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How To Visit Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is a bucket list spot for many people and on the list of the 7 Wonders Of The World. My boyfriend, Tim and I, had been wanting to visit for a while so we bought our tickets to Peru and immediately started planning for Machu Picchu. We chose to not use a tour guide for our trip and we were extremely happy with our decision. The information I lay out below is taking into consideration that you are traveling to Machu Picchu on your own and not through a tour guide. When you’re going alone, that is where a little extra planning comes in to ensure you have every ticket and form of transportation set up to get to Machu Picchu.

How To Get There

The journey to Machu Picchu is not the quickest but I promise you if you follow the steps I review below you will have no stress booking this excursion! And wow is the journey worth it! Machu Picchu was truly a surreal experience. This place holds so much history and is really a magical place that you can feel right when you get there. 


First, figure out if you’re going to be coming from Cusco or, if you want to stay overnight at a town closer to Machu Picchu like Aguas Calientes or Ollantaytambo. 

Coming from Cusco: If you are leaving Cusco to visit Machu Picchu you will need to take about four transportation services. Below is a detail of everything you need to schedule and book if you are traveling from Cusco to Machu Picchu.

What To Purchase: 
  1. First, purchase your Machu Picchu Ruins Ticket (you can also purchase a trail ticket if you would like to hike the Inca trail). This is your general ticket to get you into the ruins.
  2. Purchase your Machu Picchu Train ticket through Peru Rail from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu and back.
    1. The Peru Rail ticket will also include your bus ticket. The bus gets you to the train. The bus station you will want to select from Cusco is called Wanchaq (purchase both ways).
  3. Schedule a Taxi pickup from your hotel in Cusco to the bus in Wanchaq that will take you to the train (Both ways).

Once you have all of these tickets purchased and transportation scheduled you are good to go! Make sure when you are selecting bus and train tickets you are selecting times that will work realistically for you to get to and from each stop and also give you enough time to enjoy Machu Picchu without feeling rushed.

*I suggest printing copies of ALL transportation tickets and confirmations as well as screenshot photos of them on your phone. Keep the paper copies in your backpack throughout your trip. There were multiple times where we didn’t have service on our travels to Machu Picchu and you don’t want to risk not being able to open your email to get your tickets scanned.

Aguas Calientes

Peru Rail Train in Ollantaytambo

Don’t forget to stop in Aguas Calientes to get your passport stamped!

What To Expect


Other than the incredible views and surreal experience, you should also expect a long travel day, especially if you are visiting from Cusco. I was up at about 4am to shower and get ready for the trip and be on time for our 5am taxi pickup we scheduled. We were dropped off at the bus stop in Wanchaq, where it was fairly cold out so make sure you wear layers (I brought a jean jacket which was just enough) and be prepared to wait outside for a bit until the bus comes. 

Once you’re on the bus it’ll be roughly a 1½ to 2 hour long ride. You’ll then arrive in the town of Ollantaytambo. This is where the Peru Rail train will pick you up. Head straight to the train station and pull out your papers to get them scanned and wait for the train. The train came fairly quickly for us, I personally didn’t have time to use the restroom or grab a cup of coffee from the cafe so make sure you have everything prepared beforehand. Once you’re on the train, take some time to relax. You’re almost there! Plus, all the Peru Rail trains have large windows so you can see the beautiful views out the window as you make your way to Aguas Calientes – the closest village to Machu Picchu. Expect roughly a 2 hour train ride to Aguas Calientes.

Once you arrive in Aguas Calientes, hop off the train and head to your next bus. Remember the bus tickets were purchased through Peru Rail with your train ticket so they will all be together and listed out in your ticket information. Find your correct bus and try to get on as quickly as you can before it fills up. We missed the first round of buses so we walked around the village a bit and then jumped onto the next available bus. Thankfully we booked our rides into Machu Picchu and out of Machu Picchu with plenty of time in between so this didn’t affect us or rush us at all. Once you’re on the bus buckle up – literally – buckle up. The ride from Aguas Calientes up to the entrance of Machu Picchu is one of the scariest drives I have ever been on and that’s saying a lot because this trip was full of sketchy drives. You will be on a huge bus winding up a mountain, one turn after the other, inches away from the edge of the cliff. But remember, it will all be worth it very shortly! After this ride the bus will park and you will have made it to the entrance of Machu Picchu.

Start your journey through the ruins and be prepared to see jaw dropped views. Machu Picchu was truly incredible and a magical experience. The entire time we saw amazing views from every curve and turn and it felt surreal. There are a few Instagram worthy spots you must take photos at (shown below) but prepare to wait a bit to get the perfect shot. There were tons of tourists in Machu Picchu so just make sure to wait your turn or venture a little and find a spot that people aren’t around to take unique, one of a kind photos. And yes there will be llamas and alpacas all over the area so don’t miss a chance to get a photo with them!

We didn’t get back to the hotel until about roughly 10pm that night where we absolutely passed out and slept in the next day. So with that being said I wouldn’t plan any huge excursions the next day! Give yourself a day to rest and let your body relax after your full day excursion. 


Guide Or No Guide?

We chose to not use a tour guide for our trip and we were extremely happy with our decision. We felt that we had learned a lot about the history of Machu Picchu from doing our own research months and days before the trip. We also really just wanted to experience the landscape on our own and at our own pace which is exactly what we did. We enjoyed walking through the incredible ruins on our own, taking our time to take the photos we wanted and then grabbing a bite to eat and sipping a cold beer before hopping back on the train. 

That’s not to say that booking a tour guide isn’t a great option because it is for many travelers! Tour guides will usually schedule your transportation for you, add your ticket costs into the tour guide cost and really bundle everything together, even meals. They will also go through all the history of the area in depth throughout the entire ruins. When you’re going alone, that is where a little extra planning comes in to ensure you have every ticket and form of transportation set up to get to Machu Picchu. So depending on the type of traveler you are, a tour guide may be a great option for you! I have linked below some highly reviewed Machu Picchu tours.

Checkout some of the links I linked below through Get Your Guide! We used this travel guide company on a few others excursions during our trip and the company was super organized and had great reviews.

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You can call me Kat! I'm a Milwaukee native, always looking for something new to check out, whether that be in MKE or across the world. Follow my blog and social for all things travel, inspiration, lifestyle and living mindfully.

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