Everything to Know to Hike Machu Picchu

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Hi there! If you are here, it's probably because you are planning a trip to one of the new 7 wonders of the world, and wanting to hike Machu Picchu. Whether you've seen it through your friend's travel pictures or in an article somewhere, something we can all say is that it's hard to ignore something so well designed.

We have had the chance of visiting this beauty, so we want to give you as much information as possible beforehand. We bet there's much more to know and consider than you might be thinking.

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Info About Booking Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is located 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Cusco, one of Peru's most populated & beloved cities. All tours into the Incan citadel leave from Cusco's center, Plaza de Armas.

As most of the tourists use Cusco as a base point for a lot of beautiful landscapes around it, there are a lot of travel agencies with daily departures into those places. You will notices that even if you are walking in the street, you will find signs with detailed schedules.

hike Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is one of the seven wonders of the world.

As usual, we got your back! In order to visit Machu Picchu, Waynapicchu & Machu Picchu Mountain you can just get the tickets from the official site. Have in mind that when you book your tour in Cusco, you have to let them know that you already have the tickets, so that they can find you a guide in your booked time.

Getting to Hike Machu Picchu

There are several ways of getting to Machu Picchu. The town that you will need to get to is called Aguas Calientes. You can get here by train from Cusco, renting a car for part of the way, or by going to hike Machu Picchu on a tour, which we will explain later in the article.

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Tours From Cusco to Hike Machu Picchu

There are so many different tour options to choose from, so it can be quite overwhelming. 

The  "Camina de Inca" is the most expensive and exclusive tour that there is. This is the original trail, and must be booked very early in advance.

The rest of the tours vary from 3-4 days, and many of them include similar activities such as biking, rafting, ziplining, and hiking to Machu Picchu.

tours for hike to Machu Picchu

Many hostels and hotels also work with tour companies selling treks to hike Machu Picchu.

We paid $160 for the trip to hike Machu Picchu, which was half the price of what we found online researching before the trip. This is a pretty average price (or at least it was in 2019). We suggest just walking around the old town of Cusco and speaking with different agencies to find what package suits you best.

Keep reading to get more details on the tour that we did, and everything to expect by taking a hike to Machu Picchu.

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The Train to Machu Picchu

This is for those that want a little bit more luxury and comfort during their travels. The train is the priciest option, as tickets are $140 for the expedition, $190 for the "vista dome", and $950 for the luxury train.

Tours are actually pretty similar in price, but you have to think of it in terms of total amount spent daily. The tours include 3 nights of accommodation, food, and activities. So it is definitely a more budget friendly option.

Here are some different train packages to Machu Picchu you can get:

Renting a Car to Go to Machu Picchu

The truth is that you can't actually get all the way to Aguas Calientes with a car. If you do have a car though, the closest you can get is to the town of Ollayantambo, where you can then finish the rest with the train. 

There are plenty of car rental companies throughout Cusco, offering cars for about $40-$50/day. We would save the car rental for going to other places though, like Rainbow Mountain or the Maras Salt Mines.

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Tips for Booking a Ticket to Hike Machu Picchu

Here are some tips for booking the hike to Machu Picchu, and some things to avoid.

PRO TIP: DO NOT BOOK THE TOUR IN ADVANCE (you'll find most travel bloggers put links in to book- this is simply for commission, and is not a good recommendation).

First of all, we want to clarify something; if what you're looking for is the official Inca Trail, then you definitely should book it in advance, as the planning for groups does take time, and companies do not offer daily departures.

If you are interested in getting to hike Machu Picchu, whatever the tour, then all the information above is perfect for you!

Hike Machu Picchu trek

The Inca Trail is a great way to see the stunning nature that surrounds the area of Machu Picchu.

Many online agencies will offer a full 3 or 4 day trip from Cusco to hike Machu Picchu, with everything included, for a price that will seem more than reasonable. Unfortunately, many of these companies will take advantage of first timers that believe the exchange rate is benefiting them.  

To give you an example, we got an offer to do the Inca Jungle tour (we will tell you all about it later in this post) for $320 USD, and we were about to do the payment. Luckily, we waited until arriving to Cusco to do so, only to find the exact same tour for $160 USD in an agency nearby the city center.

They also had daily departures, so we could literally book one at 6 pm to leave the morning after.

Don't have time to read the whole article and want to save it for later? Just pin it!

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Wayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain

You do need to book these in advance! Waynapicchu and Machu Picchu Mountain are two mountains inside the citadel. They both give you unbelievable views of Machu Picchu, they both take time & effort to climb, and they both have limited available spots!

It's very important that you understand this, because this is a decision you will have to make ahead of time. This is because only 400 people per day can climb Waynapicchu, and only 800 people can hike Machu Picchu Mountain. So if you have interest in doing any of them, you should buy the tickets months before your trip.

Waynapicchu, hike Machu Picchu

Waynapicchu is a separate ticket that offers stunning views of Machu Picchu.

