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jeterray May 27th, 2019 05:49 PM

Machu Picchu seasons
Considering an October. 2020, trip. When is "high season "? When is the best season to have reasonable weather while avoiding lots of tourists ? Thanks

Seamus May 27th, 2019 09:01 PM

Nothing is guaranteed, but October is the end of "high season" when chances of good visibility weather are best. November through March is the rainy season.

jeterray May 28th, 2019 04:23 PM

Thanks Seamus- Obviously this is early in this search, but I read that over tourism is a problem at Machu Picchu. The problems at Everest demonstrate what over tourism can do, although I doubt Machu Picchu is similar. How much walking is involved at Machu Picchu ?

Seamus May 28th, 2019 10:15 PM

At MP tourist throngs are controlled via timed access ticketing. I believe you have a two hour window to enter.

You can choose how much walking. The hardiest souls hike the Inca Trail through the Sacred Valley over several days, often starting at Ollaytantambo. Soft in the middle tourists like myself opt to take a bus from Aguas Calienetes for a 25 minute ride up the mountain to the entrance. (Buy your ticket in advance and you need your passport when purchasing.) Once inside MP the walking involves a few stair climbs but nothing horrible. On advice of some folks I met in Cusco who had previously been to MP I picked up a pair of walking sticks and was glad I did. That little extra point of support made it better. My very knowledgeable and attentive guide told me we could stop whenever I needed to catch my breath and quit whenever I wanted. I did stop briefly a few times to catch my breath, but as this was a bucket list thing I was determined to see it all, and did so.
All in all, worth the time and effort!

jeterray May 29th, 2019 03:50 PM

Thanks so much Seamus. How do you arrange a guide ? Do you do this online before you go, or at your hotel, or elsewhere ? We will likely use Marriott points to stay at Tambo del Inka, which advertises a private train, so I assume we get tickets with times there. Thanks

Seamus May 29th, 2019 10:05 PM

My guides at MP and in Cusco were arranged along with all hotels, entrance tickets and transportation by a great tour guide in Lima. I was referred to him by friends and he put together an itinerary based on what i wanted and did not want. It was one of the best travel experiences I've had - totally seamless from arrival to departure. He also provided everything at a cost at least 25% less than I saw anywhere else. I'd suggest you get in touch, let him know that you have Marriott points to use but would like other services. I bet he can put together an itinerary for you.

mlgb May 30th, 2019 07:32 PM

I like May better than October, it's dryer and the landscape will be green rather than brown. Early May to mid May is a bit less busy than later in the month.

You really don't need anyone to plan your trip for you, if you like to DIY. There are plenty of guidebooks and trip reports as well as virtually everyone has already been to Machu PIcchu so there are lots of sources for advice.

jeterray May 31st, 2019 11:56 AM

mlgb-thanks for the information. It seems that we can only go in April or October, 2020. Between those two months, which do you recommend ?

mlgb May 31st, 2019 02:58 PM

Originally Posted by jeterray (Post 16928367)
mlgb-thanks for the information. It seems that we can only go in April or October, 2020. Between those two months, which do you recommend ?

April and October are both transitional, I would say your rainfall and temperatures would be similar in either month. In April Peru Rail still runs bimodal service from Cusco (so travel from Cusco to Ollantaytambo is by bus, switching to a train in Ollantaytambo.) To avoid more tourists, you'd be wise to avoid Easter holidays, I expect.

The route from Urubamba is not affected by bimodal service. It is not a "private train" but is a different service, sold on PeruRail's website...about twice as expensive as the regular Vistadome, but includes some meals I believe.

mlgb May 31st, 2019 03:21 PM

For self-planning and booking, here are some recommended tips (cut and paste from my recent post). You can sub in Urubamba for Ollantaytambo if you want.

I've been to MP/Cusco twice. Machu Picchu is not especially high but Cusco in particular is on the edge of where many people start to have more dramatic effects other than always feeling out of shape walking up hill. Here are some tips and my recommended itinerary.

I'd recommend allowing at least 5 days as follows. But if you had a week or 8 days you'd be able to fill the time easily.

Day0 Fly into Lima. If your arrival is early enough, and you aren't too jetlagged or dehydrated, fly onward to Cusco. Most tickets from the US can be bought with Cusco included (within 24 hours) at minimal extra cost. If you miss your flight, there are many daily flights, so you should get on within the next day, but allow for a day's worth of travel delays.

