Machu Picchu Overview 2023


Machu Picchu was voted one of the new 7 Wonders of the World in 2007 and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. It truly is a must-visit for anyone visiting South America! These majestic ruins were built by the Inca Empire and are located in the scenic Andean mountain range, surrounded by beautiful cloud forests and mountain scenery.

Getting to Cusco

  • Machu Picchu is ONLY accessible from Cusco City, which can be reached by bus or air travel. Most people land at Jorge Chávez International airport in Lima and then take a bus or domestic flight to Cusco.
  •  Recommended bus companies: Peru Hop, Chiva, Cruz del Sur, Oltursa, Tepsa all have bus routes going in both directions to and from Cusco.
  •  Recommended Airlines: Latam Airlines, Sky Airlines and JetSmart are great for the short flight from Lima to Cusco.


Finding a local tour company based in Cusco is the best way to find knowledgeable guides to take you on your once in a lifetime adventure to Machu Picchu.


Cusco is the main access point to Machu Picchu. From Cusco, you need to reach Aguas Calientes which is only accessible via train, trek, or a combination of bus and walking. Once you get to Aguas Calientes, you need to take a bus or walk up to Machu Picchu.

Getting from Cusco to Aguas Calientes

There are 3 options for you to choose from:

  • Trekking from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, via Inca TrailLares Hike or the Salkantay Trek. (The most adventurous option). You’ll need a tour operator for this option but this is the best way to experience Machu Picchu.
  • You can also take the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes by yourself or with a reliable tour operator.
  • Taking the bus from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. (Not recommended because it’s a long drive on a dangerous road that´s windy, narrow and not very well maintained)

Getting From Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

  • Walk up the steep hill (around 1.5 hours, it’s a short challenging hike, on steep set of stairs)
  • Take a bus (25 minutes ride – around US$24 round trip)
  • Or a combination – we recommend taking the bus up to Machu Picchu, and hiking back down if you feel comfortable with the hour long walk


If you book a tour to Machu Picchu (via a trek or train), most companies will include a local guide to assist you with getting from Cusco to Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu and finally a guided tour inside Machu Picchu.


To access Machu Picchu, you MUST have an entrance ticket purchased in advance.
Most of the tickets are usually included as part of any tour or trek to Machu Picchu. Tickets are limited, so we recommend booking a tour or trek at least some weeks in advance. You cannot enter Machu Picchu without hiring a local guide, and figuring out the transport can be a pain. For this reason, we recommend booking a tour or trek with a reliable tour operator. Be careful how you choose company for a tour or trek. There have been hundreds of tourists scammed in the past. Usually if the price seems too good to be true, it usually is.

We recommend the following formal companies who have years of experience and good feedback from over 250,000 customers:

Visit our guide to Tour Operators for more information about how to choose the right operator for Machu Picchu.


Multi-Day Treks

  • Treks are ideal for those who want to experience walking in the footsteps of the Inca.
  • 2, 3 or 4 days of walking is required.
  • All treks start in Cusco and end in Machu Picchu so all planning is done for you. Trekking companies should include transportation back to Cusco after your visit to this amazing Inca city . (Door to door service)
  • Trekking companies usually include most of the tickets, like entrances to Machu Picchu, train tickets, transportation, meals and an English and Spanish speaking guide.
  • Most treks also include food and accommodation (check your itinerary first)

The Classic Inca Trail

  • The #1 rated trek to Machu Picchu
  • Must book 6 months in advance due to limited number of permits
  • Considered to be a difficult trek
  • Sleeping in tents every night
  • Closed every year in February
  • Prices range from $600-$3000
  • 4 Days of trekking, stopping at famous Inca sites along the way

Check tour operators, compare prices and book your trek here!

The Salkantay Trek

  • 4-5 full days of trekking
  • Incredible scenery as the trek passes through the Cordillera Vilcabamba
  • One of the best treks in the world according to National Geographic
  • Difficult trek- some say harder than the Inca Trail
  • Booking 2-3 weeks in advance is usually fine
  • Prices range from $500 to $2300

Check out tour operators, compare prices and book the trek here!

The Inka Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu

  • Combination of trekking and adventure sports like biking, zip line
  • Difficulty level is Medium(3 days is easier than 4 days)
  • Treks available all year round
  • Booking 2-3 weeks in advance is usually fine
  • Prices range from $450-$750
  • 4 day option includes trekking on a part of the official Inca Trail

Check out tour operators, compare prices and book the trek here!

The Lares Trek

  • Visit native Andean communities with tons of Llamas & Alpacas
  • See stunning mountains and enjoy amazing glacial lagoons & hot springs
  • Prices range from $450 to $2500
  • Departs every few days
  • Experience authentic Andean culture and local communities

Extra hikes in Machu Picchu

Once inside the citadel, you have the option to climb either Huayna Picchu (the famous peak seen in pictures of the citadel) or Machu Picchu Mountain. Tickets for these additional treks need to be booked separately and in advance. We recommend checking with the tour operator you use for your main trek.

