Machu Picchu: 9 things nobody tells you

9 things you need to know before visiting Machu Picchu (Peru)

No one tells you these 9 facts about visiting Machu Picchu…

As you know, I like sharing the truth behind the pretty pictures and giving an insight in the bumpy roads to get to your destination. Machu Picchu is without a doubt Peru’s most well known tourist attraction. I bet you didn’t know these 9 handy facts about visiting Machu Picchu!

1. There is no road going to Aguas Calinetes (Machu Picchu)

What? No road to Machu Picchu? How do you get to Machu Picchu then?

The town of Aguas Calientes serves as the hub for Machu Picchu, but there is no road leading to this town, only train tracks. Your options to you get to Machu Picchu are:

  • Option 1: You will need to purchase an (expensive) train ticket from Olantotambo to Aguas Calientes (and back). A return ticket costs about 140 USD, but can be more expensive depending on the time of day.
  • Option 2 (budget option): Alternatively you can walk next to the train tracks from Hydra Electrica to get to Aguas Calientes. Though this sounds dodgy, it is commonly done by backpackers and budget travellers. There are even restaurants along the tracks to serve hungry tourists. However the trains do use the tracks frequently, so be very careful!
Hundreds of backpackers a day ignore the signs.
Yes, the train track is still used so be careful!

2. No, you don’t need to book an expensive tour months in advance to hike to Machu Picchu

Yes, the Inca trail is fully booked months in advance. But there are plenty of beautiful hikes to Machu Picchu that you can book a day before departure. These hikes are often a fraction of the price compared to the very well known pre-booked hikes. The Salkantay hike is a great option for (budget) backpackers. Outdoor fanatics can also spend 3 days doing outdoor sports during the Inca Jungle trail before seeing Machu Picchu.

3. Regulations for buying tickets to enter Machu Picchu change frequently

As more and more tourists visit these famous ruins, regulations are becoming stricter and stricter. In 2017 the Peruvian government introduced morning tickets (05:30-12:00) and afternoon tickets for the time slot 13:00-17:30. Update 2021: Now tickets are sold with a time slot of an hour to enter. For example: you can enter between 06:00 – 07:00 or 10:00 – 11:00. Tickets for every hour are sold with the earliest time slot being 06:00-07:00 and the latest entry slot being 14:00-15:00.

With the current regulations you must enter with your guide, but after entering you are free to do as you please. There is talk of lowering the amount of tourists per guide and making it mandatory to stay with your guide the entire time. So make sure you are familiar with the most current regulations before setting off! 

If you visit Machu Picchu as part of a (hiking) tour you’re entry ticket to Machu Picchu will be included. If you are going solo you can buy your tickets online via the official website. An entry ticket costs 152 Soles (price 2021, which is about 41 USD or 34 Euro).  Students enjoy a discount.

With so many tourists visiting each day, regulations about tickets change regularly to try and limit te crowds.
The start of the Machu Picchu ruins right after the entrance

4. Machu Picchu has one way (walking) traffic

This is a very important one! There is only one way traffic for visitors, meaning you cannot walk back to see the view or take and extra photo. It’s good to realise this. Machu Picchu can get very misty, especially in the morning. This thick mist makes it hard to orientate where you. If you keep walking down you will miss the iconic viewpoints after the mist clears. So wait it out before continuing down! 

You can see the people walking down (one way). The house marks the start of the Machu Picchu ruins where you enter.
Can you see the walking route downwards?

5. There are no toilets after the entrance

This sounds hard to believe, but really: there are no toilets after the entrance at Machu Picchu. This means can’t use a toilet during your 4 – 6 hour visit. If you walk up towards the Sun Gate there are some secluded bushy areas where you can use nature’s toilet if you really need to go. 

6. You need to bring your passport (not just a copy)

They are very strict with this, so bring your passport in order to enter Machu Picchu! Don’t bring a copy, but bring your actual passport.

7. It can be very cloudy and misty at Machu Picchu

Mist and clouds are part of the Machu Picchu experience. Some people leave without seeing the actual ruins, because the mist never cleared. Some are luckier and do see the ruins. Visiting the ruins requires patience, sometimes hours of patience. Bring a plastic bag or poncho to sit on the wet grass while you wait for the views to clear. 

Machu Picchu at 06:00. This photo could have been any place, but it's really Machu Picchu!
At 07:00 you can start to see Machu Picchu a little bit! It is often cloudy in the mornings!
Person in yellow t-shirt in front of Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu at 10:00, the clouds have gone! Though some people aren't as lucky...

8. You can see the Sun Gate without doing the Inca trail hike

The Sun Gate is where hikers see Machu Picchu for the first time after days of hiking the Inca trail. So, though you might not get the same exhilarating rewarding feeling it’s still possible to view Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate. 

Machu Picchu in the distance. This is the view you have when you are at the Sun Gate.

9. Huana Picchu and Machu Picchu mountain each require an extra entry ticket

Huana Picchu (Wyanapicchu) and Machu Picchu mountain are not included in your tour (unless clearly stated otherwise). If you do want to see these, makes sure your tour operator has calculated additional time in you schedule for this. Just to be clear: they both require a separate ticket, so one extra ticket for Huana Picchu and another additional ticket to Machu Picchu mountain. Huang Picchu has a maximum capacity of 400 visitors a day and Machu Picchu mountain 800 visitors. You should ook your tickets in advance, you can buy tickets online

Do you have extra Machu Picchu tips? Send me a DM on Instagram

Have things changed or do have an another essential tip you think I should add to this list? Send me a DM on Instagram!

Further reading: more Peru