Shrouded in mist and surrounded by steep escarpments and lush vegetation, the sprawling Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu lives up to its hype.
With its dramatic setting in a breathtaking location, the Lost City makes for a great trek into history.
It’s no wonder then that half a million travelers throng here each year for a visit.
Planning your Peruvian adventure to Machu Picchu may seem like a daunting task.
However, there are plenty of tour operators that offer planned itineraries to make this experience as simple as possible.
This comprehensive guide lets you in on the secrets to planning a perfect trip to Machu Picchu.
You’ll learn how to get there, what places to see, the best package tours to go on and lots more.
How to get to Machu Picchu from Lima
Flights from Lima to Cusco
For visitors to Machu Picchu, there are daily flights to Cusco from Lima from the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima.
The airport is open 24/7, although most of its facilities only operate during regular office hours.
A detailed schedule of flight arrivals and departures can be found online and at the main check-in area.
Most international flights arrive late at night.
Therefore the busiest time at customs and immigration is between 8pm and 11pm.
Bus and Train from Cusco to Machu Picchu
The cheapest yet least safe way to get to Machu Picchu is by bus.
It takes 2 days to get to Machu Picchu by bus from Cusco.
At Cusco, book a bus to the town of Hidroelectrica, the last town accessible via road before Machu Picchu.
From this small town, you can either take the train or hike to Aguas Calientes town.
Then take the bus or hike up the mountain and enter the Inca Citadel.
The easiest way to reach Machu Picchu is via train.
Purchase your tickets online in advance from Peru Rail as they sell out quickly.
Take the train from Poroy Station in Cusco.
Your journey will end at Aguas Calientes, the last town before you get to Machu Picchu.
Thereafter take the bus or hike up the mountain to reach the Lost City.
Hiking from Cusco to Machu Picchu
Nothing beats the satisfaction of approaching Machu Picchu on your own two feet.
Here are 7 trails stretching throughout the Andes that provide travelers with alternate routes to get to Machu Picchu.
- Inca Trail – This classic trail is famous for the diversity of its ecosystems and topography. Spend one night on the trail so you can enjoy a dramatic entrance into the Inca Citadel at dawn via the Sun Gate. (1-2 days)
- Salkantay Trail – This impressive trail will take you on a mule-assisted hike. From here, gaze across the valley for rare panoramas of the complete Machu Picchu complex. (5-8 days)
- Lares Trail – The trail will cut through several villages where life continues much as it has for centuries. Along the way, enjoy close-up views of Mount Veronica and several lakes. (3-5 days)
- Choquequirao – The trek offers a quiet, challenging and beautiful way to get to Machu Picchu. Starting from the town of Chiquisca, you will descend further into the valley before traversing the Apurimac River. (3-4 days)
- Vilcabamba Trail – Starting from the town of Cachora, hikers will cross a mountain range, rivers and valleys. They will also cut through several of the diverse bio zones of Peru. (7-13 days)
- Chaski Trail – This route follows the paths that ancient Incan messengers used to connect outposts of the vast empire. The trail will conclude at Ollantaytambo where trekkers can soak up one of the most famous sets of Inca ruins. (3-5 days)
- Huchuy Qosqo Trail – The trail winds over a series of undulating hills with awesome views. You will see llamas and alpacas among the fantastic scenery. (2 days)
Can you take the bus, train and hike to Machu Picchu?
Yes. The city of Cusco is the gateway to Machu Picchu and all 3 options are available for accessing the Inca Citadel.
The train provides the quickest means and is ideal for those short on time or prefer to relax.
Hiking is the most gratifying as it provides beautiful scenery along the way.
Bus is the cheapest but also the least safe option.
It’s also possible to combine taking the train and trekking.
Simply take a train departing from Poroy Station or Ollantaytambo Station.
Both trains end their journey at the station in Aguas Calientes.
From here, you can hike to Machu Picchu.
Places to see on Tour between Lima and Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is the most popular destination in Peru.
But it only requires a day or two to fully explore.
