If you’re planning a holiday to Machu Picchu, whether as a family, by yourself or with friends, no doubt you’re trying to think of everything: When is the best time to go? What should you pack? And of course, how many days in Machu Picchu do you really need to fully experience the site?
Well, look no further! In this post, we tell you exactly how many days to spend in Machu Picchu, and also how to plan the perfect itinerary, no matter how much time you have in Peru.
Why Visit Machu Picchu
There are a lot of reasons why people go to Machu Picchu. It’s been a subject of fascination for only a little over 100 years, after being rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. From the intricate Inca stonework, to its jaw-dropping surroundings and its unique spiritual energy, this millenary city is truly a sight to behold. For most of our adventurers, to plan a trip to Machu Picchu is to fulfill a childhood dream.
What to See: Things to Do in Machu Picchu
What is at the site once you arrive? We go into depth on this question in another post, because there are just so many things there to do! So many, in fact, that you will wonder how much time to spend at Machu Picchu to witness the full mystical essence of the most popular citadel in South America.
Depending on which circuit you take, you might stop at the Intihuatana stone, visit the Temple of the Condor, or even hike up to the Sun Gate! From buildings and ceremonial centres to aqueducts and plazas, there is no shortage of what to do in Machu Picchu.
How Many Days Do You Need to Visit Machu Picchu?
A visit to Machu Picchu, Peru makes the top of many people’s bucket list, and once they reach the Inca ruins, they want to know how many days they need to get the most out of the experience. For most travellers, one day at Machu Picchu, with a 2-3 hour guided tour, is enough to see all the important archaeological features, take in the beautiful vistas and bask in the mystical vibe of this incredible place. It might even be enough time to check out Aguas Calientes, too.
How many days in Machu Picchu do you need? For most people, one day is sufficient, but an extra day lets you explore the site and its surroundings more fully and at a more relaxed pace.
However, in order to see everything and fully appreciate the site, we recommend spending two days at Machu Picchu. This allows you to head up to the famous Inca citadel twice, spend an overnight in Aguas Calientes, and generally enjoy everything the area has to offer at a relaxed pace.
With two days to visit the Inca citadel, you can tour the site at different times of day, do a hike or two, or even take a dip in the hot springs for which the town is named (if you didn’t guess, aguas calientes means “hot waters” in Spanish!). All without worrying about missing your train back to Cusco!
Top Reasons for Spending More Than One Day at Machu Picchu
So how many days do you need? We think two days is optimal. Is it really worth it to spend more than one day at Machu Picchu? We think so!
Here are some top reasons for you to consider:
- More comfortably do one of the hikes at Machu Picchu AND have a full tour of the site.
- See more of the site features, some of which are only open at certain times or available on certain circuits.
- Witness its majesty at different times of day – which might be more or less crowded – and in different light – an important factor for keen photographers. (Read more about when to go and our tips on taking great photos of the site.)
- Maximise your chances of visiting in good weather, or to see different weather. If you visit Machu Picchu during the rainy season, it might be shrouded in clouds in the morning, but these typically burn off by mid-day.
- If you’re travelling with kids, they might need a break part-way through. You are not allowed to exit and re-enter on the same ticket.
- Take your time – especially if you’re someone who likes to reflect, or if you have a special interest in archaeology or history.
- Visit Aguas Calientes, too – including the hot springs!
Can You Visit Twice in One Day?
Yes you can, but you would still have to pay for a second entry fee. Keep in mind that tickets must be purchased in advance. Visitors cannot buy tickets to Machu Picchu at the main entrance.
Visiting Machu Picchu twice in one day lets you see more than you would on a single visit, but it can be tiring. That’s why we recommend you to spend an extra day if you think you’ll need more time visiting the site.
How Long Do You Need at Machu Picchu: How Much Time Can You Spend Inside the Ruins?
Some visitors wonder about how much time to spend at Machu Picchu and how to take advantage of that time during the visit. Even though each tourist has up to 4 hours to visit the site, a guided tour normally lasts 2 hours and 30 minutes. This is how long it takes to see the ruins with your guide. If you would like to spend more time on your tour, please let us know in advance.
Machu Picchu Tickets & How Much Time in the Ruins
You must purchase the tickets in advance, either online or in person at the ticket office in Cusco or in Aguas Calientes. You cannot buy Machu Picchu tickets at the entrance of the archaeological complex.
How much time you can spend at Machu Picchu is based on the kind of ticket you purchase. There are four options:
Machu Picchu Ruins only: max 4 hours
- This ticket gives you access only to the citadel itself, and you have 4 hours to visit.
