as there is a small fee to use the toilet facilities.
What does the Rainforest Alliance tick of approval mean?
The Rainforest Alliance is a non-profit organisation working to build strong forests, healthy agricultural landscapes and thriving communities. The green frog seal indicates that an enterprise has been audited to meet standards that require environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Intrepid is recognised by the Rainforest Alliance as one of the top certified tourism business in Peru.
Can I visit Machu Picchu if I have a disability?
Yes, but of course it will depend on your level of disability, fitness and what support will be available to you. Travellers who are visually impaired have even completed the Inca Trail (with the right support crew of course). Contact us to discuss your particular circumstances and we can assess it from there.
Does my trip support the Intrepid Foundation?
Yes, all Intrepid trips support the Intrepid Foundation. In fact, we make a donation on behalf of every traveller. Trips to this country directly support our global Intrepid Foundation partner, Eden Reforestation Projects.
Eden Reforestation Projects
Eden Reforestation Projects are helping to mitigate climate change by restoring forests worldwide; they also hire locally and create job opportunities within vulnerable communities. Donations from our trips support restoration across planting sites in 10 countries around the globe.
Find out more or make a donation
Why choose Intrepid
All our guides are certified local tour guides and trained in-house on Intrepid Safety Policies. Each trekking guide also receives exclusive Intrepid training, provided by mountain rescue experts in the field.
All our guides and trek leaders have been trained by medical specialists in handling altitude illness and are proficient in first aid. Our team carries oxygen cylinders on all treks for emergency use.
Our team members live and work in the Andean region, which means revenue from all our treks benefit the local economy.
We take care of the details, so you can focus more on enjoying the journey. Our tours include all meals, with essential camping equipment and the option to hire additional hiking equipment if needed.
Rainforest Alliance tick of approval
We are proud to have the tick of approval from the Rainforest Alliance indicating that we meet and operate at the highest standards in environmental, social and economic sustainability
We strive to use travel as a force for good. That’s why we choose to give back to the communities we visit, carbon offset all our trips and take our social and environmental responsibilities seriously. We’ve been officially certified as the world’s largest travel B Corp, which means when you choose Intrepid Travel, you can rest assured you’re travelling to improve the planet.
Meet our team
Maritza, operations manager
"I am passionate about empowering local Indigenous communities, especially women, and am also a committed defender of Mother Earth, known in the Andes as Pachamama. I have also worked tirelessly with local communities and governments to help improve the sustainability of treks in the Cusco region".
“It will be a pleasure to share our traditions and beliefs, take you to the most amazing sites and, most importantly, interact with the locals! Get ready for a behind-the-scenes tour where we’ll visit hole-in-the-wall restaurants and find the best picarones (Andean doughnuts). I’ll be waiting for you here, in my beloved Peru."
Fernando, general manager
"I like working for Intrepid because their social and environmental philosophy isn’t just a slogan to sell more trips, they really do care about it. I have changed my life in so many aspects due to all the learning coming from Intrepid, from recycling to accepting myself, and being proud for who I am."
"I started working with Intrepid in 2014 and now I'm 61 years old. I'm very happy to be working with Intrepid because each porter's treatment is better than other tour operators in Peru. Because of this job (which includes fair pay), I can provide a better education for my children".
"I come from Huilloc Community in Ollantaytambo town in the Sacred Valley (Cusco), and I started working as a porter on the Inca Trail in 2021. I love walking the Inca Trail and I'm very happy to be working for Intrepid as my income enables me to provide a better education for my 7 children".
"I'm from the Community of Kalla Rayan (Calca town) in the Sacred Valley, and I'm 53 years old. I've worked as a porter for Intrepid since 2009, mainly because I love it and we have very good working conditions. Thanks to my job, I've saved money to spend on my wife and better education for my children".
Machu Picchu or Chichen Itza?
