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Backpacking Machu Picchu: Everything You Need To Know

Tierras Vivas Travel > Backpacking Machu Picchu: Everything You Need To Know

Backpacking Machu Picchu: Everything You Need To Know

Peru is a huge country involving many climates and micro-climates as it covers territory from the equatorial zone, coastal areas, mountain ranges as well as the Amazon Rainforest that represents 1/3 of the whole country!! Apart of this geographical richness, there can be found a huge number of monuments of pre-Colombian civilizations such as the adobe city of Chan Chan (the Chimu civilization), the Huaca del Sol y Luna (the Moche civilization), the fortress of Kuelap (the Chachapoyas culture), Caral – the oldest city of both Americas of the same named culture, huge petroglyphs of Nazca Lines (Nazca culture), the New Wonder of the World – Machu Picchu (the Inca’s culture) and loads of more!!

You can organize all your trips employing a travel agency or in a backpacking way!

Backpacking Trip Machu Picchu

If you like to save on your Machu Picchu tour, a great way to do so is to take a Machu Picchu train tour or Machu Picchu by car tour.

The most expensive way on how to reach Machu Picchu is to participate in some of Inca Trail tours (2 days, 4 days or 7 days of length). However, if you like trekking and you would not like to miss the opportunity to hike towards the Incan citadel, then you can try some of alternative treks to Machu Picchu such as the Lares Trek (4 days), the Salkantay Trek (4 or 5 days) or Inca Jungle Trek (4 days). These treks are much more economic as there is not necessary a special permit to enter their routes. It makes it a perfect option for backpackers loving trekking!

Backpacking Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu

Except Machu Picchu backpacking travel, backpackers have a big offer of other adrenaline activities to do in Peru, for example, horseback riding or ATV (above Cusco or in the nearby Sacred Valley of the Incas), paragliding (Sacred Valley), canoeing or kayaking (Apurimac River Canyon, Titicaca Lake), rafting (Sacred Valley or Apurimac River Canyon), zip-line (near Machu Picchu) and canopy (Manu National Park or near Machu Picchu), surfing (northern Peru), etc. You can find almost each adrenaline sport in Peru!

Among adrenaline sports can be also counted a visit of the Amazon Rainforest as it offers plenty of adrenaline meeting dangerous animals on the way! There, you can see pumas, snakes, insects or caimans during night jungle excursions! Obviously, you can also observe non-dangerous animals such as monkeys, tapirs, sloths, loads of birds, etc. Last but not least what you can see there is huge Amazon flora richness that you cannot view in any other place of the planet! Not surprisingly the Amazon is called the “Lungs of the World”! There is a big variety of cheap tours offering a visit to Manu. The most economic are of 2-4 days. Longer tours are basically more expensive because their departures are not on a daily basis and there is less persons interested in them!

What you need to know when you do Machu Picchu backpacking:

1) If you like to get to Machu Picchu by train, there are two railway companies:

  • Peru Rail
  • Inca Rail
Backpacking Peru Machu Picchu
Train to Machu Picchu

Peru Rail´s cheapest class is called Expedition; the cheapest class of the Inca Rail is “Turista”. Other classes do not suit to a backpacker´s budget.
If you like to save some money, buy your train ticket a couple of days (or weeks) in advance. This is because closer to a departure date, prices of tickets increase! You can board a train at two railway stations: in Cusco (Wanchaq) or in Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley of the Incas). The ladder is cheaper! To get to Ollantaytambo from Cusco, take a local taxi called “Colectivo”, a shared taxi with other persons so that it is economic.

2) If your budget is too tight, you can choose the option of visiting Machu Picchu by car. Buses and smaller vehicles leave only from Cusco, you can ask at any travel agency to help you as they organize these trips for a cheap price. The advantage of this way for Machu Picchu backpackers is that is really cheap; however, the disadvantage is the time as a travel takes 8 hours only to Hidroelectric and from there you need to either take a train to Aguas Calientes or walk for other 2-3 hours along trails. The same is valid for the return so that you do not visit Machu Picchu for much time.

3) Accommodation: There is a big number of hotels and hostels of each category and price in Aguas Calientes (the town just below Machu Picchu), backpacker´s hostels including! You can find there, for instance, the Supertramp Hostel that will suit to your backpacking budget!