Before You Start the Hike to Machu Picchu

There are a few things that we want you to consider before you jump into this beautiful experience. They are very important, though.

1. Take this Physical Challenge Seriously

Cusco has an elevation of 3,400 meters above sea level (11,200 feet) so there's much less oxygen in the air for us to breathe at that altitude. This makes everyday activities a whole new thing; even going up a set of stairs can get you tired.

The hike to Machu Picchu is no joke, and you must be in good physical shape and health to do the trek. Even though Machu Picchu is a little lower in altitude (2,400 meters / 7,970 feet), the whole tour will be between those heights. So if you happen to have any type of breathing difficulty, make sure to let your guide know in advance.

Some things that really help are altitude sickness pills, coca leaves (you can chew them to get a boost of energy), mint and even chocolate.

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2. Bring Clothes for all Seasons

During the day you will have long hikes, so you'll want to have sports clothes that help your body breathe while sweating, as well as sneakers. A light jacket is also a good thing to have, in case the weather isn't the best.

Have a second pair of shoes in hand, in case your sneakers get wet (you can tie them outside your bag so that they don't take space, or you can use a carabiner, as we suggest in our travel essencial's post.) 

Have you ever though what would your travel essentials be? when you're traveling, there's certain situations you want to be prepared for. Here you will find a list of what we found out to be absolute necessary items.What to pack? That's the biggest question when preparing for a trip. No

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It will get cold at night, so bring a jacket or sweater to have for dinner time (and for day 2, when you start your final hike to Machu Picchu at 4:30 am)

Packing List for Machu Picchu:

  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray (and lots of it!)
  • Aloe
  • Reusable Water Bottle (we use this water bottle from Cafago because it holds the temperature)
  • Poncho (it also can rain a lot)
  • Sneakers 
  • Sporty Clothing
  • Light Jacket
  • Zippered Bag or Backpack (to secure your belongings) - take a look at these backpacks for travelers!
  • Power Bank (we use Anker power banks, as they are super long lasting and sturdy)
  • Action Camera (we use the Insta 360 X3 because it's small & waterproof)

3. Make Sure You Leave Your Stuff in a Safe Place

This is another very important thing to put into consideration. You will go on a 3-4 day tour, but your whole trip will most likely be way longer. And, of course, you are not going to hike Machu Picchu with everything you have.

Bring to your trip a backpack that can hold enough clothes for those 3-4 days (it has to be a backpack and not a bag, because you will need your hands available to hike through the mountains).

For what is up to the rest of your luggage, the best thing you can do is leave it in the place you stayed before starting the tour (assuming you arrived to Cusco at least a day before the tour).

If for any reason you can't leave them there, or if you arrived to Cusco just before the tour, we recommend you to book in advance a place for after the trip and go straight there to explain the situation. Most places will be happy to take your luggage in advance, as this is very common in Cusco.

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Our Tour to Hike Machu Picchu: Inca Jungle

Quick disclaimer: Let us tell you once again, here we will tell you our personal experience. We know there are several tours out there, including the original Inca Trail, so feel free to do a little research about each specific tour and what each one has to offer.

Hike Machu Picchu

The trek to Machu Picchu has incredible landscapes.

The Inca Jungle consists of a 4-day tour from Cusco trekking to Machu Picchu, hiking through the jungle & mountains, having stunning views, and most importantly, having a lot of fun along the way!

You can choose whether you want to do it in a shared or private group. But let us tell you in advance that private groups will cost you extra, plus going in a shared group is a lot of fun.

Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu group

Traveling in a larger group is fun, and allows you to make new friends.

We don't want to overwhelm you with details of the tour, hour by hour, but of course we are not going to let you leave this post without all the info you need! So if you want to see in detail what the Inca Jungle tour looks like, you can check out the official site!

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The Hike to Machu Picchu: Day 1

Just to give you a few highlights, on day one you will have a solid 2-hour bike riding downhill, from 4,500 masl (meters above sea level) down to 1,500 masl. It's a beautiful ride that will let you appreciate nature at its fullest.

If you don't feel comfortable on a bike, or if you have any physical impediment, don't worry! Two vans will go in the front and in the back of the group, so you can stay inside instead. (Also, if you are on a bike and something happens, they will be there for you all along the way).

biking Machu picchu

The first main activity during the Inca trail is mountain biking, which is optional.

After that, and after a nice lunch, you will proceed to do rafting! How cool is that for a first day? Be aware that you need to let the travel agency know you want to do it when you book it, because this activity is optional. 

Jungle rafting Inca Trail, hike Machu Picchu

Rafting is one of the many fun activities along the Inca Trail.

The Hike to Machu Picchu: Day 2

You will have a long hike through the jungle & mountains, getting to see a lot of local flora & fauna. You will also do a stop in a place called Monkey House, where different animals live (including, OF COURSE, a cute little monkey). They are all wild and free, so it's a beautiful way of connecting with nature.

