Confused about Machu Picchu Entry Times? You're Not Alone
Why do some Machu Picchu tickets show earlier entry times than the times published on the website when you bought your tickets? What time should visitors enter Machu Picchu? You're not the only one trying to make sense of a complex ticketing system. So! Let me splain you how it works.
For all you visual learners, look at the image at the top of this post. The ticket you see is for one of the 4 hikes inside the park combined with one of the 4 circuits. In this case it's Montana hike + Circuit 3. When you buy a ticket for any hike you'll see two entry times. (Inca Trail Hikes are not part of this system) The entry time for the hike you want will be displayed on the official Machu Picchu ticketing website as "Ingreso Montana.". (See the GREEN ARROW in the image above) You would think that's the time you're supposed to arrive to enter right? Nope. That's the time you're supposed to start the hike. To get to the starting point of the hike, you're allowed to enter Machu Picchu main gate one hour prior to that. The entry time "Ingreso Llaqta" is one hour earlier than the entry time for the hike you're buying. (See the RED ARROW) THAT is your official entry time to the Machu Picchu National Park.
How do you tell what time you need to be at the main gate to enter Machu Picchu?
The entry time fo Machu Picchu Llaqta is the official entry time to enter the National Park. This applies to all entry tickets. But you don't see the "Llaqta" entry time if you buy tickets with hikes, until you actually make your reservation. All 4 hikes have 1 hour earlier entry time to Machu Picchu Llaqta (main gate.) The reason for this is to give you time to tour the circuit before you have to checkin for your the hike. If you have Huayna Picchu or the baby sister Huchuy Picchu tickets, the only time you have to tour the lower circuit of the city is on the way to the checkin for the hike.
Inca Bridge hike and Montana Machu Picchu Hike also have 1 hour earlier entry time at the Llaqta, but you can do the hike first, then go to the circuit for the tour. This is because the checkin for these hikes is from the upper terrace and people may need time to get up there. (although 1 hours is very generous). This explains why we are seeing these entry tickets sell out before Huayna Picchu tickets. People want to have access to the upper terraces for the classic view of Machu Picchu.
What happens if you're late for the 1 hour early entry to Machu Picchu?
This happens when people buy tickets for the hike at a certain time and don't realize they can enter the main gate 1 hour earlier. Then they book trains and make other plans based on the starting time of the hike. As an example let's say you have Huayna Picchu Hike 10-11AM. You can enter the checkpoint for that hike anytime between 10-11AM. You don't have to start it right at 10AM unless you want to. The reason for this is that the park authorities know it will take you at least 20-30 minutes to get from the Machu Picchu main gate to the checkin for the hike. After the hike you cannot go back. All hikers are directed to follow the path to the main exit gate. This means that your only time to explore the circuit is BEFORE you begin the hike. By now you should realize where I'm trying to lead you with this detailed description. This is why you WANT to enter the Machu Picchu Llaqta (main gate) as early as possible if you plan to explore the city. This is your only opportunity to see the city (unless you have additional entry tickets). Here's the timeline going backwards starting with the entry time for the Huayna Picchu or Huchuy Picchu hikes if your tickets are 10-11AM:
-10:45AM Latest time you can checkin for the hike. Do not be late. Be at the checkpoint promptly by 10:45AM. Remember to have your hike tickets scanned as you enter the main gate if you bought more than one entry ticket on the same day.
-9AM Earliest time you can enter Machu Picchu Llaqta. It's fine if you want to enter after 9AM. However if you intend to be at the checkpoint for the hike by the deadline, I suggest you allow at least 30 minutes to hoof it from the main gate to the hike checkin without stopping! That's right. If you're late, you risk reducing the amount of time you have to explore the circuit in the city, or you may have to whiz through with only a cursory glance, on your way to checkin for the hike on time.
-8AM Board the shuttle bus from the village of Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu main gate. Notice I said board. I didn't say start walking from your hotel to the bus stop. The reason is that if the line to board the bus is long, you could be late getting up to the main gate. BTW. The ONLY restrooms in the park are located at the main gate. Do you think there might be a line? The first thing I do when I get off the bus is run, jog, skuttle quickly, to get in line for the toilet. It moves pretty quickly. Have your 2 soles per person ready to pay. CLICK HERE to read more about Machu Picchu toilets.
