machu picchu tours

The Best Machu Picchu Tours (For Every Budget)

Machu Picchu is an unforgettable destination on the bucket lists of many travelers, but it can often be intimidating when planning a Machu Picchu visit or even selecting a Machu Picchu tour. 

This is a trip you want to make sure you do your research for – not only is it logistically challenging to get to Machu Picchu, but the Machu Picchu trip cost is often quite high. 

Regardless of your travel budget, I also recommend visitors book a tour of this historic site as part of their Machu Picchu trips. Here there is so much to see and take in, and so much you’ll miss out on or gloss over without the insight of an experienced guide.

This is our ultimate guide to the best Machu Picchu tours you’ll find, including Machu Picchu tours from Cusco and Machu Picchu tours from Lima.

We’re sharing our best tips for everything from a  simple, budget-friendly Machu Picchu day trip from Cusco to the luxurious and first class with the best Machu Picchu tour operators.

machu picchu luxury tour

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Machu Picchu Trips

There are plenty of ways to visit Machu Picchu – everything from a multi-day trek to reach the Lost City, to a luxury all-inclusive visit with private guides. However you envision your perfect Machu Picchu trip, these are some of the questions you should find answers to before you start planning.

What is the Best Month to go to Machu Picchu?

It’s generally best to aim to visit Machu Picchu during the dry season, which is when you can expect the best weather at Machu Picchu.

During the rainy season, certain trekking routes and highways close down, making it more challenging – or sometimes impossible – to visit Machu Picchu.

The dry season generally starts in April and ends in October. Though you’re not guaranteed beautiful weather if visiting in these months, you’re likely to have at least partially clear conditions.

Crowds are at their largest during the summer months – June, July, and August. I visited Machu Picchu during this time, and the crowds were certainly large. However, Machu Picchu is so stunning and so beautiful that the size of the crowds didn’t take away from the experience for me.

If you can, try to visit at the start or the end of the dry season, like April or May, or September or October, to have the best chance for great weather with lesser crowds. You’ll also find better deals on Machu Picchu tours and Machu Picchu travel packages.

How Many Days Do You Need for Machu Picchu?

Most visitors just spend one day in Machu Picchu, taking advantage of just needing to purchase one ticket to Machu Picchu. You’ll want to set aside several hours to properly explore the site – it’s much larger than you might think!

If you’re visiting in just one day, as a day trip from Cusco, make sure to leave Cusco as early as you can. Make a point to get up quite early to depart for Machu Picchu. It takes around 4.5 hours to reach Machu Picchu, and you’ll want to get there with as much time as possible to enjoy the site.

The very best way to enjoy the site in one day is to spend the night in Aguas Calientes, the small town at the base of Machu Picchu. You’ll be able to wake up early, catch the 25-minute bus up the mountain to the entrance of Machu Picchu, and enjoy as much time there during the day as you’d like.

If you can fit it into your itinerary and budget, visiting Machu Picchu over the course of two days is better. You’ll have ample time to explore, hike around, and even hike Huayna Picchu if you want.

If you want to visit over the course of two days, stay overnight in Aguas Calientes – despite being such a small town, it’s packed with great hotels. This will give you a chance to be one of the first visitors to Machu Picchu in the morning, where you can enjoy the sunrise.

You’ll need two separate entrance tickets to Machu Picchu to visit over the course of two days, but it’s worth it! This is how I visited the site, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. 

Where to Stay in Aguas Calientes:

Machu Picchu Packing List

Don’t prepare for your trip without reading out ultimate Machu Picchu Packing List. We’ve listed everything you’ll need for the day of, and the rest of your Peru trip. 

How Long Does it Take to Walk Around Machu Picchu?

You can get a good overview of the highlights of Machu Picchu in 2 or 3 hours if you’re visiting with a guide. However, I wouldn’t recommend spending such a short time at Machu Picchu without booking a guide

If you only have a few short hours to spend at Machu Picchu, a guide will lead you to exactly where you need to go to see the highlights – no fumbling with a map or getting lost among the ruins.

You’ll have time to explore the site independently on your own afterward, but spending at least the first part of your time in Machu Picchu with a guide guarantees you’ll see the highlights.

To fully enjoy and experience the site as best as possible, I’d recommend spending at least 5 hours or more at Machu Picchu. Part of the experience of exploring the Lost City of the Incas comes from exploring, wandering, and taking in the views from every angle… and that takes time to do.

If you’re planning on hiking Huayna Picchu during your visit, you’ll need 2-3 hours just for this hike. This doesn’t include actually exploring the site itself! Make sure you save time to explore the ruins.

With this in mind, I’d recommend anyone who wants to hike Huayna Picchu spend either the night before or the night after in Aguas Calientes – to travel from Cusco would just be too long of a day.

