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Why No Helicopter Charters to Machu Picchu?

Why Helicopters are Banned from Machu Picchu

One of the common questions we field from clients traveling in Peru is, “How can I travel to Machu Picchu by helicopter?”

In 2010, the Cusco province banned helicopters from the airspace around and over Machu Picchu, in an effort to protect indigenous wildlife.

Specifically, the noise produced by helicopter rotors is considered detrimental to some 50 species whose habitat includes Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, and Inca Trail home.

A brown caracara perched on a wall on a vista overlooking the Machu Picchu ancient ruin site

Helicopters are not permitted to fly within the 125 square mile area surrounding Peru’s most popular Inca site.

A few examples of indigenous species found in this region include:

  • Spectacled Bear
  • Red-Plumed Andean Cock of the Rock
  • Guanaco
  • Vicuña
  • Caracara

Helicopter flights are typically only permitted in response to medical or national emergencies.  Even in those circumstances, prior authorization from the Culture Directorate of Cusco and SERNAP (Peru’s National Service of Natural Protected Areas) is required.

Golden sunrise over the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu

Available Machu Picchu Transportation Options

Fortunately, those interested in visiting Machu Picchu can still choose from a variety of transportation options.

From scenic, multi-day treks on the Inca Trail to lesser-known trails with accommodation at luxury mountain lodges, to private rail charters, options for getting to Machu Picchu are plentiful.

Getting to Peru

Most international flights to Peru arrive in Lima, although Cusco now receives non-stop flights from Bogota, Colombia and La Paz, Bolivia.

From Lima, it’s common for travelers to fly to Cusco, descending to the Sacred Valley shortly thereafter; the altitude of the Sacred Valley is lower than Cusco, easing acclimation.

Illiminated cathedral on plaza de armas, photographed on leisure travel to lima peru
Stepped agricultural terraces cut into the hillside at Machu Picchu ruins showing other ancient buildings in the clouds

Machu Picchu Train Options

Train transportation options to Agua Calientes (aka Machu Picchu Pueblo) continue to improve.  Available Machu Picchu train options include:

  • Peru Rail

    • Expedition Train (economy train)
    • Vistadome (intermediate train with panoramic windows)
    • Sacred Valley Train (luxury train including lunch or dinner on board)
    • Hiram Bingham Train (luxury train including brunch and dinner, and live entertainment on board).
  • Inca Rail

    • Voyager Train (economy train)
    • 360 Train (intermediate train with panoramic windows)
    • Inca Rail First Class Train (luxury option including lunch or dinner on board)
    • Private Train (a private, luxury dining car available for 8 travelers)

All trains arrive at Aguas Calientes station, necessitating an additional 25-30 minute bus ride before reaching Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu Presidential Quarter, a triangular wall with small windows cut into it

Should you prefer a Machu Picchu hiking expedition, LANDED can arrange the following itineraries:

2-Day Inca Trail Option

Travel by train to km 104, before embarking on a 5-6 hour hike, arriving to Machu Picchu in the afternoon with the option to visit the ruins that day (time permitting; depending on group pace).

After exploring Machu Picchu, you’ll head to a nearby for an overnight stay.  You can then revisit the site the next morning.


4-Day Inca Trail Camping Option

After a short train journey, you’ll begin your 4-day hike to Machu Picchu at km 82, trekking for around 8 – 9 hrs per day and sleeping in campsites.

LANDED can arrange a variety of different camping options–from basic to luxurious–custom-tailored to your requirements and budget.

Inca Trail Tickets

Permits for the Inca Trail entry must be acquired well in advance of travel.  It is common for the route to sell out 6 months or more in advance for peak season dates.

Blue train cars with white roofs en route to Agua Calientes, near Machu Picchu

The Sacred Valley typically has two seasons:

  • Dry/High Season (April to October)

  • Rainy/Low Season (November to March)

The climate in the Sacred Valley can be unpredictable—even in the peak of dry season, a rainy day is never out of the question.

Similarly, the rainy season has been known to include a few sunny days. With this in mind, we advise LANDED clients to pack rain gear, regardless of season and expected weather.

Poroy Train Station Closures

From January 1st to April 30th, the Poroy train station closes.

While trains continue to operate during this time, they are limited to arrival in either Ollantaytambo or another station nearby.

Stepped residential terraces cut into steep green hillside at Machu Pichu Inca ruin site in Peru

Since the July 2017 rule change, first entry to Machu Picchu must be with a guide.  You are not required to have a guide for subsequent entries (e.g. an afternoon visit on the same day, or a morning visit the following day).

For those wishing to explore the Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, guide service is not mandatory, but trail tickets are needed.

Machu Picchu Ticket Time Limits

The average Machu Picchu tour duration is between 2 and 2.5 hrs, with a 4 hour maximum allowed on a regular ticket.

Tickets with a Huayna Picchu extension allow a maximum of 6 hours, while tickets with a Machu Picchu Mountain extension allow a maximum of 8 hours.

Re-entry is permitted at Machu Picchu; you can exit the national park and re-enter by showing your ticket.

Double rainbow over the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru

Machu Picchu tour groups are limited to a maximum of 16 people and must be accompanied by an official Machu Picchu tour guide.

