Peru without Machu Picchu? is it possible? Backpacking Around Peru is a fulfilling experience which invites a unique opportunity to explore all of the natural richness and culture from this vast South America Sweetheart!
From the raw natural beauty of the Nazca desert to treks along the Gigantic Andes which descends into the vibrant and colourful Amazon Jungle!
So can you really trek around Peru without heading up Macchu Picchu?? The answer is yes, and there is so much more to see and do in Peru.
5 Reasons why you should AVOID Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu used to be this ancient mountain steeped in history, culture, hiking it used to feel like you were a real adventurer heading back in time!
These days thing's are very different and why i think you should definitely avoid this mountain on your next trip to Peru...there are so many better options!
1. Too Touristic
Many years ago Machu Picchu was a must go experience for any backpacker or vacation tourist alike. However, since it's massive increase in popularity over many years it is now a completely manufactured Tourist trap!
If heading up the Inca trial you must be part of a tour or have a guide (it is illegal to do so without) (see point 2) .
When you get to the top you will come to a ticket barrier (That's right an actual ticket barrier) (see point 3).
Then you will be surrounded by hundreds of tourists and tour groups all taking selfies for Instagram and not even taking in the immense scenery and history. You will be get a clear photo of the ruins without hundreds of tourists in it.
Ancient Ruins in Macchu Picchu | By Ricardo Migliani via Wikimedia Commons
The "selfie" situation has now even gotten so bad that as of July 2017 the Peruvian government has now banned "Selfie Sticks"! This ban was a good sign for many however it has also affected professional photographers with tripods being banned! Some people call this collateral damage for the social media boiling pot.
According to the Peruvian Times:
Visitors will not be allowed to use “tripods, mono-pods or extensions for cameras, cell phones or any other stabilizing equipment or extension for filming and/or photography, unless authorized by the Department of Culture of Cusco (DDC Cusco).” That’s according to the ministerial resolution that was published in February approving the new Regulations of Sustainable Use and Touristic Visits for the Conservation of the Inca City of Machu Picchu.* “In effect, the article that you cite refers to ‘every extension.’
Among those extensions are selfie sticks,” a spokesman for Machu Picchu Park director Fernando Astete wrote in an emailed response to Peruvian Times’ request for clarification.
“The use of such extensions greatly disturbs the flow and free circulation of visitors by generating terrible congestion,” the spokesman wrote.
“Most of the arteries, ascents and descents in the Inca Sanctuary of Machu Picchu are narrow and very steep and the circulation is impeded, generating a lot of annoyance to those who, for the most part, want to contemplate the sacred city of the Incas in tranquility.”
Most of the rules about visitor conduct are carry-overs from the previous regulations, even if they weren’t always strictly enforced. The Peruvian Government have also other new rules in place to combat other issues.
There will be no tolerance anymore for flagrant conduct, such as unfurling giant political banners, as Greenpeace did in December 2014, by stripping naked for a photo or to streak across the sanctuary’s main esplanade, as was a growing fad that same year.
Smoking or vaping are also out, as are running or hopping, or making “loud or annoying noises” such as clapping, screaming, whistling or singing “because it disturbs the tranquility and the sacred character of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary.”
Selfie Sticks are now Banned at Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is currently receiving double the number of visitors Unesco recommends as a sustainable limit. A whopping 1.5 million people visited in 2017.
Update: May 2019 - Things have gotten worse...
The Peruvian government has took the decision to build a brand new international airport specifically for Machu Picchu. It will allow direct flights from major cities across Latin America and the USA, to the doorstep of this ancient site.
Some may see this as a good thing, but to others they see it as just "too much" for the site to handle.
According to Justin Francis from Responsible Travel. "It’s not just Machu Picchu itself which will suffer.
The airport is being built in Chinchero, at the gateway to the Sacred Valley, once the heartland of the huge Inca civilisation.
Bulldozers are already tearing up the landscape, and the finished development will annihilate an ancient built landscape, shaped by the Incan people with terraces and routes.
“Critics also suggest that planes flying low over nearby Ollantaytambo and its large archaeological park could cause incalculable damage to the Inca ruins there, and destroy the peace and beauty of the area.”
