Many people have written about Machu Picchu. About how to get there, what to do, where to stay, etc. And i guess you have read all of them. So i will not bore you with those kind of stuffs.
Here are some small tips i think worth to share. Hope you find them useful.
1. Book everything in advance
Even though you do not want to take the Inca Trail, better to book everything in advance. As a world class tourist destination, expect Machu Picchu to have been fully booked all the time. So plan ahead!
2. Take a guided tour to Machu Picchu
I don’t think people can fully enjoy Machu Picchu without knowing its history. It would be just some kind of beautiful ruins between two mountains. The guided tour only takes around two hours because that is the maximum amount of time a guide can stay in Machu Picchu area without a ticket.
The trail inside Machu Picchu is a one-way street so once the guided tour finish you must exit the area. But you can re-enter again once to take pictures.
3. Book with a tour agent
If you do not mind spending a little bit more money, book everything with a tour agent. This includes the bus ticket, the entrance ticket and the guided tour. I also book the train ticket to Aquas Calientes with a tour agent. But that you can do by yourself to minimize costs.
Why it is better to book with a tour agent? The line to ride on the bus is very very long. Unless you want to walk your way up to Machu Picchu (not riding a bus) or line for the bus for hours, better to have a tour agent help you in lining from around 4 am. You will still need to line to get on the bus but not too long.
I am not sure whether you can buy the entrance ticket to Machu Picchu on the spot or not. But all i know is that there are lots of people lining everywhere. With your ticket on hand, you just need to line for entering Machu Picchu. That does not take too long.
4. Stay one night in Aquas Calientes
Machu Picchu tickets are divided into two time slots. First from 6 am – 12 pm and the second one from 12 pm – 5.30 pm.
There are lots of one day tour from Cuzco to Machu Picchu. This means there are a lot more people coming to Machu Picchu for the second time slot. First time slot is only for people who stay one night before in Aquas Calientes. Even though there are a lot too, but imagine how many people coming from Cuzco for the one day trip.
If you come to Machu Picchu in the morning, you will have the chance to see the sunrise. And it was breathtaking! Really worth waking up super early in the morning. The guide will say that the sunrise from the Sun Gate will be more amazing since that is the spot where the Incas gazing for the sunrise. But, it could only happen if there was no fog, which rarely happens. So don’t expect too high.
5. Take the vista dome train
Does the dome train worth the price? Yes it does!
6. Leave Aquas Calientes around 2-3 pm
If you take the morning session to Machu Picchu, you will back in Aquas Calientes around 1 pm and you can leave around 2-3 pm after having lunch. So you can arrive at Cuzco around 6-7 pm and take rest before your next trip.
7. Do not forget to stamp your passport
After the exit door, near the restrooms, there is a table where you can stamp your passport with Machu Picchu stamp. Do not forget to get one!