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When to visit Machu Picchu
Mornings at the Machu Picchu can be very crowded, due to one-day visitors who want to make sure they will have enough time to visit the whole site. The afternoon is usually a better option if you want to explore the site with fewer crowds. You will also be able to take better photographs as the afternoon light is often easier to capture. 4 PM is one of the best times of the day to admire the sun dropping below the western peaks, plus the crowds will have definitely thinned out. Be aware however that no matter when you come to visit the Machu Picchu, the weather there can be awful and heavy fog is very common, blocking the whole view of mountain peaks behind it.
In general, Sundays and Thursdays are the least crowded days while Thursday is one of the least busy days. After 2pm, the place is generally less crowded.
No matter when you plan to visit Machu Picchu, we strongly recommend you buy your tickets in advance online as the capacity of visitors is limited to 2,500 per day. The Inca Trail (the most famous one) also has limited capacity (500 people a day).
You have to know that there are two seasons : a dry season and a wet season. The rainy season starts in late November while the dry season starts in late March. While it doesn’t mean that during the wet season the rain goes non-stop, the threat of rain could ruin your visit. At the same time, the middle of the dry season in Peru is also the most crowded time of the year (June, July and August). Therefore we advize you to come from March through early May or in late September, when levels of rainfall are more than acceptable and when the highest season is over. February, the rainiest month, has the lowest number of visitors but that’s mostly due to the fact that the Inca Trail is closed. So it might not be the best option to visit the Machu Picchu.
You will definitely see an increase in the number of visitors during the following holiday periods of the year:
- Easter and Easter week: American people take vacations during spring break.
- June 23: Inti Raymi Festival (Cuzco is the center of the Sun God festivities).
- July 28: Peru Independence Day. The last 2 weeks of July can be particularly busy in several tourist attractions throughout the country.
- August: the busiest month of the year.
- October: the second busiest month.
- November: many American visitors during the Thanksgiving week.
- December: we advize you to book in advance, due to an increase in the number of visitors during Christmas and New Year holidays.
The most crowded parts of Machu Picchu
The least crowded parts are the upper terraces near the Inca Bridge Trail, the back end of the Quarry and below the Secular zone.
The busiest areas of the site are the City Gate (pretty much always full of people), the Royal Palace and the Temple Square. We advize you to avoid those areas before 3 PM as they are always packed with tourists.
Photo credits to Murray Foubister via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
How to get to Machu Picchu
From Cuzco by train
Tickets can be booked online on the official website of PeruRail. There are 3 classes of services and the trip lasts 3.5 hours. Make sure you book your tickets in advance as train schedules are quite limited.
From Ollantaytambo by train
You will have to get to Ollantaytambo first by bus, taxi or van. Then the train from Ollantaytambo is usually the cheapest option and the ride lasts 2 hours. Also, the train from Cuzco fills up very quickly so this is a good alternative. Two train operators exist from Ollantaytambo (PeruRail again and Inca Rail) and we advize you to book your tickets in advance, especially for the return train.
From Aguas Calientes by bus
To get to the Machu Picchu entrance from Aguas Calientes, you will have to take a pretty short 20 minutes bus ride. Tickets are available from a ticket booth located near the bus departure area in Plazaa Principal. The last bus back from Machu Picchu leaves at 5.30 so don’t miss it!
From Aguas Calientes on foot
If you’re brave enough and in good condition, you also have the option to go to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes on foot. It will be free and it should take you around 2 hours but we recommend you to save energy for Machu Picchu itself.
The Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary is open from 6 AM to 4 PM. However, you can stay on site until 5 PM.
It is also possible to visit the site at night between 6 PM and 1 AM through several travel agencies based in Aguas Calientes that organise spiritual nocturnal tours.
Inca City of Machu Picchu
- Overseas adult: 128 PEN
- National adult: 64 PEN
- Overseas student: 65 PEN
- National student: 32 PEN
Inca City of Machu Picchu + Montaña Machu Picchu
- Overseas adult: 142 PEN
- National adult: 80 PEN
- Overseas student: 72 PEN
- National student: 40 PEN
Inca City of Machu Picchu + Wayna Picchu
- Overseas adult: 152 PEN
- National adult: 90 PEN
- Overseas student: 77 PEN
- National student: 45 PEN