Given that Machu Picchu is arguably the most popular tourist destination in Peru, it should come as no surprise to learn that there is a wide range of choice when it comes to accommodation. Whether you are looking for a simple but clean eco-friendly lodge, built in the local style, or would prefer something with a few more amenities and a bit more luxury, you are sure to find what you are looking for.

machu picchu accommodation inkaterra

However, there is one thing that you should be aware of before you rush ahead and book a hotel room. The Inca ruins themselves are set high on a mountain ridge in the Andes range and whilst you can obviously make the trip up to summit investigate them, there is no where to stay on the site. This means that what may be described as a ‘Machu Picchu hotel’ by a travel agent or internet based travel website, could well be some distance from the fabled Lost City of the Incas itself.

The reality is that many Machu Picchu hotels and lodges are quite a long way from the tourist attraction, with the biggest selection being in the nearest large city, Cusco (or Cuzco), which is approximately 70 km from the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Having said that, once you arrive in Cusco you will find that it has just about every kind of accommodation that you could desire, from cheap hostels for the budget traveler and backpackers through to top end hotels with restaurants and bars.

Whilst initially you may be disappointed that Machu Picchu hotels are usually Cusco hotels, do not worry. Firstly, as the local hub, Cusco has a large and well-established tourist industry, which has sprung up specifically to cater for visitors wanting to see Machu Picchu. Both local and tourist buses travel regularly between the city and the ruins and there are plenty of Machu Picchu tours being run out of the various hotels, hostels and lodges to help you get there. Secondly, Cusco itself is an enthralling city with a fascinating blend of ancient Inca and Spanish colonial architecture as well as a vibrant market packed with colour, noise and interest. Also, given that Cusco was once the capital of the now lost Inca Empire and is a World Heritage Site in its own right, no Inca-inspired trip to the region would really be complete without visiting it.

Of course, many people who make the journey to this stunning part of Peru are not looking for Machu Picchu hotels anyway as one of the most common ways to stay in the area is in a tent. Indeed, if you decide to visit Machu Picchu as part of an organized tour group there is a good chance that at least part of your trip will involve camping. For many travelers, the pilgrimage to the fabulous Inca ruins is done as one section of a longer trek through the Andes, often following the historic Inca Trail. If you are considering seeing this glorious region of South America under the guidance of a Machu Picchu tour, check what kinds of accommodation are included as it could be a shock to find yourself camping halfway up a mountain when you had assumed that you would be snuggly tucked up in a hotel room.

What is Machu Picchu and who found it

Machu Picchu is a true architectural gem. The beauty and mystery of its stone palaces is enhanced by the magnificent, almost virgin and abrupt geography colored green by exhuberant jungle flora.
The constructions were built harmoniously on the narrow and uneven surface of a cliff surrounded by the precipices of the imposing Urubamba Canyon, where 400meters below, the river roars and meanders.

What is Machu Picchu used for today
What is Machu Picchu used for today

Machu Picchu is located at 2.400 masl ( 7.847 fasl), on the top of a plateau located between two peaks. From these two, the smallest, the Huayna Picchu Is the one that defines the topography of the site.
As centuries went by the original name of this ruins fell into oblivion. In fact, Machu Picchu is just a topographic denomination that means “Old Mountain” , while the Huayna Picchu means “Young Mountain”. In this case the translation must keep a correlation with the concept of volume so as to mean “major summit” and “mirror summit” respectively.
Ever since its discovery en 1911, Machu Picchu has been a true and insoluble archaeological enigma. Even nowadays scholars are intrigued by its history and function, and it is possible that these mysteries will never be totally unraveled.

The discovery

Hiram Bingham, a north-American scholar who was leading an expedition from Yale University, discovered Machu Picchu on July 24th 1911. However, at the time, Hiram Bingham was mainly focused on finding Vilcabamba, the legendary capital of incas descendants, and bastion of the resistance against the Spanish from 1936 to 1572.

Hiram Bingham Machu Picchu
Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu on July 24 1911

While exploring the Urubamba Canyon, Bingham reached Mandorbamba, a desolated town where Melchor Arteaga a local farmer, told him that there were many ruins on the Machu Picchu Mountain. Yet reaching them meant climbing a steep covered with thick vegetation. Though skeptical –he knew very wel all the myths about lost cities- Bingham insisted on being guided to the site. Once they reached the summit, one of the children of the two families that lived there led him to the site, where Bingham confirmed the myths as he saw many archaeological constructions covered by a green mantle of tropical vegetation, and in an evident state of abandon. While he inspected the ruins, an astonished Bingham wrote in his diary: “Would anyonebelieve what I have found…?”
After this transcendent finding, Bingham returned to the site en 1912 and in the following years (1914 and 1915), many explorers made maps and explored in detail both the site and its surroundings.

