How to Travel to Machu Picchu for the First Time

Machu Picchu remains to be one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. It has been on my bucket list ever since before I started traveling. My cousins and I finally visited this 15th century Inca-citadel last year to celebrate my 28th birthday.

City of Cusco from above

Traveling to Machu Picchu was not easy at all but so worth it. We booked two plane round tickets from Toronto to Lima, Peru and from Lima, Peru to Cusco, Peru, a round trip train tickets from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and a bus ticket from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu.

We stayed in the city of Cusco for three days to acclimatized to the high elevation of the region (Cusco is about 11,100 feet above sea-level). I advise doing this to avoid getting altitude sickness, something you don’t want to experience when traveling. There are plenty of ways to visit Machu Picchu. You could hike the classic 4-day Inca Trail or come for a day visit. For us, we took a train from Cusco via Peru Rail to the city of Aguas Calientes, the closest town to Machu Picchu, and stayed there for a night.

Depending on your budget, the train ride to Aguas Calientes costs about $150-$300. There are three different types of trains, we chose the Vistadome train as it has panoramic windows that give amazing views along the way to Machu Picchu. Meal was included too.

Machu Picchu is located in Cusco Region, Urubamba Province in Peru. It is often referred as the “Lost City of the Incas”, it is also a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the New Seven Wonders of World.

This may sound cliche but I almost got teary-eyed when I first saw this world wonder. After all the travel time, the how-do-I-translate-it-to-Spanish moments, the almost boarding a plane to Bogota, Colombia, the research and planning – everything was so worth it!

I mean… look at that!

My cousin booked our entrance tickets to Machu Picchu ($70/person) months before our departure. I highly recommend doing this as you won’t buy a ticket on the day of your visit as they limit the number of visitors a day. We arrived around 10:30 in the morning in Aguas Calientes and checked in at Samananchis Machupicchu ($70/night). We chose the afternoon ticket to Machu Picchu, as what most travel blogs suggested, and took the 35-minute shuttle bus ride from the town for $20 to the trailhead entrance. From the entrance, it was just a 15-minute hike to Machu Picchu.

The ruins up close

Machu Picchu means “Old Mountain” and it sits on the mountaintop about 8000 feet above sea level, which is significantly lower than in Cusco (that’s why please stay in Cusco for at least 3 days to get used to the thin air). It is believed to be constructed in the 1400s by the Incas and was abandoned due to destruction of the Spanish Conquests.

One of the many guardians of the Machu Picchu, a cute llama.

Each ticket gives you at least five hours to enjoy this world famous ruins. There were a lot of tourists but it was huge enough for you to notice.

Tips before your visit:

  • Carry cash with you. Peru accepts US dollars (all of the prices listed here are in USD) mostly anywhere or have your money exchanged to soles, Peru’s money.
  • Visa! For Philippine passport holders, you could come to Peru without needing any visa. However, if you would transit from a different country to get to Peru, make sure you have visa for that country. For us, we flew via Aeromexico and had a stopover in Mexico City and as a resident of Canada I didn’t need to have a visa to transit through Mexico. You could transit to Mexico too if you have US visa.
  • Bring your passport on your visit to Machu Picchu. You cannot enter without it!
  • Purchase your ticket online as they get sold out weeks in advance. They only allow 2500 visitors a day.
  • Leave your big backpacks at the hotel or you could put them in a locker close to the entrance.
  • Wear sunscreen and apply insect repellent.
  • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Bring lots of water.
  • The busiest season is from June to August. While the rainy season is from November to March. So we thought that the best time to visit is from April to October. We visited in April and it hardly rained at all.
  • Visit a doctor (optional). I visited my family doctor prior to traveling to Peru. He prescribed a medication that helps with altitude sickness. I also took antibiotics for anti malaria and vaccines before the trip. You can always check the Travel Canada website for information about travel health and safety when you’re traveling abroad.
  • The locals use coca leaves (yes, the raw material for cocaine) to fight altitude sickness. You could either chew the leaves or drink coca tea (my preference). They’re usually everywhere (at the airport, in hotels) for free. It’s legal in Peru but make sure to not bring a single piece upon your return to your country.
  • Skip the travel agencies. Our entire Peru trip was done from scratch.

I really wouldn’t mind coming back to Peru in a heartbeat! Machu Picchu is an amazing place worth a visit at least once in your lifetime!

Is Machu Picchu on your bucket list too?

Disclaimer: All opinions and views on this post are my own. Copyright all pictures by Kathleen of I Am Miss Adventures.

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Hi! My name is Kathleen and I’m the “Miss” behind this blog. I am a 29-year-old wanderer and story teller based in Toronto, Canada. I work in healthcare for a living and try to enjoy the outdoors during my free time.

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