Morning view of Machu Picchu

How do you tour Machu Picchu?

User Avatar Author: Isabel  Espinoza
12 months ago
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A trip to Peru is an adventure that all of us should experience at least once in our lifetimes. Thanks to its expansive geographical location, this country boasts a number of impressive regions worth exploring: coasts, valleys surrounded by imposing mountains, enormous deserts, and a lush Amazon jungle. However, what will always be central to any trip to Peru is Machu Picchu – its mighty golden crown.

Today, the Lost City of the Incas is host to approximately one million tourists each year. This is no big surprise. From the moment you hear the guides call out “Machu Picchu tour!” you can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of excitement. This sensation grows as you journey ever closer along the path that takes you there, right up until you reach this fabled city, at which point excitement turns into sublime wonder. The whole experience is almost like heading out in search of a treasure!

If you’re planning a visit to the heart of the Inca Civilization, keep reading! In this blog, we’ll provide you with the details of what a tour to Machu Picchu is like with Metrojourneys. Also, you’ll find the answers to a number of questions you may have with respect to this fascinating trip.

First Stop: Cuzco

Many folks typically don’t know how relatively complicated it is to get to Machu Picchu. Nonetheless, getting there is actually one of the more fun and adventurous aspects of the entire trip! Your adventure and tour of Machu Picchu actually begins in Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire. This charming city, with rooftops that mimic the rich, reddish color of the mountains and hills that surround it, sits at an altitude of approximately 11,150 ft (3,400 m) above sea level.

Cuzco from the distance

Cuzco, Perú

Cuzco happens to be the city that you need to fly in to in order to reach Machu Picchu. However, due to certain logistical barriers, you won’t be able to enter the Lost City on the same day of your arrival in said city. Remember that a direct trip to Machu Picchu that’s done in one fell swoop can be quite exhausting, given that you need to fly in to Cuzco, acclimatize to the high elevation once reach Cuzco, and then cover the distance between Cuzco and Machu Picchu. That’s why we at Metrojourneys meet our explorers in Cuzco and gradually drive them down the impressive red carpet (that is the Sacred Valley of the Incas) before getting them to the citadel of Machu Picchu.

Traveler Information: You can also locate train stations in Cuzco and the District of Poroy (about 35 minutes outside the city). If you choose to travel to the town of Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes) on a train departing from one of these stations, the trip lasts approximately 4 hours there and 4 hours back.

Second Stop: The Sacred Valley of the Incas

Immediately after arriving in Cuzco, we take our guests to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. When traveling with Metrojourneys, we do this for two reasons:

  1. Given that the Sacred Valley is situated at about 9,180 ft (2,800 m) above sea level, our explorers can adjust to the altitude before ascending to higher points such as Pisac, Chincheros, or the City of Cuzco.
  2. It guarantees that our guests are well-rested and can leave at a decent hour upon departing for Machu Picchu from the train station in Ollantaytambo.

In the Sacred Valley, which gradually opens up before your eyes, revealing majestic mountains and snow-covered peaks, you’ll be transported to the picturesque district of Urubamba, where you’ll find your accommodation for the night.

Sacred Valley of th Incas in Cuzco, Perú

Sacred Valley’s entrance, Perú

Along your travels through the Sacred Valley, and depending on your tour and the number of days you wish to spend here, you’ll be able to discover some of the most impressive gems within this natural corridor, for example: the Ollantaytambo Fortress, the Moray crop acclimation center, the colorful Pisac market, and the Maras salt pans, among others.

Machu Picchu Full-day Tour

1. First part: Travel by train to the town of Aguas Calientes

Get ready! Today is the day you explore Machu Picchu! Following breakfast at your hotel, our staff awaits to take you on a short, 30-minute drive to the town of Ollantaytambo. Here, you’ll board the train at the station. Depending on the train company you choose when you book your package with us, and the type of train car in which you decide you’d like to travel, you may be able to enjoy some perks aboard the train. Don’t forget to talk to your Destination Expert about available options on this leg of your journey!

Talk to a Destination Expert!
 

Traveler Information: Remember that most trains have size and weight restrictions when it comes to the luggage you wish to take with you in the train car. If you’re planning to stay in the town of Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes), you should make sure to take all of your luggage with you – your tour operator should be able to arrange transportation for your luggage in the train’s cargo section.

This train ride, which lasts an average of 1 hour and 40 minutes, transports you along the impressive Urubamba River. This river, which almost completely surrounds the citadel of Machu Picchu like a silver sash, originates in Puno and flows into the Amazon River. From your train window, on a clear day, you’ll also be able to witness the fascinating spectacle that is Veronica Mountain!

Snow capped Veronica Mountain in Perú

Veronica mountain, also know as Apu Wakaywillque or Ethernal Father, has an altitude of 16,641 feet above sea level.

As your train ride continues, you’ll be able to appreciate the transition between different types of vegetation and climate. Machu Picchu is located in a transition point between the “Sierra” (highlands) region and the upper jungles of Peru; meaning that once you’ve reached the train station in the town of Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes), you’ll find the climate to be pleasant, somewhat humid, and overall pretty temperate. Speaking of the train station (as this is the arrival spot for every train-line and the only one in the town), be aware that it tends to be really busy, so be sure to keep a close eye on your belongings!

