Machu Picchu, Peru

How to visit Machu Picchu on your own  

Machu Picchu: one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and South America’s most famous landmark. We wanted to visit this iconic Incan city in the sky as cheaply and independently as possible, so we planned a DIY trip that cost us less than £200 each. Want to do the same? Here’s our detailed guide on how to visit Machu Picchu on your own, without an expensive tour or guide.
Hiking to Machu Picchu on your own, Peru

What’s in this Machu Picchu guide?

Trekking Machu Picchu – the options
What’s the best time to go to Machu Picchu
Where to buy Machu Picchu tickets
Machu Picchu ticket options
Hiking Machu Picchu Mountain
Booking Machu Picchu tickets through the official site
How to get to Machu Picchu and back from Cusco
How to get from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
Where to Stay in Aguas Calientes
How much does it cost to visit Machu Picchu on your own?

Llama grazing at Machu Picchu, Peru

Trekking Machu Picchu – the options

Many people dream of hiking the original Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, but the multi-day trek can cost over £1,000 and the trail can also get very congested. We considered some other popular trekking routes up to Machu Picchu, here are some of the best options we found:

The Lares Trek – this takes between three and four days and winds through less busy countryside in the Sacred Valley. My brother did this trek a week before we visited Machu Picchu with G Adventures and loved visiting the traditional villages along the way. We found prices ranged from £355 for a three-day trek with Enigma to £450 for a four-day trek with Alpaca Expeditions.

The Salkantay Trek – this is the most popular alternative trekking route to Machu Picchu. The four or five-day hike winds through lowland jungles and past one of the highest mountains in the Cusco region, Mount Salkantay. We found a four-day trek with Conde Travel for £295 per person and a five-day trek with Southern Peru for £375.

Machu Picchu with Wayna Picchu behind it

Alternatively, you can trek the Salkantay independently and visit Machu Picchu without a guide or permit.  We considered this option but decided against it because of all the camping gear we’d have to buy and carry, but if you’re interested in this option, check out this great guide from The Hiking Life.

The beautiful Andes mountain range in Peru

How to visit Machu Picchu on your own

Ultimately, we decided that the best way to see Machu Picchu for us was to make the journey independently by a combination of train and bus, here’s how we did it.

The east side of Machu Picchu, Peru

What’s the best time to go to Machu Picchu?

First things first, figure out when you want to visit Machu Picchu. The site is open all year but if you’re planning on trekking the famous Inca Trail, be aware that tickets out sell out months in advance and the route is often closed during February for maintenance. Machu Picchu sits high in the Andes, at 2,430 metres above sea level, so the weather can be very unpredictable and there’s no way to get guaranteed clear views.

The clouds quickly rolling in over Machu {picchu, Peru

Generally speaking though, the dry season for Machu Picchu falls from April to September and the wet season from October to March. You’ll have the best chance at a clear view in the dry season but crowds can also be fierce during June to August. Try the less busy months of May and September, we went at the start of May and were lucky to get mostly clear views with a few spots of rain.

We got mostly good weather on our visit to Machu Picchu

Where to buy Machu Picchu tickets

Everyone who visits Machu Picchu needs to have tickets to enter the site, which are sold for a particular day and time slot. Once you’ve decided when you’ll be visiting Machu Picchu, book your tickets as soon as possible from one of these sources:

We booked our tickets through the official website nearly two months before our visit. Although we had a bit of trouble with the payment, we called the helpline and a customer service rep resolved the issue for us. We then printed off the tickets and presented them at the site.

Cusco Cathedral, Peru

You can buy Machu Picchu tickets in Cusco, Peru

Machu Picchu ticket options

However you buy your tickets, you’ll need to choose between three different options:

  1. Ticket for Machu Picchu on its own – £36.
  2. Ticket for Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain, the tallest peak overlooking the site. It takes about two hours to climb the mountain and another 1-2 hours to get down, but you get spectacular views from the top – £47.
  3. Ticket for Machu Picchu and Wayna (or Huayna) Picchu, which lies at the other end of the ruins to Machu Picchu Mountain. This is a smaller peak but the busier of the two mountains, this ticket option also gives you access to the Temple of the Sun – £47.

machu picchu trailhead map

When you book a ticket, you’ll need to select a time slot for entering Machu Picchu, either between 6am and midday or midday to 5.30pm (bear in mind that the site closes at 6pm). If you book a morning ticket, you can stay on the site all day if you want, but most people spend around three hours looking around the ruins.

If you choose ticket option two or three, you’ll also have to select a time slot to start your ascent up the mountain, this avoids congestion on the paths. The options are between seven and eight am or between nine and ten am, the summit does close at midday though so give yourself plenty of time to ascend.

The Machu Picchu ruins, Peru

Hiking Machu Picchu Mountain

At the time when we booked, there were no tickets for Wayna Picchu so we opted for Machu Picchu Mountain, selecting the earliest time slot for the ascent. We found the path practically empty at points, it was a quiet trek with unobscured views of the ruins below.

Machu Picchu Mountain checkpoint, Peru

Be warned that there are some sheer drops and narrow, rocky sections, so be sure to wear sturdy shoes. We were also at high altitude by this point, so made sure to stay hydrated to combat altitude sickness symptoms, which we experienced hiking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal last year.