So what’s next on your itinerary beyond the Lost City?
Fortunately, there are many more sights and activities to explore en route to the Incan Citadel.
Lima is a sprawling metropolis with colorful and fascinating attractions to explore.
If you have a couple of extra days in Lima, you’re in luck.
The Peruvian capital is full of outstanding art galleries, museums and shops to pass your time.
You can also take a cooking class or book a table at one of the innovative restaurants to sample Lima’s thriving food scene.
Admire the colonial architecture of beautiful Baroque buildings dotting the cityscape.
You could also take a stroll in spacious green parks or relax at a lively ocean suburb.
Most visitors to Cusco head straight to Machu Picchu.
However, it’s worth spending some time exploring the city and its many attractions.
Walking the streets of Cusco is like wandering through a museum.
Most of the points of interest are located around the Plaza de Armas and its surroundings.
The main square is an ideal base to begin a walking tour, grab a bite to eat or people watch.
Here you will find an abundance of hotels, restaurants and shops.
The Plaza is also home to La Compania and the Cathedral, two equally impressive buildings.
Another must-see is the church of Santo Domingo which rests on the ruins of the Coricancha Inca site.
Next, leave the square and go uphill into the stone-paved streets of San Blas district.
This picturesque little neighborhood is home to restaurants and small shops popular with the locals.
Visitors also enjoy staying here for the panoramic views over the city.
A massive fortified complex, Sacsayhuaman is the most important of Cusco’s ruins.
Most tourists stop to explore it on their way to Pisac.
The site is believed to have both religious and military significance.
It’s not just its massive size that makes this ruin fascinating.
There’s also the size of the stones used to build it, along with the complexity of the stone work.
The stones fit together so perfectly that modern engineers remain puzzled at how the Incas managed such a great feat.
Maras is the true hidden beauty of the Sacred Valley.
Nestled among green mountains, the stunning salt flats stand out like white gold.
Depending on when you visit, you may see pools of water in each section shimmering like mirrors in the sunlight.
Visitors to Maras can admire the white salt rocks against a backdrop of beautiful green mountains.
This provides a fantastic natural contrast that also makes for a great photo.
The area is also a great destination for hikers with trails cutting through great scenery.
The Sacred Valley boast numerous Inca ruins worth seeing.
But it’s also a tranquil place to spend time wandering through markets and indulging in local culture.
From Maras, follow a small path to the other marvel of the Sacred Valley: Moray.
This small town is a testament to the architectural genius of the Incas.
Here you can admire an incredible set of terraced circular platforms that resemble a giant green amphitheater.
The terraces are covered in lush green grass, synonymous with the fertile Sacred Valley.
With most tourist crowding the sites of Ollantaytambo and Pisac, you could enjoy exploring Moray almost by yourself.
Be sure to capture the magnitude of the site with beautiful photos taken from both the top and bottom.
Nestled within a beautiful area in the Sacred Valley, Pisac is an ideal stop for visitors hoping to escape the tourist crowds.
Pisac is a one-of-a-kind town that fuses mysticism and Andean tradition like no other place in Peru.
Cobblestone streets play host to Inca architecture, glimpses of traditional costume and rural life, and one of the most popular markets in southern Peru.
If you’re up for a fantastic hike, the breathtaking hill-top ruins in the clouds are a must-see.
Less than an hour’s drive north of Cusco lies the breathtaking Sacred Valley and its notable town of Ollantaytambo.
Ollantaytambo is home to some of the most impressive remains of the Incan empire.
Its dramatic setting features a narrowing valley and mountains drawing closer on both sides.
The ruined fortress then appears rising in steep terraces from the town.
Climb the stone stairways to marvel at the intricate stonework that remains perfect to this day.
At the top of the terracing you’ll come into the temple area.
Pause at the top of the temple to admire the quarries from which the stones of Ollantaytambo were sourced.
Aguas Calientes is the last town before you get to Machu Picchu.
The tiny town is home to several attractions that are worthy of your consideration.