what is machu picchu know for
What is Machu Picchu know for

Their excavations, though not very orthodox, in many different places of Machu Picchu allowed them to gather 555 vases, close to 220 bronze, copper and silver objects. The pottery found shows fine expressions of inca art; this also applies for the metal objects found: bracelets, earrings, decorated brooches, and knives and axes. Even though no gold was found, the material identified by Bingham was enough to infer Machu Picchu dates back to the timesof Inca splendor, something that was already evidenced by its architectural style.
Bingham also recognized other important archaeological sites in the surrounding areas. Among these were, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, the fortress of Vitcos, and important portions of inca trail, all of them superb examples of incas architecture.
Both the remains found and the architectural lead researches to relieve that the Machu Picchu Citadel was erected towards the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th , during inca times. However, the site inhabited after the Spanish invasion, at least during the 16th century. With time, Machu Picchu was forgotten or just remembered in the mist of the legend, until its scientific. After its discovery it became the symbol of our nation, and the greatest patrimony inherited from our ancestors.

Exploring the citadel

What is Machu Picchu famous for
Temple of the Sun viewed from above.

Located at 120 km to the northwest of Cusco on the valley of the Urubamba River (name given to Machu Picchu constitutes one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, and Peru’s main tourist destination. Few things made by humans maintain such harmony with is natural surrounding and adjacent archaeological groups.
The archaeological sites is strategically located on the peak of the Machu Picchu Mountain (quechua name for “old or major mountain”) that gives the name to the citadel and the spectacular setting we all have seen in photographs. Facing this mountain in the Huayna Picchu (young mountain) where it is also possible to find archaeological remains on its peak. Both peaks are surrounded by the mighty Urubamba River, which runs east through the canyon almost half a mile below the citadel.

In Machu Picchu it is possible to distinguish two different zones: the agricultural zone that contains a vast network of terraces, the urban zone, divided in a sacred zone (temples, monuments, funerary chambers) and the civil zone (rooms, diverse precincts and storage rooms).

The constructions found in Machu Picchu give testimony of the amazing skills and techniques used to work the rock. Studies carried out show that it was built as a complex in a simultaneous and uninterrupted way. Among the most interesting architectural precincts it is possible to find the so-called Royal Tomb, located close to the entrance of the Citadel, the temple of the Sun, the Tower (the only structured with a circular form), the Priestly Mansion, the Temple of the Three Windows, the Catedral Temple, the Plaza and the fountains and channels that form the “Baños del Inca” (the Inca Baths). The hydraulics channels and stairs, made completely out of rock, are other characteristic elements of the citadel. At last, it is also possible to find monoliths of great ritualistic importance, among which the Intihuatana (“where the sun is tied”), the most sacred space of the sites, stands out.

Machu Picchu is the most renowned symbol of the Inca’s Empire, Its name is Spanish means “Old Mountain” but these words only give us a vague idea of what this stunning place means for our country and the world.

In this Machu Picchu facts article we have tried to distill the most interesting and fun facts about this archaeological complex, the people who built it and the region at large.

We encourage you to use the quicklinks below to help you navigate to the Machu Picchu facts that are most interesting to you.

Machu Picchu Facts


Machu Picchu is located in the Cusco region of Peru, within the Urabamba Province. The site is 80km North-west of Cusco City. It’s exact geographic coordinates are 13.1633° S, 72.5456° W.

The Citadel sits in the saddle of two mountain peaks. Huayna Picchu (Young Peak) in the North and Machu Picchu Mountain (Old Peak) in the South. The outer sides of these mountains mark the location of two fault lines, which make Machu Picchu susceptible to earthquakes and landslides. To counter these risks the Incas built elaborate terraces and internal structures that are earthquake-proof (more on this below)

The ruins sit at 2,430m (7,970 feet) above sea level.



Machu Picchu was built in the mid 15th century (1450s), during the reign of Incan emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472).

The exact purpose of the site is still unknown, but it is thought to have either been a site of great spiritual importance, or served as a country estate for the emperor. Most academics fall into the second school of thought, although sites along the Inca Trail suggest that it may have also served as a spiritual retreat to honour nature.

The site was abandoned approximately 120 years after it was built, most likely due to the outbreak of smallpox, a disease that was introduced to the local population with the arrival of the Spanish.

It is often incorrectly referred to as the Lost City of the Incas (more on this below). Although it is not the Lost City, it is definitely the most iconic and recognisable Inca ruin.

The name Machu Picchu means Old Peak in Quechua.


Most of Machu Picchu was constructed in the Classical Inca style with dry polished walls. The Incas were masters of the construction technique called ashlar, in which stones are cut and moulded to fit together perfectly, without the use of mortar. Some stone features in Machu Picchu are so perfect that it is difficult to even insert a blade of grass between them.