Do You Need a Guide for Machu Picchu?

It isn’t required to enter Machu Picchu with a guide. However, having a guide for at least a portion of your time in Machu Picchu will greatly enhance your experience in this bucket list destination.

Here are our top recommendations for guided Machu Picchu tours from Aguas Calientes – perfect for short visits to the site:

If you’re planning on just spending 2-3 hours or a bit more in Machu Picchu, having a guide is practically necessary to be able to efficiently visit all of the major destinations within the ruins.

They’ll lead you directly from place to place, explain what you’re seeing and why it’s so important within the complex, and also give you some time to explore on your own.

Even if you’re visiting for a longer time, or over the course of two days, a guide provides incredible insight into this mysterious destination that you won’t have if you just explore on your own.

machu picchu tour from lima

Machu Picchu Trip Cost

It can be notoriously challenging to estimate the cost of a Machu Picchu trip. There are a lot of variables that add up to the total Machu Picchu trip cost, mostly having to do with the logistically challenging aspect of reaching this destination.

You’ll need to factor in the costs of a few legs of the journey to reach Machu Picchu:

  • Travel to Cusco, the largest city in the Sacred Valley
  • Travel from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the small town just below Machu Picchu
  • Travel from Aguas Calientes up the mountain to the entrance of Machu Picchu (by 25-minute bus ride)

These costs can be extremely variable – from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. You’ll find everything from (relatively) inexpensive ways to reach Machu Picchu, all the way to luxury transportation options.

These are some of the fixed costs also contribute to your visit:

Regardless of your travel budget and how much you choose to spend on visiting this bucket list destination, plan to book as much in advance as possible.

Tickets often need to be secured months in advance if you travel during the high season, and once they’re sold out – they’re sold out! 

What Does a Machu Picchu Tour Cost?

Tours of Machu Picchu vary in cost, mostly based on how inclusive they are of the various costs of reaching the site. When booking a Machu Picchu tour, make sure to check to see if your tour covers these costs:

If your Machu Picchu tour doesn’t include these costs, make sure to secure your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu (you can do so through this link!) prior to booking your Machu Picchu tour.

Bus tickets from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu are always available, though if you purchase your bus ticket in advance you’ll be able to make sure you get there when you want.

I recommend booking a Machu Picchu tour that includes your Machu Picchu entrance ticket and transportation from Aguas Calientes as part of the cost.

It is much easier to have your guide take care of these aspects in advance for you, and you won’t run in to issues of tickets selling out.

Where to Stay in Aguas Calientes

machu picchu tour from cusco

Best Machu Picchu Tour Operators

There are countless Machu Picchu Tour Operators based all around the country and offering a wide array of Machu Picchu tours at different price points.

The largest concentration is located in Cusco, the gateway city to Machu Picchu, where you’ll find plenty of tour offices.

These are some of the best Machu Picchu tour operators, known for their excellent tours, professionalism, and well-informed guides.

Happy Gringo Tours

Happy Gringo Tours is my top recommendation for a one-day all-inclusive tour of Machu Picchu from Cusco. They include the cost of entering Machu Picchu, all transportation, exploring the site with a guide, and bus tickets from Aguas Calientes.

Peru Selected Trips

Peru Selected Trips is my top recommendation for multi-day tours of Machu Picchu (including an overnight in Aguas Calientes) and combined tours with other Incan ruins in the Sacred Valley.

Check out this 2-day tour of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley – this one is a favorite! They offer a wide array of tours that you can easily customize to fit your interests.

TreXperience

TreXperience is best known for their Machu Picchu hiking tours, like the Inca Trail and Salkantay Trek, but they also offer excellent day tours of Machu Picchu from Cusco.

They offer everything from a simple, no-frills but informative guided tour of Machu Picchu to a luxury first-class Machu Picchu trip.

Plus, make sure to book with TreXperience for the best mid-range classic 4-day Inca Trail trek!

Where to Stay in Cusco

Machu Picchu Tours

There is no shortage of tour offerings for visiting Machu Picchu. From basic, no-frills tours through the ruins with guides to much more extensive guided experiences to Machu Picchu and nearby Incan ruins, you can truly find anything you can possibly imagine.

Generally, you’ll find three general types of Machu Picchu tours:

  • Machu Picchu tours from Aguas Calientes, the small town just below Machu Picchu
  • Machu Picchu tours from Cusco
  • Machu Picchu travel packages from Lima, Cusco, or other major Peruvian cities

Next, we’re diving into a bit more detail about these different types of tours and what you can expect from each – plus, our top tour recommendations with excellent tour companies.

Machu Picchu Tours from Aguas Calientes

Tours of Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes tend to be the least expensive, though not necessarily lower quality.