Intrepid is actually the largest B Corp operator on the Inca trail and we're always committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. We're also dedicated to ensuring respectful and just working conditions for all trekking porters and leaders and have a porter policy in place to guarantee their welfare and fair treatment.
How we're giving back
In Machu Picchu, we stay in locally run accommodation including guesthouses, smaller-scale hotels and homestays in an effort to support the local economies. We also visit locally-run restaurants and markets where travellers will have opportunities to support local businesses and purchase handicrafts created by local artisans.
Combine your trek with a Latin America adventure
Machu Picchu is one of the great treasures of Latin America, but there are jaw-dropping jewels scattered all across this region. Combine your Machu Picchu trek with a land-based itinerary for a truly next-level adventure – the Amazon Jungle, Galapagos Islands and Bolivian salt flats are practically on your doorstep.
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Simply put, Machu Picchu is one of those places that every single traveller should experience at least once in their lives. Perched on a ridge high above the Sacred Valley and protected from the invading Spaniards, it survives to this day as the best-preserved relic of Inca civilization. And while it’s commonly referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas,” the Inca themselves always knew where it was. Thankfully, their descendants have opened it up to the rest of us to tour, explore, learn, and tap into the unbelievable calm this sacred place stirs in those who come here. For a so-called lost city, it’s a great place to find yourself.
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How to Travel to Machu Picchu
Don’t get lost when you visit the Lost City of the Incas.
Every year, millions of people visit the imposing and mysterious Incan citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru. But getting to the massive agricultural terraces, intricate stone constructions, and epic hilltop views of this UNESCO World Heritage site isn't cheap, and it involves some trickier-than-usual logistics. Here's how to expertly navigate your way to Peru's most famous destination, plus our top tips for enjoying your visits to the nearby cities of Cusco and Aguas Calientes on your way.
Reasons to Visit
Machu Picchu is one of the world's most dreamed-about destinations . Mystery is at the center of Machu Picchu's appeal, as the city holds many secrets about the ancient Incan Empire. Knowledge-seekers will find plenty of interesting tidbits to mull over about the city's archaeological significance and the various scientific and religious practices of the Incans who built the magnificent site.
Alongside this adventure through time, a trip to Machu Picchu offers an opportunity to experience Peruvian culture and gastronomy . If you stay a while, you can even make trips to many of the country's other historical wonders, like the perplexing and enormous images etched into the hills of the Nazca Valley , the origins of which are not entirely understood. Throw in a few dishes of tangy ceviche, a rainbow-striped mountain , a desert oasis that looks more like a painting than a real place, and many pisco sours to wash it all down, and you've got a fantastic trip in one of the world's most naturally beautiful countries .
Best Time to Visit
Machu Picchu is open year-round. October through April is the official rainy season, but it can rain at any time. And while peak season is July and August, you should always expect crowds. Sundays can be the most crowded, because that's when people who live in the Cusco province are allowed into the site for free, in addition to the daily visitor limit.
Morning? Afternoon? There is no perfect time to visit Machu Picchu. These days, the site is crowded at all hours and the weather is unpredictable. However, during the rainy season, the mornings are most likely to be foggy. Depending on your disposition, fog ruins the view or adds a patina of mystery to it. Afternoons can be slightly less crowded as day-trippers return to the train station for their trip back to Cusco.
How to Get Acclimated to the Altitude
The last thing you need on your day in Machu Picchu is a case of altitude sickness . Wherever you're coming from is probably much, much lower than Cusco (over 11,000 feet) or Machu Picchu (just shy of 8,000 feet). Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination, so you can adjust gradually and avoid common symptoms like nausea, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
Unless you've booked a trip to Machu Picchu that requires an overnight stay in Cusco, we recommend immediately taking the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes (officially called Machu Picchu Pueblo), the town nearest Machu Picchu. Spend a night or two getting used to the relatively low elevation of Aguas Calientes, at about 6,700 feet, then explore Machu Picchu before returning to Cusco. You can also spend time elsewhere in the Sacred Valley, which, by nature, is lower in elevation than the surrounding mountains. Avoid alcohol and physical exertion while acclimatizing and drink as much water or coca tea as you can stand to help your body slowly adjust to the thinner air.
