By Allie E. Almario
As Travel + Leisure’s Top Travel Advisor or Peru, I’m happy to share some of my favorite tried and true recommendations for designing the perfect dream trip to Machu Picchu. There are so many different recommendations that choosing the right time of year to go, how much time to spend at the ruins, and where to stay while exploring the area can be overwhelming. Let’s break down the basics.
1. When to go
High or peak season for Peru is May to October, known as the dry season. May and September are usually the best months for overall weather. Most popular times to travel are July and August, due to North American and European trends. At the end of June and at the end of July are two major festivals and holidays that create lots of hotel demand and higher than normal pricing. January to March can be quite rainy, but it also means less crowds.
Make sure you spend enough time acclimating to the high altitude in Cusco and the Sacred Valley, the two most popular must-go spots on itineraries before arriving into Machu Picchu. We recommend spending at least three days exploring both areas to enjoy the best Incan sites and local culture and to give yourself time to get used to the high altitude. Never underestimate the benefits of a well-paced trip when you’re spending time above 10,000 feet!
If you prefer to travel on the first-class train, you will depart from either Cusco or the Sacred Valley in the morning, arriving in time at Aguas Calientes for a wonderful lunch. From there, it’s about 30-45 minutes on a shuttle bus to the entrance of Machu Picchu. Timed entries into the ruins themselves are designed to avoid overcrowding, so you’ll have the entire afternoon for your private guided tour of Machu Picchu.
We’ll also provide a round-trip ticket for your shuttle the next day, as well as entry fees and a bucket list hiking permit to one of the famed peaks of either Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu.
3. Overnight at Aguas Calientes
We highly recommend overnighting at one of the many fabulous hotels in Aguas Calientes, the small village located just below the ruins of Machu Picchu. You can choose to stay at one of several small, boutique-style inns right on the main street with easy access to shops and restaurants.
There are several luxury options for travelers as well. Choose from balcony suites overlooking the rushing Urubama River or upscale private casitas or villas, complete with private butlers.
And the most splurge-worthy hotel? The iconic Sanctuary Lodge, perched just below the mountains of Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu and the ONLY hotel at the ruins. You’re paying for location, location, location. Choose to upgrade to a room with a private terrace or a suite.
If you follow these recommendations, you’ll be heading in the right direction for choosing the perfect Machu Picchu dream itinerary.