I believe that Machu Picchu is quite possibly everyone’s bucket list. It is something that you will always see pictures of. Something everyone will tell you about. And I’m pretty sure that if you are going to Peru for the first time you wouldn’t want to miss something like a trip to Machu Picchu. Question is, what can you expect from such a well-known place. Another question is how to get there. I choose to do Machu Picchu day trip from Cuzco and this post is what should you expect from a day trip like this.
Machu Picchu day trip from Cuzco – itinerary
Hotel pick up at 4.30 am
Sounds early, doesn’t it? It really is. Truth is that this time is usually just for orientation. The company will pick you up around that time, but they have to get everyone from Cuzco. Most companies actually know about the hotels and are very skilled in where are they. So you don’t have to be afraid of anything, they will find you just fine. They found me as well and I had an issue of finding my hotel.
Train from Ollantaytambo – 6.30 am
The next thing that will happen is that you will be seated on a bus and your next stop will be Ollantaytambo. Another village in Sacred Valley with Inca ruins. It takes at least two hours to get there, so you can use that time to get some sleep. In Ollantaytambo will be another person, who would wait for you an give you a train ticket. They would also usually gather the whole group and wait with them for the train, so they can show you which train is yours. That is a rather crucial thing to do because there is a lot of trains during the day, that is going to Machu Picchu.
Train to Aguas Calientes – 6.30 – 8.00
There are a couple of companies that are offering a trip to Machu Picchu by train. It is usually either IncaTrain or PeruRail. Both of them have high-quality services so you will get some snacks and hot drinks.
But an important thing to know before you step in your train. There is a lot of information on your ticket. Things like which train, time and seat. When it comes to the seat, I would recommend you ask for a seat next to the window. The train ride that will take about an hour has amazing views from the window. And believe me, everyone has its own seat and nobody will want to trade it. So make sure you will ask for the window seat.
Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu – 8.00 am – 8.30
After about an hour and a half of the train ride, you will finally arrive at Aguas Calientes which is a gate to Machu Picchu. It is pretty easy to get to Machu Picchu from here. It is usually enough to follow the crowd, although if you have a tour from some company, you will usually have another person or even your guide, to wait for you outside of the train station. Otherwise, it is enough just to follow the people, they all go on a bus, which will get you right to the tourist gate for Machu Picchu. The bus ride takes about half an hour during really curvy roads. But after that, you are finally there.
Machu Picchu tour – rest of the morning
The guided tour takes about an hour and a half. After that, it is up to you what you want to do. During the tour, you will get to know a lot about what Machu Picchu was and why it was probably deserted. Most of the guides will also tell you about where you can spend the rest of the time that you will have there. Since you can usually stay until midday. After that, you should go back, since the tickets are just for half a day. There are plenty of possibilities on what to do and where to hike. After that, you should head back to Aguas Calientes. You can either catch a bus back, which is in the price of the ticket anyway, or you can hike your way down. Once you are in Aquas, there is a lot of restaurants and bars, where you can get food. Both local and international. Just expect higher prices than usual. This little village basically lives on tourism.
Back to the train station – 3 pm the latest
Most of the tickets back are around 3 o’clock. So you need to be aware of the time and get back to the station. The train back has the same services. So you probably can get some food and drinks.
On your way, you also need to change a train on your way to Cuzco. Some companies would get you on a train that would go directly to Cuzco and offer a hotel drop off from there. Others would rather sit you on the bus in Ollantaytambo and get you to the hotel after you reach Cuzco. Either way, expect to be at the hotel around 7 pm at the latest. And dinner isn’t in price, so after this whole day, you should probably go and find someplace to eat.
General information about the day trip
Is Machu Picchu day trip from Cuzco worth it?
As you might notice, the day trip itinerary is rather crowded and you won’t get too much time to rest. The truth is, it will do the thing. It is very different from what other people do – get to Ollantaytambo in one day and go to Machu Picchu on the next day and then go back to Cuzco.
In general, it depends on your itinerary for the whole of Peru. For me, this kind of tour was a perfect way of visiting Machu Picchu. It was uncomfortable? Yes. Did I see what I wanted to see? Totally. So I would certainly recommend it to anyone else.
Can you do this without a tour company?
Probably not. The thing is, you would probably be able to do it alone from Ollantaytambo. But with the morning buses and getting to Ollantaytambo just to catch a train there, it is not really possible and you would need a company for things like this.
How to get a day trip tour to Machu Pichu?
Make sure you buy a ticket or the tour to Machu Picchu before you buy your flight. Because they are making a new restriction on how many people per day can visit the site and how many tourists can be there at once. Meaning that a lot of it is sold out pretty quickly, which is why it is recommended to first buy a ticket here and after that the flight.
