Machu Picchu will live in my memory as one of the most magical places I’ve ever visited … and most likely one of the most magical on Earth. The photographs I brought back are some of my favorites, and I can’t recommend the trip – and the entire country of Peru – highly enough.
Although much of the Inca’s beautiful history and culture was wiped out by the Spanish centuries ago, much of it remains in the Quechua.
These people represent about 45 percent of the Peruvian population, and their traditional ways of life are similar in many ways to their ancestors.
Of course, we can also see traces of the Inca in their beautiful ruins: “One of the few major pre-Columbian ruins found nearly intact, Machu Picchu was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983,” explains Encyclopedia Brittanica.
“Although the site escaped detection by the Spaniards, it may have been visited by the German adventurer Augusto Berns in 1867,” the encyclopedia adds.
“However, Machu Picchu’s existence was not widely known in the West until it was ‘discovered’ in 1911 by the Yale University professor Hiram Bingham, who was led to the site by Melchor Arteaga, a local Quechua-speaking resident.”
Most archeologists think the site was built for Emperor Pachacuti, who lived from 1438 to 1472. Today, the site is fabulously well-preserved and ready to welcome tourists with open arms.
Read Next: Average Cost of a Trip to Peru in 2023
Average Trip to Machu Picchu Cost in 2023
An average one-week trip to Machu Picchu for two people will cost around $4,700:
- Average Accommodation Cost: $100 per night
- Average Flight Cost: $1,200 per person
- Food, Drink & Activities: $75 per person, per day
- Transportation: $500 total
- Total Cost: $4,700
Happily, Peru is a very affordable country. With a developing economy to which tourism contributes 7% of the GDP, Peru is highly motivated to make travel a fabulous experience for visitors.
As such, the nation is well-networked, very supportive of its archaeological sites (many of which see ongoing restoration efforts), and very warm to tourists.
On your way to Machu Picchu, you will likely fly into Cusco (alternatively spelled Cuzco), which is a fascinating historical destination in its own right.
If you wish, you can combine these destinations with other archeological sites, such as Ollantaytambo, and Pisac. Of course, adventures of a lifetime do cost money. Let’s take a look at how you can make the whole thing affordable below!
Machu Picchu Trip Cost: Average by Item
The average cost of a trip to Machu Picchu depends on many factors. If you travel during the high season, like fancy dinners, buy lots of souvenirs, and book a tour every day, you’ll obviously pay more.
If you enjoy walking and free sightseeing, are happy eating at hole-in-the-wall restaurants and snacking on the go, and stay in more affordable rooms, you can save significantly. The below costs are averages meant to help you save where you can and have the best trip possible.
The first thing to know about staying at Machu Picchu is … you can’t actually stay at Machu Picchu. There is only one hotel in (or rather, right outside of) the Lost City.
It’s called Sanctuary Lodge, and if you can afford it … well, please take me with you. At around $2,000 a night, though, I’m guessing neither of us will be staying there.
Instead, plan to bunk down in Aguas Calientes, the thriving town at the foot of Machu Picchu. It is a charming testament to Peruvian culture, flavors, colors, and history – as well as the fact that tourism is alive and well in this country.
There is plenty of lodging at a range of rates, so you’ll have your choice of costs and amenities.
If you want to do Aguas Calientes on the cheap, you can find rooms for around $50 a night. Such 3-star hotels still offer WiFi, a hot tub, laundry, and a continental breakfast.
If you want to spend more like $100 or $125, you’ll get air conditioning, an airport shuttle, and pet-friendly accommodations – for those who can’t travel without their furry friends.
Plan on spending about $100 a night for a nice, comfortable stay with AC and lots of food options on-site. This is a representative cost for other cities in Peru as well – including Lima and Cusco, which many people come through when traveling to Machu Picchu.
If you’re looking to save, you can shave some money off of this budget category!
The average cost of a flight from the United States through the Cusco – the nearest airport to Machu Picchu – is about $1,000 from a major hub in the United States.
If you’re coming from a regional airport, expect to pay a few hundred more. On average, plan for about $1,200 per person for a ticket.
Food, Drink & Activity Costs
Going to Machu Picchu itself is pretty affordable. Entrance to Machu Picchu alone costs $60 for foreigners, $35 if you’re a student (must be under 25 years old).
If you combine Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu (the giant peak you see in photos), you’ll pay $78 as an international visitor and $54 as a student. Children and students cost the same.
Some people choose to spend more than one day at the site to make sure they really see it all. This is especially compelling if you plan to hike Huayna Picchu (see below for more information on that).
Most, however, find that one day is enough. Since there’s lots of to do in Aguas Calientes, you won’t have “wasted” a trip if you come all the way there and only spend a day at the ruins.
For instance, the market at Aguas Calientes is a hoppin’ place where you can find lots of local wares. Wandering the streets is a great time, and you’ll stumble upon lots of delightful restaurants.
