All normal transport to Machu Picchu leaves from the city of Cusco. There are basically three alternatives (OK, four if we consider helicopter flights to Aguas Calientes):
Train transport to Machu Picchu is the most common way to reach the Inca citadel. Rail transportation is managed by Peru Rail, a company of the Orient Express, and features two basic route alternatives and three carriage qualities. Prices range from US$70 to US$120 for a tourist-class, round-trip.
Hiking the Inca Trail is the second most common alternative. A good physical condition is highly recommended, both for the four-day and two-day hikes. The fatigue though is completely recompensed: beautiful Andean and cloud-forest landscapes, plenty archaeological sites along the route, and a majestic entrance to Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate.
It is also possible to take a bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, and from here to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town). Frequent buses depart from Aguas Calientes and complete the journey right to the site entrance.
Usually, May to October is considered the best period to visit Machu Picchu, as it is the dry season. However, it can get pretty crowded, specially during July and August, somewhat ruining the spiritual dimension of the experience. Besides, nights can get quite cold during these months.
The rainy season, from November to April, brings heavy rains, with most precipitations coming down in January and February. It’s usually clear and dry most mornings with outbursts of heavy rain in the afternoons. During this period, some roads might be closed by landslides or flooding, in particular those leading to villages off the beaten track. And still, some people will take more pleasure in travelling during this period, as there are much less tourists around and a can a more mystic atmosphere can be experienced. Just consider the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is usually closed during February for maintenance.
Machu Picchu lies just above the cloud forest of the Andes' eastern mountains, at 2,350 m.a.s.l. A subtropical climate, it gets strong sunshine during the day, though it gets quite cool in the shade and, specially, at night, when temperatures can drop to around 8ºC (48ºF).
Average temperatures at Machu Picchu are quite mild, rarely rising above 30°C (86ºF) nor dropping below 11°C.
Machu Picchu is located on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley, about 70 km (44 miles) north west of Cusco.
Geographic coordinates are 13° 9' 23'' S, 72° 32' 34'' W. As a reference, Machu Picchu is on the same latitude as Darwin, in Australia, and almost on the same longitude as New York city.
Machu Picchu is located at 2,430 meters (7,970 ft) above sea level.
Although it's almost 1,000 meters lower than Cusco (which stands at an altitude of around 3,500m or 11,500 ft), you still need to take precautions regarding altitude-related problems when visiting Machu Picchu. This is because altitude sickness commonly occurs above 2,400 metres (approximately 8,000 feet).
Neither of these. Even worse, variations such as Machu Piccu, Machu Piccha, Macho Picho or Matchu Pitchu: Culture of Machu Piccha, for example, just to mention a quite frequent phrase, is a huge spelling mistake.
The correct name of the Inca ruins is Machu Picchu, which means Old Summit in Quechua, the original language of the Inca culture. Quechua is largely spoken today throughout the Peruvian Andes, specially in Peru's south.
Actually, there is only one hotel right next to the ruins, the Sanctuary Lodge. It occupies the same structure built in the 70s by the Peruvian government as a provisional guest house for showing Machu Picchu to excellent visitors and tourists. However, its unique setting has an obvious downturn: the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge hotel is utterly expensive.
However, there are many accommodation alternatives in Aguas Calientes (a.k.a. Machu Picchu town), the closest town to Machu Picchu (some 6km away -a 90-minute walk). Aguas Calientens hosts a wide range of accommodation facilities, from humble inns and hostels to more luxurious hotels.
The only restaurants at the ruins are those found in the Sanctuary Lodge hotel. Of the two, only the Tinkuy Restaurant Buffet is open to the general public. It offers a daily lunch buffet at about US$ 28. The other one, the Tampu Bar Restaurant, a stylish restaurant with a modern Andean-style decoration, is reserved for the hotel's guests only.
Also at the ruins, near the entrance of the site, El Mirador bar sells sandwiches, bottled water and other snacks. It usually gets packed at lunchtime, so a pretty good alternative is to bring some sandwiches and drinks with you (but be sure not to litter).
If you are for a nice meal without spending too much, you can find some nice restaurant alternatives at Aguas Calientes.
Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu town, is the closest town to Machu Picchu. It is located on a margin of the Urubamba River, some 6km away (a 90-minute walk) from the Inca ruins. It hosts many hotels and restaurants, as well as natural hot baths, which give the town its name ("hot waters" in Spanish). The baths were destroyed by floods several years ago, but have been rebuilt.
The Inca Trail is Peru's most popular trekking route. It runs for more than 40km and reaches 4,200 m.a.s.l. at its highest point, the Warmiwañuska or Dead Woman's Pass. It arrives to Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate, a location that overlooks the old Inca citadel, offering some spectacular views of the complex.
The stone-paved trail is part of the more than 23,000 km of roads built by the Incas across South America. It crosses an impressive range of natural landscapes and eco-systems, from thick tropical jungle to the bear, unwelcoming rocks of the Andean mountains. It was only discovered in 1960.
Huayna Picchu or Wayna Picchu (Young Peak in Quechua) is the mountain that rises over Machu Picchu -and that you can see in every typical Machu Picchu postcard.
The peak of Huayna Picchu is about 2720m above sea level, or about 360m higher than Machu Picchu. There is a trail to the top of the mountain, built by the Incas, as well as terraces for agricultural purposes and a temple made of stonemasonry, known as the Temple of the Moon.
The trail to Huayna Picchu's top is open to visitors, though only 400 visits are allowed daily (visitors are required to sign in by 1pm). The climb takes approximately one hour, and includes some steep and slippery stretches (which is why it can be closed during heavy rainfall).
The Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary is a protected area established in January 1981. It covers an area of more than 35,000 hectares, obviously encompassing the old citadel of Machu Picchu. Its strategic geographical location, on the eastern slope of the Andes, allows to protect ecosystems varying from the year-round snow found at 6,000 m.a.s.l., to the steamy tropical jungles to be found at just above 1,700 m.a.s.l.