The trail follows a stone stepped pathway that leads from the valley floor close to Aguas Calientes to the mountain ridge where the famous citadel of Machu Picchu sits. Following the right hand side of the switchbacks that form the shuttle bus road, this moderately challenging trek is an alternative way to reach Machu Picchu. From Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu the trek takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Trekking down is a more relaxing option!
Booking your Machu Picchu ticket
It is free to hike from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu but one must have a type of combination ticket to get into Machu Picchu. The following content explains the details of hiking to the Sun Gate, however if you wish to search options for tours to Machu Picchu immediately have a look on this page on FindLocalTrips.com
Finding the Trail Head
From Aguas Calientes follow the shuttle bus road that leaves Aguas Calientes towards Machu Picchu. After approximately 25 – 30 minutes the road takes a sharp left turn over the Vilcanota River, passing a large metal bridge. Directly after the bridge take an immediate right turn down a small lane; the lane leads to the Manuel Chávez Ballón Museum (Machu Picchu Museum). A further 1 minute along the lane you will pick up the trail head to hike from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. The trail head is clearly marked by a large sign.
From the trail head the path follows a continuous uphill ascent for about 50 – 60 minutes. The path intersects 3 times with the far right hand side of the shuttle bus road as it climbs. At the intersections you may need to follow the road for a few yards to pick up the continuation of the trail. Signs clearly mark the way. Often you will find local women selling snacks and drinks en-route. Watch out for the shuttle busses as they are not always very pedestrian friendly. During the dry season the buses also create a lot of dust which can be unpleasant.
A moderately challenging trek that is suitable for anyone in reasonable physical shape. If you’re interested in a more difficult trek, consider the Choquerquirao hike or if you’d like something slightly easier, take a look at the Inca Jungle Trek.
Full Trail Difficulty: moderate
Time needed: 1hour 30 minutes up, slightly less coming down (Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu).
Height to climb from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu: 390 meters (1,280 feet).
Terrain: dirt track road, stone stepped pathways and shuttle bus roads.
Recommended footwear: Training shoes, light weight walking boots.
Trail head: Close to Manuel Chávez Ballón Museum (Machu Picchu Museum), just after the bridge crossing the Vilcanota River.
Tickets: Ticket not required; this trail is un-governed.
Preparation before trekking from Aguas Calientes
If planning to trek from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu, one must be sure to prepare accordingly, especially those who take time to acclimatize. Adjusting to the altitude should be a top priority. With many travellers, the effects of altitude are solely shortness of breath and a mild headache. However, if these conditions worsen or fail to improve after several hours, they have the potential to be incredibly serious even life threatening, and should not be neglected.
We highly suggest travellers take several steps to prepare for the effects of altitude. Alternatively, adjusting to altitude gradually is the ultimate way to avoid altitude sickness. This can be done by spending at least 24 hours at every 2000ft. increase in altitude. By taking a bus rather than flying direct from Lima to Cusco is the optimal way of doing this in Peru. For this option, strongly recommend following Peru Hop‘s Full South to Cusco route as it ascends gradually. This progression gives you some important time to acclimatise to the thinner air and helps prevent any issues when travellers finally reach their end goal of Machu Picchu.
Best Time to Trek
You can trek from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu all year round. During the wet season (November – April) there is a higher chance of heavy rainfall and the trail and ladders may become slippery and more challenging to traverse. The region has a sub-tropical feel throughout the year with average daily temperatures of 18 °C (64 °F). During the dry season the humidity is around 40 – 45%, rising to 60 – 65% during the wet season. Early morning trekking offers cooler temperatures and better shade from the sun. Make sure that you aren’t trekking when the sun goes down (around 6pm) as it is very dangerous. Read more about the weather in Peru here.
What to Bring
The weather in this region of Peru can often be un-predictable any time of the year, so you must be prepared with clothing for rain and sun. A light weight rain coat or poncho and sun protection is advised. Take a bottle of water with you.
- 1 bottle of water.
- Sun hat, sun glasses & sun block.
- Walking stick with rubber tip (if required).
- Strong insect repellent.
- Light weight rain coat or poncho.