Peru Travel Blog

Finding the Best Tours of Machu Picchu for You

Written by: Kevin Groh

Picking the Best Machu Picchu Tour for You

When it comes to exotic destinations that are the trip of a lifetime, it’s hard to beat Machu Picchu. Dubbed one of the seven wonders of the world by The New York Times and countless other travel sources, it’s one of the top serene destinations.

Where and What is Machu Picchu?

Nestled on the Eastern slopes of the Andes in Peru lies an ancient Incan town that remained undisturbed for over 350 years before Hiram Bingham rediscovered the iconic Incan ruins in 1911. That ancient town is Machu Picchu.

Its tranquil location located just under 8,000 feet above sea level – tucked away from the ravages of humanity in South America – has made it one of the most prominent tourist destinations ever since its rediscovery. 

Why You Should Visit Machu Picchu

 

There are countless reasons you need to make visiting Machu Picchu a priority during your lifetime. It contains unique Incan architecture that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. The fact that it was undisturbed and preserved for hundreds of years, this ancient architecture is one of the few pure representations of the time.

But the unique designs of the city in the sky is only part of the magnificent view – the other half is what you see when you look away from the ancient ruins. Nestled near the Andes’ peak – you get an untarnished view of the magnificent, untouched mountain ranges of Peru.

Every great exotic destination has a touch of mystery, and Machu Picchu pueblo is no different. While there are multiple competing theories as to why the Incas built Machu Picchu, no one knows for sure. Some think it’s a pilgrimage sight along the Inca Trail, and others believe it was a home for the aristocrats, but no one knows for sure.

What we do know is that the Incans only occupied it for 82 years. The Incans completed its construction in 1450, but with the Spanish colonization of Peru in the 1550s, it was abandoned and never reoccupied. The ancient Inca citadel is filled with a rich history and traditions and provides you with the adventure of a lifetime.

Challenges of Visiting Machu Picchu

The biggest challenge is the elevation. At almost 8,000 feet above sea level – you’ll find it’s much harder to breathe, especially if you choose to hike up to the ruins. However, if you’re an avid hiker, this just adds to the challenge and excitement when you reach the entrance. A hike from the nearest train station takes about 90 minutes to 2-hours, and it’s a strenuous one.

If you’re a passionate hiker looking for the trip of a lifetime, you can conquer the entire Incan trail over 4-days – finishing at Machu Picchu. Just make sure to acclimate to Machu Picchu elevation before setting off on your trek.

However, if you’re more of the casual traveler, you can take the train to the station, then hop on a bus that will take you straight to the entrance. It might take away from the experience a bit, but it’s by far the easiest way to visit Machu Picchu.

You will need to consider the language barrier if you’re making a trip to Peru, as the spoken language is Spanish and can lead to difficulties if you’re unprepared.

Infographic with comparisons of Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain elevations in Cusco Peru

The Biggest Challenge Facing Machu Picchu

However, all these challenges pale compared to the biggest challenge facing those planning a trip to Machu Picchu, the fact that over-tourism is slowly destroying the site.

To aid in protecting the site, Peru has limited the number of tourists allowed to visit the site daily, banned flyovers, and is looking at restricting development around the site.

All of this is aiding to protect one of the most popular UNESCO world heritage sites, and it’s also making it far more difficult for visitors to gain access to the site.

Best Way to Experience Machu Picchu

When you’re looking for the ideal way to experience Machu Picchu, picking the time to visit is crucial. You need to keep in mind that Peru is in the Southern Hemisphere, meaning that winter is during June, July, and August. If you’re planning a trip during those months, make sure to pack plenty of warm clothing.

Those months are also the busiest time of the year to visit, so if you can either move up your trip to March, April, or May, or push it back to September, October, or November, you’ll get to experience the ruins with far fewer tourists.

Furthermore, you need to consider that January and February are peak seasons for landslides, meaning that if you do choose to visit during these months, you should not hike your way to the ruins. Just make sure to keep an eye on the current climate reports of the region.

Also, you should make the trip early in the morning or late in the evening. If you can get a time slot and make it to the ruins at 6:00 am, you’ll get to experience the sunrise from one of the most stunning vistas in the world – and explore the ruins with far fewer visitors. If you choose to go later – you can experience a breathtaking sunset from the mountain peak.

