Machu Picchu is on so many people’s bucket lists and that is for good reason. Hell, it was on mine too! It’s this incredible slice of history built in the most magical scenery that is unlike anything else in the world. It has absolutely earned being one of the New Wonders of the Modern World, it’s truly mind-blowing. It’s a beyond incredible place to spend a day or two, but there are definitely tips that are helpful to know before visiting. So, since I was lucky enough to go, I’ve put together a list of 13 Machu Picchu travel tips that I think will help you prepare for your own once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Here are My Best 13 Machu Picchu Travel Tips:
Before we continue, as a heads up I did partner with the tour company mentioned and received my tour for free in exchange for an honest review. Additionally, if you purchase any of the items mentioned in this post I may receive a commission. However I promise I would never recommend something to you that I didn’t personally love. I either have bought or would buy all of these items/experiences with my own money.
1 – You Can Go Without a Guide, But I Would Recommend Joining a Tour
You certainly can go without a guide, but this is my first Machu Picchu travel tip for a reason. You won’t be able to do any of the Inca Trail or see the Sun Gate this way, you won’t be able to truly learn from the locals and professional guides about each area of the citadel, and you won’t know some of the best photo spots. This is one of the things I would absolutely invest in because it makes the experience so much cooler and so much richer.
I did the 2 day/1 night Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu through Alpaca Expeditions and couldn’t recommend it enough.
2 – Buy Your Tickets / Book Your Tour Well in Advance
If Machu Picchu is one of the main reasons you’re going to Peru, definitely buy your tickets ahead of time. They can sell out fast, especially in peak travel season, and you don’t want to have made it all the way to Peru and not see this incredible world wonder.
Here are some Machu Picchu day trips to check out if you don’t want to do the hiking adventure I mentioned previously:
3 – Take the Bus From Aguas Calientes or Trek Up the Incredibly Steep Stairs
You can either take the bus up to the entrance or walk, but it’s a LONG, STEEP walk up. Especially if you’ve done any hiking, don’t put yourself through the pain of this and simply take the bus up to the entrance. If you go with a tour, the bus rides should be included in the cost. But if you’re going on your own, you can buy bus tickets in town for $24 per adult ($12 per child) for a round trip.
4 – If You Get Carsick, Bring Meds
If you get carsick and plan to take the bus, bring carsick medication for sure. Take a look at the photo above. Do you see that winding road toward the bottom center left that looks like switchbacks? That’s the bus route. It’s a winding road with a steep incline, so if you do get sick in transit, this is definitely one of the more important Machu Picchu travel tips.
5 – If Your Itinerary Allows, Book 2 Days at Machu Picchu & in Aguas Calientes
If you can, book two days at Machu Picchu and in Aguas Calientes. Aguas Calientes is tbhe closest town to Machu Picchu and where you’ll be staying if you’re not taking a day trip from somewhere else. I only spent one night in Aguas Calientes and I really wish I had had at least two. Aguas Calientes is the most gorgeous mountain town that feels completely isolated from anything else. There are a ton of gorgeous restaurants, lots of shopping, and natural hot springs to relax in. This is truly one of the prettiest towns I’ve ever been to and I highly recommend spending a couple days here.
Hotels in Aguas Calientes:
6 – You Rotate Through the Park in a Loop
You move through the park in a circle in one direction, so you only really have one shot at that iconic photo from the top. This isn’t an issue during good weather, but if you arrive and the clouds are covering the citadel, you may be hanging out for a little bit waiting for the weather to clear up. The park rangers also will call you out if you try and go the opposite direction, so the one way traffic is to be followed and cannot be cheated.
7 – Go As Early As Possible
This is just one of my most used travel tips in general but especially for Machu Picchu. The earlier you go, the fewer people will be there and the more you have the place to yourself. You can spend more time exploring and soaking it all in. The peace of the early morning in this place specifically is something really, really special.
8 – Remember to Bring Your Passport
Don’t forget your passport! You need it to for ticket/identification confirmation, but also you can get it stamped here which is super fun.
9 – You Can Hike the Mountains With a Permit
Want to hike to some of the iconic mountains of Machu Picchu? You can! But you do need to get a permit and do so pretty far in advance.
Huayna Picchu is the iconic mountain right behind the citadel, and Machu Picchu Mountain is another in the near vicinity you can hike. I was supposed to hike Huayna Picchu but it is almost entirely steps, and it began raining so we didn’t want to risk slipping up or down the mountain.
You can ask your tour guide to add a permit to one of these mountains on your order, or you can purchase it separately.
10 – Mountain Weather is Wild, Be Prepared
The weather can be crazy, so come prepared for rain/clouds/sun/bugs/etc.
11 – Llamas and Alpacas are Everywhere
This is such a fun bonus! There are alpacas and llamas just hanging out all around the citadel, eating grass and chilling. They’re super calm and will allow you to pet them if they wander close enough to you. But don’t go chasing them, definitely don’t go off path to touch one, and let them make the move if they want.
12 – Stairs Are Everywhere
There are stairs everywhere throughout the citadel, which is important to note if you have any accessibility issues. Wheel the World offers wheelchair accessible tours throughout the globe, and have Machu Picchu and other Peru offerings as well.
13 – Park Rangers Will Call You Out
Park rangers will call you out if you’re misbehaving in any way or going in the wrong direction of the flow of Machu Picchu. We visited while COVID masks were still a requirement everywhere in Peru (May 2022) and the rangers were definitely calling out people who weren’t wearing theirs.
So there you go, my best 13 Machu Picchu travel tips to help you plan your adventure to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. As always feel free to reach out with any questions you may have, and in the meantime check out my Machu Picchu Story Highlights on Instagram, and follow me on TikTok for more Peru content and other travel shenanigans.