This is a very brief article that describes how to sneak into Machu Picchu for free. There is no space here for the moral discussion of why it is or is not acceptable. For the narrative version of this information, and indeed for a much more in-depth idea of the sneaking, see the post I wrote: Mischief and Misery in Cusco. Of course the disclaimer is that I can’t be held accountable for the truth in any of this. I might just be a goos storyteller.
Instructions on How to Sneak into Machu Picchu
From Cusco jump a bus toward Santa Maria. You should be able to negotiate the price down to 10 sols. You can also try to hitchhike, like we did. Once in Santa Maria many hours later, your next task will be to get to Santa Teresa. You can spend 5 sols to jump aback a pick-up truck to Santa Teresa, or try to walk. It would take you many, many hours.
Once in Santa Teresa, walk two hours to the hydroelectrica, a power plant down along the dirt road. You could also take a taxi.
After you arrive to the hydroelectrica, head up to the train tracks (ask around if you feel lost). Follow the tracks to the left.
Two hours down the road you will have reached the entrance to Machu Picchu on the right. 20 minutes further will bring you to Aguas Calientes, where if you had opted for the train, you will arrive to first.
You will see two bridges, one to the left of the guardhouse and another to the right. The one to the left is not gated like the one to the right, but the guard has a clearer view of the left bridge.
Wait until night to make your attempt. During the dry season, the river may be low enough for you to jump the rocks, and it has been done. We waited until the guardhouse light was turned out, but assumed that the guard was awake.
Stick to the shadows as you sneak up behind the guardhouse. Follow the wall around to the right, and, remaining in the shadow, duck and sprint across to the far side of the right bridge’s gate.
Holding fast to the fence that is wrapped around the bridge, and placing your feet on the rafters beneath the bridge, shimmy your way a few feet down the bridge. You might decide to cross the entire bridge this way, but it is only necessary until you reached the shadows where the bridge’s light does not reach. At that point, you can crawl onto the bridge’s road, and go prone or run to the other side.
Some accounts have said that there are tripwires and/or a guard on the far side of the bridge, but at our attempt in 2011 there was not.
Once on the other side of the bridge, the difficult part is over. Go to the right, always remaining on the side of the road in case a vehicles appears, because you will want to jump into the forest quickly. Located the stairs and begin climbing.
As you near the top, cutting across the road’s switchbacks, you will start to pass by covered rest areas. If you reach the very top, where the Machu Picchu parking lot is, you will have gone too far. Head back to the first or second rest area (I do not recall which). Behind the rest area (a covered palapa, you will see matted down vegetation. This is a trail.
Follow the trail, which is slick and steep, so hold on to trees as you go, until you come to a 12 foot high wall. You will have to scale this wall. Once on the other side of the wall, continue until you come emerging upon the bottom of the Machu Picchu terraces. The sneaking into Machu Picchu difficult parts are now behind you.
Follow the stairs up toward the main part, remaining alert should you see flashlights on the hill. Stay in the shadows. Once on the level ground of the complex, you are in. You must now hide.
We hid in the Sacred Rock, for better or for worse. We remained in there until around 10am, by which time there were plenty of tourists inside. We emerged among them without issue. There is no issue leaving the complex either.
Some people get caught because they do not hide. Make sure you’re well hidden, because the grounds are searched before they open. Now that you’ve snuck into Machu Picchu for free, enjoy justifying it for the rest of your life!