Machu Picchu tips
Tips and FAQ’s on Machu Picchu:
June 21, 2014
This is KB, dropping down the latest information that we have on Machu Picchu. We know hard it can be to find reliable information about Machu Picchu on the internet, so I took some time and completely updated this page. All the info below is based on personal visits this month. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful, if so we always appreciate a comment on any forum boards (Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor, Fodors, etc) but more than anything we hope you have an amazing trip.
The most important thing to remember: you spend valuable time and money to go visit Machu Picchu, right ? The good news is that if you allow it, you can have a truly amazing experience there. It can be everything you heard and hoped it would be and more ! (and how often does that happen ?)
Don’t worry about the crowds (see our tips for avoiding them below), try to soak in the undeniable majesty everywhere you look. Walk slow, ask as many strangers as you want to take your photo ! Let down your guard, and be silly goofy happy for a day, you will be glad you did. There is nothing like it anywhere and it is breathtaking. You will remember your day there forever.
Many people ask us ‘What time does the sun rise at Machu Picchu?” The desire to see the sunrise at Machu Picchu is a very popular one, and as a result the site is busy during early morning hours. The sunrise can at times be anticlimactic due to heavy mist, as well as the fact that high surrounding mountains often obscure the early morning sun long after it has risen over the horizon. By all means go early for the sunrise if you can, but if your train or sleep schedule will not permit it, do not be overly concerned. Although being at Machu Picchu early in the morning is an awesome experience anyway, it is common to not see a traditional sunrise. You can make up for it by following our next tip: In our opinion, the best light and best time of day to be at Machu Picchu is in the 4:00 to 4:30 time range, as the sun is beginning to drop below the western peaks and the crowds have most decidly thinned out. Our advice is to bring enough food, stamina, and patience to spend the whole day at Machu Picchu. There is plenty to see and lots of ground to cover. Not just climbing Huayna Picchu but it is also recommended to visit the Inca Bridge, the Sungate at the terminus of the Inca Trail, and even climbing Machu Picchu mountain. There are also newly excavated portions of the site below the main plaza on the lower eastern slope. By four o’clock Machu Picchu is often nearly empty. They officially close at 6:00 pm and will start asking you to make for the exit by 5:30. The fading sunlight after 4pm is often pure magic, combined with the surrounding view of the mountains and the Incan citadel of Machu Picchu it is a profound experience and everything that you had ever hoped for while planning your trip to Machu Picchu. Wander up high in the site, to a place of your liking. You should have no problem finding a large section of grass to yourself to pass the last hour before park closure and sunset.
How do I climb Huayna Picchu? See our section on Huayna Picchu here. One thing we recommend is to purchase the 10am entrance ticket to Huayna Picchu and not the 7am one. (Remember, you have to pre-purchase the Huayna Picchu ticket at the same time you buy your Machu Picchu entrance ticket at www.MachuPicchu.gob.pe. The earlier entrance always sells out and is guaranteed to be crowded, usually by the young backpacker crowd and there is often practically a running line to the top. there is little solitude to be had while visiting with the first group. The second group also sells out but at least you can start near the end of the line so no one will be coming behind you the rest of the hike up. Take your time, eat your (compactly and discreetly packed) lunch up at the top where you will likely be able to find a small corner perch to your self. Our advice is to stay up here as long as you can, until you are asked to leave. The views are simply phenomenal and you will still have ample time to visit all of Machu Picchu in the afternoon, and all the parts you did not see earlier in the morning before you climbed Huayna Picchu.
Should I walk up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes? You can if you want but we do not recommend it. The first bus leaves Aguas Calientes at 5.30 am and takes twenty two minutes to get to the top, so it arrives pretty early. What we tell people is that it is a fairly steep and unrelenting climb up the side of a mountain from Aguas Calientes and takes about 1.5 hours. There is already a great deal of hiking to be done inside the actual park of Machu Picchu and it is a tiring day even if you take the bus up. If you want additional exercise or to save a little money, the walk down from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes is a more relaxed way to see the fascinating Inca stone staircase that connects the two.
How about using the bathroom? There are bathrooms just outside the park up at Machu Picchu, however, so you have to leave the park and then re-enter afterwards, which can take up a little time. Be sure to have your passport and ticket with you at all times. They charge 1 sol to enter and there is usually a line. They are generally very clean which is great. Bring your own toilet paper, though. We always recommend taking it into your overall plan: use the bathroom before leaving your hotel, don’t wait until you are on the far side of the park if you have to use the facilities, and use extra care if you are sick and requiring frequent trips to the bathroom. It’s all quite manageable, though, so don’t worry.
Is food allowed in Machu Picchu ? Sort of. Technically eating is not allowed but they do not check your pack. Do be discreet and remember eating in the open is not permitted (nor should it be). Water in theory must be in a reusable water bottle and that plastic water bottles are not allowed. This is not strictly enforced either, but the idea of reducing the incredible amount of empty plastic water bottles produced daily at Machu PIcchu is a great one. There is also an onsite restaurant just outside the park, with the high prices you would expect (though i thought they weren’t that bad, considering. Here is a photo taken last week of the restaurant menu and prices:
Should I get a guide? We believe so, yes. We do not provide that service but we do highly recommend getting a guide. There are a few ways to do it: A private guide costs between $40 and $60 depending on time of year, experience of the guide, and the size of the group. (And to be honest, the hotel where you are staying. If it is a higher priced hotel you will likely be quoted on the high end of the scale). These private guides are very good – they are available in English, Spanish, French, Japanese, and many other languages, though only English and Spanish are common. The best way to hire a private guide is through your hotel in Aguas Calientes. They also can usually, but not always, be found available just outside the gates before you enter Machu Picchu. Pool service is also available. Pool service is a shared guide service that usually depart in groups of either 10 or 15 people ‘pooled’ together. Due to the size of the group it is inexpensive per person – around $4 to $6 depending on the size of the group. These can only be booked by simply showing up to the gate of Machu Picchu, and you will see the pooled guide groups forming. How long will it take to visit Machu Picchu ? For almost everyone, one day is enough to see all of Machu Picchu. However, it is a great experience and there is plenty to see if you have the extra time and don’t mind spending another $50 (the entrance ticket is only good for one day and you cannot return the next day without paying again). It takes about one half hour each way up or down on the bus, so be sure to include that in your planning if you are catching a train back to Ollantaytambo after your visit to Machu Picchu. (Add 1.5 to 2 hours if you plan to walk up, and 1 to 1.5 hours if you plan to walk down) . It takes about three hours round trip to climb either Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu mountain, or the Sun Gate – counting photos and seeing the amazing Incan stonework. All could be done in as little as two hours round trip if you are in good shape and you make good time. Finally, our tip if you are worried that Machu Picchu will be too crowded and “touristy”, is that you stay late. It is most crowded in the early morning, and by late afternoon it is often almost empty. The park closes at 6pm, why not stay until the end? How about the hot springs? There are hot springs about a ten minute uphill walk from the center of Aguas Calientes, up the main uphill street from the Plaza. They have recently been re-done and resemble more a municipal swimming pool (blue cement and tile) and not the natural jungle hot spring you may have in mind. (Those are found in St. Theresa). However, many travelers report they are clean and pleasant to visit, so we always recommend going up there yourself and take a look (don’t forget a swim suit, towel, and sandals, but if you do all can be rented or bought at the entrance).