Visiting Machu Picchu is a once in a life time journey that requires an incredible amount of hard work, time, and money to make happen! So once you finally get to this wonder of the world don’t let anything get in the way of your good time. We’ve put together 10 Machu Picchu tips for where to stay in town, things to do, and the best time of year to visit this special place in Peru. Oh, and of course how to experience the magical sunrise at Machu Picchu!
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10 Machu Picchu Tips For the Best Morning Ever
Wake Up for Sunrise at Machu Picchu
If there’s ever a day in your life to get up at 4am then this is it! To have the best view of the Machu Picchu sunrise you want to be the first one through the gates. The site opens at 6am everyday rain or shine, and if you get there early from Machu Picchu town you’ll feel like you have it all to yourself.
Watching the sunrise at Machu Picchu over the mountains, and shine down on the ancient ruins is something you’ll never forget. First thing in the morning is absolutely the best time to visit. If you can get there for sunrise we promise you won’t regret it!
Take the Bus From Aguas Calientes
Unfortunately, unless you have an extra $1,000 USD laying around for the luxury hotel inside the park you won’t actually be staying at Machu Picchu. You’ll most likely be leaving from Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town) and have to take a short bus ride for $12 USD, or hike over two hours to the entrance.
Initially we were excited to hike as we thought it would add to our Machu Picchu sunrise experience! Let’s be honest though, who really wants to spring out of bed and hike at 4am? At the last minute we decided to take the bus to start our Machu Picchu tour. It honestly might have been the single best choice of our Peru trip!
As the bus wound its way up the mountain we realized the two hour “hike” is more like the vertical staircase from hell! Not to mention the first hour would have been in pure darkness on the roads where the buses pass.
Machu Picchu Tips: If you’re in line by 4:40am you should be one of first people to enter Machu Picchu! The buses are first come first serve with no seat reservations.
Immediately Go to the View Point
There is a magical time after the gates open from 6 to 6:30AM that you will feel like you’re the only one at Machu Picchu. This is unheard of for a site averaging 2,500 visitors per day! Once inside the park, you’ll see a sign for the Guardhouse.
Follow the trail and make your way to one of the best things to do in Machu Picchu. You probably already know this view point. It’s the one where all epic photos of Machu Picchu are taken. The actual view that forced you to travel around the world to see it in person!
At this point you might be wondering why no one else is in the park? The tour groups actually gather outside from 6 to 6:30am so the majority of people are still waiting to enter. This means you’ll have about 30 minutes of surreal peace at Machu Picchu. So get all your pictures in, and explore before every inch is filled with people!
Watch the Sunrise at Machu Picchu
At about 6:40am just when people are starting to file in, the sun rises over the mountains to the east of Machu Picchu. As you may have guessed, it’s absolutely stunning!
If you perch yourself in front of the Guardhouse you’ll see the sun rise to your right as the ancient site illuminates before you. This is definitely a moment we’ll never forget, and solidifies that morning is the best time to visit Machu Picchu Peru.
Get a Personal Machu Picchu Tour
Around 8:30am all the large 30-80 person tours finish up, and the local guides wander the ruins looking for more business. Although we wouldn’t recommend a giant tour group as one of the best things to do in Machu Picchu, getting a personal guide is a completely different experience.
Once all your pictures are out of the way you’ll be free to listen and learn with a personal guide. At this point everyone else will be taking photos that are already flooded with tourists. Also, because this is an extra bonus for the guide you’ll even be able to negotiate the cost and length of your private tour!
Pack Your Own Lunch
While you can’t eat inside Machu Picchu, your ticket is actually good for one re-entry. For this reason, we would highly recommend packing your own lunch as one of our Machu Picchu tips.
We took a quick look at the restaurant on top of the mountain and the prices were about what you’d expect. $15 USD for a hamburger or sandwiches, and the drinks were not cheap either. Make sure to pack a lunch or snacks, and make a quick trip outside after watching the Machu Picchu sunrise when you get hungry.
