Before You Go to Machu Picchu, Here’s 10 Things you must know

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Google+
Share on LinkedIn

I was so excited by the fact that I was about to visit of the world’s most photographed, most visited, and most impressive UNESCO World Heritage Sights, that I forgot to do my research. I was like a kid on ย Christmas day the minute I arrived to Machu Picchu and got my first glimpse of the Inca ruins with my own eyes (and not through my computer screen). So to help you avoid making the same mistakes I did, before you go to Machu Picchu here are 10 things you need to know:

Avoiding the Crowds

The first assumption I got terribly wrong was to inaccurately assume that there would be less crowds first thing in the morning, when Machu Picchu opens at 6am. In fact, the best time of day to visit is in the late afternoon, between the hours of 4-5pm, when all of the day visitors from Cusco have left. That allowed me to take the following (much more ethereal) photo:


Where to Take the Best Photos

When you arrive at Machu Picchu, the first thing you will realise is that there’s a maze of paths leading in every which way and you’re not entirely sure which will lead you to the best photo opportunities. The truth is that it is best to explore, but if you’re looking for that ‘postcard Machu Picchu photo’, you’ll find it at the Guard’s House on top of the highest peak inside the ruins. Elsewhere you can get photos from a further distance (providing great overviews), but you’ll need to commit to a day hike. The easiest of these is to actually walk part of the Inca Trail (in reverse) which will take you 2-3ย hours round trip. If you book in advance you could also consider “The Machu Picchu” hike which very few visitors know about. This is arguably where you’ll find the best photo op.

Time of Year to Visit

While Machu Picchu is busy year-round, the “dry season” (May through October) is the most popular time of year to visit, as well as the Christmas/New Year period.

Sun & Bug Protection

It probably comes at no surprise that the sun is harmful way up there in the clouds. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen AND bug spray, as Machu Picchu is quite literally crawling with the little buggers.

The Food at Machu Picchu is GOOD / GREAT

Before taking the 30 minute bus ride up to Machu Picchu from the small town below, I though I had better grab a snack in case I was hungry and couldn’t find anything up there. But in fact the food is x100 better up at the site at the snack bar or Belmondo lunch buffet. Vegetarians fear not, there’s a great veggie quiche on offer for $6.20. There are healthy options: wraps, sandwiches, etc. and also hot dogs, soft serve ice cream, etc. It is also quite inexpensive considering the location.

Stamp your passport

You’ll need your passport to enter Machu Picchu, so while you’re there why not grab the free passport stamp on the way out. It is located on the right hand side as you leave, just before you pass through the exit gate. It looks like this:



I’ve never had too much of an issue with altitude sickness nor have those around me, but it is worth mentioning for those concerned about the effects of altitude sickness. First of all, contrary to popular belief, Machu Picchu is not the highest point in the Andes – it is instead one of the lowest. You will be at much higher altitudes in both the Sacred Valley and Cusco. However to avoid getting headaches or unnecessary diziness, drink plenty of water and chew coca leaves if you’re really worried. It’s entirely not necessary, but as you wish!


Are only located outside the site itself, so be sure to use before you enter or wait until you’re on your way out.

Treks around Machu Picchuย 

If you want to get the most out of your visit but don’t wish to commit to the famous 4 day Inca Trek, there are a great range of day hikes to be taken whilst here at Machu Picchu. If you want to trek the renowned Huayna mountain or Machu Picchu mountain, you’ll need to book at least 6 months in advance.

Staying Overnight in Machu Picchu vs. Overnight in Cusco

As mentioned the best time of day to enjoy Machu Picchu almost entirely to yourself is the late afternoon before the 5:00pm closing time, which would require you to stay overnight in Machu Picchu. Many travellers choose to journey straight back to Cusco on the train instead, as it is much cheaper to stay at hotels in the city. But consider this: you’ve come all this way, wouldn’t you rather enjoy it!? By staying overnight in Machu Picchu you can also return the following morning (especially good in case cloud coverage does not allow for good photos) and catch an afternoon train back to Cusco.