LANDED suggests a maximum ratio of 8 people per guide, to help ensure the quality of your experience.  Usually, we arrange private guides for couples and families.

Machu Picchu Bus Wait Times

The queue for the bus to Machu Picchu is typically quite long—in high season you can expect to wait between 30 minutes and an hour.

However, we can charter a bus for you.  Chartered buses can be scheduled in advance, eliminating the wait.

Machu Pichu at dawn

Machu Picchu Tour Options

  • Machu Picchu Morning Tour Entry (6:00 am – 12:00 pm)
  • Machu Picchu Afternoon Tour Entry (12:00 pm – 17:30 pm)
  • Machu Picchu Mountain (Cerro Machu Picchu) Hiking Trail Entry Times
    • Option A (7:00 am – 8:00 am)
    • Option B (9:00 am – 10:00 am)
  • Huayna Picchu Mountain Hiking Trail Entry Times
    • Option A (7:00 am – 8:00 am)
    • Option B (10:00 am – 11:00 am)

For the ticketed trails (Machu Picchu Mountain and Huayna Picchu Mountain), we usually recommend Option A (7:00 – 8:00 am) to ensure adequate time to fully explore Machu Picchu afterwards.

Switchback road near Inca ruins of Machu Picchu

Prohibited items at Machu Picchu include:

  • Tripods, supports or extensions for cameras or cell phones (including ‘selfie sticks’)
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Musical instruments
  • Strollers (baby carriers are permitted)
  • Professional filming is only allowed with express prior authorization from the Culture Directorate of Cusco and Sernanp.
  • Metal-tipped poles (Machu Picchu approved rubber tips can be purchased in Cusco)
  • Tobacco, ‘vaping’ devices, and electronic cigarettes
  • Drones

At the entrance to Machu Picchu there’s a place for visitors to leave their any prohibited items they have inadvertently brought.

What else is banned at Machu Picchu?

Bad behavior such as taking artifacts, climbing on walls, paraglider flyovers, and feeding the local wildlife.

Wide angle shot of the Quarry at Machu Picchu in Peru

Thinking of visiting Machu Picchu? Download our Machu Picchu Guide.

LANDED provides personalized, custom travel within Central America, South America, and the Antarctic. We’ll create a unique itinerary plan tailored to your interests and dreams.

Experience the trip of a lifetime. Speak with one of our expert travel planners today at 801.582.2100.

“Few romances can ever surpass that of the granite citadel on top of the beetling precipices of Machu Picchu, the crown of Inca Land.”

-Hiram Bingham-

Uxua Casa & Hotel Trancoso, Brazil

Bob Shevlin is a true character.

In person, he’s the definition of cool: “cool doesn’t say much, but it knows what to say.” He’s a creative genius, but he’s humble and a little camera shy.

That’s why I’m posting a photo of his bull terrier, Zero. Happily, Bob was willing open up and offer he backstory to his unforgettable hotel in Trancoso, Bahia, Brazil.

We met Bob in 2015 at a conference in Switzerland, a few years after our first visit to Uxua. Seeing him for the first time, from across a hotel dining room, I remember thinking, “That guy knows more about fashion than all ever know.

Either that, or he’s um pouco louco.” (He also looks like he can benchpress multiples of his bodyweight.) By the time that conference ended, Bob had become one of our favorite people in the hotel biz.

Bob and his business partner, Wilbert Das, are known worldwide for their sense of style and artistry. They also deserve much of the credit for preserving the essence of Trancoso, helping locals understand how special their community is, while earning fair value for their increasingly rare craftsmanship and skill.

If you’ve never been to Trancoso, put it on your list near the top. If you want to enjoy it to the fullest, stay at Uxua.

Back to Zero for a minute. This gentle bully is a local legend. We borrowed him during our 2018 invasion of Casa Anderson. He made my kids’ day. Sure, he bit my arm and I had to drag him down the beach, but he also helped us feel right at home.

Trancoso, we miss you.

Show Notes

If you’d like to learn more about Uxua’s local artisans, check out Uxua Casa. Sure, a that custom chair might take a year to make, but it will be worth the wait.

Antarctica: An Explorer’s View

Sunniva, or Sunny, is a polar explorer, fundraiser, motivational speaker, and friend. Although she’s disarmingly friendly and self-effacing, Sunny has jaw-dropping resilience and strength.

In 1993, as part of a historic four-woman expedition, she skied 67 days across Antarctica, covering more than 700 miles in -60 degree weather.

Headwinds topped 50 miles per hour.  Each woman pulled 200-pound sled.  They were the first women’s team to reach the South Pole without the aid of sled dogs or motorized vehicles.

Since then, she’s returned to the Antarctic dozens of times, and how services as Director of Sales for Polar Latitudes, a leader in polar expedition cruising.

She’s also completed expeditions on Kilimanjaro and the Greenland Ice Sheet. Now, she’s preparing to overwinter in Svalbard in a hut, in a regional inhabited by polar bears.

Show Notes

If you’d like to contribute to Sunniva’s overwintering project, the website is Hearts in the Ice.

