So today is the day you go and visit Machu Picchu! We went through how to get to here but now we need to know how to do Machu Picchu on your own: Part 2 – Visiting and Departing. Rise and shine, it is time to go, go, GO! Early bird gets the worm, move quickly to catch the sunset onsite. Depending on what time of the year you go, work out when you want to get the bus. Then plan to miss it. I visited in March 2017 and arrived at bus stop about 5.15am and arrived at the top about 6.30am. It was foggy which was no problem, as there was blue sky and the fog disappears quite quickly. But let’s jump into the structure of your brilliant day of seeing one of wonders of the modern world!
Have a checklist and prepare
Make sure you take your passport with you, your entrance ticket and your bus tickets (if not applicable, that means you’re walking up and down). If you are missing one of these items you will not be able to visit the site.
If you do not want to prepare your own breakfast, reserve accommodation that will. There are heaps of options in Aguas Calientes. Some can even prepare a breakfast box that you can take with you and eat at Machu Picchu. And yes, you can eat inside Machu Picchu (MP). And no, there are no food or drink options to purchase when you are inside (or toilets). So make sure the day before that you are organised for your snacks, water and lunch/brunch etc. For more details on arriving into Aguas Calientes or the day before you visit read Part 1 of How to do Machu Picchu on Your Own.
Bring water with you! I took over 2 litres with me and I drank just under that in the 6 hours I was there.
Options when purchasing tickets/when visiting Machu Picchu
With your entrance ticket, you have a few options. The main tickets are; just visit the site (most common), MP + Hauyna Picchu (very popular but strenuous) or MP + MP Mountain. Tickets are limited per day, so booking prior (even months ahead) is crucial. Head to http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/ to book your ticket.
Tours of the Machu Picchu Site
Some people book tours for the site in advance, this is a good idea. I waited until I got there to suss it out and it took forever. People who were on tours were off and away. I on the other hand had to pay for a private tour on my own for $50USD or wait for more people to join. This would then mean only having to pay $15USD. I tagged along with another tour group and paid by money to that tour guide. The tour was amazing and worth every dollar! Our guide was very knowledgeable (as you’d expect) and was able to answer all our questions. It lasted about two hours and then you go and explore yourself.
Wandering around Machu Picchu
I headed up to the Sun Gate, which was an incredible look-back view of the site. It is not strenuous (especially compared to Hauyna Picchu) but you may need to pause and regroup. You can then explore with looking for the llamas and getting a friendly selfie with them. Check out the sun dial, the rocks carved to match the mountains in the background. The hut area is a must do to get the standard Machu Picchu shot in the background. Just whenever you decide to leave the site, make sure you stamp your passport. Yes, there is a Machu Picchu stamp that you can actually put in your passport and not get into trouble.
Keep an eye on the time
Most people who are doing Machu Picchu will typically leave the same day as they visit the site. The only way in and out of the town (Aguas Calientes is also known as Machu Picchu town) is by train. Give yourself a good hour plus before you train leaves to leave the site. You never know if there is a line up to get the bus back down. Then you must head back to your accommodation and grab your bags and head to the train station.
I recommend catching a train that departs at 3pm or later if you can. This was you can stay at the site and relax and not feel rushed. You can then leave between 12pm-1pm, enjoy a lovely Peruvian dish for lunch at one of the many cafes or restaurants. Then casually grab your gear and go to the train station. Just remember to always check your departure time. Unlike me, who rocked up and sat down in the waiting area and heard my name being called out for immediate departure. I thought it left in 30 minutes but it was departing in 1 minute.
Train back to Ollantaytambo
This is the most common route again, it’s the same as when you go up (to MP). Depending on which rail you choose (I did Peru Rail) and class (I did premium) will direct your experience on your trip back. I enjoyed a light lunch, tea or coffee and my favourite ever – chicha morada! It is the beverage of purple corn and I found it to be super delicious. Try this drink and see if you like it! There was also a fashion show, which went for way too long.
Ollantaytambo back to Cusco in a taxi or colectivo
This is the decision you have to make when you are doing this on your own. My advice is to move quickly when the train arrives. See if anyone else wants to share a taxi with you back to Cusco. Otherwise you are left with the option of the colectivo. I had to wait over an hour until we had a full bus (about 12 people). But it was fine, it only cost $5USD and I experienced a quick, more comfortable trip on the way up (in a taxi with locals). Read about How to get to Machu Picchu on your own.
Arrive in Cusco and reminisce
The journey takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to arrive back into Cusco. The van may not necessarily drop you back to where you hopped on it when you left Cusco. So make sure you ask or know where you are, otherwise they will drop you off in the city centre.
And there you have it! You have visited Machu Picchu and saved a sh*t tonne of money at the same time!
If you have time or don’t want to rush, then stay an extra night at Aguas Calientes and make the journey back the next day. Or you may want to opt to stay the night in Ollantaytambo. It is a long day doing this but some travel days get like that! Also, if you paid for the entire tour – this itinerary is what they would do and I saved $500AUD (approx $400USD) by doing it all myself.
Enjoy your experience to this amazing destination and let me know if you have any questions. I just rocked up and winged it for the transport (apart from trains) and tour but info like this would’ve helped me a lot more!
Pin it for later!