4) Tickets to Machu Picchu: You can choose one of the following options:

  • “Only” Machu Picchu,
  • Machu Picchu + climb to Machu Picchu Mountain
  • Machu Picchu + climb to Huayna Picchu
  • Machu Picchu + its museum


Machu Picchu Backpacking
Huayna Picchu

Machu Picchu Mountain and Huayna Picchu are peaks above the Incan citadel serving to take some panoramic photos of Machu Picchu! They both need to be book well in advance (a month or more is recommended) to secure your climb and some lovely photos of this site!

5) The most important things to not forget to take:

  • PASSPORT! (It will be checked in the entrance and you will not be allowed to enter without it!!)
  • Insect repellent
  • Sun protection cream.

You should know that you need to reserve at least a month to enjoy backpacking in Peru in full! Peru is huge and it takes some time to get from a site to another site. Anyway, when you leave Peru, you will always have a feeling that there are many sights that you have not seen yet and you should return!!

What I wish I knew before hiking to Machu Picchu

That sounds like an exciting adventure! Machu Picchu is a world-renowned archaeological site located in Peru, and it’s a popular destination for backpackers and travelers from all over the globe. To help you plan your backpacking trip to Machu Picchu, here are some essential tips and information:

Backpacking Peru Budget
Hiking to Machu Picchu

Research and Plan Ahead: Before embarking on your trip, conduct thorough research on Machu Picchu, its history, entry regulations, weather conditions, and any permits required. Make sure to plan your itinerary well in advance, including transportation, accommodation, and activities.

Choose the Right Time to Visit: The best time to visit Machu Picchu is during the dry season, which typically runs from May to September. These months offer more stable weather and fewer chances of rain, making it ideal for trekking and exploring the site.

Obtain the Necessary Permits: If you plan to hike the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you’ll need to secure permits well in advance. There are limited spots available, and they tend to sell out quickly. Alternatively, you can consider other trekking options like the Salkantay Trek or the Lares Trek.

Acclimatize to the Altitude: Machu Picchu is located at a high altitude, and you may experience altitude sickness if you’re not accustomed to it. Spend a few days in Cusco or other high-altitude locations before heading to Machu Picchu to help your body acclimate.

Pack Wisely: Since you’ll be backpacking, pack light but make sure to carry essential items such as comfortable clothing, sturdy hiking shoes, a rain jacket, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, a water bottle, snacks, and a basic first aid kit.

Book Accommodations in Advance: Accommodation options in Aguas Calientes (the town closest to Machu Picchu) can fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons. Book your accommodation well in advance to secure your preferred stay.

Experience Sunrise at Machu Picchu: Watching the sunrise over Machu Picchu is a magical experience. Consider arriving early in the morning to witness the breathtaking view and beat the crowds.

Respect the Site: Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s essential to be respectful of the historical and cultural significance of the place. Follow the rules and guidelines set by the authorities to preserve the site for future generations.

Stay Hydrated and Safe: During your hike or exploration, stay hydrated by carrying enough water and take regular breaks if needed. Also, be cautious on the trails and follow safety instructions to avoid accidents.

Enjoy the Journey: Machu Picchu is not just about the destination; it’s about the journey. Take your time to soak in the stunning landscapes, immerse yourself in the local culture, and create lasting memories.

Remember to check for any updates on regulations, transportation, and safety measures since conditions may change over time. Have a fantastic backpacking trip to Machu Picchu and enjoy every moment of this extraordinary adventure!

Hiking tours to Machu Picchu

Many are the routes that take you to Machu Picchu, but none is like the Inca Trail Tours, the most famous pedestrian path in the Americas. After flying from the capital of Perú, Lima, you will arrive in Cusco to walk for four days along a path through forests and dense fog, millenary stone steps and discovering the ruins of ancient fortifications and Inca cities, and all the time enjoying majestic views.

If you want to visit Machu Picchu, we recommend you to book your Machu Picchu Ticket in advance, so you will enjoy your Vacation in Machu Picchu without any problem.

When is the best time to hike to Machu Picchu?

The best season is during the dry season, which covers the months April to the end of September. In October the rains begin and you can find Machu Picchu covered by clouds. If you travel in June, we recommend you to book the Inti Raymi Tour that takes place in June 24th, and also hike the Palcoyo Mountain Tour, which is an incredible Rainbow Mountain located in the Andes.

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