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Top Trip Memories

  • Trekking the legendary Inca trail, an original trading road used by the Incan Empire itself and a rite of passage for travelers for well over a century.
  • Taking in the classic Machu Picchu vista for the first time at sunrise as mist slowly reveals dramatic cliffs, soaring mountains, and the ruins themselves.
  • Climbing up either Huayna Picchu or Montaña de Machu Picchu for a challenge that is rewarded by towering views over the ruins below.
  • Exploring Cusco, the former imperial capital of the Incans and today home to beautiful religious art and vibrant night life.
  • Dropping by some of the less visited but equally impressive sights of the Sacred Valley, such as the old salt mines of Maras or the other-worldy ancient circles of Moray.
  • Enjoying a rest in Ollantaytambo where you can experience a beautiful colonial square hemmed in by quaint alleys below and massive Incan ruins on every mountain top above.
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Tour Tips

  • Book your tour well in advance! Machu Picchu tickets sell out days, weeks, and even months ahead, especially for spots hiking the highly coveted Incan trail. Booking early can ensure that your trip will go smoothly and you will get to see everything you want to during this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
  • Take a tour to truly understand the history of some of the more incredible monuments, but also leave some time to explore the ruins for yourself and connect with the “apus” or spirits of the mountain.
  • Bring altitude medicine and don’t forget to acclimate. You may be at the highest altitudes of your life and a journey plagued by altitude sickness is not ideal.
  • Bring layers at all times, the Peruvian Andes can sometimes require a jacket and at other times you may simmer in tropical heat. 
  • Avoid the rainy season of January and February but also consider avoiding the high tourist months of June through August. Often, trips in April, May, September, and October lead to the best weather with fewer crowds

During your tour...

  • Arrive at Machu Picchu early. You will beat the tourist rush that hits between 10am and 3pm. Also, the sunrise over Machu Picchu is not to be missed.
  • Certain food is not allowed inside. Eat a big breakfast and take a lunch break outside of the ruins before returning for more exploration.
  • Don’t forget to take a photo of yourself in the “classic postcard view” to be found just beside the Guardian’s hut.
  • With all of the trekking, hiking, and sightseeing options, it is easy to try to take on too much. The altitude and weather will make your trip challenging enough. Try to relax and take the experience slowly. This will allow you to enjoy yourself as well as appreciate the mystical setting of Machu Picchu. 
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Machu Picchu Travel Reviews & Ratings

4.8 out of 5

100%

recommend

1,505 Reviews

  • Excellent 1,665
  • Great 548
  • Average 11
  • Disappointing 2
  • Terrible 1

Rating Details

  • Value
    4.8
  • Guide
    4.8
  • Activities
    4.7
  • Lodging
    4.7
  • Transportation
    4.7
  • Meals
    4.8

Tour Reviews

Excellent the whole trip ran smoothly which was a combination of the excellent organisation and knowledge of the tour leaders and a great group of people who respected each other and the tour leaders, so no one was ever late for meetings or departures

Peru Panorama

4.0
March 2017
G Adventures
Recommend: Yes
Excellent - the whole trip ran smoothly which was a combination of the excellent organisation and knowledge of the tour leaders and a great group of people who respected each other and the tour leaders, so no one was ever late for meetings or departures. I would highly recommend the tour and G Adventures. The only point I would make is about the tipping. Raul did always say this was optional but I think everyone felt obliged to tip and in fairness the tips were always well deserved. But all the tips add up (-120/130) - this should be highlighted in your brochure to allow people to budget it into their costs/ spending money - it was a hidden cost which took some people by surprise.
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5.0
February 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
Wonderful trip, really. I had planned to walk the trail for a few years but was worried about my level of fitness. It was fine however. Others in the group struggled more but even those with no experience of walking at all managed to complete the trail and were well supported by our tour guide.
Hard to say, it was just amazing. The last night of camping on the trail was in a high camp over looking ruins and with the most amazing views and changing skies....
Reaching the top of dead widows pass felt like such an achievement and the view was stunning. I might have shed the odd tear but don't tell anyone......

Great guy. I think its a very difficult trip to arrange given the different levels of fitness of people on it however he was supportive and fun to have around.

The trail itself was quite cold so make sure you take layers. You are, of course, limited in what can be taken on the trail itself so make sure you have light weight cold weather clothes. Walking poles are absolutely essential as coming down from Dead Widows pass is murder on the knees!
Take a blow up cushion too as they weren't provided with the sleeping bags.
If you have your own inflatable sleeping mat, consider taking it along. The ones provided were not very reliable and its very cold if they deflate on you overnight.....