Aguas Calientes pulses to a lively tourist beat with hot springs, restaurants and hotels.
It’s also a great base from which you can wander the high jungle.
Here you can admire several hummingbird species and many varieties of orchids.
Visitors can also stroll to the Mandor Waterfalls or hike up Putucusi Mountain.
The sparkling blue waters of Lake Titicaca are surrounded by rolling hills and small traditional villages.
This setting offers a mix of breathtaking scenery and culture that makes it distinct from other regions of Peru.
Situated 3,820 meters above sea level, Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world.
But it’s also a scenic spot where travelers can relax in tranquility.
The best way to appreciate Lake Titicaca is via a boating trip to the islands and surrounding villages.
One of the major attractions here is the Uros Floating Islands.
These man-made islands are constructed out of buoyant reeds which are also used in building boats, homes and crafts.
The islands sustain small communities of Uros Indians who have largely maintained their traditional way of life since the time of the Incas.
Follow the reed channels of the Uros islands to your next stop: the island of Taquile.
Famed for its weaving and knitting, the remote island is home to Indians who continue to live traditionally.
The island is largely untouched by modernity with no cars to be seen.
Here visitors can enjoy scenic hikes on the rugged landscape.
Get a scoop on the beauty and size of Taquile on a boat ride.
As the sun descends on Lake Titicaca, the island affords visitors some of the most memorable sunsets in Peru.
The mysterious Nazca Lines are an unusual sight that leaves visitors awestruck.
The massive images on the desert floor are so huge that they can only be appreciated with an aerial view.
From the air, you can see that the lines form distinct images and patterns.
There are seventy different plant and animal drawings, along with hundreds of other geometrical shapes.
Spread out over hundreds of square kilometers, some lines stretch as far as ten kilometers.
Notable figures include the lizard, a condor, a monkey, hummingbird, killer whale and spider.
Located just outside of Nazca and also worth visiting are the Cantalloc Aqueducts.
Built around AD 300-600, these aqueducts were constructed to provide water for the area year round.
Also of interest in the area is the Cemetery of Chauchilla which houses mummies and Nazca remains.
Paracas is a peninsula jutting out into the Pacific Ocean just south of Pisco.
Home to the Reserva Nacional Paracas, the peninsula boasts the largest section of protected coastline in Peru.
The Paracas shoreline sustains a diversity of wildlife.
Animal lovers can admire over 200 seabird species, sea lions, otters and penguins.
Nearby are the Islas Ballestas which are home to hundreds of thousands of birds, pelicans and dolphins.
A boat tour to the islands will take you past the Candelabra, a hillside geoglyph best admired from the coast.
Perched high upon a ridge, 300 meters above the Urubamba River is the magnificent Machu Picchu.
The Inca Citadel boasts one of the most dramatic settings of a ruined city in the world.
Almost as impressive as the ruins themselves is the breathtaking backdrop of lush, steep and often cloud-covered mountains.
Looking out over the Lost City, the jungle covered mountains and the river below, its clear to see why the Incas chose to settle here.
The journey to get there is also part of the experience of visiting Machu Picchu.
Hike the Inca Trail or see the route via train.
Either way, you are bound to be awe-inspired by the scenic beauty.
FAQs about Machu Picchu
When is the best time to travel to Machu Picchu?
The best time to visit this Inca citadel is during the dry season from April to October.
For warmer temperatures with light to heavy rains, visit between November and March.
The best weather season is from June to August, but it’s also the busiest.
You can also enjoy the beauty of the ruins during the off peak season months of April, May, September and October.
What’s the weather and altitude like at Machu Picchu?
The weather in Machu Picchu features warm, humid days and cool nights.
Maximum temperatures here reach 27°C, while the minimum drops to 11°C.
The region is generally rainy, especially between the months of November and March.
The dry season runs from April to November.
Machu Picchu is located at an altitude of 7,972 feet (2,430 meters) above sea level.
If you’ll be staying at Cusco before heading to Machu Picchu, you will need to acclimatize to avoid altitude sickness.