The narrow path up Machu Picchu Mountain

The uphill trek took us around two hours, with plenty of stops for photos, drinks and snacks along the way. At the summit, there were perhaps 50 people all serenely taking in the view. The atmosphere was peaceful and we spent plenty of time resting and taking photos.

Machu Picchu Mountain, 3, 061 metres above sea level

We were incredibly lucky to get clear skies with awe-inspiring views of the famous ruins and valley below.  On the way down, we met many more people hiking up, the journey took us around an hour and a half and the temperature had really risen by then. We’d recommend hiking up early to stay cool.

Clear views of Machu Picchu from Machu Picchu Mountain

Booking Machu Picchu tickets through the official site

We did have some trouble booking our tickets through the official site, so here are some things you should know before choosing this option:

  • Make sure you have Flash Player installed to access the website.
  • Select from the languages English, Portuguese or Italian.
  • Be aware that you can only pay online with a Visa card.
  • You can’t book student or child tickets on the website.
  • You’ll need to have your passport with you when you book and then enter Machu Picchu.
  • If you have trouble, call the help centre like we did, they speak English and can help process your request. +51 84 58 20 30.


How to get to Machu Picchu and back from Cusco

The most popular way to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu independently is to take the train, which is what we did. There are two companies you can use, Peru Rail and Inca Rail, both have websites and offices in Cusco’s main square, so compare prices before you book. You can find a Machu Picchu train timetable on both websites or at their offices.

The Peru Rail train in Poroy Station, Peru

Note that the train to Machu Picchu actually leaves from Poroy station, which is about 30 minutes west of Cusco. You can take a taxi or Uber which will cost around £11. We booked an early-morning trip with Peru Rail to Aguas Calientes, which is the final stop. Despite the steep price of £50 per person, we were impressed by the clean cabins with huge side and ceiling windows.

The Peru Rail train in the Sacred Valley

The train journey through the Sacred Valley was absolutely stunning, running along the bottom of a steep gorge next to a river, past villages with canyon-like scenery. The three-hour trip flew by and we disembarked at Aguas Calientes, the tiny town named for its hot springs that’s the final jumping off point for Machu Picchu.

The inside of the Peru Rail train

After visiting Machu Picchu, we caught the train back with Inca Rail, which wasn’t quite so luxurious, to the town of Ollantaytambo, which cost £40.50 each. Since we hadn’t done any hiking up to Machu Picchu, we stayed in the town for a few days and took peaceful day hikes to lesser-visited Incan ruins dotted nearby in the Sacred Valley.

From there, we took a bus back to Cusco, which we caught from the main square for just £2.25 each, the journey took around two hours.

Beautiful scenery in Ollantaytambo, Peru

Beautiful scenery in Ollantaytambo, Peru

How to get from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

Aguas Calientes lies about a 30-minute bus ride from Machu Picchu. Although you can hike up the steep track in less than two hours, most people catch the shuttle bus there and back.

People queuing for the Machu Picchu bus at 5.30am

The queue for the Machu Picchu bus at 5.30am

We bought tickets the day before visiting Machu Picchu from the kiosk under the bridge in the centre of Aguas Calientes town. You need to present your passport when buying tickets, buses cost £17 return and run up every 10-20 minutes from 5.30am to 4pm and back down from 6am to 6pm.

This is where to buy you bus tickets for Machu Picchu

Where to Stay in Aguas Calientes

As you might expect, Aguas Calientes is a really touristy town, full of guesthouses, hotels, shops and restaurants geared towards visitors. While it doesn’t make for the best vibe, there are plenty of accommodation options to suit most budgets. We went with a cheaper, £25 per night room at Machupicchu Guest House, which turned out to be pretty cold and damp, so we wouldn’t recommend it. You can search for more Aguas Calientes hotels here.

Aguas Calientes' main square, Peru

If you’re stopping in Ollantaytambo, we would definitely recommend staying at Hotel Tierra Inka Sacred Valley. The hotel was set in beautiful gardens and everything was new and clean. Although we paid slightly more for the room, which cost us  £105 for three nights, that included breakfast and it was definitely worth it considering how much we enjoyed our stay.

Our hiking companion in Ollantaytambo, Peru

How much does it cost to visit Machu Picchu on your own?

Here’s our total Machu Picchu trip cost breakdown:

ExpenseCost per personTotal cost
Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu Entrance Fee£45.50£91
Taxi from Cusco to Poroy£5.50£11
Train from Cusco (Poroy) to Aguas Calientes£50£100
Train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo£40.50£81
Return bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu Entrance£17£34
Two nights in Machupicchu Guest House£25£50
Minibus from Ollantaytambo to Cusco£2.25£4.50

how to visit machu picchu on your own pinterest pin

Got any questions or tips about the best way to visit Machu Picchu? Let us know in the comments below. 

  • Louisa Klimentod
    Posted at 08:17h, 26 August Reply

    Thanks for the amazing information I always wanted to trek Machu Pichu but never had a chance too What a stunning place and the mountains are so majestic Keep up your beautiful blogs love Louisa

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:05h, 29 August Reply

      Thanks Louisa, Machu Picchu is definitely worth a visit 🙂

  • Michel
    Posted at 17:33h, 07 November Reply

    Thanks ! Do you recommend spending a night in Aguas Calientes, or a day trip is enough ?

    • Amy
      Posted at 17:41h, 07 November Reply

      Hi Michel, we would recommend spending at least one night there, that way you can travel up the day before and get up early to go to Machu Picchu. Have fun!

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