What is the recommended duration for a visit to Machu Picchu?
If you are touring Peru for the first time, you are probably considering whether it is worth doing a trip to Machu Picchu. And let us start by reassuring you. Visiting the legendary lost city of the Incas is worth every penny and time spent. Indeed, because of its mysterious history as well as its spectacular mountainous location, Machu Picchu has earned the title of being both a UNESCO world heritage site as well as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. In fact, Machu Picchu has become so popular among tourists in the recent years that the Peruvian government has had to put both restrictions on the number of daily visitors as well as the amount of time you can spend inside the citadel. The obvious question to ask yourself is therefore not whether your journey around Peru should include a trip to Machu Picchu. Rather you should ask yourself how many days you want set aside to properly explore this truly magnificent, historical site. This blog post provides a short description of different things that are worth taking into consideration when planning a trip to Machu Picchu. Our hope is that this can help you to decide how much time you personally deem sufficient for your visit.
The different types of entry tickets
The first thing to understand about Machu Picchu is that there are different types of entry tickets. The most basic one gives access to the main grounds and allows you to spend 3-4 hours at the site, typically in the company of a hired guide. This is the option chosen by the majority of visitors, and indeed many find this sufficient time to absorb the atmosphere of the place. However, if you want to get the full Machu Picchu experience it is worth looking at other ticket options too. Indeed, there are two other, slightly more pricy ticket options, which on top of access to the main grounds also gives access to climb either the Huayna Picchu or the Machu Picchu mountain. As these mountains offer spectacular views over the site, many consider these options highly worth it. The number of tickets allowing access to these two mountains are however restricted to 400 and 800 per day, respectively, so you might need to book them well in advance.
The time of the day for your visit
A second thing that is worth taking into consideration is what time of the day you would like to visit Machu Picchu. With the site opening at 6am and closing at 5pm there is a whole range of time slots available for entry. In general, we recommend entering on either one of the early or late time slots, as this allows you to avoid the biggest waves of tourists, while also giving the opportunity to enjoy the place in the light of the early morning sun or around sunset.
The weather at Machu Picchu
A third thing to consider is the weather at Machu Picchu. If you are visiting the site outside the dry season there is a risk that your experience will be negatively impacted by the unpredictable, cloudy and rainy Andean weather. Setting aside more days for your visit will minimize the risk of this.
So how many days should you allocate to visit Machu Picchu? As written in the beginning, this is ultimately up to you. However, based on the above it is clear that there are plenty of ways to visit Machu Picchu, each offering their own unique experiences and benefits. We therefore recommend that you set aside at least two days to properly explore the wonders of this magnificent place. The best way to do this is to reserve one or more overnight stays in Aguas Calientes, which is the small town serving as the gate to Machu Picchu. Doing so will provide you with plenty of time to visit the site both during the early morning hours and late afternoon hours while also minimizing the risk of having your visit negatively impacted by the weather conditions.