Tickets are quite expensive, usually something around 45 dollars per half day. If you want to have a whole day trip just on Machu Picchu, you have to buy two and the guide has to be with you most of the time.
A little bit to tours. They are overall a little bit more expensive. You need to pay for a guide as well because of the restriction. Besides that, you need to pay for the train ticket and hotel pickups and drop-offs. So most of the day trips to Machu Picchu from Peru costs about 330 dollars.
Where can you get the tours?
There are a couple of places that would offer you day trips to Machu Picchu from Cuzco. Here is a little breakdown:
- Viator – an international company. I used it, I wasn’t entirely happy, but it does the thing. Cost: 345 dollars
- Machu Picchu Journey – a company that specializes just in Peru and traveling in Peru. You will find there a lot of options for going to Machu Picchu. One of them is a day trip. However, the price is available only if you contact them.
- Civitatis – Perhaps the cheapest option on the market at the moment. The itinerary is basically the same, you will also get pickup and dropoff. Standart cost for adult: 310 dollars, available discounts for students.
- Salkantay trekking – This company specializes not only in Peru but only in getting people to Machu Picchu. If I should go again, this would be my choice. Cost: 320 dollars.
Other ways to get to Machu Picchu
There are different ways to get to Machu Pichu. One of them is to take trains or buses to Ollantaytambo and from there is a direct train to Machu Picchu village. Several train companies are going that way. All of them are quite expensive, so add another 100 dollars to your budget.
From the village, you can either hike your way up or take a bus. Busses are going once they are filled and believe me, they are full all the time, so no problem there. The same goes for the return ticket. Just wait till the empty bus will show up.
Restriction at Machu Picchu
As I mentioned several times, there are some limitations to the trip to Machu Picchu. And they are quite important for everyone, who will want to visit. So let’s break them down:
- The site can be visited by only 500 tourists per day. Which limits the tickets enormously.
- Visiting is possible in three different shifts. The first one is from 6.00 am till 9 am. Then 9.00 am till 12.00 am and the last one from 12.00 to 2 pm.
- If you are planning to go to Huayna Picchu, there are whole other times from it as well.
- These objects are prohibited in Machu Picchu: Sharp objects, selfie sticks, tripods, baby strollers, big backpacks, boots with heels, food, and drinks (water bottle is fine though).
- You also shouldn’t: Fly a drone, feed animals (there are llamas in the areas), smoke or take other than recommended routes.
- You can visit Machu Picchu only with a guide.
What to expect from Machu Picchu?
Even though there are only 500 people allowed now, it is still a lot. When you go there, you will still feel like there are tourists everywhere. In fact, there are some places, where you will need to stand a line for taking a picture. That’s how popular this place is.
A lot of tour guides don’t speak English. That was one of the biggest disappointment for me. I was hoping to get to know a lot about Machu Picchu and find out, what is the place about. However, my guide didn’t speak Spanish at all. So I was googling everything after the trip.
Every tour is very strictly organized. When they tell you that they will pick you up at 4.40 am, they really will. Also, all the trains are running on time. The only problematic thing is to find out, which one is yours. But if you go on a tour, it is usually not a problem.
There is rarely time to go through the whole area alone. Most of the tours take about an hour and a half and you will see the main things. But not all of it. There is still a lot to see around, places where the guide won’t take you. You will need to choose what you will want to see and do only that. Otherwise, there won’t be too much time for anything else.
What to pack for Machu Picchu?
Sunscreen – Especially if you are coming in the main season, chances are, it is going to be sunny. It was when I was visiting the place. And for that reason, sunscreen is really necessary.
Bug spray – While Cuzco has too high altitude for mosquitos, it is not the truth for Machu Picchu. This world wonder lays lower than the former capital of Incas and because of that, you might be attacked by thirsty mosquitoes.
Water bottle and snacks – the tours look great, however, there is no food included, so that means, that you will need a water bottle and something to eat for your breakfast. Make sure to eat everything before you reach Machu Picchu, where there are no snacks allowed.
Cash – Mainly for your lunch. There is a lot of luxury restaurants in the village under Machu Picchu, but for the very basic ones, you will need cash.
Passport – Not because someone will want to see your passport, but because you can get a special stamp in Machu Picchu.
The conclusion to Machu Picchu day trip
I was disappointed but that was mainly because of the guide. That is something you can just ask your agency, and make sure that your guide will be speaking English as well.
On the other hand, I don’t think that you can do anything about the tourists unless you come early in the morning. You will possibly still get your picture and you might go even to most of the places in the site, but at least for me, I didn’t get that “wow” feeling like I got from other places.
So maybe just don’t have big expectations and Machu Picchu will be great
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