- You can book Machu Picchu tickets for the site, or the site and a mountain: Huyana Picchu or Montana. You don’t need to hike any mountain to have the classic view on the site, but it’s still pretty cool to do.
- We’ve been there early morning but it was already packed. It could be better to go either very early or later.
- Book your tickets in advance, specially for any mountain.
- There’s no water, food or toilet after passing the entrance.
- The best point of view is from the top terraces, follow the Inca Bridge.
- Take the minimum with you since you have to walk around quite a lot.
- Bring hikking shoes and rain gear.
- Take your passport with you, they check at the entrance and you can also get it stamped for free.
- You don’t need a guide to visit the site. It’s better but not mandatory. We didn’t took one and that was perfect.
- It takes around 4 hours to visit, including Huyana Picchu if you go fast.
- Aguas Calientes is a sad town with nothing besides hotels, one night is enough.
We stayed at Adelas Hotel, very comfortable with nice view on the river and breakfast.
🚲 Getting there
We came there by train from Ollantaytambo in two hours.
We arrived at 8PM, slept, did the Macchu Pichu and went back to Cusco.
Sacred Valley day tour 🌄
After few days chilling in Cusco to get used to the altitude, we started our first expedition into the Inca world. We booked in advance a small sized day tour to the Sacred Valley, to then get dropped at the Ollantaytambo train station, to carry on our way to Machu Picchu.
We booked with the Exploor agency and that was perfect. The guide, Gris, was awesome, the minivan perfect, the lunch of high quality and the views fantastic, for a total of 50$ each. You probably can find way cheaper in Cusco but we wanted some comfort, trolley travel style.
After an early pick-up at 6:45AM from our hotel in Cusco, we drove 45 minutes and reached the first viewpoint of the Sacred Valley, where we stopped and took some nice pictures. An extra hour of drive later, we stopped to buy the multi-site tickets for 70S each and entered in the Pisac Archeologic site: a wonderful old inca village sitting on top of a mountain. Most of the walls and terraces are still there. We also learnt that the hill in front used to be a cemetery, where people where buried in fetal position in the inca tradition. We stayed around one hour on the site, walking around and enjoying the view.
Our next stop was located 1 hour drive further, at the Salineras de Maras. After a little hike down, we could enjoy watching more than 3000 pools of salty water for around 45 minutes. The incas and now local communities use the naturally very salty water to fill their pool, and extract the salt from it with evaporation. Those pools at the bottom of the valley created a fantastic and very unusual landscape. While passing in the souvenirs shops after the visit, make sure to try the quinoa with salt chocolate, very tasty.
We then reached Moray, an avocado shaped terrace which according to the latest studies, was a kind of laboratory for the incas to try to adapt plants to high altitudes. Regardless of the history, it’s very scenic and quite impressive.
We then stopped for a delicious buffet lunch, with ceviche please, at Hacienda Puka Punku, and then to a local shop a bit further to try out the local alcohol Chicha. Full and tipsy, we headed to our latest stop of the day, Ollataytambo ruins, which was the highlight for us.
We climbed on top of the huge terraces in the mountain, while having a splendid view on the Sacred Valley. Our guide also showed us other buildings in the front mountain, called Colca, which used to store goods at Inca times. We stayed on the site for one hour, said our goodbye with the tour people, and made our way to the train station to get to Aguas Calientes, the closest town to Machu Picchu.
Booking Machu Picchu 🎟
It’s very important to book the tickets in advance, as well as the train tickets. For the train, you can book on Peru Rail or Inca Rail. Note that there’s no direct train from Cusco, so you can either taking a bus to Ollantaytambo then train, or you can do as we did, by doing a tour and get dropped at the train station. Up to you, but we like to break travel time.
For the Macchu Picchu tickets, you can book via any online agencies. We went with ticketmachupicchu.com and we had no problems. We took the access with the bus and the Huyana Picchu, which is the one you see on all the pictures. You can also take the Macchu Picchu Mountain which is longer but with a better view from far on the site.
Hikking Machu Picchu ⛰
We finished our tour in Ollantaytambo at 5PM and went to catch the train at 6:30PM. Make sure to be there at least 30 minutes in advance. The train was a very cool experience, it took us 2h of travel but you feel you’re in one of those old western movies. Upon arrival, we checked in at our hotel and went to get some average burger before getting to a well deserved night of sleep.
Next morning, early wake-up at 6AM. After a quick breakfast, we’ve headed to the queue to take the bus for the site. The hotel staff advised us to be there one hour before the entrance time on our ticket, and they were right. After 40 minutes of queue, we managed to board the bus at 7:40AM. The bus ride was very spectacular, we saw all the surrounding mountains, curve after curve, until arriving at the visitor centre at the top.
After another 15 minutes queue to get our tickets and passport checked, we finally entered. We started by walking up to get the best view on the old village. It was packed with people, but seriously you want to see this place. We’ve been lucky since it wasn’t raining, and not too much fog, which allowed us to see the whole site and enjoy the visit.
After wondering around at the top part of the site, we made our way to the bottom of the ruins, where we admired all the old streets in the magical mountain landscape. There’s also an option to go and checkout the Inca Bridge, but that’s an extra hour of walk and we didn’t had time. The bottom part was also fantastic and very well conserved. We stayed around for about one hour.
Later, I left Barbara chilling in the ruins and started the aerial Huyana Picchu hike. It took me about 2 hours to complete by going quick, count 2h30 going with calm. The hike started by some steps in the forest, a bit slippery, so thanks god I had good shoes. Then it went steeper and steeper, with some ropes attached to the walls to help you not fall.
After a good 40 minutes up, I arrived at the inca terraces, where extra stairs, called the Death Stairs where waiting for me. This part is the most impressive, it’s literally tiny and slippery steps, on the edge of the cliff of 400 meters. Once passed that, I arrived at the top, enjoyed the view on the Macchu Picchu, took some pictures and caught my breath. On the way down, I passed by a very tiny cave, on which the exit is again on the cliff. It’s a moderate hike, very aerial, but sincerely spectacular.
After meeting up Barbara, we’ve headed together to the exit. We got our passports stamped for free, stopped by the toilets (there’s no toilet or food on the site), and caught the bus back to Aguas Calientes. We then passed back by our hotel, grabbed some food and our luggages back, and went to the station to catch the train and bus back to Cusco, where we arrived around 8PM.
Note that you don’t take the train at the same place where you left it. You have to go to the main train station, in the upper part of the village. Ask your hotel staff upfront.
A lot of touristic restaurants with food poisoning reviews. Here’s our safe selection:
- Mapacho Craft Beer: Ok restaurant with burgers and good beers on the tap.
- Full House: Good peruvian restaurant, average price.