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Top Machu Picchu Experiences

  • 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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Machu Picchu Attractions And Landmarks Guide

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! 

Machu Picchu Tour Reviews - Summary

4.8 out of 5

100%

recommend

5,762 Reviews

Excellent 4,234 Great 1,323 Average 5 Disappointing 0 Terrible 1

Rating Details

Value
4.8 Guide
4.8 Activities
4.8 Lodging
4.8 Transportation
4.8 Meals
4.8

Best trip of our life!

Peru Adventure Tour

5.0 June 2017 Kuoda Travel Recommend: Yes This was our first time using a travel company and they set the bar really high! Every single thing was taken care of for us including (but not limited to) hotels, transportation, food, guides, drivers, pictures and on and on. We are so appreciative of the amazing care they showed us, and would recommend them as highly as possible. You will not be disappointed! They not only arranged all of these experiences but on our departure from Cusco, the owner Meri, came to meet us in person. If you are looking to travel in Peru, do not hesitate to use Kuoda Travel. Read more

Perfect trip to Peru & Machu Picchu

Peru Adventure Tour

5.0 June 2017 Kuoda Travel Recommend: Yes This letter is long overdue as both Kris & I need to thank you and the Kuoda team for such a wonderful experience in Peru. We sincerely appreciate you taking time out of your day to meet us at the airport and we enjoyed our time spent with the extended team at Kuoda.
Foremost I must say that I was a little reluctant to participate in a guided tour of Machu Picchu and the surrounding areas in Peru. My wife and I were splurging on this trip for our 10 year wedding anniversary and it was worth every penny. Neither of us had been to Peru before nor do we speak Spanish and your team provided excellent guidance along the way to navigate the flights, day trips and help us better understand Peruvian culture and history. We very much appreciated having your team available either in person or over the phone for when we had questions about our trip (great example was our hiking permits for day two in Machu Picchu and your team getting back to us immediately at our hotel).
We owe a special thanks to Jenny for dialing in the perfectly planned trip for us. She worked closely with Kris to tailor the hiking that we enjoy and nailed it with the Huchuy Cusco hike.

The restaurant recommendations were amazing and we loved the food and atmosphere of each unique place particularly those around Cusco. We were able to see so much of Peru & Machu Picchu in a short time period and our trip wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable without her expert planning.
I also cannot say enough good things about Eyner and the quality time we spent with him at Machu Picchu, Cusco and throughout our journey. It’s apparent on meeting him that he’s passionate about Quechua culture and eager to share its history. He was extremely patient with answering our many and frequent questions. Eyner navigated us through the crowds in the sacred valley, Machu Picchu and Cusco and we sincerely appreciated hearing is personal experiences and perspectives at each unique location.

He was also deft at adjusting the trip on the fly and connected us with a local silversmith in Cusco, much to Kris’ joy. The long day hike up Huchuy Cusco was extremely special and we are thankful for this unique trip with Eyner. Kuoda is very fortunate to have him as a member of the team.

Again a huge muchas gracias to you and the Kuoda team for exceeding our expectations and delivering on the perfect anniversary trip to Peru & Machu Picchu. We have such fond memories that will last a lifetime and we look forward to our next adventure with your team.
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The Very Best !

Peru Family Tour

5.0 May 2017 Kuoda Travel Recommend: Yes We had the most amazing time in Peru in Dec 2016 for 10 days. We were 2 families, 4 adults & 3 kids (ages 11, 11 & 9).
From the first email correspondence with Celine at Kuodo Travels to every step of the way, it was just perfect. I worked with Celine for 2 months, going back and forth, changing my itinerary and the different options so many times. She was very patient all along the way, not at all pushy. At the end of the day, we realized this was the company we wanted to work with and I am so glad we did.
Our guide Ruben was really very nice. I can't thank him enough for patiently dealing with all of us. From helping me get over my altitude sickness to making sure, the kids were well entertained, he made it so memorable. He has such a passion for Peru history and culture and explained everything so beautifully to us. Not only did we get to see the amazing landscape of Peru, we actually learned so much about its history from Ruben.
Not to forget our driver, Speedy Miguel. He was always cordial and ever smiling. A very careful & attentive driver.
Kuodo Travels truly felt like family. They meticulously planned out our itinerary, so it catered to the different age groups and varied interests in our group. It's been 5 months since our trip and we still talk about the best vacation we have had till date.
The icing on the cake was meeting the owner of Kuodo, Mery. It was Christmas weekend when we were flying out to Puerto Maldonado. Mery was still kind enough to visit us at the airport and gift us a beautiful Peruvian souvenir.
I couldn't speak more highly of Kuodo Travels. It was a pricey than we had originally planned, but so worth every penny. We felt like royalty and keep saying that they have spoilt us for life. We are going to be expecting the same level of treatment from other travel companies going forward.
We highly recommend Kuodo & their very professional staff!
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Easy stress frees Peru!

Discover Southern Peru

5.0 May 2017 Kuoda Travel Recommend: Yes Our group of 4 spent 2 weeks in southern Peru choosing just the places we wanted. The accommodations were surprisingly first class and well appointed. The local guides spoke good English and made all of the arrangements and transitions so smooth. It was the first time we had travelled using an agent and it was well worth it. Read more

Trip was incredible!

Journey to the Center of the Inca Empire

5.0 May 2017 Kuoda Travel Recommend: Yes I can't tell how much we appreciated how you and the Kuoda Travel team handled our stay in Peru. Every aspect of the trip was incredible and fabulous. The guides were wonderful and so very helpful and knowledgeable - they love they homeland. We would recommend Kuoda travel to anyone traveling to Peru. Fantastic trip!!
Again, thank you for putting a fantastic trip together.
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