- If you enter during the last hour (between 2 and 3pm), you can stay until closing (5pm).
Machu Picchu Ruins + Huayna Picchu Mountain: max 6-7 hours
- With this ticket you can tour the site and hike Huayna Picchu, without needing to re-enter.
- You have a maximum of 6 hours at Machu Picchu, 7 hours if you take the detour to the Temple of the Moon.
Machu Picchu Mountain + Machu Picchu Ruins: max 8 hours
- Hike Machu Picchu Mountain first and then re-enter Machu Picchu on the same ticket.
- You have a maximum of 8 hours to complete the hike and tour.
Huchuy Picchu Mountain + Machu Picchu Ruins: max 4 hours
- Access both the Huchuy Picchu hike and tour the ruins.
- 4 hours maximum inside the citadel and you cannot exit and re-enter.
Machu Picchu Entry Times
Once you decide which type of ticket you want to buy, you then have to decide what time you want to enter. The hours for entrance are distributed across a series of hourly intake periods, starting at 6am and ending at 2pm; the site closes at 5pm. Which intake periods are available depends on which ticket you buy. In each case, you will have an hour in which to enter the site on your ticket.
For example, if you buy a 6am ticket to the ruins plus Huayna Picchu, you will need to pass through the entrance gate between 6 and 7 am. On this ticket you are allowed 6 hours at Machu Picchu, to give you enough time to tour the site and complete the hike. You would need to exit the site no later than 1pm.
Follow this link for more details about what time to visit Machu Picchu. We also have more details about the different ticket types as well as the four available circuits and what attractions are included in each in this post.
Important note: During the pandemic, certain routes have occasionally been closed and tickets for these routes unavailable. We advise you to check the official website and our regularly updated post on COVID-19 related travel restrictions for the latest info.
Can You Exit & Re-enter on a Single Ticket?
No. All circuits in Machu Picchu are one way, that means that there is no re-entry. Unfortunately, if you exit the citadel, you won’t be able to re-enter. This includes for using the restrooms, which are located just outside of the main entry gate. There are no washroom facilities inside the ruins.
Do You Need a Tour Guide for Machu Picchu?
A few years ago, local authorities updated the policies about this matter. Now, for all visitors it is mandatory to enter the citadel accompanied by an official guide. This regulation has two purposes. First, to make the visit more enjoyable and informative and second, to better preserve the World Heritage site.
How to Plan a Trip to Machu Picchu: Things to Know
So, you want to visit this world heritage site? There are many factors to consider when planning your trip, from when you should go to how to get there. We cover these topics in depth elsewhere:
- Ultimate Guide to Visiting Machu Picchu – The place to start. We cover everything you need to know to start planning your trip.
- When to Go – We go into more depth about the best time of year to visit this World Heritage site, as well as the pros and cons of visiting at different times of day.
- How to Get There – You’ve just landed in Lima. Now what? We tell you how to find your way to the Machu Picchu, and cover options for hiking or taking the train.
- What to Do? – There are a surprising number of things you can see at and around the Inca citadel. We show you how to visit each one so you plan the best itinerary for you.
Let’s start thinking about how to plan your trip, step by step.
How Long Does it Take to Get to Machu Picchu from Cusco?
The answer to this question depends on what you first decide in terms of how to get there. Basically, you have two options: by train or hiking. How long to get to Machu Picchu depends on your choice:
- The train to the Inca Citadel takes between 3 ½ and 4 ½ hours, depending on which station you leave from.
- You can also hike there along the famous Inca Trail. This can take 2, 4 or 5 days, depending on which itinerary you pick
Not sure what to choose? Don’t forget: if you hike on the way there, you will then take the train from Aguas Calientes to Cusco for the way back. The best of both worlds! Read our post about how to get to Machu Picchu for more details.
How Long Does it Take to Hike to Machu Picchu?
Okay, we just said you can hike to Machu Picchu in 2, 4 or 5 days, but that’s only considering the Inca Trail, the most famous way to get to the Inca capital.
There are other trekking options to consider, too, and they include some 3-day and 6-day hikes, all the way up to 7, 8, or 9 day hikes – and longer! Click the link to see all of our Machu Picchu hiking options.
How Many Days to Spend in Cusco?
How many days in Cusco is enough? If you are hiking, you will need to spend at least 2 days in Cusco to acclimatize to the altitude before setting out. Altitude sickness aka soroche can hit you hard if you don’t acclimatize yourself.
When you make it there, take your time to explore this multicultural city! Even 1 day in Cusco will be ok to feed your senses with its colours and delicious food, explore its fascinating cobblestone streets, and get a glimpse of local culture through its people and traditions while strolling through the Plaza de Armas – but we think more is better! Here are our tips for how to spend three days in Cusco.
