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Important things to know before visiting Machu Picchu

Reading : 8 min January 27 2022

If you are planning your trip to Machu Picchu and you don’t know much about Peru, don’t worry, here we give you all the information that you need. Take note about recommendations for the best time to travel, what places you should visit and what things cannot be missing on your bag. Cusco will surprise you!

¿Cuándo When is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?

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Machu Picchu can be visited all the year, however the best time to travel is from April to October (dry season), when the sky is clear and it’s better to appreciate the view of the citadel.

From October to March the temperature drops to 4°C because of the rainy season. Although this does not mean that during the rest of the year a raining day could surprise you!

How to get from Cusco to Lima?

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If you are planning to visit Machu Picchu soon, and you want to know all the details to get to the great Inca citadel, continue reading this post.

One of the main starting points for tourists who come to Peru and want to go to Cusco (where Machu Picchu is located) is Lima, the capital of the country. Once in Lima, it’s time to think about the next destination: Cusco.

These are the routes you could take:

  1. You will arrive by plane or by bus to Lima, Peru.
  2. You will take a plane or a bus to Cusco, which is 1102 mlls. from Lima (almost 20 hours by bus and 1 hour 15 minute by plane).

Travelling by bus from Lima to Cusco

There are two bus routes to get to Cusco, the first lasts between 18 and 21 hours. In addition, you will pass through Nazca and Abancay to Cusco.

The second option is to go through Nazca, then Arequipa and arrive in Cusco. The journey is safer, more comfortable and takes about 23 hours. If you have some extra time you could stop in Arequipa for the Colca Canyon Tour.

Travelling by plane from Lima to Cusco

The second way to get from Lima to Cusco is by plane. This is the fastest way, the journey takes approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Flights depart from Jorge Chávez Airport in Lima. You will arrive at the Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport, 4 mlls. from the center of Cusco.

We recommended you to rest the first day to acclimate and eat lightly.

How to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco?

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You have many options to go to Machu Picchu: Do a trekking is a very interesting option if you like adventure. The experience can last from 3 to 5 days. Or you can also travel by train, which takes about 3 hours.

How is travelling by train to Machu Picchu?

Traveling by train is a totally different experience than any other type of trip. Inca Rail offers a unique travel experiences to and from the Machu Picchu Citadel. We offer you an unforgettable experience on our exclusive trains:

  • The 360° Machu Picchu Train, In The 360° you will find higher and wider panoramic windows, along with comfortable seats, and the most welcoming service personnel on board. Also you will enjoy the journey with our open-air observatory car. Don’t forget that inside on the train you can walk from one car to another.
  • The Voyager Premium & Lounge, We offer you maximum comfort and space on board. This service has spacious seats, comfortable lounge, background andean music and outdoor balcony.
  • The Voyager Premium, Enjoy our comfortable seats and the most welcoming service on board with our priority boarding.
  • The Voyager, Our train with more daily departures and at the most accessible cost. You will enjoy the amazing landscapes  through our panoramic windows.

To get to Machu Picchu you have several options. If you are in Cusco, you have the option to choose our bimodal service that takes you from Cusco to Ollantaytambo on the exclusive Inca Rail bus. The trip takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. The bus will drop you off at the Ollantaytambo station, where our staff will help you board the train you chose to Machu Picchu town (also called Aguas Calientes). This trip lasts approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The pick-up point for the bimodal service is Av. El Sol 843, near the Plaza de Armas or you can choose our door to door service by the web and just wait for the bus at your hotel.

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You can go by your own to Ollantaytambo and take the train from the station. Once in Aguas Calientes, we suggest you take the Consettur bus that will take you to the Citadel.

If you prefer the adventure, you can walk but it will take a little more than 1 hour and you could arrive very tired to enjoy Machu Picchu.

Make sure anticipate your space on the Consettur bus, guarantee your entrance to the Citadel, so you travel prepared and safe. With Inca Rail, buy your train ticket, and choose between the following options: Essential (only train ticket), Transfer (train tickets and pick up services) and All Inclusive (train, Consettur bus, entrance ticket to Machu Picchu and certified guide).

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Where to stay in Cusco? Best hotels

Cusco is the capital of the Inca Empire, and as well as being one of the most fascinating cities on the continent, is also the closest city to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. We give you some recommendations to stay near to the Plaza de Armas and continue exploring the city.

The Inca citadel is waiting for you with arms wide open, so it would be good to find the best hotels near.

