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Thinking of visiting the mysterious remote mountainous ruins of Machu Picchu? For many, visiting these ruins deep in the Peruvian jungle is a once-in-a-lifetime journey. Make sure you plan for the best time to visit Machu Picchu to make the most of this historic site.
Located at more than 2,400 meters above sea level (more than 7,800 feet) Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Machu Picchu was built by the Incas and showcases their skill in building on this complex site.
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Called the “Lost City of the Incas” experts are unclear about why Machu Picchu was built (around 1420), and why it was abandoned approximately 100 years later. Many believe it was a summer residence of the Incan rulers built by the famous emperor Pachacuti.
Others believe it was a sacred site, that was not visited very often. The mystery surrounding the site is the reason why many people find this mountaintop site so mesmerizing.
Is Machu Picchu open?
Yes, Machu Picchu is open for visitors! The site is open every day from 6 am throughout the year. Visitors are limited to a daily number for some popular hiking options, so plan to secure your desired date. The Classic Inca trail closes for maintenance in February.
You’ll need to pre-book tickets to the site, and for a way to reach the site- either a bus from the base town of Aguas Calientes, a tour from Cusco, or a longer trek along the Inca Trail.
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Machu Picchu travel restrictions
To visit Machu Picchu, you must first enter Peru. As of November 2022, there are no longer any restrictions or vaccine requirements to enter the country, specifically the Machu Picchu site.
As of 2023, masks are not required in Machu Picchu. Vaccine cards, negative tests, and health authorizations are no longer required either.
US citizens entering Peru do not need a visa and may stay in the country for up to 183 days. You must have a passport valid for at least six months upon entry.
When is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?
The best time to visit Machu Picchu is in May and October when you’ll find the best weather, the least rain, and lower crowds than in the summer months.
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Machu Picchu weather by month
The weather in Machu Picchu is rainforest temperate- meaning that it’s very changeable! Even in the drier months, you should be prepared for sudden weather changes, from a cold wind to rain showers.
The high temperatures are stable throughout the year, making it a great year-round destination. During the winter months of July and August, the lows drop, resulting in chilly evenings.
Machu Picchu in November
November is the beginning of the rainy season in Machu Picchu – so you will find a mix of sunny days, and rainy days, with low crowd levels. The temperatures will still be warm during the day, reaching highs of around 78 degrees.
Bring extra layers and prepare for possible rain showers. Nights will be cool, so buddle up.
Machu Picchu in December – March
December through March in Machu Picchu is the rainy season. During this time, it rains almost every day, though often for only an hour or two. With this rain often comes cloudy skies which can interfere with the views at Machu Picchu. If you visit from December to March, try to get to the site as early as possible, as the mornings tend to be the clearest time of day.
Machu Picchu in April – June
From April through June, the rain will have largely stopped, and the weather will be warm, making this one of the best times to visit Machu Picchu.
During June, there are many festivals and parades in Cusco, and the crowds start to pick up. It’s an exciting time to visit which incorporates the buzz of the more popular hiking season without the highest crowds.
Machu Picchu in July and August
In July and August, Machu Picchu experiences its lowest temperatures, often dropping to around 45-48 degrees at night. The daytime temperatures stay steady at about 75-77 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s still pleasant weather for hiking and exploring.
This combination of cool winter temperatures and the summer holidays in the Northern Hemisphere also brings on the highest crowds of the year.
Machu Picchu in September – October
September and October are fantastic months to visit Machu Picchu. You’ll find longer sunlight hours as the seasons change into Spring. The summer crowds will dissipate, and while you may have the occasional rain shower, you’ll still have mainly dry conditions for hiking and exploring.
When is the worst time to visit Machu Picchu?
Depending on your perspective, the worst time to visit Machu Picchu is either the crowded months of July and August or the rainy months between December and February.
Queuing in line to move forward in the site may be a horrible scenario to some, while others are more bothered by the rain, mud, and cloudy views!
What is the rainy season in Machu Picchu?
