The Machu Picchu hike is one of the most famous hikes in the World for good reason. Built by the Incans before the Spanish invasion, the ancient civilisation of Machu Picchu is a true Wonder of the World.
The ruins are positioned more than 2000 metres high on the top of a lush green mountain, which is in many ways makes visiting Machu Picchu more astonishing than the remaining structures themselves. Efforts made in a Machu Picchu hike are rewarded as possibly one of the best things you will do in your lifetime.
There are a few options for completing a Machu Picchu hike. No matter how you complete yours there are some things to know beforehand.
Machu Picchu Permits
Visiting Machu Picchu is strictly limited to 2500 visitors per year. Given how enormously popular this UNESCO World Heritage Site is, you might understand the importance of purchasing a ticket in advance to avoid disappointment. There is no guarantee that you will receive a ticket if you wait until you arrive, in fact it would be quite unlikely. We recommend booking trips to Machu Picchu before departing your home country.
Tickets are approximately USD$70/adult and are purchased for either a 6am – 12 noon shift or a 12 noon – afternoon shift. Your ticket allows entrance irrespective of doing the Machu Picchu hike or catching the train to the entrance.
Machu Picchu stands on top of a mountain 2430 metres above sea level which means acclimatising to the lack of oxygen is needed.
Because the city of Cusco is above sea level this is a popular place to spend a few nights before travelling to Machu Picchu. Aguas Caliente is the closest town to Machu Picchu and also an option for spending time to acclimatise before a Machu Picchu hike.
Altitude sickness is as individual as the person. While it is said that greater levels of fitness reduce altitude sickness, in theory this makes perfect sense. But in practice a person can be considered fit but still notice altitude sickness. There are a few ways to improve the chances of avoiding altitude sickness:
- Improve levels of cardiovascular fitness before arriving in Peru. The more oxygen that the heart and lungs can take per heart beat maximises oxygen flow to muscles, which is not as easy at high altitude.
- Drink plenty of water. Water is enriched with oxygen, which is exactly what there is less of at high altitude. Drinking plenty of water improves oxygen stores within the bodies tissues.
- Acclimatise at steady increments. This is where it is valuable to spend a few days at lower altitude before your Machu Picchu hike because acclimatisation gives the body time to condition itself to the reduced oxygen levels.
- Take it slow. Rushing will use up oxygen stores in the muscles and tissues at a rate which is faster than it can receive through breathing in air. Take your time; there is no rush.
How To Get To Machu Picchu
Visiting Machu Picchu by train or bus is easy. Aguas Calientes is the closest town to Machu Picchu and there is a train station linking the two together. A train will drop you off close enough to the site to have a short hike to the ruins. Train tickets and timetables can be arranged through Peru Rail. A train from Cusco to Machu Picchu is also available through Peru Rail.
Lima to Machu Picchu can also be done by train but it is recommended instead to travel from Lima to Cusco first. This will give an opportunity to acclimatise before the hike and enjoy a highlight of Peru.
A bus to Machu Picchu is the best option for those who are not fit enough to do a Machu Picchu hike. Buses leave from Aguas Caliente and arrive up at Machu Picchu. departure is usually 5:30am from Aguas Caliente in attempts to see sunrise at Machu Picchu.
A Machu Picchu hike is part of the entire experience of getting to Machu Picchu and although a bus or train can get you close, a hike is a popular option. A Machu Picchu hike takes you on a journey up Peruvian mountains that are surrounded by lush green nature; a stunning experience within the country.
Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu
The best time of year to visit Machu Picchu is between April and October. This is when the weather is warmer, less rain is expected, and you have the best opportunity to take classic photos of this Seventh Wonder of the World like you have many times before. Although the hottest temperatures are experienced from November to March, this also brings dense rain showers. Hotter temperatures don’t necessarily equate to better weather for a Machu Picchu hike.
From June until August Machu Picchu experiences peak season. Crowds of travellers can bring long waits to view the ruins and more difficulty to move around. If you have the luxury of visiting between April – June or August – October you’ll have the best Machu Picchu hike experience.
What to Expect in a Machu Picchu Hike
A Machu Picchu hike generally takes around 3-4 days. This time frame ensures safe acclimatisation, particularly because the trail is steep; Machu Picchu is perched at the top of a mountain remember.
You can’t do a Machu Picchu hike on your own but there are countless tour companies ready to book you in. It is recommended to book in advance and we work with some of the best companies in the World (Intrepid Travel and G Adventures for example), to provide the best treks to you. Reach out through our contact page for packages.
Some of the overnight camp spots are clearly well used and quite grotty. In some places you will be perched in a tent on the edge of a narrow track with plenty of others people around. Don’t expect high end camping! You’ll need to be well prepared with warm layers, a sub zero temperature sleeping bag and quality hiking boots. Take your own snacks too.
Regardless of the camping areas needing a little love, doing a Machu Picchu hike is an experience you will never forget.
Machu Picchu With Kids
Entrance to Machu Picchu free for kids age 7 years and under. The means that Machu Picchu for kids is free. That said; if you are travelling with kids under 8 we recommend taking a bus to the site as the hike is not suitable for children of that age.
The Machu Picchu hike is step, dirty, narrow and challenging; for some of the hike an adult may need to carry exhausted children and that would be far from ideal for an adult too. The actual site of Machu Picchu is fine for children to walk and explore, but it would be very difficult to have a pram or buggy.