Before I start my own research on this embarkment. I am coming to you guys to help me with my Machu Picchu trip. I am giong in May/June and need to find out, well, just about everything about going. I will be doing my own research, but I know the people on this site are amazing and can help me out also. I would like to hike up to the ruins, stay a few days and hike down. I am planning on being gone for about ten days the most. If anyone can help me with any info that would be great thank you all.
I think you're going about this in a reversed manner. Machu Picchu is one of the most famous tourist attractions in South America. It's covered extremely well and in great detail in all the usual guide books and on countless tourism websites and forums.
Instead of asking someone to reiterate a pile info that is very easily available from a multitude of different sources why not do the basic initial research yourself then come back with specific questions. Even the most simple, perfunctory research will bring up loads and loads different options for visiting Machu Picchu. It'll be easy to narrow down the options that fit your specific style and budget.
Basic things to know: Altitude and acclimatization. The basic rule of thumb is to go up not more than 2000 meters as a first stage, acclimatize there for at least three night, and then go up only 1000 meters a day, acclimatizing for a night at each stage. You can push those numbers a bit, but eventually you'll notice.
Cuzco lies at 3300 meters, so unless you want to arrive and be confined to your room, not being able to do anything at all for three nights, go somewhere else first. (Arequipa at 2350 meters makes a great first stage, and is quite worth seeing in its own right.)
If you want to hike the classic Inca Trail (3 days worth of hiking, hiking for an hour on the 4th day to then arrive at Machu Picchu itself), you can only do that on a guided tour with one of these tour operators (everyone else pretending to sell classic Inca Trail tours is a middleman, having you end up at one of these companies after all), and for May/June must book that absolutely no later than February, otherwise all dates will be filled up to the maximum capacity of 500 people/day (including porters) already. (If you want a specific date, book in January.)
The Inca Trail goes up to 4750 meters on the 2nd day, so if your level of fitness is less good, or if you just want to have an easier time of it, I can recommended having acclimatized to higher altitudes than the 3300 meters of Cuzco. (The classic "gringo trail" goes from Arequipa to Lake Titicaca at 4000 meters, after which the Inca Trail will be very doable.)
If you don't want to do the classic Inca Trail, there's several other multi day hikes through the vicinity, billed as "alternative inca trails", though all of them end up just taking you to Aguas Calientes at the end, and entering Machu Picchu through the main gate along with all the tourists who came in by train. (The one exception is the "2 day" inca trail, which has you hike up from the railway to the two most spectacular ruins near the end of the classic inca trail (Wiñaywayna and Intipata), and enter Machu Picchu through the sun gate at the end of the day, after which you're marched straight to the exit, to visit Machu Picchu proper on the 2nd day, entering from the main entrance.) These hikes mostly miss the amazing progression of increasingly stupendous ruins which makes the classic Inca Trail justifiably famous, though do have all the same kind of scenery, and only cost half of the real thing.
When coming in from the sun gate in the morning on the classic Inca Trail, Machu Picchu itself can be pretty thoroughly explored in the rest of the day you have available, assuming you're with a tour company which puts you on the 4 o'clock train from Aguas Calientes back to Cuzco, and not an earlier one. Still, if you want to linger, it can be worthwhile to spend a second day at Machu Picchu (your tour company should be able to change your train ticket for one a day later), spending the night at Aguas Calientes.
If you want to hike Wayna Picchu (the high mountain top "behind" Machu Picchu in all the famous pictures), head there early, as they only allow 400 people a day on it. (I can thoroughly recommend it though; the descent is scarily steep, but the views are amazing.)
There's no hiking "down" from Machu Picchu, other than the trail leading to Aguas Calientes, which I guess you could take if you're too hardcore for the bus. (Actually, I think if I'd stayed at Machu Picchu for a second day, I would try to hike down just for the experience; but definitely didn't have the energy for it after having done the Inca Trail and then spent all day walking up and down the stairs of Machu and Wayna Picchu. *g*)
[ Edit: Edited on 14-Nov-2011, at 11:24 by Sander ]
Thanks a bunch for the info that really helped. If I have any other questions would it be ok if I IM you.
I'd actually prefer it if you just ask other questions here in the forum. It makes any advice I'd give available for not just you, but everyone else finding the thread in the future as well, and if I happen to be busy and not getting around to answering my PMs (which happens quite a bit), I won't feel guilty about it, as there's a good chance someone else will come in and answer you.
Oh, and you're welcome.
[ Edit: Edited on 14-Nov-2011, at 11:33 by Sander ]
Doing the Inca Trail is a fantastic experience and such an adventure! Firstly, you can take a domestic flight from Lima to Cusco and then spend a few nights acclimatising there before starting the trek. There's plenty to keep you occupied and there are many activities you can arrange locally in the town.
To do the Inca Trail you will need a permit, and there is a set number of people who can do the trek on any one day. As you're looking to do the trail next May/June I would get it booked up very soon to guarantee availability. You will do the trek in an internationl group (the size will depend on which company you book with). The following link gives you some information on the trek and has a link to book the trip at the top of the page: -snip-
With ten days, you may even want to catch the bus down to Puno where you can take a boat onto the stunning Lake Titicaca. It's really beautiful and well worth a visit!
I hope you have a really fantastic time on the trip!
Moderator comment: please see Forum Rules
[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. Link to Forum Rules added. ]
Just to be aware, you now have to pay to climb Waynu Picchu - it's about 12 US dollars. But still worth it. Paying for this forms part of your entrance to Machu Picchu.
The website link that Sander gave you is the one I relied on when booking my Salkantay trek to Macchu Picchu. Went last month.
For research this is a comprehensive guide to treking to the site. Ignore though the agency recommendtions. These are all UK based and expensive. Best to book direct with an agency in Peru.
Sorry, didn't give the website... http://www.wanderlust.co.uk/planatrip/types-of-trip/travel-icons/machu-picchu-and-the-inca-trail
Hello Aaron: I am the son of two Peruvians, lived in Peru when I was a kid, been to machu picchu three times, once the four day hike. you need information on this trip get ahold of me
I would like to thank everyone thus far for the help with my adventure. Since my first post a few days ago I have decided, since I only have 10 days, to fly directly into Cusco.
Sander- I did read what you said about getting aclimated at a lower altitude and work my way up. There is a mountain about 40 miles from my house thats town sits at an elevaton of 2100 meters. My girlfriend and I hike there about once a month, I just figure we will up our hikes to once a week leeding up to our departure. I think that might help.
I am booking a 4 with one of the companies on the list that Sander has.
One, of many, questions I have is I am still un-clear about having to pay for the entrance into Machu Picchu once we arive, or is it included in the cost of the tour?
Also the two tours I am looking at have bus service back to Cusco after arival to Machu Picchu. My question is; does anyone know if they would let me branch off and stay a night in Machu Picchu for a reduced rate, or will all be that be money lost if I opt to stay for a night?
Thank you all again for your help,
This website has given me a lot of sound info for the last trip I took to South East Asia I go here whenever I am planning a trip and I direct any of my friends to do the same.