One of the most unique and memorable journeys any traveler can make during their lifetime is a trip to the Machu Picchu ruins in Peru. Set against the backdrop of the iconic Huaynu Picchu mountain, getting to these timeless ruins and breathtaking nature is a good part of the adventure.
There are multiple ways of getting to the Machu Picchu ruins and the Huaynu Picchu mountain. One of the easiest ways is to take one of the trains departing from Cusco city ($70 one way) or Ollantaytambo ($60 one way) that go directly to Machu Picchu. Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire, and is currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ollantaytambo is also in the Cusco region and is the shorter train ride of the two taking about 90 minutes, whereas the Cusco route takes approximately 4 hours. Both train routes arrive at Aguas Calientes which is the closest entry point to Machu Picchu. The Andean train ride is an unforgettable experience as you journey from rocky outcrops to lush green jungles. Most travelers consider this an extra highlight due to the breathtaking scenery right outside your window. When traveling by train, travelers will arrive around midday and will likely encounter crowds. To avoid this, some travelers prefer to stay overnight at Aguas Calientes. From Aguas Calientes a 20-minute bus ride takes visitors to Machu Picchu. Alternatively, fit individuals can walk 1.5 hours from Aguas Calientes to the ruins. Another plus of staying at Aguas Calientes is that travelers will be able to set out early in the morning to Machu Picchu, thereby enjoying an incomparable sunrise.
More physically fit travelers and those looking for more adventurous and close to nature experiences can hike all the way from Cusco or other interesting points. The Inca Trail ($400) takes 4 days and must be booked well in advance. The trek takes travelers through 8.7 miles of cliff side stairways and 15th century paths. The highest point of the hike will be Wiñaywayna, known for its view of the Urubamba River and steep terraces. There are alternative trails to the popular Inca trail such as the Salkantay Trek (5 days, $200) and the Inca Jungle Trek (3 days, $200), both more affordable than the Inca Trail and can offer a similarly amazing experience.
There are innumerable tour operators that serve the Machu Picchu area, however you should choose a tour operator that offers local knowledgeable guides, to give you the best South American vacations. Booking your tours with a tour operator can relieve a lot of hassle, as you can customize tours to include additional activities like climbing Huaynu Picchu or visiting the other Inca ruins in Cusco.
Since Machu Picchu was declared a UNESCO world heritage site, tourist numbers have increased and preservation has become a priority of the Peruvian government. Therefore, prospective visitors are advised to book tickets well in advance as the Peruvian government is now limiting the amount of visitors that can visit the ruins each day.
April to October are the best months to visit Machu Picchu in order to avoid the rainy season, which runs from November to March. To avoid the crowds try visiting between April and June, and September to October.