How to Get There
If Machu Picchu is your goal, you will have to fly into the capital of Lima and then catch a connecting flight to Cusco. From there, the easiest way to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu is to take the train to Aguas Calientes, a scenic 3.5-hour trip each way along tracks that run right along the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley, with dramatic canyon walls on either side. However, note that the so-called Cusco train station is actually in the nearby town of Poroy. It's a cheap taxi ride, but give yourself at least an hour to get from central Cusco to the train station. Traffic in Cusco can be brutal and seemingly never-ending road work makes things even more congested.
Taking the Train
There are three train companies to choose from: Inca Rail , Peru Rail , and the Belmond Hiram Bingham train . The Hiram Bingham service is on a gorgeous train gleaming with brass and polished wood and includes a white tablecloth meal with wine during your journey. It's also much more expensive than Inca Rail or Peru Rail, both of which offer comfortable passage on different types of trains — including ones designed with panoramic windows for an additional fee. Whichever train you choose, book as far in advance as possible. Tickets sell out weeks ahead in some months.
If train tickets from Cusco are sold out, all is not lost. Try to buy another train ticket to Aguas Calientes that departs from the town of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, or vice versa. Taxis and minivans between Ollantaytambo and Cusco (just over an hour each way) are plentiful. If you have the time, plan an overnight in Ollantaytambo to check out the town, which still features many Incan-built streets and buildings, as well as the archaeological site of the same name. Arrive as early as possible at the site to enjoy the sunrise light and beat the tour buses.
You can also stay overnight in Urubamba, a 20-minute drive from Ollantaytambo, which has a bevy of luxury and boutique hotels such as Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa ; Sol y Luna, Relais & Châteaux ; and Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel & Wellness .
How to Get Tickets
Even when you buy your ticket in advance, guides are required at Machu Picchu, whether you're on an organized tour or traveling independently. Hire one outside the gates, or make a booking in Aguas Calientes.
To control overtourism at Machu Picchu, the Peruvian government has set up a ticketing system , split up into five different circuits. Tickets must be purchased in advance and cost approximately $42 for adults and $20 for students and minors. When you book online, you will be able to see exactly how many tickets are available for that day. On the day of your visit, you will choose between one of the five circuits. The stricter controls help to protect the site from the effects of too many visitors. Before you book, carefully look at the circuits and see which landmarks they include.
You'll need a separate ticket to climb Huayna Picchu (Circuit 4 + Wayna Picchu Mountain). The view looking down on the Incan ruins is a highlight for many but be aware that some sections of this strenuous trail are very narrow and steep. You'll have the choice of starting your climb between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Go at 10 a.m.; there's a better chance any clouds will have lifted by then.
You can also climb to the peak of Machu Picchu, but this too requires a separate ticket (Macchupicchu Mountain + Circuit 3) and good knees. The trail is almost entirely stairs. You'll have the choice of starting your climb between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. Although it was open in the past, you will also need a separate ticket to make the short walk to the Inca Bridge (Circuit 1 or 2 + Inka Bridge). It's less than an hour round trip along a mostly flat trail to check out a precarious trail, now closed, which the Incas built along a rock face. The newest route, as of 2021, to Huchyu Picchu (Circuit 4 + Huchuypicchu Mountain) is also available with a separate ticket. It's shorter and easier than the other mountain hikes and you'll get a unique perspective of the ancient city.
