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To start with, the question is: is it worth seeing the sunrise at Machu Picchu? Is it worth getting up in the middle of the night and either hike or take a bus to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes? The answer is: it depends! Yes, it all depends on the weather. If you are lucky with the perfect weather, then hands down, to see sunrise at Machu Picchu is an awesomely magical experience! Here are 5 practical tips on how to see sunrise at Machu Picchu.

How to See Sunrise at Machu Picchu - 5 Practical Tips

NUMBER 1

Travel to Machu Picchu During the Dry Season

If you are planning your trip to Machu Picchu, then to see Machu Picchu at sunrise, you need to go during the best time of the year which is during the dry season.

The dry season is late April through early October. There are no guarantees, of course, however, your chances of clear skies are very good. Just a word of caution: even during the dry season, be prepared for some heavy mists or fog (usually just during the early morning hours) that can obscure the views.

If you are a risk-taker and decide to go before late May or after early October, be prepared for right-down downpours. However, I need to say, you might see the most incredible sight even when the site is shrouded in a cloud. The cloud and fog might start to slowly burn out and disappear and reveal the outlines of Machu Picchu. It is pretty cool!

NUMBER 2

Be at Machu Picchu Site Right When It Opens

The Machu Picchu Site opens at 6 am. And, you need to be at the entrance right when it opens.

However, the truth is that you are not going to see a “true” sunrise at Machu Picchu. What I mean here, is that there is no horizon with the sun rising above it. So, what you are going to see are sun rays gradually lighting up Machu Picchu Inca ruins as the sun moves up in the sky.

So, to be clear, for example, the actual sunrise times at Aguas Calientes (the town below Machu Picchu) differ by an hour depending on the time of year. The earliest sunrise is at 5:13 am in November, and the latest sunrise is at 6:13 am in July.

Now, it is about an hour after the actual sunrise until the sun rises above the mountains and the sun rays reach and shine upon Machu Picchu Inca ruins.

Needless to say, sunrise or sun rays, whatever we want to call them, once they shine upon Machu Picchu and gradually light up the entire place, the sight will just take your breath away.

Before the sun’s rays start gradually appearing, the entire site is hidden in deep shadows. Above all, it gets very quiet. I think everyone holds their breath in anticipation of the first sunray.

How to See Sunrise at Machu Picchu - Complete Guide

Before the sun’s rays start gradually appearing, the entire site is hidden in deep shadows. Above all, it gets very quiet.

Sunrise at Machu Picchu

Soon, you will see the first sunrays reveal just the outline of Huayna Picchu.

How to See Sunrise at Machu Picchu - Complete Guide

Soon you will see the first rays of the sun touch Huayna Picchu.

Sunrise at Machu Picchu

As the seconds tick away, more Huayna Picchu gets bathed in sunlight.

Pretty soon the entire Huayna Picchu is revealed.

How to See Sunrise at Machu Picchu - Complete Guide

Gradually, section by section, Huayna Picchu gets revealed all beautifully lit up by the rising sun.

Sunrise at Machu Picchu

Gradually, the sun starts revealing the details of the Machu Picchu ruins. And, finally, the entire site is bathed in sunlight.

How to See Sunrise at Machu Picchu - Complete Guide

Gradually, section by section, Huayna Picchu gets revealed all beautifully lit up by the rising sun.

Sunrise at Machu Picchu

NUMBER 3

Hike or Take a Bus to See Sunrise at Machu Picchu

To get to Machu Picchu for sunrise from Aguas Calientes, you have two choices: you can either hike or you can take a bus.

The majority of the tourists take the bus. It is about a 20-minute bus ride. The bus ticket costs 24 soles (round trip).

The bus ticket booth is located just pretty much across from the train station. You will not miss it. There will be a long line of tourists waiting to buy a ticket.

First of all, it is really important that you purchase your bus ticket the day before your bus ride to Machu Picchu. Actually, right after you disembark from the train, head directly to the bus ticket booth and purchase the bus tickets.

Second, the next day, you are going to have to get up practically in the middle of the night, because the line for the buses leaving for Machu Picchu starts forming at around 3:30 am! So, you want to be the first in line to be able to board the bus and head to Machu Picchu.

How to Get to Machu Picchu by Train

Gradually, section by section, Huayna Picchu gets revealed all beautifully lit up by the rising sun.

Sunrise at Machu Picchu

If you are interested in hiking to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes, in order to catch the sunrise or the first sun rays, you will be hiking in total darkness.

Consequently, you will need a headlamp or a flashlight. Notwithstanding, I have seen many hikers on this trail with headlamps and flashlights, so it can be done, no problem!

Machu Picchu is approximately 5 miles (8 km) from Aguas Calientes.  The elevation difference between Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu is 1,279 feet (389 meters). The distance is quite manageable, however, it is the elevation change that is something you need to think about and make sure you are in good physical condition to do this hike.

In my opinion, hiking to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes is a strenuous endeavor. The hike is steep and pretty much up the hill the entire time. If you. are up to it, then make sure to check out my post to know what to expect.

Hiking to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes

Trail leading to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes. 

Hiking to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes

Hiking to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes is a strenuous endeavor. 

NUMBER 4

Arrive at Aguas Calientes the Day Before Visiting Machu Picchu

Incidentally, to make it for the sunrise or the sight of the first sun rays at Machu Picchu, you will need to arrive at Aguas Calientes the day before and spend the night.