The stones that were used to build the 200 or so buildings at Machu Picchu were created from a quarry nearby the city. The ashlar technique was a critical design feature that provided additional building strength for the city which was built in an earthquake-prone area.

Chips for the ashlar stones were used to build the vast array of terraces that surround Machu Picchu, and provide an efficient drainage system that reduces the risk of landslides. There are over 700 agricultural terraces in and around Machu Picchu. The terraces are incredible efficient at drainage, which any engineer or golf designer will tell you is key to stability in a landscape.

The structures within Machu Picchu were also constructed in a style that would protect the integrity of the building in the event of an earthquake. Doors and windows are trapezoidal in shape, tilting inwards for strength.

It is believed that the Incas never used wheels or pack animals to move and place stones as the steep gradient of the city would have rendered these techniques useless. The exact way that the Incas managed to move and place stones is still unknown, although it is very likely they used manpower to push and lever stones using wooden structures and ropes tied around stony knobs that were fashioned on the stones. Some of these knobs can still be seen on certain stone structures within the building, although most were filed flat.

Machu Picchu is divided into an urban and agricultural sector, and an upper and lower town. The upper town on the Western section was the religious area, and the lower town on the eastern section the residential area.

It is thought that around 1,000 people lived at Machu Picchu, the vast network of agricultural terraces would have easily been able to support as many people.

The primary archaeological sites are the Inti Watana (aka Intihuatana), the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows – all dedicated to their greatest deity, the Sun God.

Inti Watana (Intihuatana)

Inti Watana (aka as the ‘The Hitching Post of the Sun’) is a stone placed within Machu Picchu’s Citadel that points directly at the sun during the winter solstice. It is believed that the Inca’s thought the Inti Watana kept the sun on it’s path as it travelled through sky during the year.

Intihuatana Solar clock Machu Picchu facts


On November 11th and January 31st, the sun stands directly above the stone at midday, and casts no shadow. On the 21st June the stone casts the longest shadow to it’s northern side at midday, and a lesser shadow on it’s southern side on the 21st December.

Archeologists and anthropologists believe the Inti Watana served as a astronomic clock or calendar.

The Temple of the Sun

The Temple of the Sun Machu Picchu Facts
The Temple of the Sun is a semi-circular building that sits above the Inti Mach’ay, and was built into the natural environment with a large stone forming the foundation of the structure.

It is thought that the Temple of the Sun was used as a solar observatory, with the two windows in the structure related to the Summer and Winter solstice.

Inti Mach’ay

Inti Machay Machu Picchu Facts
Inti Mach’ay is a cave that is situated below the Temple of the Sun. It is believed to have been designed and constructed to celebrate the Royal Feast of the Sun, a Inca festival celebrated by the nobility during the December solstice.

The Inti Mach’ay is one of Machu Picchu’s most impressive architectural structures. Inside the cave tunnel is a window unlike any constructed by the Inca’s, which is strategically aligned to only allow sunlight into the structure during a few days of the December Solstice.

The Room or Temple or Three Windows

The Temple of the three windows Machu Picchu
The Temple of Three Windows is a beautiful structure fashioned from large polished stones that are artfully placed to create three windows that over look the lower city at Machu Picchu, and frame the mountainous landscape. The windows are situated in the Royal sector of Machu Picchu.

There exact purpose is unknown, although it is clear that there were originally five windows. When Bingham saw the windows he surmised that they represented three mythological caves from which the Ayar brothers, children of the sun, stepped into the world.

It has also been suggested that the windows represent the underground, the heavens and the earth.


The weather in and around Machu Picchu is characterised by two distinct seasons – a dry season which runs from late April through to early October, and a wet season which starts mid October and ends mid April.

Temperatures throughout the year are consistently warm during the day and cold at night and in the mornings.


Machu Picchu was abandoned by the Incas in the year 1572. The exact reason is still unknown but it is thought that the Inca’s either left the site due to increased encroachment from Spanish Conquistadors or due to an outbreak of smallpox.

Interestingly the Spanish never discovered Machu Picchu, which is just as well, as it is likely that the city would have been largely destroyed if they did find it.

After it was abandoned, the city fell into disrepair and became covered in overgrowth. Although known to locals, Machu Picchu remained unknown to the outside world until a Yale professor, Hiram Bingham, rediscovered it in 1911.

Bingham’s discovery brought Machu Picchu to the attention of the world, but it is likely that other Westerners knew of the site and had perhaps visited before Bingham’s discovery in 1911. A german called Agusto Berns bought land opposite the site in 1864 and is thought to have plundered some artefacts from the ruins. A map dating back to 1874 shows the site of Machu Picchu, and a year later a French traveller, Charles Weiner, published an account of an impressive Inca ruin called ‘Huainapicchu’ and ‘Matchopicchu’.