Best Way to Experience Machu Picchu With a Family

Although the Machu Picchu mountain range is near the Huayna Picchu mountain range, it can be a phenomenal family tourist destination if you take a little extra time to plan out your trip accordingly. There is a wide range of hotel accommodations in the town of Cusco – only a scenic train ride away from Machu Picchu.

Avoid the arduous hikes along the Inca Trail, and instead, focus on more manageable day trips with tours that cater to both children and adults. With that in mind, by far the best option for families is a day tour of Machu Picchu.

The tour is available for both guests and non-guests and comes specially tailored to keep both the little ones and the adults entertained for the entire trip. For more on this unique tour, opportunity check out our full breakdown below.

Top Tours of Machu Picchu You Don’t Want to Miss

One of the best ways to find tours of Machu Picchu citadel is by going through a trusted travel agency like Cachi Life. We offer a ton of tour options and are even willing to offer custom tours to meet your needs.

You can always search the web for other Peru tour options, but without a verified brand backing them, it’s hard to know if you’re getting a great deal or a terrible tour. The price range of top tours of Machu Picchu depends on what’s included and other extras.

Best Inca Trail/Machu Picchu Tour: Inca Trail Tours

It’s a four-day tour along the Inca Trail and provides you with everything you need from start to finish. The tour includes all lodging accommodations and food – although tourists should be aware that accommodations are tents.

This is the best all-inclusive package you can find if you’re looking to immerse yourself in the local culture, cuisine, and history. There are no minimum group sizes, and you can even get your own tent for an additional fee.

This means that your tour guide will be able to take the necessary time to answer your questions as you go, instead of you just being another face in the crowd. Because you complete most of the tour while hiking through trails, you need to be in moderately good shape to complete this tour.

Over the course of the tour, you’ll have to trek up to 26 miles, but the views and trails are well worth the exercise. This tour takes you to several iconic sights along the Inca Trail before concluding with a day at Machu Picchu.

Inca Trail Group on Dead Woman's Pass

Best Machu Picchu Day Trip Tour: Machu Picchu Tour

If you’re not up for all the hiking but want an amazing simple tour of Machu Picchu, this is a great option. They will pick you up from your hotel, as long it’s one of the select hotels chosen in Cusco (locally spelled Cuzco), take you to Machu Picchu via train and bus, and give you a guided tour of the ancient ruins when you get there.

The Vistadome train has panoramic glass windows for unrivaled views of the Andes. This train ride is not included in the price of the tour but is offered as an optional upgrade. It’s a full-day trip that includes your Machu Picchu ticket. However, the guided tour portion is only half the day, giving you the freedom to explore the Inca ruins on your own before heading out.

You will have to provide your own meals, but you will have tons of options to choose from in the local area! While this tour is less physically demanding then some of the multiple day options available, you still should be in moderately good shape if you plan on attending.

One of the most significant selling points of this tour is that the tour group sizes are limited, but no matter how small your group you can book a trip. Fewer travelers lets you get more time with your guides, ensuring that the tour guide can answer all of your questions.

A guide walking with two tourists on Machu Picchu, explaining the history

Best Alternative to the Inca Trail/Machu Picchu Tour: 5-Day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

While there is a limit to the number of visitors allowed on the Inca Trail at one time, no such limit exists for the Salkantay Trek. So, if you didn’t manage to get a ticket to the Inca Trail in time, you can still have a phenomenal adventure.

For a 5-day tour, all-inclusive tour, you can’t beat the price. The tour includes all meals and lodging, and they are able to meet most dietary requests. Furthermore, if you’re looking for your own tent or hotel room, we have options for that as well.

The longest single day’s hike is over 10-miles, so you need to be in moderately good shape before starting this tour. We provide a wide range of meal options included with the price of your tour.

Group of four hikers raising their hands sitting in front of straw huts

Best Machu Picchu Tour for Adventurers: Extreme Inca Tour/Machu Picchu

When you want to take a trip on the wild side, the Extreme Inca Tour is a phenomenal choice. This 4-day tour does more than just take you to some of the most iconic destinations in the world.

