Machu Picchu On A Shoestring

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We recently put up a budget blog post for our hike to Everest Base Camp and we received a flurry of questions about it as a result, including a lot of readers that were blown away that they could do it for far less than the exaggerated travel agent quotes. Well, Machu Picchu is a similar situation and it definitely doesn’t have to break your bank.

Located high in the Andes mountain range, the ancient engineering and archeological marvel known as Machu Picchu lies shrouded in certain mystery and ever sparking curiosity. At this point in time, yes, a lot has been figured out but there are still so many unanswered questions that are still being researched. It truly is an incredible place, one of the most impressive manmade sites that either of us have ever visited and a day on location is a day very well spent. The Incas were originally rumored to have built the structures but in reality they were not the first people to inhabit the mountain top paradise, they just happened to be the last. This isn’t a history lesson, however, so let’s dive into how we did this!

Step 1: Get to Cusco

This is going to be your launching point for the excursion and it is also just an amazing city that deserves some exploring of its own. Cusco is quite large and the international airport sees a lot of traffic year over year so you shouldn’t have a hard time finding good flights online. It is recommended to spend a couple days in Cusco in order to give your body a chance to acclimatize to the altitude. At over 3,000 meters you will definitely notice a difference in your breathing and find yourself more quickly out of breath. Cusco has markets, restaurants, bars, shopping, and a pretty vibrant nightlife as well. There is plenty to do there so take advantage of the acclimatization days!

Step 2: Finding an Agency

Cusco is speckled with countless tourism agencies that all book trips for just about anything that you can imagine. It is the hub for destinations like Rainbow Mountain, Lago Humantay, Inca Trail expeditions and obviously Machu Picchu (just to name a few). We recommend visiting a few to check prices and see what different options they offer for the trip as there are some variants for arrival (hiking, bus, train…), and also options for visiting other locations nearby via alternative routes. The time frame you have will determine which package you will opt for. It is possible to see the site quickly, leaving one day and returning to Cusco the following morning (making the trip a day and a half in total) but we even met some people at the bars in Cusco that literally did it in one day, there and back. That seemed a bit stressful from the stories so I don't know that I could recommend it unless you truly have no other option.

Step 3: Pick Your Excursion

As mentioned above there are a lot of options but we can only tell you the price for the trip that we did. Well, the trip that I did… Kody speaking. I have been to MP twice actually. I visited the site back in summer of 2017 with an amazing group of backpacking friends I was with at the time, just months before meeting Kelly. I did the Jungle Excursion option and it was absolutely incredible. It was a four day adventure packed with nonstop activities, delicious food and we had the most amazing guide. To be honest, I forget the order of the trip but it included hours of downhill mountain biking, white water rafting, hours upon hours of original Inca trail hikes, wooden bridge crossings, natural hot spring baths and stops at homes along the way where we got to chat with locals and enjoy home cooked meals with them. We stayed in homestays along the way and then in Aguas Calientes on the final night, after walking the railway in, before we made up to Machu Picchu for sunrise. This magical four day adventure was booked literally the night before and cost us all, a group of six people, 150$ per person and then we all individually tipped the guide for all his help.

Kelly and I did this experience together in 2019 but we were working for the tourism department, creating advertising content for a few different companies. We took the train in this time and did the site in the afternoon. We were working this time around so we didn’t actually pay for the trip but we do know that the tickets were $120 USD per person, which included the train tickets, the guide and the entrance to the site. Taking the train is obviously more expensive than hiking. So if hiking isn’t your thing AND you are short on time, this is your best option.

Sounds pretty amazing, huh? Trust us… it is. Peru is a beautiful country with a rich culture and incredibly helpful and friendly locals. We loved our time there and would happily return at any point. Be sure while you are there to try the locals tastes: things like ceviche, pisco sours, and fresh smoothies from the market. Some of the local spots even sell guinea pigs… we didn’t try it but they have it if you are feeling up to the experience.

*Please note that prices do change over time but we can assure you that if you show up in person and book it you will be just fine. Prices online are often in the thousands and the websites push people to book, saying that they are always almost sold out. Give yourself some time in Cusco, find a place to book with on the day of arrival and you will get the same experience as everyone else for a fraction of the cost.

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