During Bingham’s visits to Machu Picchu in 1912, 1914 and 1915, many artefacts – including silver statues, bones, mummies and ceramics – were removed from the city ruins for further study at Yale. The artefacts were meant to be returned after 18 months, but were only officially returned in their entirety in 2012. Yale claimed the delay in returning the artefacts was on account of Peru’s poor infrastructure and resources to properly take care of them.

In 2006 some of the artefacts were returned to Peru, and in 2007 an agreement was reached which included sponsorship, a travelling exhibition and the construction of a museum and research centre in Cusco to house a shared collection of artefacts. However, only a portion of the artefacts were included in this joint partnership.

In 2010 it was agreed that Yale would return the final collection of artefacts to Peru, all of which were delivered in November 2012.

Today, one can go see all these artefacts at La Casa Concha (The Shell House) in Cusco


In 1981 the Peruvian government made Machu Picchu a Historical Sanctuary. UNESCO followed suit shortly after and declared Machu Picchu a World Heritage Site in 1983. There are over 1,200 World Heritage Sites across the globe, 11 of which are in Peru. Machu Picchu is by far the most popular. Cusco City is also a World Heritage Site.

In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted a New Seven Wonder of the World. The other six sites are: The Great Wall of China, Chichen Itza (Mexico), Petra (Jordan), Christ the Redeemer (Brazil), Colosseum (Italy) and Taj Majal (India). The Great Pyramid of Giza was later included as an honorary candidate.


Machu Picchu is Peru’s most popular tourist attraction. Just short of 1.2 million people visited Machu Picchu in 2013, a 700% increase from the early 1980s where the annual average number of visitors was 100,000. More than two thirds of the visitors to Machu Picchu are foreigners as opposed to Peruvians who account for just under one third of visitors.

The World Monuments Fund placed Machu Picchu on their 2008 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world due to the impact of tourism on the city ruins and the development and encroachment of the town of Aguas Calientes in the valley below Machu Picchu.

UNESCO have also threatened to placed Machu Picchu on their endangered list of World Heritage sites.

Concern over degradation to the site has led the Peruvian government to restrict the total number of entrance tickets per day to 2,500 permits.


Treks to Machu Picchu are very popular, with the Classic Inca Trail featuring as the most popular hiking route in Peru. The Classic Inca Trail is a 4-day trek that follows a path of original Inca trails from the Sacred Valley all the way to Inti Punku (the Sun Gate), the entrance into Machu Picchu. There are two variations on the Classic Inca Trail, a short version which involves one-day trekking, and a longer version which begins at the starting point of the Salkantay trek, Mollepata, and joins the Classic Inca Trail at Wayllabamba.

For conservation reasons the Inca Trail is limited to 500 permits a day, 300 of which are earmarked for support crew (guides and porters). No pack animals are allowed on the trail and walking poles with metal ends are forbidden. The trail is closed every February for maintenance reasons.

There are a number of alternative treks to Machu Picchu. These treks vary in length and difficulty, but each offer very unique trekking experiences. All alternative trails to Machu Picchu end at Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu.

The most popular alternative trails include the Salkantay Trek (sometimes called the Santa Teresa Trek), Lares Trek, Choquequirao Trek, Inca Jungle Trek, Vilcabamba Trek and Huchuy Qosco Trek.

Treks to Machu Picchu

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu 5 days

The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is one of the most complete that the mountain range Vilcabamba has to offer,
5 days

Choquequirao Trek 4 days

Choquequirao Trek is a serious trek of at least four days. Also called "Machu Picchu's sacred sister" Come and see
8 days
lares trek tours
Last minute!

Lares Trek to Machu Picchu

The Lares Trek to Machu Picchu combine the best of the Lares Valley and the fascinating Inca archeological remains, Ollantaytambo
4 days
Clasic Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu
Last minute!

Classic 4 Day Inca Trail Hike

The Inca Trail Hike takes you along the Inca highway, past Inca ruins, through cloudforests & moorlands & Machu Picchu.
4 days

Weird Machu Picchu Facts


A group who call themselves the New Age Andean Cosmologists believe that aliens once inhabited the Cusco region and built Machu Picchu. They claim the Incas could not have had the technological and architectural know-how to have built Machu Picchu.

Unsurprisingly these views are refuted by all respected research bodies.


Human sacrifice was a part of Incan culture, but there is little information to suggest that sacrificial killings, of the human kind, happened at Machu Picchu. The one caveat here is retainer human sacrificial killings. Evidence suggest that these types of sacrifices occurred at Machu Picchu, in which a individual is killed after the death of a noble in order to accompany that person in the afterlife.

Much more common in the Inca culture is the sacrificial killing of animals, particularly the llama. Other forms of offerings include water, dirt and plants, especially coca leaves.


