A Guide to Machu Picchu

By ShortEdit
April 12, 2024

There are not many places on earth that are surrounded by so much beauty and mystery as Machu Picchu, not much is known about the site and archeologists can only guess as to its purpose. The location of the Inca Citadel also raises many questions. Set deep in the heart of the Andes high on the mountain top and hidden for years and away from the Spanish the site remains mostly intact and waiting for your visit.


Machu Picchu construction began around 1450 AD. Most agree the mountaintop citadel was the royal palace of the Inca Pachacutec, the 9th king. Others speculate it was a great political and religious center where the Inca rulers gathered. From what we know Machu Picchu was only occupied for a short time and the mystery remains as to why. The site was rediscovered in 1911 when an American name Hiram Bingham, with the help of local farmer, stumbled upon the site looking for something else. The American excavated the site and this what we enjoy today.

When to go to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is opened the tourists all year round. The site is located in the Andes mountains on the edge of the Amazon jungle, the Andes has 2 seasons the Dry and the Wet Seasons.
The Dry Season is from May to October, this is the busiest time of year, but also the driest. The pictures you will get will be clear and beautiful, but you will have to wait at the best vantage points for those pictures.
The Wet Season is from November to April, the site is less crowded, but also expect rain. The ruins maybe covered in low cloud and the pictures will include the mist. Expect less waiting time at the major parts of Machu Picchu.

How to get to Machu Picchu

There are no roads that connect Cusco to Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu is in a remote, mountainous region of Peru, so the only two options are to take the train or trek there.


Most travelers take the train to Aguas Calientes, which the town below Machu Picchu, the train is the fastest and most convenient way to get there if you want comfort and are short on time. There are 2 companies that offer trains to Machu Picchu, PeruRail and Inca Rail, both have a budget tourist, luxury and super luxury train services depending on your budget. There are departures all day to and from Machu Picchu and Cusco. There are 2 train stations available for the journey to Machu Picchu, from Cusco or from the Sacred Valley.

Routes & Travel Times:

  • The train from Cusco (Poroy) to Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes) is 4 hours
  • The train from Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley) to Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes) is 2 hours
  • The train from Urubamba (Sacred Valley) to Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes) is 3 hours (*limited weekly departures)

Luggage Restrictions:

On the train each passenger is only allowed one carry-on luggage that weighs no more than 11 lbs (5kg).

Getting from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

From the bus stop located only 3 to 5 minutes walking from the train station in Aguas Calientes, buses take passengers between the town and the ruins, using a winding road that goes up and down the steep mountainside. Most tours to Machu Picchu include the bus tickets in the total price of the package.

Trekking to Machu Picchu

If you love trekking and adventure you should do the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Most companies will offer you 1-, 2-, 4- or 5-day options, with the 4 days being most popular. The iconic 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is the most popular trek in South America. On the trek you travel through high Andean passes, pass Inca sites and visit the memorable entrance to Machu Picchu, the Sun Gate. There’s also the 2-day Inca Trail if you are on a tight schedule or prefer a less demanding walk. To book the 4-day Inca Trail you need to do so with a licensed Inca Trail operator in advance as tickets sell out quickly. There are also alternative treks that are equally adventurous that finish in Machu Picchu.

The Salkantay Trek is 5 days of magic that ends in Machu Picchu, pass the snowcapped Salkantay Mountain, walk through verdant cloud forests and enter Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate.

Also, the 4-day Lares Trek follows the route through the Lares Valley, you will pass remote villages, beautiful high Andean peaks and Inca ruins and experience a guided tour of Machu Picchu.

Things to see at Machu Picchu

Sun Gate

The Sun Gate was the original entrance to Machu Picchu. Today trekkers make their entrance to the citadel through the Sun Gate on the final day of the Inca Trail. Note Due to restrictions people doing day tours to Machu Picchu can’t access the Sun Gate.

Temple of the Sun

The Temple of the Sun in Machu Picchu is the sites only round structure. At certain times of year especially the winter solstice the sun aligns with a window and a sacred rock in the center of the temple. The temple was to honor the Sun God, Inti.


Used for astronomical observations, Intihuatana was chiseled out of a large piece of granite. The rock is located high at Machu Picchu to get the best sunlight.