Because food is inexpensive, and because there’s so much to do that doesn’t require a tour, you can get by perfectly well on about $75 a day.
To visit Machu Picchu, you’ll need to first travel to Peru. Most people fly into Lima, then to Cusco, then spend a few days there acclimating to the high elevation. You can easily walk anywhere you want to go in town.
Once you’re done seeing this colonial city, it’s time to head to the real fun. Taking the train to Machu Picchu is an activity in its own right, with absolutely glorious views of mountain ranges, orchid-bedecked trees, and the Sacred Valley.
Take the Vistadome train for an amazing experience – it’s about $200 round trip per person, but you’ll have stunning views through the clear roof all the way there.
Overall, plan to spend about $500 on transportation while visiting Machu Picchu.
Things to Consider
Here are a few other things to consider when planning your trip to Machu Picchu:
- There are limitations on the sales of tickets to Machu Picchu. That means you can’t roll up one morning and count on getting in. Instead, buy tickets 3 to 4 weeks in advance. If you plan to hike Huayna Picchu, which offers significantly fewer tickets each day, plan to book more like 3 to 4 months beforehand. Buy your tickets here and read all the options carefully before purchasing – there’s no changing anything at the front gate!
- Altitude sickness is real, and you should take it seriously. (I have a family member who died of it.) In order to avoid the serious complications that can come with traveling to high elevations, spend a few days limiting activity and drinking lots of water when you first arrive. Many people fly to Cusco, which is located near Machu Picchu and other historical sites, and spend time getting used to the altitude there. At more than 11,000 feet above sea level, it is great training for Machu Picchu, which is at less than 8,000 feet.
- Always. Pay. Attention. When I toured Machu Picchu, not all of the areas were well roped-off. While waiting in line to see one of the ruins, I almost stepped off a cliff into 50 feet of empty air, and the experience will haunt me forever. Watch your feet – and make sure younger travelers are well-supervised at all times.
- You don’t have to pay for Machu Picchu until you hit the entrance. If you like, you can hike up there more than once and catch little glimpses of it along the way.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a guide for Machu Picchu?
You do not need a guide to see Machu Picchu. However, Machu Picchu is a big place, and it can feel rather overwhelming to visitors. Its curators understand this, which is why they have established five circuits on their site from which you can choose.
Check out the potential routes by clicking on them and looking at the maps, then comparing the sites you might visit and in what order. Just note that your Spanish better be decent to read the maps. If not, have Google Translate nearby!
How do I get to Machu Picchu?
You can get to Machu Picchu in one of two ways: by bus or on foot. If you choose to go by bus, note that there are some pretty vertiginous drops on the road up to the top. If you’re scared of heights, bring your blinkers and your meditation apps!
I’m one of those afraid-of-heights people, so when I visited, my husband and I chose to go by foot. The trail is 2.2 miles long but the elevation change is considerable, so it will take you about 2 hours.
You need to be in pretty good shape to make it in this time, and make sure to bring plenty of water. Note that you can choose to take a one-way bus trip and walk the other way.
One of my favorite things about the hike? There is a stop along the way where you can carve your name into the pole of a little shelter, so bring a nail file or another airplane-approved item to add your initials to the others on site!
What is Huayna Picchu?
Huayna Picchu is what most people picture when they envision Machu Picchu. It’s the right-hand hump on that classic mountain range that rears up behind the ruins site. From Huayna Picchu, you can see the whole Lost City spread out below.
You can hike up to the top of it for a spectacular view, but you’d better not have vertigo if you do – it’s a harrowing route with sheer drops and little in the way of guardrails. In general, it’s not for the faint of heart.
If you want to get that classic “Machu Picchu shot,” there is a path that winds up behind the ruins from which you can take photos of the city spread out below and Huayna Picchu in the background.
This is an easier hike that will test your mettle far less, and still sends you home with glorious travel photos.
Can I do Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu in the same day?
Yes, and in fact, you have to buy your tickets for the same day because the Huayna Picchu + Machu Picchu experience is a package deal. Unless you want to pay for two tickets per person, plan for a long enough visit to thoroughly enjoy them both – about 6 hours ought to do it.
When is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?
The best time to visit Machu Picchu is in spring or fall. These times are sunny, cool, and less crowded. June through August is a good time to visit if you like to work on your suntan, but plan for bigger crowds and higher prices.
You can also go in winter, but you’ll need to dress for rain, which might obscure the lovely views most people come to the Lost City to see.
So, What Is the Average Cost of a Trip to Machu Picchu?
|🛎️ Average Accommodation Cost||$100 per night|
|✈️ Average Flight Cost||$1,200 per person|
|🍽️ Food, Drink & Activities||$75 per person, per day|
|🚕 Transportation||$500 total|
|💲 Total Cost||$4,700|
The average cost of a one-week trip to Machu Picchu is around $4,700 for two people. That includes entrance fees, food, lodging, and literally the most spectacular train ride of your life. If that sounds like a pretty good deal, then bon voyage!