The iconic Machu Picchu photo is recognizable all around the world. The sharp, jagged, jungle mountains surround this lost city to create one of the most beautiful man-made wonders that still exists. But, what is the best way to get there? How much does it cost? How can it be done safely and efficiently? It all starts long before you ever set foot on Peruvian soil. Here are the first six steps to visiting Machu Picchu:
1. Choose the right time of year. The Southeast region of Perú really only has two seasons: rain and dry. The rainy seasons begins somewhere between November/December, becomes strongest in February/March and is usually over by April. Therefore, we recommend scheduling a trip right around May to experience the greenest side of the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Tourism peaks during the summer months of July and August, so, if possible, avoid these times so you can have more time to meditate and relax at the ruins rather than be asked to take another photo for someone.
2. Arm your students. Anyone who is studying (whether you’re 12 or 112) at a Junior High, High School, College, or University is eligible to receive the ISIC International Student Card. This pays for itself quickly on a trip to Perú as you receive–on average–50% off all entrance tickets.
3. Purchase your flight to Lima. This can be a tricky process. We recommend setting up an automatic daily search on a website such as kayak.com; this should be done 2-3 months before you plan on coming to Perú. Set up multiple searches. Keep in mind that rates will be cheaper from large international airports such as Los Angeles, Houston, Miami, and New York. A good price on a R/T ticket to Lima is in between $700 and $900 dollars, although sometimes it will spike up to $1,000-$1,200. We also strongly suggest trying multi-city flights. Recently, we had friends that found that stopping in Cancun for four days actually saved them $300 on each flight; that was a nice way to finish up their trip. Some good cities to try for multi-day layovers are: Cancun, Miami, Mexico City, Panama City, Houston, and New York.
4. Determine how long you will stay in Lima. Lima is a bustling South-American city known for the Spanish colonial architecture, the temperate, coastal weather, and incredible gastronomy. If you like the hustle-and-bustle of crowded cities, you may consider spending some extra time in Lima. If you want to experience the city as quickly as possible, you can do so in a single day. What you need to see: the main plaza, the national cathedral, the San Franciscan monastery, and Miraflores. There are many other sites that you could see, which include many impressive museums, parks, restaurants, a world-record holding water fountain park, and even a unique zoo. We recommend 1-3 days in Lima, depending on your desire.
5. Reserve your lodging. Lima is divided any districts, such as El Centro (downtown), Miraflores (coastline), San Isidro (business center), and Rimac (don’t go here). Our best recommendation is to stay in Miraflores; it displays beautiful Pacific views, supplies many shopping outlets, and hosts several delicious restaurants. It is the touristic center of Lima. Hotels in Miraflores can be pricy, so try to book well in advance. You may also consider doing a quick Google search for rental properties. A good price to pay for lodging in Lima is between $80 to $150 dollars per night. The closer you can get to Larcomar, the better. If you decide that downtown is for you, we recommend staying at the Sheraton Lima.
6. Arrange for transportation. There are two ways to get to your hotel from the airport: shuttle or taxi. Shuttles cost between $40-$60 dollars depending on your group size. Taxies run between $20-$25 dollars depending on your negotiation abilities. Lima only allows approved transportation to enter the airport; you can trust them. Now, if your looking to save a buck, it is possible to walk just outside the airport where there are plenty of cheaper taxis ($10-$15) waiting for customers. But beware who you choose, this is not as safe of an option. If you don’t speak Spanish, you may want to save your pennies elsewhere.