Sacred Valley, Peru

Marie Helene (know as “Petit”) Miribel and her husband Franz Schilter are the creators of Sol y Luna, a Relais & Chateaux boutique hotel located in the town of Urubamba, Peru. Petit was born in France.

She studied economics, and then came to Peru for her work in the mining industry. There she met Franz, and began exploring the Andes.

The Sacred Valley, between Cusco and Machu Picchu, seemed like the ideal spot for a hotel; the region was close to two major tourism centers, rich in natural beauty, and surrounded by active adventure opportunities.

In the early 2000’s Sol y Luna began operating as a cluster of cottages surrounded by gardens.  In 2002, they added stables and a ranch.

The following year they completed 14 new casitas.  The spa opened in 2007, Wayra Ranch was completed in 2009, and the Deluxe and Premium casitas were added in 2010. Additional improvements (such as the heated outdoor pool) were completed in 2016.

Early on, they identified the need for quality primary education for the community’s children. The hotel became a means of supporting a school, which opened in 2010.

Today, Sol y Luna Intercultural School educates more than 200 children through a scholarship system.  The school also provides housing, emotional support, meals, transportation, and special education.

Show Notes

Sol y Luna has a special place in our hearts.  LANDED sponsors two children at the school, and our own children spent a summer enrolled as students.

If  you’d like to make a donation or learn more about sponsorships, please visit the sponsorship page or contact LANDED for additional details.

Puro Vik

Puro Vik: Contemporary Design

Vik Retreats is an internationally-renowned collection of boutique hotels.

These retreats are renowned for their genuine hospitality, settings–beach, wine valleys, pampas–and focus on design. Each room features installations and original artwork by leading contemporary artists.

“The most beautiful thing in the world is, of course, the world itself.”

-Wallace Stevens-

Inaugurated in December 2018, Puro Vik represents the newest Vik concept by curators Carrie and Alexander Vik.

Contemporary architectural design glass house on the hills of Vik Vinyard in Chile

Perched on the rolling hills of their Vik Chile estate, Puro Vik includes 18 sleek, glass-walled villas with panoramic views of Millahue Valley vineyards.

Floor-to-Ceiling Glass Villas

Each villa features floor-to-ceiling glass, eliminating visual borders with the surrounding treetops and foliage.

The unique design and spacing of the cabins ensures privacy, while allowing guests to drink in the dramatic vistas of the valley below.

Vast rows of yellow grape vines in Chilean Millahue vineyard; rows of ripe yellow grape vines backed by mountains in Chile's wine country

Bedrooms and bathrooms open onto private terraces, blurring the boundary between interior spaces and the outdoors. Guests can enjoy fine Chilean wines beneath the warm sun, serene moon, and brilliant constellations of the Southern Hemisphere.

Puro Vik houses feature a free-standing glass closet, museum-quality design furnishings, and wide-planked hardwood floors that continue from the bedroom to the terrace.

Each bathroom is unique, with marble curated from around the world. Handmade Japanese washi paper, set inside glass walls, creates elegant separation between the bedroom and bath.

Forward-Thinking Design & Art

The roof of each house is covered with wild grasses or solar panels, depending individual sun exposure and orientation.

In keeping with the Vik Retreat philosophy, avant-garde art and design play an integral role in Puro Vik experience.

Each Puro Vik house has a unique personality and theme, among them:

  • Artifacts and Antiquities
  • Pop Art
  • Japan with Utagawa Hiroshige
  • The Art of Glass with Dale Chihuly
  • 18th-century France
  • Holographic Art
  • Bohemian Design
  • Neon and Light
  • Site-Specific Art Installations
  • La Piu Belle (An Homage to the Most Recent Viña VIK Wine)

Fine Dining

Guests of Puro Vik enjoy flavorful Chilean cuisine and fine wines at the Milla Milla and Pavilion restaurants, with views of the vineyards.

Our rates include:

  • Buffet breakfast
  • Lunch with soft drinks and a glass of La Piú Belle wine per person (wine for adults only)
  • Afternoon tea
  • Dinner with soft drinks and a glass of Milla Cala wine plus two glasses of VIK wine per person (for adults – for children wine is not included)
  • Mini-bar with mineral water during the stay
Millahue Vineyard, Chile at Harvest time with yellow green and orange leaves

Leisure Activities

Guests at Puro Vik have access to the amenities at the neighboring, hilltop Vik Chile lodge:

  • Swimming pool and sundeck
  • Fitness center
  • Game room
  • Restaurant
  • Spa

A winery tour and tasting is also included, as are horseback rides, mountain biking, a picnic experience, birding, stargazing, and even paintball. Yoga and cooking classes are also available.

Puro Vik Helicopter Charters

Puro Vik is accessible via the Santiago airport, serviced daily from international airports around the world.

The property is a 2.5 drive from the airport.

Helicopter charters (private, one hour) can be arranged.

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 9.42.20 PM

LANDED delivers the finest in custom, private travel to Central America, South America, and Antarctica. These regions are our passion; we know them first-hand and by heart. Speak with one of our expert travel planners today at 801.582.2100. We’ll create the most exceptional trip of your life.