Machu Picchu: All you need to know

Planning a visit to the sacred citadel of the Incas is a must if you’re a first-time traveler to Peru. Machu Picchu, which means Old Mountain in the Incas’ native tongue, Quechua, is located approximately 4 hours from Cusco. For more than 100 years, explorers from all over the Globe have been drawn to solve the mysteries of the lost city of the Incas. Just the feeling of standing there, guarded by ancient, mystic mountains covered in lush vegetation, will send a rush of pure bliss to the very ends of your body.  

But before you go, you should bear in mind there are a few things to research and/or book prior to your arrival. Here’s a detailed checklist to help you out:

Trains and Transportation

In order to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu Town, you have to take a train operated by either Peru Rail or Inca Rail. Both companies have a range of options depending on the price you’re willing to pay. For instance, Peru Rail has 4 different trains (from least to most expensive): Expedition, Vistadome, Andean Explorer and the luxurious Belmond Hiram Bingham. Likewise, Inca Rail has 3 trains (from least to most expensive): Machu Picchu Train, Inca Train and Inca Princess.

There are two options, board your train from Poroy Station (30 minutes from Cusco by taxi) or from Ollantaytambo Station (1.5 hours from Cusco, in the Urubamba Valley). We recommend you board the train from Ollantaytambo so you could add a visit to the “Sacred Valley of the Incas” to your itinerary. It is a great chance to explore Maras & Moray! Both companies are excellent and operate by the highest standards of service in Latin America. From Poroy, it’s 3 hours to Machu Picchu Town, while from Ollantaytambo it’s about 1.5 hours’ journey.

Normally, tickets range from US$120 to US$420 per person, round trip, depending on the perks and quality of service you’re looking for.  You can check itineraries and prices here:

Once you arrive at Machu Picchu Town, you have 2 options to get to Machu Picchu citadel: take a tourist bus or hike up the mountain. Buses depart every 15 minutes and cost US$20 per adult, and US$10 per child, round trip. The drive uphill shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. Check bus tickets here:

Nevertheless, if you’re more of an adventure-seeker hiking up the mountain is something you could consider. The trail is relatively well-marked, takes about 1 hour, and could definitely be a unique way of getting to the Lost City of the Incas.


Due to its fragility, Machu Picchu only receives a limited number of visitors per day. Thus, we highly recommend buying your tickets well in advance of your visit to Peru. There are several ticket combinations available, such as Machu Picchu only, Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu + Mountain, and Machu Picchu + Site Museum. Official prices start at US$50 for adults. You can check out prices and availability here: or book them through a travel agency. Please take note that it is not possible to buy tickets at the entrance of Machu Picchu. You must arrive to the Citadel with a printed ticket, previously paid. Bear in mind that Machu Picchu opens from 6am to 4:30pm daily.


If you’re visiting Machu Picchu by your own and not as part of a guided tour, it is possible to hire a local guide just outside the Citadel for approximately S/.60 per person (about US$20). Usually, this guide will show you around the Inca site for 1 to 2 hours. If you’re a first-time visitor, it is advisable to go with a local guide since they will give you valuable information and show you key parts of Machu Picchu that you might otherwise just miss.

In total you might be spending around US$230 per person:

Details: Approximate amount spent:
Train tickets US$ 150
Bus tickets US$ 20
Entry tickets to Machu Picchu US$ 50
Guide US$ 20
TOTAL US$ 240 per person

Machu Picchu Highlights

Exploring one of the World’s New 7 Wonders is an amazing experience for every traveler out there. For many, it might even be a once-in-a-lifetime journey! In order to make the most of your visit, we recommend checking out the Citadel’s highlights. Here are our top 5:

  1. Temple of the Three Windows – Beautifully built, each window represents a different part of the World according to Andean beliefs: the underground (Uku-Pacha), heaven (Hanan-Pacha) and the present (Kay-Pacha)
  2. Temple of the Sun – possibly the most important building in the ancient Citadel
  3. Gate of the Sun (Intipunku) – This was once the main entrance to Machu Picchu.
  4. Machu Picchu Mountain – As the highest mountain around Machu Picchu, it provides breathtaking views of the Inca site.
  5. Huayna Picchu Mountain – A must for adventure-seekers. Be sure to buy tickets at least 2 months prior to your arrival since they tend to run out quickly.

One extra tip: restaurants in Machu Picchu tend to be very expensive, which is why we strongly recommend you have lunch in Machu Picchu Pueblo (the local town). It’s also a good idea to buy bottled water and snacks in Machu Picchu Pueblo, before you take the bus up to Machu Picchu.

Now that you’re good to go, don’t wait any longer to take the trip of a lifetime! The Lost City of the Incas is out there, waiting for you to discover it.

Take a look to our programs including Cusco and Machu Picchu here: Machu Picchu tours