Reasons to Book Early
Basically, there are two main reasons why we suggest booking early. The first one is that entrance tickets are usually sold out months in advance because of its limited availability and extreme popularity. Secondly, booking early helps create stability for local communities and fosters responsible tourism.
How to See Machu Picchu in One Day
Wondering how can you do Machu Picchu in one day? We’ve got you covered. Our 1 Day Machu Picchu tour lets you discover this enigmatic site on a one-day excursion by train from Cusco. It’s a long day, so this tour is best for those who are short on time.
For more details, or to book, click here.
Machu Picchu: How to Visit in Two Days
If you have a bit more time, the best way to see the site is to hop on and enjoy our Machu Picchu 2 Day Train Tour. Choose from two options for this tour: the “classic” itinerary that takes you first through the highlights of the Sacred Valley, then lets you travel by train to Aguas Calientes and visit Machu Picchu the next day, or, our off-the-beaten-track “slow travel” option. On this option, go against the grain and visit Machu Picchu in the afternoon, and tour the Sacred Valley the next day in reverse.
For complete details, or to book, click here.
Going to Machu Picchu if You Have a Week or More: The Ideal 5-Day Itinerary
Our 5-day Must-See Machu Picchu itinerary takes you from Cusco through the Sacred Valley to Aguas Calientes, culminating in a visit to the unparalleled Machu Picchu. You can even choose to include a day hike along the famous Inca Trail, or take the train. Here’s a quick overview:
- Day 1: Discover Cusco city and the “4 Ruins“: Get a sense of Cusco’s wonderful charm, and the blend of Inca, colonial and contemporary culture.
- Day 2: Classic Sacred Valley Tour: The Sacred Valley has a milder climate than Cusco and on this tour you will see a succession of picturesque villages, agricultural terraces, and many archaeological sites.
- Day 3: Take the train OR hike along the Inca Trail from Km 104 to the Sun Gate, and spend the night in Aguas Calientes.
- Day 4: Hike or take the bus back up to the archaeological site for your guided tour.
- Day 5: Spend your last day exploring Cusco, heading back to its colourful markets for some last-minute souvenir shopping before heading home.
Adding an Extra Day
Have we convinced you that spending more than one day at Machu Picchu is worth it? For those who have already booked their Machu Picchu tour or hike, you may be wondering what to do – can you add an extra day?
The good news is you definitely can. Whether you are taking the train or hiking the Inca Trail or an alternative trek, you can easily add an extra day to your itinerary.
If You Booked the Inca Trail or Any Alternative Trek
For treks that already include a tour of Machu Picchu, add an Extra Day at for just $275 per person.
How does it work to add an EXTRA day visiting the site?
- Inca Trail: After your tour of Machu Picchu on the morning of the last day of the trek, you will take the bus down to Aguas Calientes and spend the night. The next day, you have an opportunity to return to the ruins for a second tour, before returning to Cusco by train.
- Any other Machu Picchu trek: Alternative treks already include a night in Aguas Calientes after the last trek day, followed by a tour of the site the next morning. If you add an extra day, you will spend a second night in Aguas Calientes, and get a second visit to the Inca ruins the next day, before taking the train back to Cusco.
What is included?
- Lunch and dinner in some of Aguas Calientes’ finest restaurants
- One night in a Standard hotel
- Entry to the Machu Picchu
- Bus to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes and back
What is not included?
- Entry to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain
- Hotels are subject to availability and cannot be confirmed until booking.
- If you are joining a Trekkers Wanted group, you must select the same options as the rest of the group, including whether or not they have selected an Extra Day at Machu Picchu, or an Aguas Calientes Hotel Upgrade.
- The price is based on double hotel occupancy. The price for single occupancy is $365.
If You Booked a Trek that Does Not Include Machu Picchu
For alternative treks that don’t include Machu Picchu by default – like some of our Lares treks, Choquequirao or Ausangate – you can ADD a 1-day Machu Picchu extension or a two-day extension that includes both a day hike on the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu.
Final Verdict: How Many Days in Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu is a modern Mecca for travellers from all around the globe. There is a deep impact of its physical geography that fascinates the imagination of all of us who come to it. If you’re ready to plan a trip to Machu Picchu, though, you may be wondering – just how many days in Machu Picchu will I need?
While you certainly can do Machu Picchu in one day, our expert team at Apus Peru recommends taking at least two days for your visit. Whether you are hiking or taking the train, you may want to consider adding an extra day at Machu Picchu to your itinerary in order to fully explore all that this marvellous site has to offer.