Day 1 Fly to Cusco, then a transfer to the Sacred Valley (Ollantaytambo is most convenient) and no scheduled activities other than possibly some walking in the afternoon if you are feeling fine. Otherwise just rest. Remind yourselves to walk slowly (always a struggle for me getting off the plane), let someone else lift your luggage and have a prearranged ride waiting. Pick a hotel that has vehicle access (not all of them do). Have an Advil and some water handy for the drive in case you start to get a headache. It can take a few hours to creep up on you. Drink about 2L of water per person per day. I like hotels near the train station if you are leaving early to MP, especially the one on the platform (El Albergue). I prefer a hotel actually IN Ollantaytambo..many are on the outskirts. is a recommended transfer service, and many hotels in Ollantaytambo can also work out your transfers.

Day2 Local sightseeing in the Sacred Valley, and then another night at Hotel#1. Personally I have only done MP as a day trip but some people would go to Aguas Calientes for one or more overnights. It doesn't really matter. Although if you want to do a morning trip to the citadel on Day 3, take an afternoon train from Ollantayambo to Aguas Calientes and spend the night there for an early start. In March, still rainy season it's probably best to go in the morning.

Day3 If you haven't already arrived in Aguas Calientes the night before, take the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, bus up to the citadel and Half Day at Machu Picchu. There are no longer full day tickets, but you could also have an option to to buy another half day ticket either that day or the next. There isn't a whole lot to do in Aguas Calientes. When I went once in January, I was able to shift my entry and train times with enough notice based on weather forecasts (24hr notice was needed but check the fine print).

Day4 Train back to Ollantaytambo, taxi back to Cusco with some sightseeing such as Moray and the Salineras. Afternoon sightseeing in Cusco. Night in Cusco. Try to get a hotel on the flats near the Plaza de Armas to reduce uphill walking. Or again, one with vehicle access (again, not all hotels have that).

Day5 Morning sightseeing in Cusco and fly back to Lima the Day before your cruise. Even better, fly back TWO Days before the cruise and do a day's worth of Lima sightseeing.

Day6 Departure day. Morning in Lima (lots to see there). My favorite neighborhood is Barranco. For first-time visitors you can't beat the helpful desk staff at

I have never needed Diamox since I've always gone straight to Ollantaytambo and saved Cusco for the end. But if you have asthma, do talk to your doctor about what else you might need. I like the coca tea and eschew soroche pills. I take Pepto Bismol tabs as a tummy problem preventative, so Diamox and aspirin are out.

Many problems with altitude happen at night, and another tip is to avoid a big evening meal and alcohol. For dinner I'd have something like a cheese sandwich or quinoa soup. Big meal in the middle of the day. Bring some refillable water bottles since plastic trash is a huge problem and you'll be needing to drink bottled water. Some hotels have the big carboys for you to refill. (I even brush my teeth with bottled water other than in Lima).

One misconception that many visitors have is that they think they should stay in Cusco first, to acclimatize..that isn't the best approach for those not doing the Inca Trail. And many travel agencies are based in Cusco so by default if you go with a local agent, they often base you there. You can stay at lower elevations such as Ollantaytambo and Agua Calientes (they are still high, but not as high as Cusco). The Machu PIcchu archaeological site is about 1000 feet lower in elevation than Ollantayatambo, so staying at "Olly" does help you acclimate gradually with less stress than Cusco.
If you want, this is an easy enough trip to book yourselves. Especially in low season, there isn't any reason to send off money to a third party. All of the hotels are on etc, if they don't have their own websites.Peru Rail has outlets at both airports and at the Larcomar Plaza in LIma if you can't get their website to work from overseas. People do often have trouble with Peruvian websites when using US Visa credit cards, I've had better luck with Mastercard.

