Machu Picchu Circuits: Your Guide To Picking The Right Ticket

Planning to visit Machu Picchu? You should know that the Peruvian government requires every visitor to book a ticket in advance, and different tickets allow access to different circuits. This system helps manage the flow of tourists and protect the site for future generations.
So, to decide which ticket to purchase you first need to understand what each of the Machu Picchu circuits offer.
Machu Picchu

The Machu Picchu Circuits

Circuit 1

Major sites included:
  • Houses of the Nobles

  • The Upper City

  • Temple of the Condor

  • Casa Del Inka (The Royal Residence)

  • A View of the Temple of the Sun

This route takes you through both the upper and lower cities, covering the main attractions and offering the classic Machu Picchu postcard photo spots.
You'll explore the noble areas, pass the courtyard with the lone tree, and find yourself at viewpoints that are nothing short of breathtaking.
This circuit is 1.8km long and takes about two and a half hours.
The downsides of Circuit 1 are that it only covers about half of the lower city, and doesn't give you access to enter the Temple of the Sun.

The Upper City: This is the agricultural area of Machu Picchu from which you will have a full view of the Inca Citadel and the opportunity to get that classic postcard photo.

machu picchu view

Circuit 2

Major sites included:
Circuit 2 is the most thorough path you can take through Machu Picchu. It covers both the upper and lower cities in full. This is why the majority of people go for tickets that include this circuit.
Other key spots on this route include the Granitic Chaos and the Temple Area, which offers insights into their religious practices.
Note that the Intihuatana Pyramid is sectioned off and only open for visiting from 7 am to 10 am, and the Temple of Condor is open between 10 am and 1 pm.
Expect to spend around two to three hours on this 2.2km circuit.
Like Circuit 1, this path does not provide access to the Temple of the Sun. However, Circuits 1 & 2 are the only ones which include the upper city.
machu picchu stairs

Circuit 3

Major sites included:
  • Temple of the Sun

  • Temple of the Condor

Circuit 3 at Machu Picchu takes you on a different path, focusing more on the agricultural and residential aspects of the Inca site. Starting from the Inca Store Houses, it showcases the ingenious ways Incas managed their resources. The route leads to the Agricultural Sector; the terraces that paint a picture of ancient farming practices.
You'll still catch glimpses of iconic sites like the Temple of the Sun and the Dry Moat, while the Water Mirrors and the Temple of the Condor offer unique insights into Ancient Incan culture.
The House of the Inca also provides a peek into domestic life, and you'll finish the journey at Pisonay Square and the Archaeological Reserve.
This circuit is generally not favoured as many famous viewpoints and archaeological sites are not included. But it is a short and easy walk that's less about the famous vistas and more about the depth of Inca civilization.
The Temple of the Sun is open for exploring between 1 pm and 4 pm.
The circuit is 850m and takes 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete.
machu picchu (7-day inca trail)

Circuit 4

Major sites included:
  • Temple of the Sun

  • Temple of the Condor

  • The Intihuatana Pyramid (The Ritual Stone)

  • The Sacred Rock

  • Houses of the Workers

Circuit 4 begins at the Inca Store Houses, showcasing the storage techniques of the Incas, and takes you to the Agricultural Sector to reveal ancient farming methods.
Following the path, you'll see the Waterway and the Dry Moat, leading to significant sites like the Temple of the Sun and the House of the Inca. You'll also pass by a series of water fountains, the Sacred Rock, and enter the Industrial Sector where you will learn about the Incas' craftsmanship.
Other key stops include the Inca Oriental Store Houses and the Water Mirrors. The route ends at the Pisonay Tree Plaza and the Archaeological Reserve.
This circuit is 1.6km long and takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete.
Machu Picchu ruins

Circuit 5

Major sites included:
  • Temple of the Sun

  • Temple of the Condor

This circuit is a new addition to the routes offered at Machu Picchu and is the same as Circuit 3 and also takes 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete. The only difference is that this circuit replaces viewing the Water Mirrors with visiting the Three Covers. This is the only path which includes this site.
Salkantay 5-day trek

Tickets

The Machu Picchu guidelines require that you purchase a ticket to follow any route.
It is important to note that tickets have limited availability. We recommend booking well in advance online, but it is possible to try to purchase tickets in person once in Cusco. When purchasing your ticket, you will select an hour-long slot within which you must arrive, and different tickets will permit you to stay for a set number of hours, although leaving times are not tracked or enforced.
If you trek the Inca Trail, you will have to purchase a permit for the trail and pay an Inca Trail entrance fee which will include a Macchu Picchu ticket for Circuit 3. If you want to see more of the citadel or hike one of the mountains, you will need to purchase a separate ticket.
Now, on to the tickets available and what they include...

