Machu Picchu needs almost no introduction these days. In recent decades its mystery was prominent as visiting the ancient Incan site presented more challenges than the average traveler will face today. However, with the over popularization of the citadel on social media sites like Instagram, it’s easy to understand why so many people are planning trips to Peru and visiting Machu Picchu.
With modern technology, websites to purchase tickets, trains, and cell phones with international data, the trek to Machu Picchu (if we can still call it that) has become significantly easier. Sure, one can still hike the Inca Trail and reach Machu Picchu in 4 days. However, most are limited on time (or lazy) and so choose to leverage the train system that is in place.
Walking through a dream city in the clouds. 🙌🏻☁️ We Spent the day learning about the Incas and hiking around these beautiful ancient ruins. Spiritual and fascinated with astronomy, the Incas built their cities as high in the sky as possible in order to be closer to their gods. Everything they built was impeccable, and the knowledge they had of the stars, sun, and architecture was astonishing. It was hard to believe that all they accomplished was even possible at that point in time (approx 1438-1472!). Imagine what accidentally stumbling upon this lost city must have been like 💭✨
In this blog we will highlight how to get to Machu Picchu, what to do at Machu Picchu, and we will provide details about Machu Picchu Tours, and the Sun Gate Hike at Machu Picchu.
Snapped this shot on my iPhone out the window of a train as we were traveling through the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu. From Cuzco, the train takes about 3 hours, but it passes by quite quickly considering that you have views like this around every turn. Badly need to take @alexandra_carson back here and just hike around the Sacred Valley for a week. The Andes are simply breathtaking.
Peru Rail and Machu Picchu Train
Most people visiting Machu Picchu tend to be traveling from the beautiful Andean town of Cuzco. Nestled 10,000 feet up in the mountains, this town with LITERALLY take your breath away. Take some gingko biloba, drink some coca tea, stay hydrated, and you should be fine.
If you’re an American (or from any industrialized, modern country), the roads and infrastructure in Peru might seem a bit out dated and challenging. Machu Picchu is only 75 KM from Cuzco. This distance should typically take no more than an hour by car if one were to drive on a typical American highway (well, except for those of us in Los Angeles….maybe 2 hours).
However, driving is not a feasible option here. To arrive at Machu Picchu from Cuzco, it is imperative to take a train. And unfortunately, this train happens to be expensive.
There are a couple train companies that you can purchase your tickets from; we chose Peru Rail. Depending on your date and time of travel (as well as how late you book your reservation), don’t be surprised if you spend $150 or more per person. To be fair, the trains are nice. They are clean. The food served is actually halfway decent. And the entertainment they provide on the night journey home is almost worth the fee itself. We won’t ruin the surprise….but enjoy.
The beauty we encountered on this train ride made the price and the 3-hour journey seem like non-issues. 3 hours seemed to pass in a flash (Well, except for the ride home when we were tired. At least they served us food and provided entertainment.)
Once your train finally arrives in Aguas Calientes, you will have to decide if you’re going to take the bus up the mountain to the entrance, or hike. The bus ride takes about 20 minutes or so, and the hike is said to take about 1 – 1.5 hours. Considering the “hike” is no more than a walk along the bus road, we opted to pay the bus fare ($24/person round-trip).
Machu Picchu Entrance Tickets
As one might anticipate, yes, the entrance ticket to Machu Picchu is a bit steep. Prices vary depending on nationality and status as a student. Find rates here: Machu Picchu Tickets.
Unless you’re an Incan scholar, you might want to enlist the help of a private your guide. They aren’t hard to find, and they aren’t thieves. We were approached by a man with great English the second we stepped into the bus ticket queue. He asked if we needed a private tour guide, proposed a price that was commensurate with what we heard was the market rate and had us sold before we had our bus tickets purchased.
We paid this gentleman the equivalent of $50 for a 2-hour private tour of Machu Picchu. You can opt for a cheaper option by joining a tour group, but we didn’t mind paying the $10-20 difference to have the tour guide to ourselves.
After we explored through the Incan site, finished up our tour, and took what felt like our 1000th picture, we decided to hike up to the Sun Gate. The Sun Gate is famous for its view of Machu Picchu and is the entrance to Machu Picchu for those (much more dedicated people) who hike to Machu Picchu along the Inca Trail. We would have loved to take the hike, but it takes 4 days…..we had only 5 total days in Peru. Timing wouldn’t have necessarily worked in our favor had we chosen to do this.
So instead, we hiked up to the Sun Gate. The hike is said to take 1 – 1.5 hours each way. We did it in just under 30-minutes each way. As avid hikers, we have learned that we can typically take hiking time estimates and cut them in half or more. We tend to keep a good pace though, which was a bit more challenging at 9,000 feet elevation. Don’t rush. Be kind to your body. Stay hydrated. And if you feel yourself getting queasy or light headed, stop and rest.
There is, of course, also the option to stay in Aguas Calientes. Aguas Calientes is the town located at the bottom of the mountain below Machu Picchu. It is where the main train station is for those traveling to Machu Picchu by train. (This is where we got our bus tickets and private tour guide after getting off the train). Hotel and Airbnb options are available in Aguas Calientes should you choose to stay here as opposed to Cuzco or one of the other towns in the Sacred Valley.