The Inca Trail and Other Treks
Chris Marinaccio/Travel + Leisure
The other way to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu is to walk as part of an organized multiday Machu Picchu trek along the Inca Trail, a section of one of the hundreds of Incan roads built as the empire expanded. It might sound intimidating, but thousands of people make this trek every year. Dozens of tour operators offer Inca Trail hikes to Machu Picchu, with varying durations and levels of comfort (though all require camping). Note that the Inca Trail leading to Machu Picchu is closed for the entire month of February every year for maintenance.
For a different kind of Peru experience, some tour operators combine a visit to the iconic site with other activities or less-trodden routes to equally impressive sights in the Peruvian highlands. For example, the Inca Jungle Tour combines hiking, biking, rafting, and zip-lining on your way to Machu Picchu, and luxury tour operator andBeyond offers several Machu Picchu itineraries.
You can also drive (most of the way) to Machu Picchu from Cusco to the town of Hydroelectrica (there's a hydroelectric plant there). From there it's a three-hour hike up to Aguas Calientes and then on to Machu Picchu. Many tour companies in Cusco offer this route as a one- or two-day trip using private vans. Some of the most popular alternative routes include Salkantay Mountain, the second city of Choquequirao, and the Lares region.
For those who prefer a less crowded experience or want to see and experience other aspects of Peru on their way to Machu Picchu, there are many hiking alternatives: the second most popular way to hike to Machu Picchu is around massive Salkantay Mountain, one of the most imposing peaks in the Peruvian Andes at 20,569 feet. Many tour companies offer Salkantay Treks, but Apus Peru, an established and well-regarded Cusco tour company with a focus on sustainable and responsible tourism, offers an express trek , which shaves a day off the normal itinerary for those who want to push their physical limits on their way to Machu Picchu.
Travelers interested in archaeology should consider the Choquequirao trek with a Machu Picchu extension. This itinerary includes spectacular (but very tough) hiking in the steep Apurimac Canyon and exploration of the Choquequirao archaeological site before arriving in Aguas Calientes and then exploring Machu Picchu.
The Lares Adventure from Mountain Lodges of Peru offers a great combination of Andean hiking and cultural encounters within Quechua communities before arriving in Aguas Calientes to explore the citadel. Other tour companies offer treks through the Lares region, but only this itinerary includes luxury accommodations in their own lodges and full service along the way.
Best Hotels and Resorts
Unfortunately, there are no ancient Incan hotels you can stay in when you arrive at Machu Picchu, and even those who arrive by the Inca Trail usually do so with camping tents. The closest you can get is the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge , which gives you easy access to the site, but you'll be far away from the dining and shopping of Aguas Calientes — either a strenuous 90-minute climb down the mountain or a harrowing 30-minute drive.
Where to Stay in Aguas Calientes
For a luxury stay in Aguas Calientes, you have two main options: the elegant Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo , located near the train station, and design-forward Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel , a boutique property near the foot of Machu Picchu Mountain. But there are dozens of mid-range options, too, plus super-affordable hostels for backpackers like Nativus Hostel , which also has private rooms.
Where to Stay in Cusco
Cusco has more than its share of large, full-service hotels including Inkaterra La Casona , an 11-suite hotel in a 16th-century mansion; Belmond Hotel Monasterio in a former Jesuit seminary; the museum-like JW Marriott El Convento Cusco ; and the stately Palacio del Inka, A Luxury Collection Hotel . If a contemporary boutique is more your style, try El Mercado or Atiq Boutique Hotel .
When you're in Machu Picchu, there's a casual cafe and bar with a lovely deck just outside the entrance gates, but the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge's buffet lunch is your only sit-down-restaurant option. It's very good, if pricey. You can always pack your own lunch to eat when you get to Machu Picchu, though, and look forward to a celebratory meal when you make it back to Aguas Calientes or Cusco.
Where to Eat and Drink in Aguas Calientes
As a whole, Aguas Calientes isn't exactly on the cutting edge of Peruvian cuisine. But walk down Av. Pachacutec and you'll find low-key eateries and bars, some serving a selection of Peru's growing crop of craft beers. There are also high-end restaurants inside the two luxury hotels, Inkaterra and Sumaq, which are open to non-guests. More low-key traveler favorites include Restaurante Indio Feliz , serving up French-Peruvian dishes, and Mapacho Craft Beer Restaurant , where you can pair local specialties with craft beer from all over the country.