So maybe just this reason in itself is why you should choose to avoid Machu Picchu and instead experience an amazing trip to Peru without it. See our perfect three week itinary for Peru (Without Machu Picchu) /
Machu Picchu do’s and don’ts (Official)
Visitors to Machu Picchu will not be allowed to:
- Carry backpacks, bags or handbags larger than 16 x 14 x 8 inches (40 x 35 x 20 cm). Items that exceed these dimensions must be deposited in the cloakroom storage outside the entrance.
- Enter with food and/or utensils.
- Enter with any illegal substances or under the influence of any illegal drugs.
- Enter with any type of alcoholic beverage or in a state of inebriation.
- Carry umbrellas or parasols. (Caps, hats and raincoats are allowed.)
- Carry tripods, monopods or extensions for cameras, cell phones or any other stabilizing equipment or extension for filming and/or photography, unless authorized by the Department of Culture of Cusco (DDC Cusco).
- Enter with animals, except for guide dogs when strictly necessary.
- Enter with any type of aerosols.
- Enter with any type of musical instrument, megaphone or speakers.
- Use virtual applications with cell phones or mobile devices along any narrow arteries, trails and points of congestion (the use of such technology is allowed only in large open spaces and designated explanation areas).
- Enter with heels or hard-sole shoes (entrance is allowed only with shoes or sneakers that have soft or rubber sole).
- Enter with baby carriages or strollers (only baby backpack carriers with non-metal frames are allowed).
- Enter with sharp instruments and/or weapons of any kind.
- Enter with banners, posters and/or placards, among other objects of this type. (The use of pennant are allowed exclusively for tour guides leading groups of at least 5 visitors and are limited to the model and dimensions determined by competent authorities in coordination with the respective guides).
- Cause disturbances, hop, jump or generate disorder along the entry path to the Machu Picchu Sanctuary and/or at any point within the complex.
- Enter with clothing intended for advertising purposes.
- Climbing or leaning on walls and/or structures.
- Touch, move or extract lithic elements.
- Perform any type of graffiti.
- Disturb, collect or extract native flora or fauna and/or cultural elements.
- Carry out activities that distort the sacred character of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary, such as fashion shows, dances and social engagements, ceremonies of any kind.
- Enter with portable stools or seats, among others.
- Enter with trekking poles with metallic or hard tips (Canes and poles are allowed for use by elderly people or people with obvious physical handicaps, and in general as long as they have rubber tips).
- Carry out any type of activity that implies the impairment or deterioration of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary, its natural environment and/or facilities.
- Obscene acts contrary to morality and good manners.
- Undress, wear costumes, lie down, run and/or jump.
- Smoking or vaping.
- Make loud or annoying noises such as clapping, screaming, whistling, singing, among other actions, because it disturbs the tranquility and the sacred character of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary.
- Make any kind of fire.
- Dispose of waste of any kind.
- Disrespect the established circuits and routes.
- The commercial sales in the interior of the Sanctuary of Machu Picchu and spaces the Puente Ruinas bridge.
- Feed the domestic and wild animals of Machu Picchu Sanctuary.
Source: peruviantimes.com/machu picchu
The simple fact that such rules and regulations have been enforced shows that tourism is clearly booming but in a negative fashion!
2. It is illegal to not pay for a tour/guide on the famous Inca trial!
As crazy as it sounds it's now officially illegal to walk the famous Inca trial without a guide. On the Inca trail, a guide is mandatory. You need a permit, and only licensed agents can buy permits. Now why? The Peruvian government says this is because of "safety" .
However, there are plenty of mountain trials for much more dangerous mountains in which you don't need a guide. Even if your hiking the world's tallest and most deadly mountain "Everest", you don't have to pay a guide (although strongly advised in this case!
So why else do they insist on having a guide, two reasons. Money and PR (Public Relations). Of course any guide or tour requires paying, if it is a must have this creates a trap where people must pay for a tour or guide. Next PR, so if the unforeseeable did happen this would be a PR nightmare and really affect tourist revenues!
There are other trails which you can take which don't need a guide.... see this great article .
Man on Macchu Picchu | By Paulo JC Nogueira via Wikimedia Commons
3. Ticket's for a Natural Wonder?
Call me crazy but isan't Machu Picchu a natural wonder and not a theme park like Disneyland! However, like any "natural wonder" once lot's of people start heading up to admire it's beauty suddenly a ticket barrier will appear, with someone asking for money!