If you're late entering Machu Picchu Llaqta after the early entry time printed on your entry ticket, you have decisions to make. You can hustle through the city to get to the hike and enjoy the hike. Or you can enjoy the circuit and skip the hike.
There are two types of Machu Picchu entry tickets. I'm not talking about the indvidual circuits here. One type of ticket is the general entry called Llaqta de MachuPicchu Circuito 1, 2, 3 or 4. After you click on the page to choose your tickets on the official Machu Picchu website, in the center, you'll see "RUTA" (route). This is the default ticket everyone sees when you land on the official Machu Piccchu government website Buy Ticket page. On the right side of that field is a tiny drop down arrow. Click on that arrow to see all the tickets. The Llaqta ticket does not include any of the hikes inside the park. You choose one of the 4 circuits when you get to the entry gate. After you choose the ticket you want you can open the calendar and search available dates for that ticket.
The other type of ticket is for one of the hikes inside the park, combined with one of the 4 circuits. The hikes are on the periphery of the citadel. The official Machu Picchu government website has a map of each circuit. Here's a link to see those maps. CLICK HERE.
Here's a list of the hikes inside Machu Picchu in the same order you will see them on the government website: (does not include the Inca Trail)
1. (Lower) Circuit 4 + Montana WaynaPicchu (Wayna and Huayna are the same word.just spelled differently)
2. Montana Machu Picchu + (Lower) Circuit 3 (includes access to the classic view of Machu Picchu from the upper terrace but no access to upper circuit)
3. (Lower) Circuit 4 + Montana HuchuyPicchu
4. (Upper) Circuit 1 or 2 + Inca Puente (includes access to the classic view of Machu Picchu from the upper terrace and access to one of the two upper circuits
What is the different between "Upper Terrace" and "Upper Circuit?" CLICK HERE to read more.
Machu Picchu Llaqta tickets are the hot trend this year and are the tickets most likely to sell out in 2023. It used to be that tickets for Huayna Picchu hike were the most popular. But not anymore. There are several reasons for this, which I discussed in my other blog posts. Llaqta tickets allow the visitor to choose one of 4 circuits. You don't decide on the circuit you want in advance. You wait until you're there. The entry time printed on the top left of the ticket is the actual time you enter the Machu Picchu main gate.
What is the Llaqta entry time for Machu Picchu tickets with hikes from the upper terraces?
For visitors who are fit enough to climb up to the upper terraces, Inca Bridge ticket is my favorite because it also includes your choice of a tour of the short upper circuit #1, or the tour of the longest circuit. Upper circuit #2. And. You get the bonus of a pretty easy side hike to see the plank of wood called the "Inca Bridge." And. It's the same cost as the Machu Picchu Llaqta tickets. 152/s. per adult. And. You get the benefit of entering 1 hour earlier than the start time for the hike.
The Inca Bridge and the Machu Picchu Llaqta tickets are the only tickets that include access to tour the upper circuit. Anyone who has tickets for the upper circuit doesn't need to worry about access to the upper terrace for the view. It's part of the experience of the two upper circuits. #1 (short) or #2 (long.)
Here's where it gets tricky with complex details. When Inca Bridge and Llaqta tickets are sold out, access to the upper circuits is not possible. Not even if you hike the Inca Trail. However, the checkin for Machu Picchu Montana Hike + Circuit 3 Ticket (#2 on my list above) is located just above the upper terrace. So even if you have no desire (or ability) to hike to the top of Montana, you can use the ticket to gain access to the view from one of the upper terraces before you tour the lower circuit #3.
What you need to know about each "type" of Machu Picchu entry ticket.
Machu Picchu Llaqta: (no hikes included)
- you can choose one from any circuit in the park. 1 or 2 or 3 or 4
- includes access to the upper terrace for the classic view of Machu Picchu (if you don't mind hiking up steep incline and stone steps about 20-30 minutes which is also the beginning of circuits 1 and 2)
- you can buy as many tickets as you like on the same day or different days. You could buy a Llaqta ticket and another ticket for one of the hikes.
- you cannot buy two of the exact same type of ticket for entry on the same day. (For example: you can't buy two Llaqta tickets or two Huayna Picchu tickets for the same day.)
- you can only choose one circui per Llaqta ticket.