In recent years, there have been a few cases of tourists posing nude and streaking at Machu Picchu. In some cases tourists caught in the act have been detained and fined.

Nudity in Machu Picchu

The Peruvian authorities have started taking ‘Naked tourism’ very seriously and have introduced significant fines for those caught trying to pose for pictures in the nude.


Landslides in the Cusco region are common during the rainy season.

In January 2010, heavy rain in the Sacred Valley resulted in flooding with roads and railway tracks connecting Machu Picchu to Cusco being washed away. Over 2,000 tourists and 2,000 locals were trapped at Machu Picchu and needed to be arilifted to safety. The Citadel was closed for nearly three months.


In the 1980s, Peruvian authorities removed a large stone from Machu Picchu’s central plaza to make room for a helicopter landing zone. In the 1990s the authorities however changed their policy and forbid any helicopter landings at Machu Picchu.

In 2006, a company in Cusco called Helicusco applied and received a licence to fly helicopter tours over Machu Picchu. The decision to allow the company to fly tours over the city was however quickly overturned. Today, Machu Picchu is a no-fly zone.


Machu Picchu has appeared in popular culture, especially films and documentaries, since the 1950s.

In 1954 a Paramount Pictures film called Secret of the Incas was filmed on site in Cusco and Machu Picchu, the first time a Hollywood studio filmed within the Citadel.

In 1972, Machu Picchu featured again in a film called Aguirre, the Wrath of God which has sequences filmed from the trail on Huayna Picchu.

The 2004 production of The Motorcycle Diaries, which tells the story of Marxist revolutionary, Che Guerva’s youthful travels, features Machu Picchu.

National Geographic, Discovery Channel, History Channel and NOTV have all produced fascinating documentaries on Machu Picchu.


In 2005 and 2009, the University of Arkansas made fascinating 3D scans of the entire Machu Picchu complex.

Peter Olson from Sydney Australia turned these 3D images into this awesome video model of Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu llamas

Llama is the pack animal with a course coat in as many as 50 solors, though one that’s unsuitable for weavings or fine wearing apparel. It can reach almost 2 meters (6 feet) from its hoofs to the top of its elongated neck and long, curved ears. It can carry 40-60 kilograms (88-132 pounds), depending on the lenght of the trip. It can also have some nasty habits, like spitting in your eye or kicking you if you get too close to its hind legs.

Llamas and tourists hike Machu Picchu together!

Llamas and tourists hike Machu Picchu together!


Pensive llama at Machu Picchu

Pensive llama at Machu Picchu

Hypnotism of the Llama in Machu Picchu

Hypnotism of the Llama in Machu Picchu

Llama Photo Bomb!

Llama Photo Bomb!

Close up of a llama in Machu Picchu

Close up of a llama in Machu Picchu

Llamas eating at Machu Picchu

Llamas eating at Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu llamas!

Machu Picchu llamas!

Trapped by a llama in Machu Picchu!

Trapped by a llama in Machu Picchu!

Machu Picchu llamas

Machu Picchu llamas

Llama at Machu Picchu

Llama at Machu Picchu


Walking the Inca Trail with Best Andes Travel® – the #1 guide service on Machu Picchu. We have the best guides on the route, with high standards of safety and reliability. We specialize in small group treks and private treks at a reasonable cost. Not a cheap Inca Trail Trek, but a great value for everything you need to have a safe, successful experience. We are Inca Trail to Machu Picchu top operator. Won’t you join us on the summit?

Group Inca Trail Cost

Our group climbs feature only the best routes on Inca Trail: 4 day. Our groups average number of participants  is 4 people, 01 guide.
All of  our fixed departures are grated with a minimum 02 persons

When there are more than 8 passengers we offer  2 guides.

2017 Inca Trail Cost (Group Trek)

Price per Person (USD)

Route Price (USD)
4 day Classic Inca Trail Hike $560
2 day Short Inca Trail $475
5 day Royal Inca Trail $580
7 day Salkantay & Inca Trail $690

Before reserve The Inca Trail, you must be sure of the Inca Trail availability.

All prices are in USD. Our groups are limited to only 12 hikers. We don’t believe in creating large trekking parties as it detracts from the experience. Keeping the party small creates an intimate setting on the route, but more importantly ensures proper attention for each and every hiker. Group trips are guaranteed to depart, regardless of the number of hikers.

Private Inca Trail Cost

We can organize private trek on any route, for any length, on any dates, for any size group, subject to staff availability. We fill to capacity many months ahead of time during the high season, so reserve your dates as soon as possible.

2017 Inca Trail Cost (Private Trek)

Price per Person (USD)

Route 1 person 2 person group 3 person group 4 person group 5 person group 6+ person group
4 day Private Inca Trail $1,090 $785 $693 $640 $600 $590

All prices are in USD.