Now let me get this straight it's not the "cost" of the ticket which is an issue to me but the principle that one person or government suddenly decides a natural beauty is their's to call the shots on. This reminds me of when i wen't to Koh tao island in Thailand.
After, trekking for a few miles to find a viewpoint on a dirt road i was greeted by a sign "Pay for entry"...it wasn't much but then again it's the principle this is a dirt road and forest not owned by anyone but mother earth.
Also what if you didn't have change does that mean i have to walk all the way back to town...it's ridiculous. I wonder if back in 1953 when the famous New Zealand explorer "Edmund Hillary", wen't through an gruelling seven week climb to finally get to the top.
Then he was greeted by a ticket barrier and a women who said he can't come to the summit without paying $20! I think he would have jumped off!
Tickets are not sold at Machu Picchu, so if you do make the trek without out one (you actually won't be allowed in!) This actually happened to a friend of my whom had to trek all the way back!
Here are some tips to avoid getting caught short if you decide to go:
Tip 1 – To visit Machu Picchu, it’s vital to have an entrance ticket and passport. Tip 2 – You MUST have a ticket beforehand. Don’t go right up to the entry gate at Machu Picchu thinking you can buy your entry ticket there.
You must get it it the near-by town of Aguas Calientes(where your train will stop, if that’s how you get there), in Cusco, or in advance on the internet.
Tip 3 – There are a limited number of tickets available per day. In the high season (June to September) tickets can sell out fast! So booking in advance is advised.
Machu Picchu Tickets. "
world of Wonder" even though it's
250 million years old!
4. Tight Tour Schedules
Imagine, you've just got to the top of Machu Picchu, sat down to relax and then Boom you hear the dreaded phrase "times up" "everyone back down!".
For some tours who are very busy during peak season this is a common occurrence for some badly run tours which very tight schedules to adhere to!
So yeah, we need a tour or private guide a ticket (which must purchase beforehand) , money for food (As brining your own is officially not allowed on the mountain!) Ticket prices come in three types depending upon how "high" and to which peak you wan't to go up the mountain.
Ticket Type 1 (Standard) – Entrance to main grounds.
Adult: $47 USD (152 Soles) Student (up to 25 years old): $24 USD (77 Soles) Child: $24 USD (77 Soles) This provides entry to Machu Picchu which includes the main ruins, terraces, and temples.
Tip 4 – This ticket does not allow entry to either of the mountain peaks including Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu. You will need a different ticket for that.
Ticket Type 2 – Machu Picchu and Montana mountain included.
Adult: $62 USD (200 Soles) Student (up to 25 years old): $38 USD (125 Soles) Child: $38 USD (125 Soles).
With this ticket you will have entry to climb the taller mountain, Montaña Machu Picchu, which is 3,082m (10,111 ft). This mountain is usually not as busy but has no ruins. You must choose between 2 time slots to climb, either 7-8AM or 9-10AM.
Ticket Type 3 – Includes Machu Picchu, Huyna Picchu and temple of the sun.
Adult: $62 USD (200 Soles) Student (up to 25 years old): $38 USD (125 Soles) Child: $38 USD (125 Soles)
Total Cost estimate:
Cost’s to travel up Machu Picchu without a guide.
Accommodation: ~$12+ USD hostel dorm, $35+ USD private staying in Aguas Calientes,
Meals: $15+ USD if packing own food, $8+ USD per meal in Aguas Calientes, $40+ USD at Machu Picchu restaurant (buffet – this is the only restaurant at Machu Picchu)
Train cost: $140+ USD return to Cusco
Machu Picchu entry tickets fee: $47 USD
Bus ticket to Machu Picchu: $24 USD
Other: Money for paid bathrooms (~30 cents), souvenirs, snacks , museums, etc.
TOTAL COST: ~$238+ USD (based on 1-night dorm bed stay, Sneaking own food in)
Peruvian Money (Sol) : Source: Peruforless.com
All together your looking at around $238 + (If you purchase your food nearby it is inflated with tourist prices, just so your aware. $240 might not be alot for some people but for others it can be, especially backpackers whom are on a tight budget and traveling for 6 months+.
Peru without Machu Picchu? - Is it worth it?
Believe me after my last trip back in 2017, it's 100% worth it! So having just saving around $250+ by avoiding Machu Picchu, is there anything better you should invest your time and money into? Yes most definitely!