Monkey house Inca Trail

Monkey house has a lot of local animals that are free to roam the natural habitat around them.

In the afternoon you will spend a few hours at Cocalmayo hot springs. These pools are 100% heated by nature. You will have three hot pools to enjoy and relax.

Hike to Machu Picchu: Day 3

The tour will take you on another hike next to the train rails that lead to Aguas Calientes, This hike takes around 2 hours, but the views along the way are so worth it.

You can also take the option of getting into Aguas Calientes by train, instead of doing the hike to Machu Picchu. For that, you will have to make your decision beforehand, because train departures go from Cusco or from Ollantaytambo. The most popular companies are PeruRail and Inca Rail. That means having to do a different tour.
train tracks to hike Machu Picchu

The final stretch of the trek to Machu Picchu is a two hour walk along the train tracks.

After that you will arrive to Aguas Calientes, the town next to Machu Picchu. You will reach there with enough time to walk around and enjoy this beautiful village surrounded by mountains.

Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes is the small town where Machu Picchu is located.

The Hike to Machu Picchu: Day 4

The fourth day is when you have to make a choice. To be allowed inside Machu Picchu you need to have a tour guide (if you go on your own, tour guides will be at the entrance waiting to offer their services. If you book a tour, a guide will be included). Your way up will start on a metal bridge, very early in the morning.

Bridge to hike Machu Picchu

The bridge where the hike up to Machu Picchu begins

So, if your tour starts at 6 am, you will have to be there before 6 in order to meet up with them. And here's when you need to choose. You can hike up the mountain, on a 45 min to 1 & 1/2 -hour hike that will challenge your stamina, or you can get a bus ticket to the top.

We personally recommend to do the hike to Machu Picchu. No matter how fast or slow is your pace, this is a lifetime experience and it's totally worth doing. But, again, each traveler makes their own choices.

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What To Expect Inside Machu Picchu

Once you get into the citadel, your tour guide will take care of telling you the meaning of each area of Machu Picchu. But just to give you a heads up, you will walk into a place that is believed to have been built as a royal estate for Inca ruler Pachacutec.

The design isn't on a flat area at all; instead, each "floor" goes down with the mountain, blending with nature in a very harmonic way.

Something that is worth mentioning is that there are Alpacas inside Machu Picchu. These lovely animals live inside the citadel without bothering anyone around. They have a tag on their ears because locals take care of them. You may not get a chance of touching one, but it's definitely a nice thing to see around.

alpacas in Machu Picchu

It is very common to find alpacas inside of Machu Picchu

There is a lot of area to be covered, and they will tell you that your time is limited, so we recommend you to listen to the tour guide on each explanation so that you can learn about the place before starting to take a lot of pictures (a part that we like a lot, if we do say so ourselves).

Something that they updated recently is that after a certain point you can't go back in the path, so make sure you have seen and photographed the area you are in before you go forward, otherwise you won't be able to do it later.

Also, be patient about the weather. There's a big chance you have clouds, not only on top of you but around you as well. (Remember you are thousands of meters above sea level). Clouds move fast, so you just need to be ready to take advantage between clouds passing.. Take a look of one of our failed shots down below.

Cloudy Machu Picchu

The clouds move fast at Machu Picchu, so just have a little patience for the view to clear up.

Waynapicchu & Machu Picchu Mountain

These two, as we mentioned before, are extras for your entrance to Machu Picchu. You will access both of them from inside the citadel. Waynapicchu can only allow 400 people a day, while Machu Picchu Mountain will only allow 800 people a day.

Each one has its own time tables, and they are very unlikely to be done the same day (especially for the physical part) so we recommend you to choose one. We did Waynapicchu because the views of the citadel you get are breathtaking.

The hike for Waynapicchu takes between 30 minutes and 1 hour, but it is harder than all previous hikes. Steps are very steep, so in certain areas you will find a tight rope on the side to use as a handrail to pull yourself up.


The hike up to Waynapicchu is steep, but definitely worth it for the views.

Don't rush your pace, especially since you already did the effort to get there. Take your time, and enjoy along the way. Once you get there, you will feel incredibly satisfied of having done it.

From the top of Waynapicchu you can see the whole citadel of Machu Picchu including its designs, houses, temples and so much more. We hope you get the feeling we got when we reached the top.

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The journey to hike Machu Picchu is a one of a kind experience, and definitely one to add to your bucket list! Despite the time, money, and energy, seeing this new wonder of the world, is worth every second and penny.

The complexity of the citadel is incredible and fascinates 1.5 million people every year. The feeling of arriving and seeing it before your eyes is truly indescribable.

Whether you decide to hike Machu Picchu or ride in on the train, the experience is going to be incredible. Are you planning on visiting other places in Peru or South America? Well, we have plenty of guides to share with you.

Also, there are of great activities and places to be seen all around Cusco, so we definitely suggest checking out our full guide. we can also help you create the perfect itinerary, and save money! Get your quote today.

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