Can't quite believe how good the food was on the trail. The chef and his staff are miracle workers.....
Take the flight over the Nascar lines, you really can't see them otherwise and you will likely only go once....

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Choquequirao to Macau Picchu

The Lost City of Choquequirao

5.0
February 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
Top notch trip visiting two stunning Inca sites. One well publicised with 2500 visitors per day, while the other might only see 25! But you need to do some hard walking to reach that one........
Two really. Looking down from the 'bowling green smooth' viewpoint over Choq, in all its solitude. On this my second visit to MP, finally getting the classic view overlooking the city in all its glory.

Frank was very good at his job. Informative about all aspects of the Inca culture. Showed a love both for Peru and for the mountain people of the Andes. Crucially he also had a good sense of humour!!

Be prepared for testing walking conditions. My walk was in November but we experienced very hot sunshine. This made the steep zig zagging ascents and descents very hard. Walking poles extremely useful.

Peru is one of my top destinations. Widely different parts to the country with so many Inca (and older) sites in good preservation.

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The Inca Trail and Amazon Extension

The Inca Trail

5.0
February 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
Everything about the trip was fantastic. Really well organized and put together. It was an amazing experience that I will always remember.
Reaching the campsite on Day 3, after a really challenging couple of days of trekking. Not only was this probably the best campsite in the world, but we also had the best location inside the campsite, owing to our group leader and team making the selection and preparing. And our group leader coaxed us up the hill to the best view I have ever seen at exactly the right time after we arrived. Completely breathtaking!

Bobby (Ubaldo Quispe) was the best tour leader I have ever met (and I have traveled on many many different types of tours all over the world). He was extremely knowledgable, really inspired confidence, was able to manage the group really well, even though we had a range of different abilities and the trek was challenging. He is also one of the best team leaders I have ever met, was truly generous and kind hearted and I would love to go on another trip led by him in the future. Monica, our co-leader was also amazing, able to give just the right type of encouragement and to lead from the front or behind perfectly. She also gave me a magical medicinal remedy (passionfruit and hot water) for a complaint I had that was super effective and I thought that was awesome!

It is a challenging trek, so it's worth putting in effort before hand - in particular building up your leg muscles because there is a lot of down and uphill, with big steps. And be prepared to go slowly if you need to - the air is thin so I found it tough going over the mountain passes.

We discussed on the trip whether this trip should be given a higher rating as it was very challenging. I haven't been on a comparable trip so it is hard to judge, but particularly given the altitude maybe there should be a 3.5 moderate plus rating?

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Sweet Peru

The Inca Trail

5.0
February 2017
Exodus Travels
Recommend: Yes
I had altitude sickness & only made it 6 miles on the Inca Trail. Nevertheless, the trip was a life-changing experience because I saw the majesty of Manchu Pichu, went horseback riding, learned some Spanish, ate well and saw Cusco in detail.
Reading Spanish with the tour leader assistant Christmas morning over eggs & toast.

Loved him. Very lively and insightful. I loved the assistant as well. Both are well trained in emergency services.

Don't get hung up if you don't complete the trek for whatever reason. You'll still have a great trip with stories to share.

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Top Tour Operators and Travel Companies


Classic Itineraries

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Perhaps the most classic Machu Picchu trip, walking the Inca Trail is a bucket list item for many. This is a challenging trip, but the reward is well worth the effort. Most Inca Trail treks take 4-5 days, though this varies.

Day 1-2, Cusco: Explore Cusco and get acclimated to the altitude. Visit cultural sites and museums to learn about the Inca before visiting Machu Picchu.

Day 3-8, Inca Trail: Embark upon the Inca trail.

Day 9-10, Machu Picchu: Arrive at the picturesque Sun Gate before the first wave of crowds. Take an in depth guided tour of the ruins, and spend free time exploring on your own. Climb the challenging Huayna Picchu for iconic pictures.

See All Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Tours

Historical Machu Picchu

One of the biggest draws of Machu Picchu is its historical significance. Most tours will touch on this, but some dive deeper than others into the archaeological history and cultural history of the incredible site.

Day 1-3, Cusco: Explore Cusco and get acclimated to the altitude. Visit cultural sites and museums to learn about the Inca before visiting Machu Picchu.

Day 4, Agua Calientes: Take the famous Scenic train ride to Agua Calientes. Spend the night and prepare to rise early to catch the dawn bus to Machu Picchu.

Day 5-6, Machu Picchu: Take an in depth guided tour of the ruins, and spend free time exploring on your own. Climb the challenging Huayna Picchu for iconic pictures.