There is so many things, from a few extra days in your favourite city (Cusco city is a great one!) to Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca and of course my favourite of all the magnificentAmazon Rainforest and River!
A few extra days at the Amazon, canoeing on the river seeing everything from Pink dolphins to man eating pirrah's and exquisite scenery is so much more worth it than Machu Picchu.
So for your viewing pleasure I have provided you guys with my ultimate 3 week Peruvian itinerary which includes, Lima, the Amazon river and rainforest! , Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca and Cusco.
Juma river in Brazil | By Alexey Yakovlev via Wikimedia Commons
The Ultimate 3 Week Itinerary for Peru. (Without Machu Picchu)
1. Flight to Lima (Capital City) of Peru.
City of Lima | By James C. via Wikimedia Commons
Lima – A majestic City. Source: studycelta.com
2. Spend one night in Lima. (Day 1)
Here I spent just one night at the start and then a couple of day’s before flying back home to do some shopping/gift shopping and actually see the city.
I stayed at Costa del Sol Wyndham Lima Airport Hotel, just opposite from airport to allow me to catch the easy flight to Iquitos in the morning.
If you can time your flights closer, even better then you won’t even have to stay a night. Or alternatively spend 2 days in Lima at the start of your trip.
3. Flight from Lima to Iquitos (Amazon Rainforest) (Day 2)
Flight: Flight from Lima to Iquitos (approx. 2 hours)
Although usually if visiting the Amazon you would head to Brazil which has a massive 60% of the amazon on it’s land! Peru by comparison only contains 13%, even though it does cover a large portion of peruvian land.
However, as i was heading to Peru and didn’t have a Brazil trip planned in the near future this seemed like a great opportunity to see the worlds largest rainforest! One of the most amazing and colourful places on earth! – It was definitely worth it!
The Peru portion of the Amazon has two main access points via Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado. I decided to head to the further point of Iquitos.
The portion here has another one of worlds wonders, the Amazon river running through it which is another amazing wonder! Renowned for diverse wildlife from pink dolphins to Piranhas!
4. Amazon Rainforest (Days 2-8)
A great place where I stayed was the Amazon Muyuna Lodge. This is just a 3-hour boat trip up the Amazon River from Iquitos and a nice place to unwind & get your home comforts before heading back to the crazy jungle!
Here I do recommend getting a local guide as heading into the amazon without one is pretty crazy it is the largest rainforest in the world!
Also, guides have a wealth of experience and knowledge, they know the best places to spot the pink dolphins and the best parts of the rainforest to take you!
Peruvian Amazon. Source: Brazilnutstours.com
Amazon Rainforest | By Neil Palmer via Wikimedia Commons
The majestic amazon river slicing the rainforest! Should be on anyones bucket list! Source: Apus-peru.com
5. Flight to Arequipa - Day 9
Flight: from Iquitos to Lima (approx. 2 hours) – Flight from Lima to Arequipa (1.5 hours)
6. Arequipa (Day 10-11)
Arequipa is sometimes solely thought of as a gateway to Colca Canyon. However, it is a special and subtle place despite being peru’s second largest city.
The “White city” as commonly called has vast and beautiful historic buildings made out of (Sillar, white volcanic rock) . Santa Cantalina Monastery, embodies this! This is a high altitude city (at a whopping 2328 metres in altitude) with alot to offer!
Arequipa, peru - Metropolitan-touring.co
Arequipa, Peru | By bonkiss via Wikimedia Commons
7. Colca Canyon (Day 12-13)
How to get there?
Take a Private bus from Arequipa to Colca Canyon as part of a 2 days/1 night tour with a local tour guide organised by Town&Tourist. (Enquire for details) Colca Canyon a Vast canyon, twice as deep as the “Grand Canyon” in the U.S.A!
Colca Canyon in Peru | By Tydence Davis via Wikimedia Commons
TownandToursit Safety Tip: When heading through Aguada Blanca National Reserve and up to the Patapampa Mountain pass, you will be around 4900 metres above sea level!
Such high altitude can make you feel dizzy and even sick! So drink water, stay hydrated and even try the local “Coca Tea” it’s what it’s for!
Majestic Condors flying gliding over Colca canyon. Source: aracari.com
Bird Spotting? The Cruz del Condor is the perfect location for spotting soaring majestic condors!
