Planning Machu Picchu (without the trek in)

Heading to Machu Picchu in February means you can’t do the Inca Trail as it is shut, but there are other treks you have the option to choose from. However, with my knee injury, I decided to just go by train and do a day hike in there.

Going by train you need to book from one of two operators in Cusco. Expect to pay about $100 return. Get the cheapest tickets, because the trains are still lovely with big side windows and windows above your head. It’s one of the most lovely scenic train trips I’ve been on, so it was worth it! Visiting iPeru in Cusco when you first arrive isn’t a bad step to get all the information you need.

Some of the path up Machu Picchu Mountain

Some of the path up Machu Picchu Mountain

I booked my train from Ollantaytambo, so I needed to get from Cusco to there. If you meet some other travellers (I met two lovely Kiwi’s) you could look at taking a taxi for about 15 Soles each. Otherwise you’ll need to take a minivan for about 10 Soles each. Either way, try to convince the driver to go slow before you leave – it will save your stomach on the way.

Arriving in Ollantaytambo, if you have time to kill, there is a lovely non-profit cafe in town called ‘Hearts Cafe’, they use their profits to help communities in the highlands and do have some fantastic English tea (with milk even!). There is also the Ollantaytambo ruins to visit and a small market. I stayed an extra night there, after my visit to Machu Picchu, but to be honest, an afternoon would probably be enough.

Agua Calientes

Agua Calientes

From Ollantaytambo the scenic train takes you to the town of Agua Calientes. It’s a super touristy town, but the best (and closest) place to stay and buy food and water before you head up to Machu Picchu. Food is twice the price at the entrance to Machu Picchu, so it’s definitely worth investing in snacks and water here (they don’t check your bags at the entrance).

To get to Machu Picchu you can take a bus for about $12 USD each way. I decided this was the best option for me, because the hike up to the entrance is very long and high. I wanted to save my energy for inside.

Tickets

A lot of people don’t realise you can purchase one of three types of tickets to Machu Picchu. I brought mine while in Cusco, but during low season you can also purchase them in Agua Calientes, but once you’ve purchased one you cannot change it.

The options are:

  1. Machu Picchu city
  2. Machu Picchu city + Huayna Picchu (most popular)
  3. Machu Picchu city + Machu Picchu Mountain (highest mountain in the region I think)

I decided to go for the third option because I’d heard the stairways up Huayna Picchu weren’t that safe. What I didn’t realise is how high up Machu Picchu Mountain is (3082m) which is much higher than Huayna Picchu. However, the 1.5-2 hour hike up is rewarded by 360 degree views around the valley, a little oasis of flowers and butterflies 5-10 minutes from the top and possibly the most amazing rest-spot (at the top) I’ve had on a hike.

Near the top of Machu Picchu Mountain

Near the top of Machu Picchu Mountain

I stayed the night before in Agua Calientes (at Supertramp hostel), so that I could get up early to start the hike up Machu Picchu Mountain. It opens at 7am and closes around noon. Going up early means you manage to skip the extreme heat going up, but will experience some coming down. The stairs/rocks and cliffs can be a bit scary, but without rain it seemed okay.

The view over Machu PIcchu

The view over Machu PIcchu, from Machu Picchu Mountain

I’ll follow up in the next post, more about my experience (and photos), but I wanted to share some tips first for anyone planning a similar trip there.

Enjoy! If you have any questions, feel free to let me know!

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