Machu Picchu, One of the worlds most incredible Ancient Wonders, sees over 2000 visitors each day and is easily one of the most incredible sights I have ever laid eyes on.
There are a lot of different ways to visit these fascinating ruins and most of the information on the internet can be confusing to a first time researcher. Don’t stress. Below you will find a range of ways to see the Ancient Wonder, Macchu Picchu, which will suit all types of budgets, adventure levels and time frames.
The Inca Trail: The Inca Trail would be most peoples first choice as a means to visit Machu Picchu. The hike goes for four days through mountainous jungle and actually takes the original path the Incan’s once walked to reach Machu Picchu.
Obviously these days the trail is just as protected as the actual ruins themselves so the government limits the amount of people able to hike the trail each day. 500. That’s it. 500 people are allowed a permit for the trail each day and 300 of these are guides and porters as mules are not aloud on the trek for fear of destroying the trail. Because these numbers are so low you need to get in QUICK! The trek books up months and months in advance so unfortunately it doesn’t accommodate to last minute backpackers, but, If you have the chance to plan it, DO IT! Speaking from experience here, it’s bloody amazing.
The Salkantay Trek: Another popular option amongst travelers and trekkers for making the journey to Machu Picchu. The Salkantay is tougher than the aforementioned Inca Trail as it begins in the Andes and by the second day you reach the highest part of the trek, 4600masl. After this, the trek descends through the mountains and the last two days you are walking through the jungle before reaching Aguas Calientes where you’ll spend a night before waking up early to get to Machu Picchu before the crowds.
The trek can be done in 4 or 5 days and can be organised literally the day before you want to leave in Cusco. Pick from hundreds of tour agencies as most of them join up groups along the trail anyway. I went through Loki Travel and they were pretty good. The price is around $220-$240 US for 5 days but if you opt to take the bus back instead of the train you can knock $60 US off that price. BARGAIN! Take warm clothes because the first few days this trek is freeeeeeezing.
Note: If taking the bus back instead of the train you will need to walk two hours back along the train tracks to a town called Hydroelectrica. From there you will find plenty of mini vans making the journey back to Cusco. It takes around 6 hours and costs 30 soles.
The Jungle Trek: Lot’s of backpackers go for this option. It’s cheap, easy and a fun way to make it to Machu Picchu. It’s generally 3 nights/4 days and does a range of activities. Hiking, Biking, Zip Lining and Rafting while finishing in Aguas Calientes for a night before visiting Machu Picchu. Same as the Salkantay, It can be booked at most tourist offices and major hostels.
By Bus: If you’re not into big trek’s and on a budget then this is the option for you. You can organise a collectivo (mini van) from Cusco to Hidroelectrica for around 50 soles return. From there you hike two hours along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes. You can choose to spend a night here and get up early and see Machu Picchu before the crowds arrive or to just see it that day and make your way back to Hidroelectrica.
I’ve heard of people doing the latter but I wouldn’t suggest it. Spend a night in Aguas Calientes and get up early to see the ruins. This gives you more time there and you can find reasonably priced accommodation in the town. Just make sure to organise a time for your bus back the next day when you purchase the tickets and to buy your Machu Picchu entry ticket beforehand.
By Train: If you’re ballin’ and don’t want to muck around than this is your option. Train tickets can be bought from all tourist agencies in Cusco and even online at http://www.perurail.com/ You’ll leave early morning and have the same options as the bus: To spend a night in Aguas Calientes and return to Cusco the next day or to see the ruins when you arrive and return late in the evening. The last train is around 9:45pm so you either option works.
Remember entry tickets for Machu Picchu CANNOT be bought at the gate. You must do it beforehand either in Cusco or through the official site: http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/