Llaqta de Machu Picchu

  • Circuit included: 1, 2, 3 or 4

  • Arrival slots: From 6 am to 3 pm

  • Popularity: Very popular! Especially sunrise slots.

  • Cost: $40 (USD)

  • Additional Inclusions: None

  • Difficulty: Easy - One for the whole family.

This is a general ticket that allows access to the main archaeological site, covering circuits 1, 2, 3 or 4. At the time of writing this article (February 2024) there were no tickets including Circuit 5.
This is ideal if you're interested in the historical and architectural aspects of Machu Picchu. If you want a morning timeslot (particularly for sunrise), make sure to book well in advance.
machu picchu

Machu Picchu Mountain + Circuit 3

  • Arrival slots: From 7 am to 9 am

  • Popularity: Moderate

  • Cost: $50 (USD)

  • Additional Inclusions: Hike Machu Picchu Mountain and visit the Guardian House.

  • Difficulty: Hard

This ticket is essentially a hike up Machu Picchu Mountain with insurance that you'll get to explore some of the city via Circuit 3.
However, it is certainly worth it as the trek up the mountain offers arguably the most spectacular views of the entire citadel and surrounding peaks, including Salkantay.
After exploring the agricultural sites of the circuit, you can begin your ascent up Machu Picchu Mountain. This ticket also allows you a visit to the Guardian House before your ascent, which is normally reserved for multi-day hikers.

Check out the multi-day treks to Machu Picchu offered by Skyhook!

This hike is considered moderate to challenging, taking approximately 1.5 to 2 hours depending on your pace and fitness.
pexels-trace-hudson-machu-picchu-altitude-sickness

Huayna Picchu Mountain + Circuit 4

  • Arrival slots: From 7 am to 10 am

  • Popularity: High

  • Cost: $53 (USD)

  • Additional Inclusions: Hike Huayna Picchu

  • Difficulty: Hard

This ticket combines the exploration of Machu Picchu's main archaeological site with the opportunity to climb Huayna Picchu.
This option takes you up the Machu Picchu Stairs of Death and along narrow trails that lead to unparalleled views of the surrounding valleys.
You can explore Circuit 4 of Machu Picchu before or after their scheduled climb. The ascent takes about an hour and a half to two hours to complete, with the descent taking a similar amount of time.

Struggling to choose a hike? Read: Huayna Picchu Mountain vs Machu Picchu mountain.

hikers at machu picchu ruins
Happy faces exploring the Inca Ruins.

Huchuy Picchu Mountain + Circuit 4

  • Arrival slots: From 7 am to 11 am

  • Popularity: Low

  • Cost: $40 (USD)

  • Additional Inclusions: Hike Huchuy Picchu

  • Difficulty: Moderate

This ticket lets you explore Machu Picchu along with a hike up Huchuy Picchu, the smallest of the three mountains.
The ticket allows you to explore the archaeological site via Circuit 4 before or after the hike up Huchuy Picchu.
The small mountain offers unique views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding landscape, but with a less demanding trek than Huayna Picchu and fewer crowds, making it a good choice for families or those seeking a less strenuous experience.
pexels-gilmer-diaz-estela-llama-machu-picchu

Inca Bridge + Circuit 1 or 2

  • Arrival slots: From 7 am to 3 pm

  • Popularity: Moderate

  • Cost: $40 (USD)

  • Additional Inclusions: Visit the Inca Bridge

  • Difficulty: Easy

This is a new ticket which offers a satisfactory visit to the Machu Picchu citadel and access to a 600m cliffside trail to the Inca Bridge (an ancient 'escape route').
Beautiful views and a break from the crowds make this an appealing option - as long as you're comfortable with cliffs!
5 day salkantay trek (machu picchu)

Conclusion

This iconic Inca citadel offers a diverse array of experiences, each tailored to different interests and physical abilities. Now that you know all about the circuits and tickets on offer, you are able to take the next steps in planning your Machu Picchu adventure.
And if you're up for a true adventure, consider booking a spot on a multi-day trek to Machu Picchu!

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