Day 7, Ollantaytambo: On your way back to Cusco, stop in Ollantaytambo another historically significant Inca site.

Day 8, Lima: Depart from Lima

OR

Day 2-6, Official Treks: Strike out upon one of three treks, Lares, Salkantay, or Inca, on your way to the site.

Or see All Machu Picchu History Tours

Machu Picchu and the Galapagos

Many tour companies combine a trip to Machu Picchu with a tour of the Galapagos. Typically these tours range anywhere from two weeks to a full month.

Day 1-2, Cusco: Take time to adjust to the altitude. Visit Plaza de Armas, and explore the Old Inca Capital.

Day 2-3, Agua Calientes: Take the famous VistaDome scenic train ride to Agua Calientes. Along the way stop in Pisac to visit the market. Continue to Ollantaytambo for a tour of more Incan ruins before arriving in Agua Calientes. Spend the night and prepare to rise early to catch the dawn bus to Machu Picchu.

Day 4-5, Machu Picchu: Take an in depth guided tour of the ruins, and spend free time exploring on your own. Optional: climb the challenging Huayna Picchu for iconic pictures.

Day 6-7, Cusco to Lima: Return to Cusco and take a short flight to Lima - the jumping off point for your Galapagos cruise. Take a walking history tour of the city: San Francisco Church, Plaza de Armas, Government Palace.

Day 8, Quito: Leave Peru for Ecuador and head to Quito. Explore the city and see La Compania. Take a drive to the Equatorial Line Monument, where you can straddle the hemispheres.

Day 9-13, Galapagos Cruise: Enjoy a cruise of the Galapagos islands. Take in the history of Darwin’s time on the islands, which led to his groundbreaking evolution theories. Get up close and personal with the incredible and diverse wildlife, and learn about the delicate ecology on the islands from an expert.

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Machu Picchu Trips & Tour Advice

The ruins of Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas, occupy one of the most dramatic sites of any archaeological find in the world. Dating from the 15th century and perched high up in the Peruvian Andes at the end of the Inca Trail, Machu Picchu features the ruins of stone-walled Inca temples, tombs and palaces in a jungle setting. Steep mountains form an unforgettable backdrop. You can take a guided trek to Machu Picchu along the Inca Trail or, for those on a less strenuous tour of Peru, get there by train.   

Your first moment of seeing Machu Picchu can easily be a highlight of a lifetime of travel. Taking in the perilous peaks and the beautiful silvery stones that make up the legendary lost Incan outpost high in the Andes merits few equals in any other destination experience. For many, Machu Picchu is a rite of passage.

However, getting to that moment is a process that can either be just as epic or stressful and exhausting. Let Stride guide you towards the best tour operators to ensure that your journey to one of the world’s most famous archaeological ruins is smooth and memorable.

Cusco, the Starting Point

The first port of call is Cusco. Cusco was the capital of the vast Incan empire and is replete with both ancient Incan temples and exquisite colonial churches. Boasting a dizzying mix of Catholic religious festivals, ancient Incan annual rituals, and popular music parades, Cusco’s calendar is always packed with exciting cultural experiences.

Cuzco also has its fair share of four-star hotels as well as budget accommodations, and is nestled in a beautiful landscape making it the perfect location in which to pass the time.

At 11k feet above sea level, (while Machu Picchu is at a mere 8K), Cusco is a crucial stop for adjusting to the altitude. The last thing you want is to suffer from altitude sickness during your journey to Machu Picchu! Take it easy, drink lots of water, and let your body get used to the thin Andean air.

Staying in Cusco is also helpful for providing an initial context to your journey and the characters involved. It’s the perfect introduction to Peru, and the many forces that contributed to the culture and diversity here. Including the food, language, architecture, and art - Cusco is the gateway to another time. The present day locals live concurrent with their ancestors, keeping many traditions and customs alive. Cusco is where you prepare to enter a different world.

During your free time in Cusco, be sure to pick up any last minute essentials for your journey. Depending on the time of year, it could be quite chilly, and even more so once you reach the ruins. The sun is often shrouded in mist and fog before 10am at Machu Picchu, and though you’ll be scrambling up and down ancient stairways as you explore, it will still be damp. Luckily Cusco is full of shops where you can purchase the famous alpaca wool hats, gloves, or ponchos.

On the outskirts of the city, Sacsayhuaman stands strong as the former fortress defending the Incan imperial capital and is the perfect destination for your first glimpse at the impressively large and exquisitely carved stones that make Incan architecture so famous. Returning to the city, one can appreciate some of the most beautiful colonial architecture in all of South America. Some churches, like Qoricancha, are built on top of and incorporated within Incan ruins. The cathedral, Santa Catalina monastery, San Blas, and countless other colonial gems complete the beauty of a town where religious art is so beautiful, it inspired an entire Cusquena artistic school and movement. 