As you get closer to booking your trip..sure to browse Fodor's Trip Reports (kja's is quite detailed) as well as Tripadvisor (now that Fodors is so dead). You probably are too early to book anything now other than your cruise and airfare.

jeterray Jun 1st, 2019 07:22 AM

mlgb- my goodness what useful information. We will likely use Marriott points to stay at Tambo del Inka resort in Urubamba. The resort says it has a "private" railroad train at or near the hotel. Although it doesn't say, I assume from what has been posted that the train may be private only until it connects with the regular railroad in another town. Can't afford to take the Hiram Bingham "private" train. Anyone have any information on the train from Tambo del Inka in Urubamba ? This hotel sounds like a good place to acclimate for a day or two before going to MP. Like your idea of visiting Cusco on the last day. I didn't know about the altitude differences. Thanks to everyone for the information.

mlgb Jun 3rd, 2019 04:04 PM

Info on the Urubamba Train is on PeruRail's website. It's a direct train from Urubamba to Aguas Calientes. Called the Sacred Valley Train. Runs once per day only, 10:30 am and you don't get to town until 1:30 so wouldn't be up to the mountain until 2pm at the very earliest. The site closes at about 5:30 pm although IIRC they start "sweeping" at about 5 pm. So you'd barely have 3 hours there. Return train leaves at 7:30 pm...not a great schedule IMO. Something approximating $350 roundtrip. Per person. You can read about the service and decide if it's worth giving up 2 hours at Machu Picchu vs taking a taxi to Ollantaytambo and getting an earlier train such as the 10:32 Vistadome. Perhaps do that outbound and take the Urubamba train for the return.

Although in rainy season I do think it's better to go in the morning and not the afternoon.

kja Jun 5th, 2019 09:09 PM

@ mlgb: Thanks! :)

jeterray Aug 20th, 2019 06:20 AM

Slight change in subject, but about MP. We are planning on April, 2020. We are worried about altitude. We are in our mid-70's, but in very good health. mlgb made a recommendation to begin our stay in Ollantaytambo, instead of Cusco. We can stay there for a couple of days, before taking train to Aquas Caliente. In Ollantaytambo can we buy tickets for train; entrance to MP ? Can we arrange a guide ? I know we can do all this in Cusco. In April should we make these arrangements before we leave home. We prefer to be a bit flexible about when we visit MP, so it would be nice to make arrangements when we get there. If it rains one day, we can go the next. Thanks so much for the advice of experienced people.

Treesa Aug 20th, 2019 09:11 AM
MP in December.

crellston Aug 20th, 2019 11:46 AM

Most people will book tickets in advance, usually way in advance for both MP entrance and the train. April is towards the end of the rainy season/beginning of the dry and the busy tourist season will yet to have kicked in.

Even in Aguas Calientes, it is really difficult to determine what the weather will be like at MP so you will probably gain little by leaving it till you arrive in Cusco. To maximise chances, some people will book two nights in Aguas Calientes and pay two visits to MP.

MP can be booked online at: and the train @

As far as altitude and acclimatisation is concerned, older people general fare better than younger people. Going straight to Ollantaytambo will help a lot as it is lower than Cusco which is where most will feel the altitude the most. It is also a pleasant town with some of the best preserved ruins in Peru.

Some photos on our [email protected] on our first visit we went for a day and enjoyed it so much we were there for over a month!

Guides are available at the entrance to MP and can be picked up on arrival.

kja Aug 20th, 2019 07:32 PM

Re: altitude -- although many sources suggest that older people are less susceptible to altitude sickness than younger people, other research suggests that there is no difference or that if there is a difference, it's limited to rapid ascents. So although I hate to disagree with crellston, and although I'm no expert, I would consult your physician (or a travel specialist), and I would make sure to discuss any conditions that are associated with altitude sickness (check the CDC website), as well as the option of using Diamox or other preventive medicine. And make sure that your hotels have oxygen on hand.

I agree with mlgb and crellston that beginning in Ollayntaytambo rather than Cusco makes a lot of sense -- it's higher than Machu Picchu, but not as high as Cusco.

When I visited, I was worried about rain, and so I bought tickets for Machu Picchu for two different days -- one afternoon and the next morning. That worked well for me, but then, I spent the night in Aguas Calientes, and I was willing to pay for the extra ticket to make sure I didn't miss out on this wonderful destination. In recent years, the growth in the number of tourists visiting Machu Picchu at any time of year has been exponential, so I must admit that I wouldn't wait until I was in the area to make my reservations -- even if I had to eat the cost -- but that's just me. I think you have to weigh the cost of the tickets and loss of flexibility against the possibility of not being able to get a ticket.

When I went (May of 2018), it was easy to get a guide at the entrance to the site -- and I definitely recommend working with one! I've heard, though, that there's an effort to make hiring a guide obligatory and part of the ticket cost, so be sure you know what applies for the time you go.

patandhank Dec 25th, 2019 12:02 PM

Some great tips. Bookmarking

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