How To Get To Machu Picchu
When I first arrived in Cusco, I seriously thought visiting Machu Picchu was going to be an easy day trip. I budgeted maybe $20 each and thought that would be enough. LOL. Unfortunately, Machu Picchu is unlike most other major tourist sites. There isn’t even road access to Aquas Calientes, the nearest town! If you are planning to visit Machu Picchu, you can do so by foot, bus, car, train, or even a combination of them all. Here I’ll break down the different options, length, and pricing for each choice.
How to Get to Machu Picchu by Foot
Hiking to Machu Picchu is a popular choice for many to reach the ruins. Most take three or four days to complete, so if you have plenty of time, this may be the option for you. The Salkantay Trek, the Inca Jungle Trek, and the Inca Trail are the three main routes to reach the Machu Picchu ruins. Each one includes camping gear, a guide, meals, entrance to Machu Picchu and transport back to Cusco, so they require minimal planning and boast maximum enjoyment of Peru’s beautiful landscapes. Which should you choose?
Inca Trail: The Inca Trail is by far the most popular choice, and for good reason. Walk along the original Inca road and visit plenty of ruins along the way. This is a must for any Incan aficionado or history buff. However, the government has recently implemented a new rule restricting the amount of tourists allowed on the trail every day, which means the Inca Trail gets booked out MONTHS in advance. If you have your heart set on doing this hike to Machu Picchu, start looking at booking it up to 6 months in advance or you may miss out. Another unintended outcome from the tourist restriction was a sharp price increase in tour costs as well. Right now, you can book the Inca Trail trek online for
$550 to $750 USD. The tour has 2 day, 4 day, and 5 day options. Learn more about the Inca Trail here
Salkantay Trek: The Salkantay Trek is another great option. It combines comfortable camping (you won’t be hauling your tent or cooking your own meals) with breathtaking scenery. The Salkantay Trek may appeal to you if you’re on a budget, as base costs begin at only $185 USD. The trek can be done in either 4 or 5 days, and includes hikes to Humantay lake, a trek through the Salkantay pass, and both mountain and jungle scenery before culminating in a visit to Machu Picchu. Read more about my experience on the Salkantay Trek here.
Inca Jungle Trek: Are 10+ mile walks and nights spent sleeping in tents just a little too much for you? If so, the Inca Jungle Trek may be the perfect fit. First, it’s all hostels, all the way. Second, you can ditch the boring hiking for more adventurous activities. Every day of the trek includes something new. Day one begins with a two hour downhill mountain bike ride, day two includes white water rafting, and day three has ziplining on the itinerary. The Inca Jungle trek can be done in either 3 or 4 days, and prices start around $250 USD. Learn more about the Inca Jungle Trek here!
How to Get to Machu Picchu By Train
The easiest way to reach Machu Picchu is by train. Of course, it’s also one of the most expensive. The Peru Rail offers online ticket purchases. They sell out, so it’s best to purchase in advance so you can get the exact time, date, and train station you want. Yes, I said train station, because there are three different stops before reaching Aquas Calientes. The best option is to take the train from Cusco’s Poroy station, which is only about a 30 minute taxi ride from the city center. Prices for tickets from Cusco to Machu Picchu range from $50 USD to $150 USD… one way. Ollantaytambo is the second stop on the rail. If tickets to or from Cusco are sold out for your dates, this is the next option. The town is a two hour taxi ride (which will run you about $5pp for a collectivo, or $40 for a private car) from Cusco. If both options are sold out, Urabamaba, a small town in the Sacred Valley, is the third and final place to catch the train to Machu Picchu.
If you decide to take the train, it will range from 1.5 to 4 hours depending on the station and company that you book. The train will take you to Aquas Calientes, the last town before Machu Picchu. Aquas Calientes is surprisingly built up, and contains a large variety of hotels, restaurants, markets and shops. From Aquas Calientes, you will have to either walk or take a bus to Machu Picchu. The bus tickets cost $12 USD each, and walking takes about an hour on a steep uphill staircase.
If you are taking the train from Cusco, keep in mind which entrance ticket you have for Machu Picchu. New regulations stipulate that tourists can either purchase a morning entrance from 6am to 12pm, or an afternoon entrance from 12pm to 5pm. I suggest buying a morning ticket to avoid some of the crowds, and taking the train into Aguas Calientes the day before, so you can spend the night in town and maximize your time in the ruins the next day.
How to Get to Machu Picchu By Bus or Car
This is definitely the cheapest option to visit the ruins, but it’s also the least fun. This option only requires two days. Hydroelectica is the last town accessible by road before Machu Picchu, and it’s easy to book a bus or car to this stop. Some tour operators in Cusco offer roundtrip transport by bus for as little as $20pp. I don’t know if this price includes a night’s accommodation in Aguas Calientes, any meals, or entrance into Machu Picchu, so these are things to keep in mind to ask your tour operator upon booking.
Hydroelectrica is a 6 hour drive from Cusco. From here, you have two options. You can either pay $30pp for a one way train ticket to Aquas Calientes, or walk three hours along the train tracks to the town. There are plenty of people walking on the tracks, and even some shops and restaurants set up along them, so both options are good. Once you reach Aguas Calientes, you will spend the night in the town. The next morning, you can take the bus or walk up the mountain and enter Machu Picchu with the morning ticket. I recommend getting up to the ruins as early as possible, because you will need to leave them around 11am in order to walk all the way back to Hydroelectrica in time for the 3pm busses to return to Cusco. If you’d like more time, you can always buy a train ticket for $30 back to Hydroelectica instead and cut out the three hour walk.
Whew. Getting to Machu Picchu can be really complicated. It can be done by foot, train, bus or car, and it all depends on how much time and money you want to spend on the trip. Use this guide to assess your options and choose the route thats best for you!
All my love,
Have you been to Machu Picchu? Did you go on a trek, by train, or by bus? Comment below to tell me about your experience!