  • Wanchaq district

  • Historic Center

  • Saint Sebastian

  • San Blas

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At Wanchaq district is the Juan Velásco Astete International Airport, which is 15 minutes by taxi from the Historic Center of Cusco. Here you will find many hotels from 2 to 5 stars. In general it is a very safe area.

Directly in the heart of Cusco, the Historic Center has everything you are looking for: cafes, restaurants, churches, tourist information centers, Inca architecture, markets, shopping. It is the town square of the city and boasts a very lively feel. It’s a great place to take a breath and enjoy a sunny afternoon.

Just north of Plaza de Armas you will find the charming barrio of San Blas. The streets are lined with colorful doors, trendy cafes, awesome bars and healthy restaurants. The character of this bohemian place is perfect to relax.

It is only a 10 minute walk to Plaza de Armas yet feels worlds a way, and has some of the best hotels in Cusco. There are a lot of up and down hills to enjoy a walking.

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Finally, another district that is 18 minutes from the Historic Center is San Sebastian. It’s extremely close to archaeological centers such as Tambomachay and Saqsaywaman.

Travel guide to Cusco

The perfect time to enjoy the main attractions of Cusco is 6 days, considering that the first day you need to take rest and acclimatize due to the altitude, because Cusco is at 3399 meters above the sea level.

First day: City Tour

After resting for a few hours, you can visit the Historic Center that has the following must-see attractions:

  • Main Square
  • Virgin Asunción Basilica Cathedral
  • Qoricancha and Santo Domingo Convent
  • Fortress of Sacsayhuaman, Puka Pukara, Tambomachay and the White Christ
  • Barrio San Blas, Calle Loreto and the stone of the 12 angles

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Second day: Aguas calientes and Machu Picchu

On your second day, it’s time to get to know one of the 7 wonders of the world: Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas located 100 kilometers from Cusco. Discovered by the explorer Hiram Bingham, the citadel ruins dating from the 15th century, such as the Temple of the Sun, the Main Temple, the Temple of the Condor, Intihuatana stone and the Hall of the Three Windows.

You may also be interested in: The Mysteries of Machu Picchu

On the way to Macchu Picchu, you will have the opportunity to visit the town of Aguas Calientes, which is at 2040 meters above the sea level. If you have time, we recommend you to stay at least one day and enjoy its hot springs, which you can enjoy for only $ 6 (S/ 20).

You can also visit the Machu Picchu museum, or Site Museum, Putucusi Mountain, the Mandor Gardens and the Butterfly Garden. More details here.cms_aguas-calientes-perujpg__K5Ofn1k8ijc5K3SlH5Fsg31qYv02LXTATETySLYU

Third and fourth day: Explore Sacred Valley

Sacred Valley boasts mysteries, Incan history, an uncountable number of ruins, stone terraces, and the beautiful natural settings.

We recommend you to visit:

  • The ruins of Pisac and its artisan market

  • Chinchero archaeological park. Enjoy a walk in Puray lagoon

  • See the salt mine of Maras and don’t miss the oportunity to taste a chocolate made by salt.

  • Walk through Moray

  • Tour to the fortress of Ollantaytambo

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Fifth day: Rainbow Mountain / Vinicunca 

The Vinicunca, original name of this mountain, is located in the mountain range of Vilcanota in Cusco and has a height of 5200 meters above sea level, although the great attraction is from 4710 masl. The Mountain of 7 Colors or Rainbow Mountain is 140 kilometers east of Cusco.

The trip by car lasts about 2 hours along the highway of the peruvian southern mountain range to Pitumarca. Then there is a trail to the Pampa Chir village and from there a short route through the mountainous slopes. There are about 5 more kilometers to do by walk or horseback. It is one of the places that you cannot miss, according to National Geographic.

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Sixth day: Salkantay and Humantay Lagoon

Humantay lagoon is one of the most tourist attractions in Cusco. Their turquoise waters crowned by the snowy Salkantay give it a unique beauty. To get there, you need to board a bus from the Arcopata terminal to Mollepata. The trip lasts approximately 2 hours and cost$ 5 (S/15).

Once in Mollepata, you will have to take a taxi to Soraypampa. On this point will beging the walking to the lagoon. Entrance ticket cost approximately $ 3 (S/10). We recomend you to ask the taxi driver to take you back because it is a bit difficult the return.