Temple of the Condor

There are 2 large boulders at the entrance of the temple in the shape of wings, hence the name, the temple of the Condor, archeologist speculate that the temple was an altar or was used for burial purposes.

Stairway of Fountains

The Incas built a system of canals to the agricultural and urban sectors of the site. At the center is the Stairway of Fountains, these 16 fountains are linked and water cascades down the mountain.

The Guard House

The Guard House was used by soldiers who guarded two main entrances to Machu Picchu, from the south, the Inca Trail and the Sun Gate and from the west the main trail from Vilcabamba.

Huayna Picchu

This is the most popular hike at Machu Picchu, it takes about one hour to reach the summit of Huayna Picchu and stunning views over the ruins are your reward.

Machu Picchu Mountain

Machu Picchu Mountain is nearly double the height of the adjacent peak, Huayna Picchu. The one and a half to two-hour journey to the top is a strenuous climb with several long sections of stone steps and spectacular 360-degree views.

Ticket Guide

Machu Picchu Tickets

Tickets to Machu Picchu are limited and must be purchased in advance. During the peak season from May to November it is a must if you plan to travel to Machu Picchu, you will need to book and pay for your tickets up to 4 months in advance. If you plan to climb either Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain you must book these tickets early as the government of Peru only releases 400 tickets a day and these sell out quickly.

The time designated for you to enter the site is selected when you buy your tickets. Take note of the time indicated on your ticket, you have the full hour to enter the archaeological site after this time. Arrive at the bus stop in Aguas Calientes at least one hour before your entrance time at the Machu Picchu ruins.


  • An entry ticket to Machu Picchu is valid for 4 hours, so you have 4 hours in the site.
  • An entry with a Huayna Picchu ticket gives you 6 hours to go on a Machu Picchu tour and do the hike.
  • An entry with Machu Picchu Mountain ticket gives you 7 hours to take a guided tour and do the hike. This hike is longer than Huayna Picchu hence why you have more time in Machu Picchu.

Walking Circuits

Walking circuits around Machu Picchu help control foot traffic.

Routes 1 and 2 pass similar attractions but explore different sections of the agricultural zone. These routes are the most popular and see more of the site than the other route. These sell out quickly so book early.

Route 3 is an alternative walking route so visitors with hiking permits can do Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain. You will do route 3 when finishing the Inca Trail.

Where to Stay

Depending on your budget there are many hotels in the town of Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu.

⭐⭐⭐ 3 Star Hotel

Casa Andina Standard Machu Picchu, Prolongacion Imperio de Los Incas E – 34, Aguas Calientes, clean and comfortable hotel close to town.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Star Hotel

El Mapi, Av. Pachacutec 109, Aguas Calientes, modern hotel with all the features of home.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Star Hotel

IncaTerra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Kilometer 110 Via Ferrea, Aguas Calientes, beautiful garden setting.

Where to Eat

Peru is famous for its fabulous cuisine, in Aguas Calientes there are many wonderful restaurants to choose from.

Indio Feliz Restaurant is a favorite among travelers for its menu of Peruvian classics with a French flavor. Try the river trout or the grilled chicken, each prepared with Andean ingredients. Calle Lloque Yupanqui 103, Aguas Calientes

The Tree House Restaurant is located up a steep alleyway on the edge of town, this excellent restaurant serves a menu of Peruvian fusion cuisine shaped by Andean, Italian, Asian, and Latin American influences. Calle Huanacaure 105, Aguas Calientes

Toto’s House Restaurant is ideal for large groups, serving an all-you-can-eat buffet as well as an extensive a la carte menu. A convenient location close to the train station, views over the river. Av. Timperio de Los Incas 600, Aguas Calientes 

Travel Tips

What to bring

  • A small daypack with water to drink
  • Snacks if you like
  • Comfortable shoes or runners
  • Camera
  • Rain jacket or poncho
  • A fleece or jacket,
  • Basic toiletries
  • Hat for the sun,
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent.
  • Passport (you cannot board the train or enter Machu Picchu without your passport)
  • Student ID card if appropriate.
  • Money for souvenirs and tips

Machu Picchu for most of you is a bucket list destination, filled with mystery and fundamentally superior to any other ancient site that you will visit. Book a tour to Machu Picchu today.

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