Huayna Picchu Mt

  • The highest peaked mountain of Machu Picchu
  • There are Inca structures at the top
  • Reaches an altitude of 2,720m
  • 50-minute hike to the top of the mountain
  • Difficult hike – a good level of fitness is required

Machu Picchu Mountain (Montaña)

  • Located on the southwest end of Machu Picchu.
  • A longer trek than Huayna Picchu- around 1 hour 30 to the summit
  • Less steep and less crowded than the alternative
  • Offers great views over Machu Picchu and surrounding area


2 Day Inca Trail (Hiking)

  • You will hike the last 1/3 of the famous Classic Inca Trail (12km in total)
  • You will hike the actual trail that the Ancient Incas hiked more than 600 year ago
  • You get to hike through the Sun Gate all the way to famous Citadel
  • You get to visit Machu Picchu Citadel twice, the 1st and 2nd day of the trek

Check tour operators, compare prices and book your trek here!

1 Day Tour by Train

  • Enjoy a Panoramic train ride to Machu Picchu with amazing views along the way.
  • See panoramic mountains views, rivers and valleys as you pass by ancient cites
  • Hiking up to the Sun Gate and Inca bridge
  • Prices range from $300-$600
  • Take your time exploring the Inca City

Find our the detailed itinerary here!


2 Day Bus/Walk

  • Take the bus from Cusco to Hidroelectrica (the last stop) via Santa Maria
  • 3 hour trek alongside the train tracks to Aguas Calientes
  • Spend the night in Aguas Calientes and either trek or get the bus up to the citadel early the next morning
  • Walk back to Hidroelectrica and drive back to Cusco
  • Can be dangerous because of the quality of the roads
  • Prices range from $150 to $200


  • In Quechua, the language of the Incas, Machu Picchu means old mountain. Huayna Picchu, on the other hand, means young mountain.
  • You can get your passport stamped at the entrance of Machu Picchu for an original souvenir
  • The Ashlar building technique that the Incas used is famous because the stones are cut in such a way that they fit perfectly together with no mortar between the stones.
  • Machu Picchu also served as an astronomical observatory. The sacred Intihuatana stone indicates the two equinoxes and twice per year, the sun sits directly over the stone creating no shadow.
  • To protect the site from erosion, only 500 people are allowed on the Inca Trail each day and in February, the trail is closed for maintenance ( Inca Trail)


  • Your ORIGINAL passport! You cannot enter without it!
  • Your ticket to Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu / Huayna Picchu Mountain; have to be bought in advance.
  • Some money for the passport stamp, bathroom breaks at public rest rooms, souvenirs, as well as dinner or lunch at the restaurant
  • A camera
  • Good walking shoes
  • Water
  • A lunchbox and some snacks
  • Sunscreen and/or small foldable umbrella depending on the weather
  • Insect Repellent


  • Tripods are not allowed at the historical site. You can leave yours in the lockers outside
  • Professional cameras are not allowed. Permits for professional cameras are over $300 so avoid bringing a professional-looking camera in to save some money
  • You cannot come to Machu Picchu with your travel backpack. Only smaller bags are allowed so leave your backpack. You can pay a hotel a small amount of money to take care of it.
  • Walking sticks are not allowed, with an exception for people with a disability that requires walking sticks
  • Only small foldable umbrellas are allowed so avoid bringing a big umbrella with spikes


  • If travelling to Machu Picchu on your own, you will probably go by minibus or taxi (at least part of the way). They often drive dangerously on narrow roads on steep cliffs with hairpin turns. Accidents happen all the time so try to avoid travelling like this or at least make sure not to drive after sun down or during rainy season
  • Tour operators need two certificates, one from the city and one from the tourist board. Make sure they have one of each hanging in their office
  • Like all touristic sites, keep an eye out on your valuables.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu is located 112 km from the City of Cusco, Peru in South America. The nearest town is Aguas Calientes which you can get to by train or by walking.

What is Machu Picchu?

It’s the most impressive archaeological Inca ruin in South America, named a World Cultural and Natural Heritage by UNESCO in 1983, and is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the World. Machu Picchu is a city of stone, built in the middle of the Cordillera de Vilcabamba, without the use or help of wheels or iron tools. Most of the citadel’s structures remain intact today, which is why many consider it the perfect example of the Incas’ brilliant engineering.

How high is Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu is 2,430 meters (7,970 ft) above sea level. Cusco, on the other hand, has an elevation of 3,400 meters.

How to get Machu Picchu Tickets?

You should buy your Machu Picchu Tickets at least 6 months before your trip. Tickets are sold on the official government website ( or via tour companies. Tickets can be paid for with credit or debit cards.

What is the best time to visit?

Consider visiting Machu Picchu from April through May and from September through October. The high-tourist season months are June, July and August when it doesn’t rain.

When was Machu Picchu discovered?

Machu Picchu wasn’t exactly ‘discovered’ because local people have always known about its existence. In 1911, the American explorer Hiram Bingham made public his findings and -wrongly- called it ‘The Lost City of the Incas’.
Nine years before Bingham had arrived, the Peruvian Agustin Lizárraga had found the ruins and left his signature on one of the walls of the Three Windows Temple in the Citadel.