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If you cannot stay 6 days, you can also organize a short guide with the best tourist places in Cusco. At Inca Rail we can help you to plan your trip and support you anytime you want. Our packages include the pick-up service, accommodation, bus and train, and also a certified guide who will show you the best of the city. You can explore our experiences at The Full Experience.

What to eat in Cusco?

Peruvian cuisine is getting more and more popular around the world. A tempting array of Peru cuisine, coupled with excellent service, makes the entire dining experience in Cusco very pleasant. We share with you a list of typical dishes that you should try on your visit to Cusco.

Caldo de Gallina: Chicken soup with noodles. It’s perfect for a cold day.

Puchero: taste this soup made with cow, lamb, bacon, potato and various vegetables. Firstly, they serve the soup and then the rest of the parboiled ingredients: meat, chickpeas, sweet potato, cabbage. Perfect dish to recharge your batteries after an adventure tour.

Chuño Cola: It is a spicy broth made with chuño, a type of potatoes dried in the sun. This soup is accompanied with chickpeas, rice and various meats. If you are a spicy lover, this will become one of your favorite dishes.

Olluquito with charqui: Olluco is a tuber that grows in the Andes and was “domesticated” by the ancient Peruvians in the pre-Columbian era. Charqui is llama dry meat, an animal native to Peru. Perfect to delight yourself at lunchtime!

Cuy Chactado: The main ingredient of this rich dish is guinea pig. The meat is fried in abundant oil under covered with a stone that serves as a lid. Then, it is strongly spiced. You will usually find it accompanied by boiled potatoes, corn and other side dishes. A typicall and tasty dish!

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There are very good places to eat, also healthy, vegan. In addition, the warmth of the locals makes the experience even more enjoyable. We recommend visiting these:

  • Museo del Pisco (Santa Catalina Ancha 398)

  • El Mariscal (Jr. Retamas 5H)

  • Granja Heidi (Jr. Retamas 5H)

  • Green Point (Carmen Bajo 235)

  • Chakruna Burguers (699 Plazoleta San Blas)

  • Nuna Raymi (Triunfo 356)

  • Museo del Café (Espaderos 136)

  • La Rabona (Herrajes 146).

Also we share with you Tripadvisor ranking of the 10 best restaurants in Cusco chosen by tourists, so that you have more options to choose from:

  • Organika (Calle Ataúd N ° 154 Centro Historico, Cuzco 084 Peru)

  • Rukula (Calle Ataud 266 Costado Museo Inka, Cuzco 08002 Peru)

  • Yaku Cocina de Altura (Calle San Juan de Dios 214 Plaza Regocijo, Cuzco 08002 Peru)

  • Stop 168 (Calle Inticahuarina 168 One block from Limacpampa, climb towards Awaqpinta, Cuzco 08002 Peru)

  • Burguers Nativos Chakruna (Plazoleta San Blas 699, Cuzco 08003 Peru)

  • Mamá Seledonia (Calle Ruinas 415 In front of the Marriot Hotel, Cuzco 08000 Peru)

  • PER.UK (Calle Santa Catalina Ancha 313 One block from the main square of the historic center, Cuzco 08002 Peru)

  • Mama Jama (Avenida Pardo 1079 Pizzeria, Cuzco 08002 Peru)

  • Piedra & Sal Restaurant (Calle Carmen Bajo 243, Cuzco Peru)

  • Morena Peruvian Kitchen (Procuradores 320 Plaza De Armas, Cuzco 08002 Peru)

You can also participate in the Potato Wine and Native Potato tasting with Manuel Choqque and / or in private cooking classes at Pachapapa Restaurant.

What to wear?

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Suggested clothing may vary according to Cusco weather on the day of your trip. We recommend checking the weather because you can pass from a clear sky to a heavy rain in just minutes.

For sunny days you should bring a hat or cap to protect yourself from the sun. Light clothing (cotton polo shirts, shorts). Also, warm clothes (nights are usually cold, especially in the dry season). For rainy days you should bring waterproof clothes. If you are planning to do adventure sports, do not forget to bring your trekking shoes.

How to prevent altitude sickness?

In Cusco, altitude sickness is called “soroche”. The best way to previse altitude sickness early on is to take it easy. You may be tempted to walk around and explore your new surroundings, but it is a much better idea to just rest up. Coca tea is a local trick to aid the symptoms of altitude sickness. You will most likely not be very hungry at first, so just eat a small snack or meal, sip a cup of coca tea, and then hit the bed.

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