Trip Inclusions/Exclusions

These prices include:

An Expert Guide with expert knowledge of the area and its customs.
Assistant guide depending on the numbers of passengers greater than 8 passengers
Warm meals during the trip. Meal schedule is as follows:
Breakfast, snack, lunch, tea, dinner
Sleeping tents for 4 days + camping equipment.
Bath tent
Kitchen tent
Water boiled after the second day
Dining tent
Cooks and kitchen personnel
Porters (to carry the tents, food and cooking equipment)
Entrance ticket to Machupicchu
Transfer to start trek
Transfer train to hotel upon arrival (Transport tourist class)
First-aid kit
Bus Machupicchu- Aguas Calientes
Radio communications
Train back to Cusco class : Expedition

Not included in price:

Entrance to Huayna Picchu – there is a fee of $75 per person payable in advance so we can secure permits
Sleeping Bag.
Lunch 4st day

Costs of additional services:

– Sleeping bag rental for the trek add US$ 25: No/Yes
– Extra night accommodation at Aguas Calientes after the trek add US$ 45: No / Yes
– Extra porter to carry your personal equipment add US$ 150: No/Yes
– Walking stick rental for the trek add US$ 20 (two pairs): No/Yes
– Single tent supplement (if you don’t want to shared tent) add US$ 35: No/Yes
– Change train service with Vistadome (First Class) US$ 50: No/Yes


Machu Picchu Train-  Virtual Tour

Also named “Lost City of the Incas”, is considered one of the most extraordinary examples of urban architecture on the planet and now recognized as one of the NEW SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD, The arrival is either by train, bus or hiking the Inca Trail.

Everyone who goes to Machu Picchu, must take a train at some point. Even hikers take the train for the return journey to Cusco because the Inca Trail hike is one direction only. And it’s not surprising that there’s confusion about train service to Machu Picchu. The internet is not always your friend. Apparently, neither is the Perurail website which displays conflicting information! Here’s what you need to know about the service, the cost and the benefits of each level of train service. I’ve also included links to a virtual tour for each of the 3 levels of service.

How to Get to Machu Picchu

The only way to get to Machu Picchu is by hiking the 4 day Inca Trail or by taking the train. There are no roads to Machu Picchu except one from the backside that ends at the Hidroelectrica station. Even if you had access to a vehicle, it’s not possible to drive.

Which Tickets Should You Buy First? Train or Machu Picchu Entry

Always confirm there are places for entry to Machu Picchu. But I recommend buying train tickets first. The reason is that if you are in possession of valid train tickets and for some reason, Machu Picchu has sold out, last year (2016) the government would sell you entry tickets. They don’t want people traveling all that way and not be able to get in to see “the wonder.” Take your valid train tickets to the the Machu Picchu ticket office in Cusco. (we haven’t needed to use this method yet in 2017. We hope they do it again this year)

Train Service Providers

Perurail – the largest and most well-known railroad operator in Peru. Has the most extensive year round schedule of train service to Machu Picchu. During the rainy season (Jan 1 – April 30) The Hiram Bingham Luxury train service is bi-modal. Meaning that you take a bus from Poroy station and ride about 2 hours to the station in the Sacred Valley, where you board the train.

Inca Rail – limited service year round with about 6 roundtrips per day between Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu stations. During the rainy season (Jan 1 – April 30) They offer bi-modal service beginning in San Pedro in Cusco. You board their private bus to ride to Ollantaytambo, then transfer to the train. Departs 4:50 AM Daily. Returns 16:12 PM Daily – travel time 4 hours. It’s $79 USD pp and this is a great deal considering it actually begins in Cusco. (Note: when purchasing tickets online with credit cards, Inca Rail requires that you must produce the ACTUAL credit card in Peru when you pick up your tickets in person. This system would not work for anyone who plans to purchase tickets for someone else, and will not be traveling)

Train Stations

Four train stations serve visitors who travel to Machu Picchu. There is no public transportation to any train stations. On the Perurail website, you see an option for train service from Cusco. There is no train station in Cusco city center for visitors going to Machu Picchu. The Cusco station refers to the station located 25 minutes by car in Poroy. It’s misleading. There is no train station in Cusco except for the Andean Explorer Train which goes to Puno and Arequipa.

