Once you have arranged everything for your arrival, transportation, and lodging in Lima, it is time to look forward towards the capital of the ancient Inca empire: Cusco. Here are the next steps on how to visit Machu Picchu:
1. Arrange for your flight to Cusco. There are a variety of airlines that serve daily flights between Lima and Cusco. These include: LAN, Peruvian Airlines, TACA, STARPeru, and LCP. There are currently no flights in the evening or night to Cusco, so plan your itinerary accordingly. In order to successfully book an affordable flight to Cusco, you must start looking around 2-3 months before your arrival in Cusco. If you’re looking for affordable flights, then start by searching Peruvian Airlines; their typical round-trip flight costs between $145 to $200 per person. If you have no luck with Peruvian, look towards the other airlines starting with LCP (a small airline that runs one flight per day). LAN is the most popular airline, but will cost you between $350 to $400 per person.
2. Arrange for lodging in Cusco. Cusco was recently ranked the #1 city to visit in Central/South America over cities such as Cancun, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and Rio. Unlike these other cities, Cusco does not have the rows of shopping centers or even many American franchises. You will find a Best Western, the Wyndham Cusco, and a JW Marriott located within the city. If you want high-end lodging ($300+ per night), take a look at the the Marriott, Libertador, Le Lune, and the Monasterio Hotel. Mid-range lodging ($100+ per night) can be found at yours truly: the Wyndham Cusco, Hotel Arqeologico, and Casa Andina. If you want low-end lodging, start searching Google for hostels in San Blas. Now, a hostel in the U.S. might mean shared bathrooms and dorm-like decorations, but in Cusco it means one noch below Motel 6; you will have your own room, bathroom, and even your own continental breakfast most of the time.
3. Book that tour. Plan on–at a minimum–one day in the Sacred Valley, one day in Machu Picchu, and one day in Cusco. We recommend two days in the valley and another two days in Machu Picchu. Try to find a reputable travel agency on TripAdvisor, or at the very least you can go for a stroll along the main Plaza de Armas in Cusco where there are a variety of travel agencies.
4. Pack your bags for Machu Picchu. Depending on where you end up and on your itinerary, you will have a one or two day tour to visit Machu Picchu. If you trust your hotel (mid and high-end hotels can be trusted) you should leave most of your belongings–almost all of them if you’re on a one day tour–with them and pack a smaller bag for your Machu Picchu adventure. If you’re staying overnight, bring your money, your toiletries, a change of clothing, something with an alarm clock, and your camera (with charger!). You don’t need anything else. The climate is humid and warm at Machu Picchu–unlike Cusco which is dry, cold at night, and dry–so you may consider bringing shorts if you think you can tough the first few hours of the day which are chilly.
5. Travel from Cusco to Ollantaytambo. This is the first leg of your journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu. There are various ways to get to this city which is located around 2-hours away.
- First, arrange with your travel agency to leave you in Ollantaytambo at the end of your Sacred Valley tour. If you choose this option, make sure to okay it with your agency so they think you were left behind. Also, you will need to book one of the hostels located in this city. A quick search on TripAdvisor will show you the top- rated properties.
- Second, arrange for private transportation to the city. This can be coordinated with your travel agency or with your hotel. You should pay around $50 each way if you’re taking a car or around $75 each way if you’re taking an 8-person van. They will obviously work around your schedule.
- Third, take a “shared van.” To take a shared van, you must leave in the morning (between 6am and 11am should be fine). You need to take a taxi to the starting point; what you need to say to the taxi driver is: “Llevame a PAVITOS, donde hay van compartido a Ollantaytambo.” The more simple version is: “Quiero ir a Pavitos. Ollantaytambo.” This shared van will cost you 10 soles (less than $4) per person.