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Top 6 Machu Picchu Travel Tips

August 29, 2014 | By

I recently had the opportunity to experience the iconic Incan Lost City of Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is a popular tourist destination and considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Also, for the second consecutive year, Machu Picchu was voted as the #1 adventurous landmark by Travelers Choice. Located high in the Andes Mountains, it was first discovered in 1911, and has grown in popularity ever since. Because of its remote location, getting to Machu Picchu can be quite a challenge, but the once-in-a-lifetime experience was well worth it!

host travel agency listMachu Picchu is a year round destination, however the best time to visit is April through October, with peak season in July and August. Machu Picchu is set in a tropical cloud forest, so rain and mist is part of this amazing site.

The historic city of Cusco is the gateway to Machu Picchu, and sits at 11,000 feet which can cause altitude sickness (usually headaches and nausea). I highly recommend you travel with an altitude prescription, and also drink the local coca tea. You will want to stay in Cusco for a night or two to acclimate. The pre-Columbian buildings and magnificent Incan stone walls have given this city of 500,000 people UNESCO World Heritage Status.

The Sacred Valley is another perfect stopover to Machu Picchu, where you will be met by the beautiful Urubamba Rivers and landscapes… and if time permits, you can shop at Pisac Market for Peruvian handicrafts.

There are many ways to visit and experience Machu Picchu. One is to hike the Inca Trail, which can take several hours to days depending on the time and adventure level you choose. Or you can take the train as I did, where you will most likely fly into Cusco and take the 3.5 hr train ride to Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of Machu Picchu. The Cusco train station is in the nearby town of Poroy. It’s a taxi ride away, but give yourself at least 25 minutes to get there from your Cusco Hotel. If you choose to take a train, you can choose between the Expedition, the Vista Dome or Hiram Bingham. The first two are similar, comfortable with full-on window views, offering great service, and the rate comes with a continental breakfast. The Hiram Bingham is the luxury option that’s run by Orient- Express. It is a gorgeous train, the rate includes white glove treatment, a tablecloth meal with wine, and is considerably more expensive.

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Peru Rail train

The train ride was definitely a highlight; Peru Rail does a great job. The trip from Cusco to Aguas Calientes is a beautiful ride along the Urubamba River with canyon walls on either side. The landscape is amazing. I suggest you take an early train, arriving at Machu Picchu Pueblo in the early afternoon. Your private guide will meet you with tickets and instructions, and get you on the bus to the Citadel. It’s about a 20 minute climb with many switchbacks. After your private tour, enjoy a wonderful lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge, enjoy the rest of the afternoon at the ruins hiking and taking in the sights. You will definitely want two days at Machu Picchu. It is a good idea to schedule the train back to Cusco around 3-4pm.

My Top 6 List of Machu Picchu Traveler Tips:

  • Bring water and a poncho. Even if It looks like a beautiful weather, count on rain. (You can buy ponchos at any local market for $1.)
  • Transportation: Unless you want to attempt the steep 90-minute walk from Aguas Calientes to the Citadel, buses are your only option. They operate every few minutes starting at 5:30am, and there’s usually somewhat of a wait. At the end of the day, don’t wait to catch the very last bus, because if you don’t make it on, you will have to walk down. The best way to enjoy fewer crowds is early in the morning or towards the end of day, but you’ll never be entirely alone.
  • Passport: You must bring your passport, as you will need to present each time you exit to access restrooms and restaurants, and then you will need to show your ticket and passport to reenter. Also, just near the entrance gates, there is a barely-marked station where you can get the novelty Machu Picchu stamp for your passport.
  • Guides: Machu Picchu can certainly be seen with just a detailed guidebook, but don’t underestimate a good guide, as they can add a local perspective and are knowledgeable in history and architectural information.
  • Huayna Picchu: You will need a separate ticket to climb this peak, and you need to reserve it in advance. My daughter and her boyfriend climbed it, and they loved the view looking down on the Incan Ruins. It is strenuous, and not for everyone, but definitely a highlight.
  • Lunch: I highly recommend the Sanctuary buffet lunch. It is a sit-down restaurant, and very good (though pricey at $45.00 per person). With the hiking and rustic day, it is a warm welcome.

There are many options, and logistics involved in planning a trip to Machu Picchu and Peru. I suggest you seek a Virtuoso Travel Advisor for help (any Andavo advisor would be qualified to assist you). Anything is possible in Peru, but may require advance planning. We can help you with any special interests: Andean treks, adventures, archaeology, nature, humanitarian projects, and don’t forget indulgences in the luxury hotels, and world class cuisine! Peru is amazing!!

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