The rainy season in Machu Picchu runs from December to March. During this time, it tends to rain the heaviest in the afternoons. You can still visit Machu Picchu and will find the crowds are slim. However, part of the magic of Machu Picchu is the views, and you may find them obscured by fog and clouds.
What is the busiest month in Machu Picchu?
The busiest month at Machu Picchu is July, with August just behind, because many families choose to visit from the Northern Hemisphere while on summer break. From Thanksgiving to the end of November, the December holidays are also quite busy.
Machu Picchu from Lima
Coming from Lima, you will need to fly to Cusco, and take the train to Aguas Calientes, or join a tour leaving from Cusco. The flight from Lima to Cusco is about 1 ½ hours, with several flights leaving each day.
Beware that once you land in Cusco you will be at over 11,000 feet altitude. It is advisable to immediately head to Ollantaytambo or another town in the Sacred Valley to acclimate to the altitude and avoid high-altitude sickness.
Machu Picchu from Cusco
To head to Machu Picchu from Cusco, you can either go on your own via the base town of Aguas Calientes or take a guided tour that leaves from Cusco.
To get to Aguas Calientes, you will need to take the train or a bus to Ollantaytambo, and then a train from there- both IncaRail and PeruRail offer these services. The train is the preferred option, where you’ll have both basic and luxury options. Some trains offer viewing areas with glass that extends to the ceiling, and even serve meals, while the more basic services include just a train seat.
From Aguas Calientes, you can hike up to the site, though this is not recommended. The hike is quite steep, and you will find better views at the site itself. The bus ride is approx. 30 minutes, and does switchbacks along the mountain as it climbs. You will pass through wet jungle-like terrain, with lots of small waterfalls beside the road.
Expect a long line to board the bus. Since you will have a timed entrance ticket for Machu Picchu, plan in extra time for boarding the bus so you will still arrive during your ticket window. Buses leave every 5-10 minutes, so the line moves quickly.
Tickets to Machu Picchu: Understanding the Options
When you choose your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu, you will have several options to choose from. If you are not choosing a tour that provides your tickets, you can purchase them online from the government website.
- Machu Picchu Ticket: Entry to the site of Machu Picchu, you can choose circuits 1, 2, 3, or 4 when you arrive and start your visit. You can see detailed maps of each circuit to plan your time.
- Machu Picchu Ticket + Wayna Picchu Mountain: This is the most popular combination, and sells out the fastest. The hike up Wayna Picchu Mountain is the steepest and most difficult, you’ll use your hands and cables for balance at times. It generally takes about one hour to climb. This trek is also sometimes called Huayna Picchu.
- Machu Picchu Ticket + Machu Picchu Mountain: The hike up Machu Picchu Mountain has the greatest elevation gain and wonderful views. This is a more gradual climb via stone steps that is less crowded than Wayna Picchu.
- Machu Picchu Ticket + Huchuy Picchu Mountain: This is a recently added route that ascends to a lower peak on the way to Wayna Picchu. This hike is only 1 km long, so by far the easiest of the three popular options.
- Machu Picchu + Inca Bridge: In the past, you could hike to the Sun Gate (no longer allowed) or the Inca Bridge without a ticket. You now need to specify this short 20-minute hike when you buy your ticket.
Trekking to Machu Picchu
If you will be taking a trek into Machu Picchu or a guided tour, these will usually start from Cusco. Treks to Machu Picchu are moderately difficult. Most treks head up and over before descending to Machu Picchu, which means steep trails and high altitudes.
Classic Inca Trail
The most popular hike to Machu Picchu is the Classic Inca Trail. This overland hike is quite difficult and takes 4 days to reach Machu Picchu. While there is no official age limit on the trail, due to the altitude and difficulty, it is not recommended for children under 12 years old.
The Salkantay Trek is another popular hike to Machu Picchu. If you’re looking for a more intense adventure, this could be the trek for you! Lasting 5 days, this trek starts in Cusco and ends in Machu Picchu. It includes Humantay Lake and the Incachiriaska Pass, and involves trekking to an incredible elevation of over 15,000 feet!