What should you bring to Machu Picchu?
For a memorable visit to Machu Picchu, it’s important to be prepared with all the essential supplies.
You will need suitable footwear to hike on uneven terrain.
Pack light breathable clothing that will keep you cool and dry in the humid Peruvian climate.
Bring sunscreen to avoid getting burns at higher elevations.
Take a backpack to store your water, snacks and other supplies.
You will also need some bug spray to protect you from the local insect population.
Can you go to Machu Picchu without a tour company?
Yes. But only if you don’t intend to trek the Inca Trail to reach the Lost City.
But whether you hike up or not, a trip to Machu Picchu can be a very complicated journey to make without a guide.
Moreover, there are significant security risks for those who wish to visit.
Your best bet is therefore to book a tour.
Let the tour company worry about your safety as you focus on enjoying your visit to the Incan Citadel.
10 Best Tours from Lima to Machu Picchu
1. 6-Day Private Tour from Lima: Cusco, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu
Explore the highlights of Peru and its ancient Inca Empire on this 6-day tour.
This excursion covers Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.
You will visit sites such as the Ollantaytambo ruins, the Maras Salt Terraces and the ancient Inca Citadel.
2. 7-Day Lima, Cusco and Sunrise at Machu Picchu
Discover the best highlights of Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu on this 7 day tour.
This excursion will take you to the landmarks of cosmopolitan Lima, the Inca ruins of Cusco and the spectacular citadel of Machu Picchu.
3. 7-Day Peru Deep Dive: Lima, Cusco, Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu Tour
Dive deep into Peru on this week-long tour.
Stroll the neighborhoods of Lima and see the archaeology and architecture at Cusco.
Explore the scenic beauty of the Sacred Valley, and witness the spectacular site of Machu Picchu.
4. 8-Day Peru from Lima: Cusco, Puno, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca
Explore all the highlights of Peru on this 8-day tour from Lima.
You will visit Cusco, Puno, the Sacred Valley, Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu.
5. 8-Day Inca Empire from Lima
Immerse yourself into ancient Inca culture and history on this 8-day tour from Lima.
You will explore Inca sites at the Sacred Valley, Cusco and Machu Picchu.
6. 8-Day Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca Tour from Lima
Explore the most iconic sites of Peru on this 8-day tour from Lima.
You will discover the wealth of Incan history at Cusco, tour the iconic Machu Picchu, and the numerous Inca ruins around the Sacred Valley.
Continue on to Lake Titicaca to explore the one-of-a-kind Uros Floating Island and scenic beauty of Taquile Island.
7. 10-day Tour from Lima: Amazon Jungle, Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca
Experience Peru’s breathtaking archaeological and natural wonders on this 10-day tour.
Explore Cosmopolitan Lima before heading out to the Amazon Jungle.
Visit Cusco and tour Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley before concluding at Lake Titicaca.
8. 12-Night Peru from Lima: Nazca, Cusco, Machu Picchu, Puno
Journey into the depths of Peru on this 12-night tour from Lima.
Explore top attractions like the Nazca Lines, Cusco, the Ballestas Islands, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.
Other highlights include a visit to Lake Titicaca and the floating islands of Puno.
9. 15-Day Tour from Lima: Amazon, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon and Nazca Lines
Experience Peru like never before on this 15-day tour.
You will visit the Amazon, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon and Nazca Lines.
10. 16-Day Great Inca Expedition from Lima
Explore the culture and history of the ancient Inca Empire on this exciting 16-day tour.
You will visit the Nazca Lines, Ballestas Islands, Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca, Uros Islands and Machu Picchu.
Visually stunning and filled with mystery, Machu Picchu is a must-see for everyone.
Visiting the Inca Citadel requires advanced planning.
You need to know the best time to travel and the transportation options available.
There are also other Peruvian attractions that you can check out on your way from Lima.
With proper information and the right tour package, you’re visit to Machu Picchu is bound to be a trip of a lifetime.