Once you arrive at Aguas Calientes, you might have a few hours to kill before you hit the bed. Here are my top choices for things to do in Aguas Calientes:

  • The Butterfly House – Mariposario of Machu Picchu
  • Manuel Chavez Ballon Site Museum – Museo Manuel Chavez Ballon
  • Hot Springs – Banos Termales (Machu Picchu)

Need more ideas on what to do in Aguas Calientes? Check out my post. Plus find out where to stay!

NUMBER 5

Head to the Best Viewpoint to See Sunrise at Machu Picchu

Once you arrive by bus or reach Machu Picchu on foot, be prepared to brave the crowds.

How to Get to Machu Picchu by Train

Once you arrive by bus or reach Machu Picchu on foot, be prepared to brave the crowds.

Sunrise at Machu Picchu

Above all, have your ticket, passport, and camera ready.

Next, once you are inside, take the path that leads to Machu Picchu Inca ruins. It is the only path and it gets crowded. So, take it slow. There will be people pushing and running. It is ok! Take your time.

Once you get to the junction, turn left and continue climbing. You want to gain as much altitude as possible. If you can make it to Puerta de la Ciudad, that is great. If you can hike a bit more to Casa del Guardian, that is where you want to be for the sunrise at Machu Picchu.

Check out the map right below to give you an idea of where to go.

How to See Sunrise at Machu Picchu - Complete Guide

Map of the best viewpoints to see sunrise at Machu Picchu.

Sunrise at Machu Picchu

As far as I am concerned, it was all worth it for me. It is a magical moment watching as the first sunray touched the top of Huayna Picchu and then gradually the entire place was bathed in glorious light. It was a sight that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

I need to add, that many photographers argue that the best light is around 4 or 4:30 pm. With this being the case, If you decide to spend the day at Machu Picchu, make sure to pack some healthy snacks and hang out till the afternoon.

Another option worth considering is visiting the site over two days, once in the morning, once in the afternoon. This will allow you to capture Machu Picchu in your photos in a different light as well.

In addition, I found this cool video by Lance Lundstrom – Machu Picchu Sunrise Timelapse.

Now, It Is Your Turn, I Would Like to Hear Back from You!

Are you planning your trip to Machu Picchu?

Please let me know! Drop me a quick comment right below!

Click on any of the images below to get inspired and to help you with the planning process for your trip to Peru!

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Sunrise at Machu Picchu
Sunrise at Machu Picchu

Comments:

18 thoughts on “How to See SUNRISE at MACHU PICCHU (5 Practical Tips)


2019-04-08

Wow, Anna! This is incredible! I wish I had found your blog before my in laws went to Peru last year. My mother in law loves to travel every chance she gets though and I know she would love all of your amazing tips! I’ll be sharing this with her!

    2019-04-08

    Hey Leslie,
    Thank you for your comment!Please share the info with your mother in law and let me know if she needs any assistance with planning her adventures!

2019-04-11

Thank you for sharing your experience.
Machu Picchu is definitely one of my next destinations.

If you are traveling thought Europe I would recommend that you visit Prague, Serbia or Greece.

    2019-04-13

    Milos,
    Thank you for your comment! I am glad you are planning on visiting MP.
    I have been to Prague… and Greece, however Serbia is still on my list of places to visit.
    Anna

This post is super helpful! I’ve been wanting to go visit Machu Picchu for a long time now and this post will help me a lot when I finally make it there! I think it has to be amazing to see the sunrise there and experience the first sun rays in that unique spot. I’m saving this post so I can come back to it when I go there Thank you for sharing!!

    2019-04-13

    Thank you! MP should be on your bucket list.
    Anna

2019-04-27

incredible experience!

    2019-04-27

    Thank you! It was a very special time, almost magical.

2019-07-30

That video was such a find! And you have made it so easy with these recommendatios and fine details. If only I could fly right away.

    2019-07-31

    It is definitely a bucket list experience. Thank you for your comment!

2019-10-02

Oh thats another dreamdestination!
You are doing it girl, you’re living the life of a treu travelblogger. Congratulations! 😀

    2019-10-02

    Thank you so much!!!!

Kakush Muhavi
2019-10-03

I absolutely love the way you get into detail with the guides. I would certainly not get lost in Machu Picchu if I decide to use this guide.

    2019-10-03

    Thank you, Kakush!
    I try to make it as detailed as possible.

Cristel C
2019-11-13

Hi Anna, thank you very much. For the gorgeous photos you captured, I notice that Huayna Picchu is in the background. Does this mean that you went up Machu Picchu mountain? Can you get these views without going up either Huayna or MP mountain? Thank you!

    2019-11-14

    Hi Cristel!

    The views are from Machu Picchu. Specifically, they are from Warden’s Hut.
    I am not aware of any other places where you could capture these specific views.
    Let me know if you need any help. It could be confusing.
    Anna

Erin
2021-04-20

Hi Anna!
I love your site, it is so easy to navigate. I am going in July of 2021 but it looks like most of the mountain is shut down currently. I was curious if you know how I can see if Sun Gate will be open and accessible while I am visiting? I am also staying at the Belmond so I can spend 2 days at the mountain, when do you recommending touring the citadel if I am there from around 10am Thur until 6pm Fri in July?

    2021-04-22

    Hi Erin,
    Oh awesome! I would keep an eye on Machu Picchu website and buy the entrance tickets as soon as they open it up, because, I have a feeling these tickets will gone fast. Not sure if Sun Gate will be open. I would send them an email and find out the details.
    You should plan on being at the Citadel both days. Are you planning to hike to either Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain (plan for Thursday)? Above all do not miss the sunrise, which could be planned for Friday morning.
    Good luck with your trip planning!
    Anna

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