Poroy – located about 25 minutes by car outside the city of Cusco (closed during the rainy season from Jan 1 – April 30) Limited service other times of the year. This is the only station for Hiram Bingham Luxury service. – travel time 3 hr/15 min – 45 min each way
Urubamba – located about 1 hour by car in the village of Urubamba near the Tambo del Inka hotel. One train departs daily at 6:50 and returns at 15:48 – travel time 2.5 hours each way
Ollantaytambo village – located about 2 hour drive from Cusco, at the “end” of the Sacred Valley. This is the main station for the majority of trains going to and from Machu Picchu – travel time 1 hr /40 min each way
Machu Picchu – the station is located in the village of Aguas Calientes. (sometimes referred to as Machu Picchu Pueblo) This is the end of the line for all trains. Then you walk to the bus stop and board shuttle buses for the 30 minute ride to the main entry of Machu Picchu (there are no motorized vehicles in the village except for buses that go to Machu Picchu)

Choose From 3 Levels of Train Service

Expedition is the most budget-friendly option. Vistadome is slightly higher in cost. And the Hiram Bingham luxury train is the most expensive. I have included a quick overview of each option including a link to a virtual tour. In case you have heard about another train, called the “Backpackers” train. There is no such train. There is however a local train for people who live in Aguas Calientes. Tourists do not use this service. Sometimes the guides and porters will use it.

Virtual tour of Expedition train

Virtual tour of Vistadome train

Virtual tour of Hiram Bingham Luxury Train

What’s the Difference Between Expedition and Vistadome Train Service?

For most visitors, if you clicked the links above and viewed the inside of each train, you can see that there is very little difference in the look and the comfort of Expedition and Vistadome cars. Yet, tickets for the Vistadome train cost more. The main reason for the difference in cost is due to the on board snack service and the live fashion show on Vistadome. (with the opportunity to purchase the locally made textiles if desired) I suggest you choose the train service that best meets the needs of your schedule.

Note: while Expedition and Vistadome cars both have panoramic windows, Hiram Bingham wagons do not. However there is a deck on the back of the Observatory car to enjoy the scenery

Train Tickets for Guides

Why is my guide not riding on the train with my group? Guides who escort groups will accompany them in Cusco, Sacred Valley, on multi-day hikes and tours of Machu Picchu. But guides will sit separately from groups on the trains and here’s why. Perurail gives a small discount to guides since they wait until the last minute to book their tickets. Even though the tickets for travelers are purchased up to 30 days prior to riding the train, the guides will not get their tickets until 24-48 hours before. Perurail counts on guides to have flexible seating to be able to sit anywhere. This allows Perurail to keep groups together and use guides to fill in single seats where available. Guides may also be booked on trains at different departure times when groups are riding the more expensive trains. Guides can be booked on a different train where the ticket is cheaper. Most operators will book the guide on a train right before or after the group they are guiding so as to maintain the continuity of the trip. However, for the 1 Day Inca Trail hikes, the guides usually go on the same train as groups they are guiding because they have to be with them to go through the check point and to the hike. But they will be seated in a different car.

Is it possible to have my guide seated with my group on the train? Yes, if you are willing to pay the full price for the guide’s ticket, the guide can sit with your group. This must be arranged and booked at the same time your group tickets are purchased. Your tour operator must know in advance.

Luggage on the Train

Size. 5 kg/11 lb per passenger, 62 lineal in/157 cm (height + length + width) It is not necessary to take all your luggage to Machu Picchu because trips are usually no longer than 1-2 days. And it is not easy to lug large bags in Aguas Calientes. The streets are steep, uneven and cobbled, rendering bags with wheels pretty useless. There are no vehicles so it doesn’t matter if you have a budget that allows you to hire assistance. It’s not available. It doesn’t make sense to take large bags. All hotels in Cusco and Sacred Valley will store bags. And visitors traveling by train are expected to limit their personal belongings to only the essentials for 1 or 2 nights. You can hold a small bag in your seat and stash a larger duffle bag or carryon bag at the end of the car in the bag storage area, or behind the backs of the seats. I’m guessing the airlines have trained people to pay attention to bag size limits. I’ve never seen anyone try to board trains with huge bags. And I’ve never seen Perurail agents prevent any passengers from boarding because their bags are too large.

Cost of Train Tickets (prices here are average)

Hiram Bingham Luxury morning train one-way from (Cusco) Poroy to Machu Picchu:
$380 USD pp from Jan 1 – April 30 (during the rainy season Bi-modal service is provided by bus + train)
$500 USD pp from May 1- Dec 31
Note: the morning service includes entry ticket to Machu Picchu and small group guided tour of the ruins

Hiram Bingham Luxury afternoon train one-way from Machu Picchu to Poroy (Cusco):
$380 USD pp from Jan 1 – April 30 (during the rainy season Bi-modal service provided by train + bus to your hotel in Cusco)
$500 USD pp from May 1 – Dec 31

Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu
Cheapest train is EXP 51 departing Ollantaytambo at 19:00 ($66 USD pp)
Most expensive is VISTA 203 departing Ollantaytambo at 10:32 ($101 USD pp)

Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo
Cheapest train is EXP 50 departing AC 05:35 ($66 USD pp)
Most expensive is VISTA 304 departing AC 15:38 ( $120 USD pp)

