I’m excited to share our trip to Machu Picchu with you today! Considered one of the 7 wonders of the world, we certainly couldn’t miss it on our honeymoon in Peru. While it is a tourist destination and there is some of the downsides that come with visiting a tourist spot, the trip is absolutely worth it!
Located northwest of Cuzco, Machu Picchu is an ancient an Incan citadel impressively nestled at an elevation 7,972, in the Andes Mountains. It’s believed to have been a royal estate or sacred religious site for Inca leaders. The site stretches over a 5-mile distance, with more than 3,000 stone steps that connect all the different levels. The site has several identified and distinct areas, including a farming zone, a residential area, a sacred area, and a royal area.
Today the only way to get Machu Picchu is by train or walking. If you decide to walk in, expect a 2-5 day hike along the Inca Trail. Seeing as this was our Honeymoon, a 4-day trek through the Andes wasn’t really our plan so we opted for the train. The train drops you at the nearby town of Aguas Calientes where you can grab a bus up to Machu Picchu. You can also opt to hike up from here, which can be done up and back in a day. Train tickets can be bought in advance, and I suggest you do so as certain time slots sell out. You can opt to train in and back in a single day, or stay overnight at Aguas Calientes.
We decided to forgo the site on our own, however, there are tons of options for tour guides. You can pre-book something or grab one once you’re there. The area has been growing to tourism every single year and while navigating how to get there a first was a little tricky, in general, it’s very easy to visit as a tourist or first timer. We pre-bought our tickets into the site -highly recommended – as they only allow a certain amount of people in every day. If you want to do one the hikes once up there (Machu Picchu Mountain and/or Huayna Picchu Mountain), you’ll want to book those tickets even further in advanced as they only allow a very limited amount every day. We were going to do one of these hikes but be forewarned they aren’t for the faint of heart. While most sites indicate you can do it in 2 hours, most forums I read with real travelers said it took them 5 hours or more. Seeing has my new husband has a bad knee, we decided to skip on the hike. I personally think the visit is acceptable without a hike, however the hike would allow you some peace and quiet from the bustle of the site. Not to mention, if your a nature or hiking buff, you really don’t get too many options in your life to hike in the Andes overlooking one of the 7 wonders of this world, so it’s all dependent on what’s important to you when you travel.
Machu Picchu Travel Tips
We’re by no means experts from one trip, however we did plan the whole thing on our own without the help of a tour guide, so we learned some things along the way.
Buy your tickets ahead of time.
Like mentioned above, you need to pre-buy your tickets. I suggest you do this BEFORE you travel. And, if you plan to do the Machu Picchu Mountain and/or Huayna Picchu Mountain Hikes this also require advanced ticket purchases and they sell out fast. If you’re planning to take the train in, you should buy these ahead of time too. They pick up from multiple towns in Sacred Valley.
Travel with your passport
You’ll need it to buy bus tickets up AND to get into the site, so don’t leave them at the hotel.
It is a must when visiting Machu Picchu. We went during the dry season, so the bugs weren’t as bad, but they were the only place in Peru we saw them. Save yourself the hassle and possibility of reactions to the bites (I heard some horror stories) and give yourself a good spray.
Dress in layers
The weather goes from chilly to hot in very little time. Consider a light jacket, long pants,a tee shirt and sweater for layering. The weather had been mild our other days in Peru and so I just went for a sweater and ended up very hot by the end of our visit and wished I had a tank or sweater underneath. You’re doing a lot of walking and these isn’t any shade at the site – it got hot fast…as you can see from my hot, I’m-ready-to-go-now face at the end of our day.
You’ll also want to consider a hat, sunglasses and sunblock as well as a good pair of shoes- Seriously, don’t attempt this in flip flops or something silly like that. Not only will you look like an annoying tourist, it’s really not safe. There are THOUSANDS of steps on the site and many are steep with nothing to hold onto -besides blind faith – so good shoes are a must.
While you can easily train in, visit the site, and train back to Cusco or other parts of Sacred Valley in a single day, I highly suggest staying over at least a night. The town at the base can easily entertain you for a night or two, and staying over ensures you’ll get a great visit to the site. We lucked out with really nice weather during our visit to the site, but about an hour after we left it POURED rain for 4 hours. Anyone who went after us would have had a ruined trip. Staying overnight allows you to get two trips to the site. Plus, the site opens at 6am, so you can get there really early before it’s too busy. If time allows, you could even stay 2 nights – I don’t think you’d regret it.
Prepare for High Altitude
This is true for Cusco and Machu Picchu- it’s actually higher altitude at Cusco than Machu Picchu. The altitude effects everyone differently. I suffered from nausea and lack of appetite while Michael had some trouble with dizziness and shortness of breath. You can’t predict who will be susceptible to altitude sickness, or how it will affect you – it’s not related to your health, genes, or otherwise. We hadn’t gotten the altitude sickness medicine doctors can prescribe, but in hindsight, I wish we had. It’s a smart idea to have a doctor prescribe altitude sickness medicine for you just in case!
Bring a snack
Trust me, it gets hot and all the walking works up an appetite.
There you have it! While Machu Picchu certainly is a “tourist” destination, the trip is worth it. Just being able to sit down and marvel at one of the 7 wonders of the world is quite an honor. It’s crazy to think about when this site was a bustling city high in the mountains, crowded with daily routine instead of visiting tourists. If you are planning to visit and have any question, feel free to shoot me an email or leave a comment!