Machu_Picchu Machu Picchu Machu_Picchu

You Might Also Like

    June 4, 2015 at 1:46 am

    I would definitely stay overnight if I could. I didn’t even know that was an option! Also I definitely would have made the same mistake and went there early instead of in the afternoon – good tip!


    Melanie Zelnick
    June 4, 2015 at 12:42 am

    These are such great tips! I love the free passport stamp too!
    Melanie @

    Lily S
    June 3, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    Hey Brooke! Just wondering about the passport stamp you mentioned. Is this a legit passport stamp? I know at checkpoint Charlie in Berlin there are people in Military uniform who you can pictures with and they offer to stamp your passport but this invalidates your passport. Surely getting a stamp at Machu Picchu would also invalidate your passport, or am I mistaken? Stamps are awesome, just don’t want to get stuck anywhere. Thanks, L

    Kelly | Endlessly Exploring
    June 3, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    Great tips Brooke! I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu last year and it was definitely the highlight of my South American adventure ๐Ÿ™‚ x

    sarah vernon
    June 3, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    great post! i would love to do this one day! ๐Ÿ™‚ x

    Lyndsey J
    June 3, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    This looks incredible, now on my bucket list

    June 3, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    Really great tips! You’re so lucky to have traveled here!
    I wish I could visit ๐Ÿ™‚ but if I do ever manage to I’ll definitely be taking your advice.

    June 3, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    This place is in wanderlust list from a long time… Thanks for the tip, will surely consider them whenever I will go there.

    June 3, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    This looks stunning, visiting is such a dream of mine! Would love to get that passport stamp now. Also, I had no idea about when it’s least crowded, I too would have assumed the morning. But then again here in Paris sites also empty out more in the evening, and that’s when I like to go to museums with my friends ๐Ÿ˜€


    June 3, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    Simply awesome.

    June 3, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    It’s pretty much afraid of heights, but I would certainly not stand for long.

    June 3, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    I trekked the Inca Trail, and explored Macchu Picchu two years ago, and had the best time. I totally agree that 6 a.m. ends up being one of the busiest times – not only because people come up from Aguas Calientes, but also because the hikers are meant to arrive at sunrise!
    I ended up having a great time, but unfortunately my friend did get altitude sickness while in Cusco – which affected her for the whole hike. You can get some pills to take (prescribed at home0 to help counter and help you adjust! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jenna.duesterhoeft@gmail.con'
    Jenna @ just j.faye
    June 3, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    I’m going to Machu Picchu in a few weeks, so these tips come with perfect timing. Thanks!!

    June 3, 2015 at 11:57 am

    I might be going to Machu Picchu with my family next summer so these tips will be super helpful for us! Machu Picchu (and your pictures) looks gorgeous!

    June 3, 2015 at 10:47 am

    awesome! I had no idea you could get your passport stamped ๐Ÿ˜€

    June 3, 2015 at 8:52 am

    Great post!! Whoever’s planning on going, must find this very useful!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Xoxo Jessy

    June 3, 2015 at 8:50 am

    I think the “Wayna Picchu” hike is the best and gives the best view. It is the hike that goes up the mountain that you see in the background of your photos. It is “short” (30 mins – 1 hour depending) but very scary hike – very steep and kinda “rough.” But the views are soooo amazing and worth it!

    June 3, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Oooh, I wanna go there !! โ™ฅ
    I am in love with Southamerica anyways…

    ani from

    Amanda @ Positively Amanda
    June 3, 2015 at 8:30 am

    Great tips! These pictures are beautiful!

    Nikki Vargas
    June 3, 2015 at 7:59 am

    Awesome article! I am flying to Ecuador on assignment in November and am toying around with the idea of extending my trip to explore! I am definitely planning on going to the Galapagos but was also thinking of extending my trip and perhaps catching a flight to Peru to see Machu Picchu. This is such a helpful article and the easiest, most concise one I’ve found on what to expect when visiting Machu Picchu. Thank you for putting this together!


  • 1 2 3