Mountain biking, ziplining, and white water rafting are just some of the adventures you can expect on this once-in-a-lifetime tour. Unlike some of the other hiking tours, this tour puts you in a high-quality hotel every night so you are refreshed and ready to go for the extreme adventure the next day.

Hot meals, hotel rooms, transportation to and from the hotel, and an English speaking guide are all included in the price of the tour. However, you will need to purchase a pass to the zipline experience and a white water rafting guide and gear. These prices are nominal but do need to be taken into consideration.

Road winding down a mountain on a cloudy day

What to Expect From a Tour of Machu Picchu

No matter the tour option you choose, you’ll need to be in good shape to enjoy it. Between the higher elevation and the arduous treks around the ruins in the cloud forest, you won’t be able to enjoy the journey without a higher level of physical fitness.

This is especially true for the multi-day treks around the Inca Trail, but you shouldn’t discount the strenuous nature of Machu Picchu by itself. Furthermore, all the top tours limit the number of visitors they accommodate in each tour, and the longer hiking treks offer porters for those that need them.

Furthermore, top tours offer meals that are a mix of both local and North American cuisine. Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in the local culture or need a taste home, they have you covered.

Additional Sightseeing to Combine with a Machu Picchu Tour

While Machu Picchu will likely be the highlight of your time in Peru, that doesn’t mean a Machu Picchu tour is the only thing you should do while you’re there. There are tons of great tourist options around Cusco, and you’d be remiss if you didn’t check out the travel highlights before planning your trip.

The Inca Trail

No guide of sightseeing tours to combine with Machu Picchu would be complete without mentioning the Inca Trail. Known to locals as the Sacred Valley, this classic Inca Trail trek is 26 miles long and offers breathtaking views along the way. In addition to Machu Picchu, you’ll also get to see the ancient town of Ollantaytambo which is nestled in the Sacred Valley.

While the most physically fit among us might be able to complete the trail up and down the mountains in a day, most visitors take several days to complete it.

The trail is limited to 500 people starting their trek each day. If you’re a part of a tour, they ensure that you’ll get a spot, making it one of the ideal ways to complete the trek. If the Inca trail is booked before you get there, the Salkantay Trek is a great alternative.

Peruvian Amazon

As you look over the mountain peaks near Machu Picchu, you can see the Peruvian Amazon via Manu National Forest. In fact, we offer a great tour that covers both iconic destinations.

You’ll be able to see the monkeys, sloths, exotic birds, and more as you travel on hikes and river safaris. They conclude the trip with a tour of Machu Picchu, making it one a once-in-a-lifetime tour that you’ll never forget.

While the Inca Trail rightfully gets tons of attention when someone brings up Machu Picchu, the Peruvian Amazon often gets overlooked. It’s a shame because it’s part of a unique adventure that ties the region together with unforgettable experiences.

Galapagos Islands

While the Galapagos Islands is 500 miles from Machu Picchu, it is in the same country, and it’s not hard to plan a trip that spans both locations. The Galapagos Islands offer a breath of ocean scenery and wildlife missing from other parts of the world. Take some time to relax on a Galapagos cruise after your arduous hike around Machu Picchu.

The best way to tour both the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu is to take a flight after visiting the islands to the Machu Picchu Airport.

Lake Titicaca

This stunning lake is the highest navigable lake in the world. It’s located between Bolivia and Peru. It offers unique accommodations on islands on the lake for homestays – although it’s a bit of a drive from the iconic Machu Picchu town of Aguas Calientes. If you can’t make it to Lake Titicaca – Lake Humantay is another great alternative.

Humantay Lake with turquoise water and blue sky with white clouds

The Final Verdict

Visiting Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail is the adventure of a lifetime. Taking the extra time to research the top tours, and sometimes saving the little extra money to push your trip over the top, is well worth it.

There are a ton of great options to visit the natural wonders around Peru, and the travel hub of Cusco is a great place to start. Whether you’re looking to make a repeat excursion or visit for the first time, take one of the top-rated tours of Machu Picchu to truly make your trip a once in a lifetime opportunity!

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