- each circuit is one way (you can't go back) This applies to all entry tickets
- none of the hikes are included with the Llaqta tickets
- hikes cannot be "added" to the Llaqta ticket
- tickets cannot be changed
- tickets cannot be transferred to someone else (there is actually a way to transfer a ticket if you are in Cusco. I recommend working with an agent who knows what they're doing. Which is above my pay grade!)
- Machu Picchu visitors cannot exit to use the restroom and reenter using the same ticket. (this is the standard policy for every Machu Picchu ticket). Here's more info about toilets at Machu Picchu. CLICK HERE.
Machu Picchu Tickets for Hikes and 1 of the 4 Circuits: (see the list of 4 different hikes above)
Inca Trail hikes and tickets are not included here. They have their own regulations which I will list separately
All hikes in Machu Picchu:
- Includes access to the hike you choose and one circuit inside the Machu Picchu citadel
- you can buy as many tickets as you like on the same day or different days. You could buy a Llaqta ticket and another ticket for one of the hikes. Why do I think 2 days/1night is the ideal amount of time to spend in Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu? CLICK HERE to read more
- you don't have to do the hike. You can skip the hike and just do the circuit that comes with the hike. Or you can start the hike and turn around any time.
- you will find tickets for all the hikes displayed on the Machu Picchu website according to the entry time of the hike, not the entry time of the Llaqta (main entrance)
- every hike allows the person hiking to enter Machu Picchu 1 hour before the hike entry time printed on the ticket. (this is usually where most people are confused.) If your hike entry time is 9am-10am you should see a entry time for Llaqta at 8am. So. 8AM is the time you would enter the main gate at Machu Picchu.
- hikers have up to 1 hour 45 minutes to explore the llaqta prior to beginning their hike on #1 and #3 from my list above. This is because you can enter the llaqta 1 hour before the entry time for the hike and you don't have to enter the hike until the latter part of the hour. If your hike starts between 9am-10am, you can check in for the hike anytime before 10AM Do not be late for the hike checkin. There is no forgivemess.
- you must check in for your hike anytime during the 1-hour entry time window printed on the upper right side of your ticket.
- you can enter the Machu Picchu main gate 1 hour before the beginning of the checkin for your hike. Printed on the top left corner of your ticket.
- not all hikes include access to the upper terrace for the classic view of Machu Picchu. (#1 & 3 in my list above do not include access to the upper terrace)
- hike #2 in my list above does include access to the upper terrace but NOT the upper circuit. You will get the classic view of Machu Picchu but your tour of the citadel will be on lower circuit #3
- tickets cannot be changed
- you cannot combine the hike of your choice with the circuit of your choice (which I think is a great idea, if I do say so myself!)
- tickets cannot be transferred to someone else (there is actually a way to transfer a ticket if you are in Cusco. I recommend working with an agent who knows what they're doing. That won't be me! But I do know a few people. To be honest, it's not worth the cost of just buying a new ticket)
- after the hike to #1 & #3 Huayna Picchu or Huchuy Picchu from my list above, hikers are directed towards the park exit. It's fine to take your time and enjoy the remainder of the circuit as you make your way out.
Machu Picchu Entry Tickets that come with Inca Trail Permits
- permits for the short 2-Day Inca Trail hike usually don't sell out as quickly as Machu Picchu entry tickets.
- when Machu Picchu tickets are completely sold out we can usually get permits for the short Inca Trail hike. (with at least 7 days or more advance notice)
- the 2-day Inca Trail hike includes 1 night in a hotel in the village of Aguas Calientes. (there is no camping on the short 2-day Inca Trail hike trip)
- for people who don't hike, we can substitute a van tour of the Sacred Valley archaeological sites instead of the hike. But you will not have access to the upper terrace.
- each permit comes with 1 Machu Picchu entry ticket to the lower circuit #5
- hikers have access to the guard shack on the upper terrace on the day they hike in to Machu Picchu.
What else do you need to know about Machu Picchu?
- Are tour guides required for tours of Machu Picchu? Not at this time. Could it change? CLICK HERE to read more.
- Tour guides are required for people who choose to hike the short (or long) Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
- Don't make these mistakes when buying tickets to Machu Picchu. CLICK HERE to read more.
Disclaimer: the information I provide is subject to change. Although I track changes to Machu Picchu ticketing practices and policies, and I would even say that organizing trips to Machu Picchu is my "superpower." I am not responsible for ticketing information or decisionis and choices you make.