8. Head to Puno (Day 14)
How to get there?
Take a Tourist bus from Chivay to Puno Travel time approximately 6.5 hours!
This is another high altitude are at approximately 3810 metres or 12,500 ft! So stay hydrated!
Puno sits on the edge of Lake Titicaca, which is the reason why most travellers pass through this port city as it’s not the most classically beautiful place. One night is enough usually.
9. Head to Lake Titicaca (Days 15-16)
How do i get there?
Take a Tour boat from Puno to Amantaní island (3 hours)
Lake Titicaca…So fun to say! Source: Machupicchu.org
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world! Located on the edge of the Bolivian border. Renowned for it’s floating islands of the ancient Uros people and lake excursions!
Recommended By TownandTourist – If you would like to really get a feel of the local culture and island life, some backpackers like to organise a homestay with a local family on the Amantani island! For further details enquire by using the contact form.
10. Fly from Julica to Cusco (Day 17)
This flight takes approximately 1 hour
11. Cusco (Days 18-19)
Cusco is considered the gateway to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley! This is a hub for tourists however that has not affected it’s charm! There is so much to do in this city that you will wan’t to stay longer! I nice place to stay is at Hotel Rumi Punku boutique hotel cultural and artistic San Blas area.
Cusco Peru | By Diego Delso via Wikimedia Commons
12. Flight from Cusco to Lima (1.5 hours) (Day 20)
Solo female backpacker, trekking without a guide.
13. Back in Lima (Days 20-21)
Back in the capital city now, this is a great time to unwind, head to the beach, taste some exquisite food at top restaurants and of course do some gift shopping for friends and family before flying back home! One restaurant is called : “Astrid Y Gatso"
This is on the world ‘s top 50 best restaurants but a reservation must be made before hand! If you would rather something more low key but still gorgeous then try a delicious homemade meal with a local Peruvian family. Contact Mtravel’s for details on how to arrange.
15. Fly Home!
Fly home from Lima with many great memories or onto your next country if your lucky enough!
Note on Transport: Bus travel is easy and cheap in Peru although some can be crowded. Many local tour companies offer private transfers if you don’t like this.
exploration and can the most out of your three weeks is to fly when you can like i did above!
Backpacking Around Peru is a fulfilling experience which invites a unique opportunity to explore all of the natural richness and culture from this vast South America Sweetheart!
From the raw natural beauty of the Nazca desert to treks along the Gigantic Andes which descends into the vibrant and colourful Amazon Jungle! Peru is a magical place, but to help you get the most out of it, it helps to have good plan/itinerary.
Peru without Machu Picchu? Final Thoughts.
Peru is a magical place and a true wonderland where you will have an amazing memorable experience! Now your equip with Itinerary above, you will be sure to get the most out of your next adventure! With or Without Machu Picchu!
Is Machu Picchu Closing to Tourists?
This is a big rumor that has been flying around recently and although true in some cases, not in all. This rumour refers to the fact that the Inca Trail that will be temporarily closed in February 2020. So you would be best to avoid that month, or take one of the alternative routes I mentioned above.
The closure in February is due to safety and strong weather conditions.
Heavy rains and landslides are common during this time of year. As it is "off season" park officials carry out maintenance on trails, reconstruction of bridges and improvement to facilities such as toilets and camping areas.
Insider Tip: Invest in a quality Travel Camera!
Capturing the Memories of your adventure is essential!
You will be able to show your friends, family and even grand kids all the wonderful photos captured.
For more info see, our recommend Travel Photography Gear
Make sure you are equip with some great Photography Gear!
Important! Are you insured?
Be aware that you will need separate travel insurance if you are traveling to Peru!
If you get ill or have an accident it will be a very costly experience!
All travellers to Peru should have a robust travel insurance to avoid paying out thousands of dollars.
I always recommend World Nomads, I’ve used these for years,
they are the best and most reliable insurance, they also provides an unlimited medical budget!
Getting hit with a large hospital bill after getting sick or injured, could really add to your worries! Get some Travel Insurance
For more info see: Why you NEED Travel Insurance?
Other Travel Essentials (Things You can’t travel without!)
A high quality Tent & backpack can also be great investments to help you cut costs and have more of an adventure while traveling!
To learn about our secret Hotel Hacks check out: How to find the Best Hotel Deals??
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