You’ll find more inclusive tours that include Machu Picchu entrance tickets, transportation from Aguas Calientes to the site, guide, and more. You’ll also find just the standard and basic trip through the ruins with a tour guide.

Here are our top recommendations for both types of experiences – these are with great companies that run tons of unique tours here:

Machu Picchu Tours from Cusco

Day trips from Cusco to Machu Picchu – about four and a half hours away – are by far the most common Machu Picchu tours you’ll find. These are my top recommendation for travelers who don’t have a lot of time in their itineraries and want to enjoy Machu Picchu as much as possible.

If you can’t stay overnight in Aguas Calientes before or after visiting Machu Picchu, choosing a day trip from Cusco is definitely the right option for you.

Most include the cost of your Machu Picchu ticket in the price of the tour, though you’ll want to double check to be safe.

We really recommend the tour company Happy Gringo and their Machu Picchu tour from Cusco – it’s very well done and a great value, inclusive of your ticket, all transportation, and guide.

You’ll also find multi-day tours from Cusco that usually include a full day at Machu Picchu as well as visits to some of the other spectacular Incan ruins throughout the Sacred Valley.

Peru Selected Trips (one of the best!) has an excellent multi-day trip from Cusco to Machu Picchu and throughout the Sacred Valley:

Machu Picchu Tours from Lima

The distance from Lima to Machu Picchu makes it impossible to spend a day trip visiting Machu Picchu. If you only have just a short time and want to see Machu Picchu from Lima, book a flight from Lima to Cusco and a full day trip with Happy Gringo from Cusco (Day Trip Tour to Machu Picchu from Cusco) – this is the best way to go!

If time isn’t a concern, but you’re looking for the convenience of an organized tour from Lima, you will find several Machu Picchu vacation packages that include visits to the best of Peru that depart from Lima.

Ranging anywhere from four or five days and up, this is a great option if you’d like to travel with ease and just enjoy the trip while your tour company takes care of the details.  

Here are some recommended Machu Picchu tours from Lima that include visits to the very best of Peru destinations.

Travel Essential

Don’t head out on your adventure without making sure you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover you! Good travel insurance will cover lost or stolen gear, medical emergencies, delayed or canceled flights, and much more. Check out the policies available from World Nomads, the most flexible and affordable travel insurance we’ve found, or compare plans with Visitors Coverage

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Machu Picchu Hiking Tours

If you’re looking to hike while at Machu Picchu, you’ll certainly have the chance. You can do plenty of hiking around Machu Picchu, and just exploring the site itself can be a hike!

Give yourself plenty of time at the site to hike around. However, there are also several popular hikes that relate to visiting Machu Picchu.

One of the most popular hikes at Machu Picchu is the hike to Huayna Picchu. The mountainous peak towering over the Machu Picchu site offers an incredible view over the ruins, and is a moderate trek. Only 400 visitors are allowed daily, so you MUST book in advance to secure your ticket.

You can book a two-in-one Machu Picchu admission ticket and Huayna Picchu admission ticket to make sure you secure your ticket in advance to be one of the few to embark on this incredible hike.

If you’re looking for even more hiking, consider embarking on one of the multi-day treks to reach Machu Picchu that are popular with travelers – the Inca Trail and the Salkantay Trek

If you’re interested in booking these treks, here are my trek recommendations with the beloved TreXperience tour group:

Machu Picchu Luxury Tours

If you want to travel to Machu Picchu in style, there are plenty of ways to do so! Trains that bring visitors to Aguas Calientes range from rather basic to luxury, with the Hiram Bingham Train being a first class, luxury train and a travel experience in its own right.

If you’re looking for Machu Picchu luxury tours, these experiences organized by the Belmond group of hotels on the Hiram Bingham first class train are your best bet.

Travel Essential

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Inca Trail Tours

If you’re looking for an unforgettable way to visit Machu Picchu but aren’t up for visiting via bus or train, hiking the Inca Trail – or embarking on the lesser-known Salkantay Trek – might be perfect for you. 

You’ll get to enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll ever see, anywhere, and save Machu Picchu for an incredible finale to your trek. It makes the whole experience even better than you could ever imagine.

While these multi-day treks (the classic Inca Trail is completed in 4 days) are pricey, it’s a bucket list travel experience that is well worth the money – I’ve never meet anyone who has completed the trek and said otherwise!

The tour company TreXperience is the best at these treks, and I highly recommend booking with them. They offer excellent mid-range treks that are well worth the money. You can check out more about these treks here:

Inca Trail Packing List

Check out our Ultimate Inca Trail Packing List for the ultimate guide to help you pack your bag for the Inca Trail – plus, what you shouldn’t bring on the trek!