Cusco even has a modern side. Going with a good tour operator can help ensure you see the most recent additions to Cusco’s ever-changing heritage: museums dedicate to chocolate and Pisco, resorts, spas, and even a vibrant nightlife.

There are many ways to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco. If you’re taking the train (of which there are three choices, of different budget levels) it leaves right from Poroy Station, about 20 minutes from downtown Cusco. This service is regular between May and December, but may be irregular during off season months when mudslides or heavy rain cause safety concerns.

If you are planning to reach Machu Picchu on one of the three main treks, you’ll take a bus or shuttle from Cusco to your starting point. On your way, you’ll pass through the Sacred Valley, location of Ollantaytambo, where you might stop for a night depending on your tour itinerary.

Getting to Machu Picchu is Half the Experience

Machu Picchu is much more than just Machu Picchu. A journey to the sacred Incan fortress is reached by first traveling through the Sacred Valley. On the way to Machu Picchu, you will pass Pisaq, where Incan terraces cascade gracefully down from the ancient trading post. Later, you will find yourself passing the fascinating, and beautiful, salt mines of Maras or entering the sacred, but eerie, endless concentric circles of Moray.

Finally, a Sacred Valley tour is not complete without visiting Ollantaytambo, a beautiful town in its own right, with a beautiful colonial core and a dramatic fortress climbing up on every mountain above the quaint alleys below.

There are many ways you can get to Machu Picchu. One of the most popular routes is still the Inca Trail, which, while difficult, is manageable for most able bodied and relatively fit travelers. The trail takes 4 to 5 days to complete and you’ll be surrounded by spectacular scenery and history, brought to life by your guide the entire way.

If you’re planning to hike the Inca Trail, be sure you purchase your permit into the park well ahead of time. They sell out extremely fast, and a limited number of people (500) are permitted on the trail per day. This includes porters and guides. Six months in advance is a good bet to ensure yourself a spot. It is also worth noting that you cannot hike the trail without a guide. Most large tour companies offer a Machu Picchu trek, so you have a lot of choice. Use Stride’s filtering tools to find the right tour size for you.

However, travelers are beginning to discover the other ways you can hike to Machu Picchu, which include the Lares Trek and Salkantay Trek. The Lares Treks is comparable, difficulty wise to the Inca Trail, but Salkantay is quite a bit more challenging, both in length and type.  

If you’re not hiking, you will take one of three rail journeys from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. There are different price points, but if you’re willing to splurge, the Belmond Hiram Bingham train is well worth the price. Drift through the Sacred Valley in luxury, while gazing out at the historic landscape through large viewing windows.

Aguas Calientes is the main hub for travelers going to Machu Picchu, about 15 minutes away from the site by bus. It is a good idea to stay in Aguas Calientes for a few days. Let yourself relax and not worry about seeing all of Machu Picchu in one fell swoop.

Use one day to catch the first bus after waiting in line at 4am to see the sunrise, but use your second day to go later. If you have time, don’t pass up a visit to the hot springs (Aguas Calientes literally translates to “hot water”).

Arriving at Machu Picchu

Unless you took the Incan trail the whole way there, you will have your chance to warm up in the hot springs of Agua Calientes in preparation for your exciting day, or days, in Machu Picchu.

Arriving early, you can catch the ancient mist disappearing to reveal the beautiful stones that make up one of the world’s most dramatic set of ruins. With your tour guide, you will learn about many of the secrets in those stones: an ancient sun dial, a temple designed to resemble a condor, and the temple of the sun, which boasts perhaps the most impressive ancient stonework in the Western Hemisphere.

After your guided tour, you may opt to go for a hike. Popular options include the sun gate, which is actually the end point of the Incan trail, or climbing up Huayna Picchu, a tough climb that is rewarded with its own set of ruins that tower over Machu Picchu and provide new captivating angles to photograph the fortress below.

For those desiring to focus on the ruins themselves, simply meandering its ancient streets will provide hours of captivating discoveries and mysterious wonders found in the meticulously cut stones that surround you.

More Than Just a Destination

A trip to Machu Picchu is never just a trip to Machu Picchu. Rather, it is a journey that can and should include colonial towns, religious art, ancient ruins, Andean treks, and breathtaking vistas. Traveling along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the more daunting but rewarding experiences in all of travel, so it is best to plan well to ensure a fulfilling trip. See our comprehensive guide of Machu Picchu planning tips article for help getting started! 

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