Important Things to Know

Trains are subject to delay. Sometimes the delay may occur before boarding. Other times it could happen while you are on the train. It is not recommended to book flights out of Cusco on the same day as your train ticket.
It is not possible to choose seats on any train. Groups who book their tickets in the same transaction are likely to be seated together. But this is not guaranteed.
Train service can be mixed and matched. It’s not necessary, nor is there any advantage to book the same train service roundtrip. There is no roundtrip discount.
Valid tickets can be transferred to someone else provided you follow the instructions and pay the penalty ($6 USD 1-way / $12 USD Roundtrip) and must do so no later than 24 hours prior to scheduled departure. If you’re unable to go in person, contact: [email protected]
If you miss your train due to delayed flights, strikes or verified health conditions, Perurail reserves the right to evaluate case by case, and if available, may offer alternative tickets on other travel dates. However, will not issue any refunds for any reason, unless they cancel the service.
You can change the date and time of your ticket if done more than 24 hours before departure. In some cases, you will pay 10% penalty and if the rate of the new service is higher, you will pay the difference.
Hidroelectrica Station to Machu Picchu

This station is part of the jungle trek to Machu Picchu. From Cusco it takes at least 8 hours to drive through the Sacred Valley, up over the Abra Malaga pass (4316 m / 14,160 ft) then down into the semi-tropical jungle through small towns to Hidroelectrica. People can buy a train ticket in the village of Santa Teresa. Tickets cannot be purchased anywhere else including at the Hidroelectrica station. There is no online schedule. The best option is to spend the night then go to the ticket office first thing in the morning to buy your ticket. From Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes by train is about 30 minutes or by foot you can walk about 1.5 – 2 hours. On flat terrain!

If you have specific questions about trains, feel free to contact us.

Due the permit regulations that allow ONLY 500 persons entering to the Inca, it is therefore essential to make reservations well in advance as the system is on a first-come, first served basis. We do recommend book at least 4-5 months prior departure.

There are a limited number of tour operators authorized to operate the Inca Trail. Best Andes Travel is one of these and in just two years of Inca Trail operations has been recognized by the Government Tourism Office as one of the two BEST tour operators in the area, both in 2014 & 2015.

If you have any inconvenient please contact our 24 hours contact form or you can see online the Inca Trail avaylability 2017 here.

The Sacred Valley of the Incas, located between the towns of Pisaq and Ollantaytambo, was very valuable during the Tahuantinsuyo times for its geographical and weather characteristics that favor the production of the best corn in Peru. Crossed by Vilcanota River, it is one of the most visited places by tourists as it includes de archaeological sites of Sacsayhuaman, Qenko, Tambomachay, Moray, and Ollantaytambo. Its handicraft markets in Pisaq and in Chinchero are also well known.

It’s impressive geography includes terraces, ravines,snow-capped mountains and ruins once built by ancient Peruvians turning the Sacred Valley of the Incas into an ideal place for various aoutdoor activities such as mountain biking, rafting along the Urubamba river or experiencing an alternative tourism called “turismo viviencial”.

Anywhere you go in the world, there tends to be a well trodden path created by many tourists who have visited the most famous landmarks over the years. This is no different in Peru. People who take Peru holidays usually start off in Lima, which is a fascinating and culturally rich city in itself, before heading to Cusco, which is also an extremely appealing destination. Then it is on to Machu Picchu, either by train or via the Inca Trail.

While this is undoubtedly a fantastic itinerary for a holiday of a lifetime, I found that taking a slightly different route to this proved to be a shrewd decision. Instead of heading directly for Cusco, I opted to take the lengthy journey from Lima to Puno. I had heard that few people explore this region of the South American country, but those who do tend to rave about the experience.

This was a chance to see the real Peru and interact with some of its people. Having reached Puno, I made the short journey to the amazing Lake Titicaca, which is one of the most picturesque settings I have ever come across. Although it takes a little while to acclimatise to the high altitude and wildly fluctuating temperatures, the opportunity to communicate with villagers in the area was priceless. The welcome we received was warm and friendly and the Luquina Peninsula – which is one of the more remote parts of the region – provided ample opportunity for some great countryside walks.

Heading to Llachon the following day proved to be a bizarre, yet exhilarating experience. The communities that inhabit the area have maintained traditional values and even dress in clothes that would not have looked out of place in the 15th Century. The whole simplicity of the agriculture was a joy to see for someone who is accustomed to the UK rat race. The tour also included a kayaking excursion over the lake towards the Uros Islands. What was most striking was the sheer tranquillity of the lake, with the only noise being the swish of our oars in the water. Once we reached the islands, we were again treated to a first-hand view of the old way of life, with very few other tourists in sight.

All of this had happened before I had even reached Machu Picchu and I couldn’t help but feel that I had experienced so much more than those who head straight for the Inca Citadel. Anyone planning an adventure holiday in Peru in the future really should not be afraid to stray off the beaten track.