Where to Eat and Drink in Cusco
Significantly larger than Aguas Calientes, Cusco is one place where you should have no problem finding great restaurants. Cicciolina is a classic tapas bar that feels like a local hangout, serving international and Andean dishes out of an open kitchen. Kion, from the growing Cusco Restaurants group , is a stylish place to enjoy Cantonese cuisine. The decor is Chinese vintage, the flavors are subtle, and the atmosphere is festive.
Chicha is the first restaurant in Cusco from Peruvian superstar chef Gaston Acurio of Astrid & Gastón fame. Located on the second floor of a Colonial building, the restaurant offers haute Andean cuisine (alpaca carpaccio, quinoa with duck) in an airy and well-lit space. After dinner, you can head to Cholos pub near the main plaza, which keeps around a dozen different Peruvian craft beers on tap. Peruvian owner Rodrigo Cardenas is passionate and knowledgeable about all of them.
Best Things to Do in Machu Picchu
When you arrive at the citadel, you'll have to follow the route outlined on your ticket so you may want to study up on some of the city's most exciting sites before you decide. Among the most important are the Sacred Stone, an astronomical clock that corresponds with the spring and autumnal equinoxes, and the Temple of the Sun, which is a great example of the Incans' impressive masonry skills.
During your visit, make sure you have some spare cash (small bills and coins) in your pocket because you will need them to access the only bathroom at the site entrance. You will also need your passport to get into Machu Picchu, which means that to use the bathroom or grab food you should have your passport ready. Hang onto your ticket because you'll need it to get back in. It may seem like a hassle, but you'll be glad you have it on you because just outside the entrance gates, there's a barely marked station where you can get the novelty Machu Picchu stamp in your passport.
On your way to Machu Picchu, you'll also find several interesting attractions in Aguas Calientes and Cusco.
Things to Do in Aguas Calientes
The town takes its name from the thermal springs, which are open to the public for a small fee. You'll also find plenty of souvenir shops at the major market near the train station. While Machu Picchu is the main attraction, of course, you can also visit the Mariposario de Machupicchu butterfly sanctuary .
Things to Do in Cusco
Cusco's pre-Columbian buildings have given this city UNESCO World Heritage status , and its cobblestoned streets, great hotels, museums, nearby archaeological sites, and relaxed atmosphere make it worth spending at least a couple of days here.
Cusco is filled with historic sites both from the Incan and colonial times: don't miss the impressive Coricancha (also spelled Koricancha or Qorikancha), an Incan temple-turned-Spanish church; the Sacsayhuaman Incan ruins; and the Cusco Cathedral. Wander through the streets of the hip San Blas neighborhood, people-watch on the Plazas de Armas, and shop at the San Pedro Market.
Travelers in wheelchairs can access the Peruvian world wonder with the help of tour companies like Wheel the World , which designed the first-ever wheelchair-accessible tour of Machu Picchu. You can contact the company to learn more about their services and their custom wheelchairs that are specially made to travel over the many steps and uneven terrain of the ancient city.
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Whether you're planning a multiday trek or a quick in-and-out day trip, you should be prepared to dress for mountain conditions. Bring water and a rain jacket, even if it looks like a beautiful sunny day. Speaking of the sun, remember that the ozone layer over Peru is compromised, and that, combined with the elevation, makes the sun extremely strong here, so wear a hat and use plenty of high SPF sunscreen. Keep insect repellant handy as well.
Don't bring drones, umbrellas, walking sticks, or trekking poles since they're all prohibited at Machu Picchu. Travelers who require sticks or poles for mobility can bring them in but only with protective rubber tips over the ends.
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