Sign Up For a Hike
Once you arrive inside the park you’ll see there are some additional hikes. Unfortunately, at this point if you don’t have a ticket you won’t be able to do them! Huayna Picchu and Cerro Machu Picchu are both hikes that will take you high above the ruins for dramatic views of the ancient site and surrounding valley.
However, only 400 people per day are allowed on each hike. You’ll also need to buy your tickets up to 3 months in advance! Make sure to get your tickets early if this is one of the things to do in Machu Picchu you’re interested in.
Meet the Machu Picchu Llamas
If you didn’t know… Llamas run Machu Picchu! You might be in awe timeless architecture, but this is just another day at the office for them. These unique animals spend all day in the high altitude of the Andes mountains, and are an incredible addition to your tour. They’re normally pretty friendly to be around, but use common sense if you don’t wanna get spit on!
Hike Back to Machu Picchu Town
The walk back to town isn’t too bad because it’s almost entirely downhill. Yet don’t be fooled, you’re still in for a bit of a workout! The views are stunning, and it’ll make you feel a little bit less guilty if you took the bus up for sunrise at Machu Picchu. Still, as you pass people struggling on the walk up you’ll be happy you made the choice not to do this hike at 4am… In the dark!
Spend a Second Night in Aguas Calientes
After taking in the beauty of Machu Picchu you’ll likely be mentally and physically exhausted. Since you did pick the best time to visit Machu Picchu Peru, your first option will be to leave in the late afternoon. This will put you arriving back to Cusco well past midnight. Now you may be crunched for time, but this isn’t the ideal way to spend the rest of your day!
Surprisingly, most backpackers we met actually chose this option. Obviously it will cost you a little extra to spend another night in Machu Picchu town. However, Aguas Calientes has a lot of great restaurants and bars to enjoy on the river. You won’t regret taking the train out the next morning!
Have any questions about sunrise at Machu Picchu, or want to share your own Machu Picchu tips? Comment below and let us know!
Brigitte and Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Where To Stay In Machu Picchu Town
Ultra Luxury (High End) – Belmond Sanctuary Lodge – The first hotel we recommend isn’t actually in Machu Picchu, but inside the park itself! Belmond Sanctuary is one of the most expensive hotels in South America. Yet a stay here is priceless to be able walk right into Machu Picchu in the morning.
Fun Vacation (Mid Range) – Jaya Suite Machupicchu – Jaya Suite is one of the nicer options in Aguas Calientes with it’s great location near the train, bus station, and shops. Many rooms include balconies, bathtubs, and other nice amenities.
Travel Couple (Longterm Travel) – Casona del Inca MachuPicchu – Spacious rooms at a decent price and walking distance to all the best restaurants. The guesthouse can even prepare early breakfast for you so you can catch the sunrise at Machu Picchu!
Hostel Life (Budget) – Supertramp Hostel Machupicchu – Supertramp is one of the most well known hostels in Machu Picchu town, and is a great place to meet other travelers. The staff will make you feel at home while giving you plenty of tips for Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes.
For more places to stay in Machu Picchu town you can explore the latest prices here!*We receive a commission for purchases made through links in this post. This allows us to continue our travels and keep providing great content to our readers! Also, as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
What train did you take? My brother and I are planning a trip to Peru and Ecuador to go to Lima, Banos, Cusco, and we’d like to know as much as possible
Hi Cierra! We took the bus to Machu Picchu and train back! I totally recommend the train! We took it to Ollantaytambo then a shuttle back to Cusco! A lot of people do this because its much cheaper then taking it all the way back to Cusco. I think we booked Inca Rail but all of the trains are very nice. Also you can book directly when you are in Cusco all the train companies have very nice offices and are happy to help!
We loved Banos! Make sure to check out our article about our visit there!
Feel free to email me if you have any other questions!