Private Tours of Machu Picchu
Private tours are a great way to see Machu Picchu and take the stress out of planning. These tours include entrance and transportation tickets, as well as a guide to make sure you get the most out of your time at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Guided Tour of Machu Picchu
This tour begins in Aguas Calientes and includes your transportation and a tour guide for your time at Machu Picchu.
Two-Day Guided Tour to Machu Picchu
For a longer stay, we recommend this two-day tour that starts in Cusco, includes a free afternoon to explore the town of Aguas Calientes, and then a guided visit to Machu Picchu and your transportation back to Cusco at the end! A more laid-back way to see these amazing sites, without stressing over the logistics.
Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain 2-Day Tour
If you are short on time and want to check off two amazing sites in one- this is the tour for you! Visit the Instagrammable Rainbow Mountain on Day 1, then Machu Picchu on Day 2!
What do I need to know before going to Machu Picchu?
- Plan ahead – You will need to secure tickets to Machu Picchu several weeks to several months ahead of time. The popular hike to Huayna Picchu allocates 200 spaces a day and often sells out 3-4 months in advance.
- Tickets to Machu Picchu are timed – You need to arrive during your tickets specified time to gain entrance to the site, so plan your transportation accordingly.
- Bring your documents. You will need to show your ticket as well as your passport (or a digital copy of your passport at entry
- Use the bathroom at the entrance – The cost is 20 sols, and this is the only bathroom available. Once you enter the ruins there is no bathroom until you exit.
- You must choose a circuit to walk through the main ruins, you therefore cannot see everything, but will have to make choices as you walk. For example, if you take the high route on circuit 4, you will get great views over the site, and see alpaca below, but won’t get to stand near the animals. There is a guard placed that ensures that you do not “go backward” or cut across the routes.
- You do not need a guide to enter Machu Picchu though you can hire one when in line for the bus in Aguas Calientes, or outside the ticket window once you are at the Machu Picchu site.
- You do not need specialty hiking gear for Machu Picchu. Good hiking shoes are all that you need. While the Inca Trail can be quite challenging, the actual site of Machu Picchu is not that difficult and is suitable for all ages.
- Drones, selfie sticks, and tripods are not allowed inside the Machu Picchu site.
- Avoid visiting Machu Picchu on Sundays if possible, this is a popular time for people from Cusco and the local area to visit the site, making it potentially more crowded.
- If you are starting in Cusco, beware of the altitude. Located at over 11,000 feet, this place can give you altitude sickness. Make sure to acclimate at a lower altitude before spending much time in Cusco, or attempting any high-altitude hikes.
- If you’ll be spending time at other sites in the Sacred Valley, you’ll need a Boleto Turistico, a combined ticket that is good for either 2 or 10 consecutive days from purchase.
What is the average cost of a trip to Machu Picchu?
The cost of a trip to Machu Picchu varies dramatically by where you are traveling from. Assuming that you are starting in Cusco, the average cost for one adult is $200-250 before food or accommodations.
The ticket to enter Machu Picchu (Standard, site only), is approximately $40 in 2023. The cost of the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes ranges based on the level of luxury you choose but starts at around $125 for the lower tier. The cost of the bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu is approx. $24 USD round trip. You can negotiate the services of a tour guide for your time at the site. People pay an average of $70 for a guide for their group.
Keep in mind that most travelers will need accommodation in Cusco and Aguas Calientes, as well as plane tickets to reach the Sacred Valley.
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The Inca Trail is one of the most popular ways to get to Machu Picchu. This trek takes you high into the mountains along Incan roads, to cross the Inca Bridge and reach the Sun Gate above Machu Picchu 4 days later.
The classic Inca Trail covers 43 km (26 miles) of often steep terrain, peaking at over 13,000 feet of elevation. The trail’s combination of steepness and altitude makes it a challenging and rewarding hike.