2. Second Part: Bus Trip to Machu Picchu Citadel

Upon leaving the train station, you’ll walk past a picturesque artisanal market. We recommend that you avoid making any purchases at this point. Also remember that your luggage should be as light as possible when heading up to Machu Picchu! And don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to peruse the market’s offerings and purchase souvenirs when you pass back through the town after your visit to the citadel.

Once you’ve passed the marketplace, you’ll walk a few more minutes until you reach the bus stop. Here, you’ll need to form a line with the rest of the folks that are heading up to the Machu Picchu citadel. If you wish to walk up to the citadel yourself, you can; however, keep in mind that this involves climbing approximately 2,000 steps. Of course, the walk up is beautiful, but we recommend you save your energy for exploring the actual site.

After a short wait, you’ll board the bus that takes you up through a landscape filled with awesome vegetation. Your emotions intensify as you approach one of the world’s ultimate destinations on this 20-minute ride! A short while later, you’ll be face-to-face with one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Along the way, you’ll be able to view a mountain that seems oddly familiar: Huayna Picchu Mountain, the iconic green monument in the middle of this sanctuary, welcomes you to the citadel.

Huayna Picchu Mountain in Peru

 

As you get off the bus, you’ll find a little spot where you can purchase a snack or a bottle of water, lockers where you can safely stash your belongings, and bathrooms. Remember that you cannot enter Machu Picchu with food and that, once inside, there are no bathrooms. Take advantage of the opportunity to use the facilities before continuing on your adventure!

Once you head to the entrance, you’ll need to present your ticket and your passport in order to enter.

Traveler Information: At the entrance to the site, you’ll also find the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge. If you wish to include this lodging option in your package, talk to your Destination Expert. This accommodation is an ideal option if you wish to visit the citadel on the following day.

3. Third Part: Guided Walking Tour of Machu Picchu

After registering your visit and entering the site, you’ll begin the final ascent to the citadel. As your guide leads you up some stone steps along thick vegetation, you still won’t be able to see the citadel at this point, but a few moments later, you certainly will. It is very important that, when undertaking this final climb, you do it calmly. If you’re not accustomed to the altitude, it is quite possible that, at 7,875 ft (2,400 m) above sea level, you will get a little tired and need to catch your breath.

Following this short climb, Machu Picchu suddenly appears before your eyes like a mirage, almost too good to be true. The light, humid breeze, coupled with the sounds of birds in the distance, will shake you into realizing where you truly are – standing right before the Lost City of the Inca Empire!

 

Machu Picchu Citadel

During your visit in the sanctuary, you’ll find two main trails, some additional paths, and a vast number of sites to visit, such as: the Inca Palace, the Guardhouse, the Temple of the Three Windows, and the sun dial, among others. Additionally, you can access impressive scenic viewpoints from which you can admire the citadel of Machu Picchu. If you want to check out more information about the available walking circuits, check out this blog about the most frequently asked questions regarding Machu Picchu!

Take your time exploring Machu Picchu, from the moment you arrive (indicated on your ticket), you’ll have 4 hours in which to enjoy the experience. Also, it is very important that you remember, once you exit the site, that you won’t be able to reenter the site on the same day.

Traveler Information: You can enhance your experience of Machu Picchu by taking up the option to hike to the summit of Machu Picchu and/or Huayna Picchu mountains. The entrances to each of these trails are located inside of the citadel; however, access is restricted and limited to people who have acquired their tickets in advance. You can read more about this in our FAQ blog!

4. Final Part of this Machu Picchu Tour: Return to Machu Picchu Town (Aguas Calientes)

Once you’ve exited the citadel, you’ll find yourself in front of the entrance to the sanctuary. It is here where you’ll begin the jaunt back down to the town of Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes). Depending on the Metrojourneys package that you have selected, you may be able to enjoy a delicious buffet-style lunch at Tinkuy Restaurant, which is part of the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge. If this is not part of your package, you’ll join the line for the return buses near the exit. These, occasionally, can take a while to board, averaging up to a 20- to 40-minute wait.

Once you’ve boarded your bus back, simply relax and enjoy the views during the 20-minute ride back to town. From there, depending on your selected package, you’ll be transferred either to your hotel in Aguas Calientes or to the bus stop from where you can head to the train station and return to the Sacred Valley or Cuzco.

Traveler Information: When you choose a Metrojourneys package, you’ll be able to rely on a company that offers you a guide at all times, so you won’t have to stress about transfers via train and bus!

Traveler admiring Machu Picchu

Travel is the best way to feed your soul and this is exactly what we offer. The feeling you get when you arrive in a new country (especially in South America), the different way the light shines upon all sorts of beautiful and novel landscapes, the way you breathe it all in with wonder, the way you close your eyes and feel the world moving all around you – all of this, and more, will always serve as the spark that reactivates your hunger and desire to keep walking and discovering new trails.

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