Drink plenty of water, and watch for signs of altitude sickness including dizziness, and loss of appetite. Bring insect repellent and lots of layers including a warm hat and gloves for chilly mornings.
Once you complete the trail, you’ll descend to the main part of the Machu Picchu site, known as the citadel. You’ll enter along with other tourists and follow a set circuit after storing your gear.
What is the Best Time to Hike the Inca Trail?
The best time to hike the Inca Trail is in the dry season, ideally in May or October when the days are warm, and the crowds are low. Avoid the rainy season from December to March, when the trail will be muddy and slippery, and temperatures at night are at their lowest.
How Much Does It Cost to Hike the Inca Trail?
To hike the full 4-day Inca Trail costs range from $700 to $1500 USD per person depending on the tour agency, the size of the hiking group, and the level of service they are providing.
Most mid-range tours include pick up from a hotel in the Sacred Valley, entrance fees to the trail and the Machu Picchu site, camping equipment including a two-person tent, porters to carry shared gear, and all meals on the trek. A return bus ticket to Aguas Calientes and the train and bus combo back to Cusco is also usually included. Trekkers can also hire a porter to carry their gear for an additional fee.
What Tours are Available to Hike the Inca Trail?
The classic Inca Trail hike takes 4 days to reach Machu Picchu, departing from Cusco.
There are also shorter, 2-day tours for those looking to get the experience of entering via the Sun Gate without such a long trek. Covering 16 km of the Inca trail, this tour departs from the Sacred Valley town of Ollantaytambo. After arriving at the Sun Gate, you’ll overnight in Aguas Calientes before taking the bus to the main Machu Picchu site for a guided tour the next day.
Best time to visit Machu Picchu: FAQ’s
How many days do you need for Machu Picchu?
Once you arrive at the site of Machu Picchu, you only need one day to explore the site. As you enter, you will choose one of 4 circuits to see the site, as well as any other hikes like Huayna Picchu that you chose when purchasing your ticket.
If you are only visiting the site itself, you are only allowed two hours on the site. You cannot go backward along a circuit, or change circuits as you go.
If you count travel time to get to Machu Picchu, you will need 2-5 days to reach the site, either trekking over the mountains to Machu Picchu over the Inca Trail or arriving in Aguas Calientes the day before you visit Machu Picchu so you can get an early start at the site.
Can you do Machu Picchu in a day?
Yes, if you are not hiking into Machu Picchu, you can easily visit the site in one day. If fact, Machu Picchu makes a great day trip from Cusco.
The circuit you choose around the main site will take you approximately two hours, plus the time for Huayna Picchu or the mountain or Inca Bridge trail if you chose these options when selecting your entry ticket.
What is the least busy month to visit Machu Picchu?
The least busy time to visit Machu Picchu is January and February. However, these months are during the rainy season, so be prepared with rain gear. You will encounter mud and possibly cloudy conditions. Also, during February, the Classic Inca trail into Machu Picchu is closed for maintenance.
How many days do you need in Machu Picchu and Cusco?
There are many things to do in Cusco and the surrounding Sacred Valley. You can easily spend 3-5 days in Cusco, and there will still be more to see. It gives you time to visit Machu Picchu and the base town of Aguas Calientes and the broader Sacred Valley with sites like Ollantaytambo and Pisac.
What is the coldest month in Machu Picchu?
The coldest months in Machu Picchu are June and July, where low temperatures often hover around 48 degrees. This is winter in Peru, and while the daytime highs don’t fluctuate much from month to month, the nights get much cooler than at other times of the year.
Best time to visit Machu Picchu: final thoughts
The best time to visit Machu Picchu is in April, May, September, or October. These months are in the dry season when crowds are low, and temperatures are pleasantly warm. This fantastic site offers something for everyone- multi-day hikes for adventure enthusiasts, and easy bus transportation to the site for families and less active visitors. Machu Picchu is a wonderful combination of scenic natural viewpoints, and a way to learn about ancient Incan culture.
Don’t miss this incredibe experience in South America!