When I first arrived in Cusco, I seriously thought it would be easy to get to Machu Picchu and it would be a quick day trip. I budgeted maybe $20 each and thought that would be enough.
Did you know that there isn’t even road access to the famous ruins?
Unfortunately, Machu Picchu is unlike most other major tourist sites. If you want to get to 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.
1. How to Get to Machu Picchu by Foot
Hiking to Machu Picchu is a popular choice for many. Most hikes take three or four days to complete, so if you have plenty of time on your trip this may be the option for you.
The Salkantay Trek, the Inca Jungle Trek, and the Inca Trail are the three main hiking routes to reach the Machu Picchu ruins. Each tour group will include camping gear, a guide, meals, entrance to Machu Picchu and transport back to Cusco, so this option requires minimal planning and boasts maximum enjoyment of Peru’s beautiful landscapes.
Which should you choose?
Cost: $550 to $750 usd
Length: 2-day, 4-day, and 5-day options
Learn More Here
The Inca Trail is by far the most popular choice, and for good reason. On this one you will 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, the Inca Trail is one of the most expensive ways to get to Machu Picchu, but still one of the most popular.
Cost: 185 usd
Length: 4-day and 5-day options
Learn More Here
The Salkantay Trek is another great option to hike to Machu Picchu. 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 too because base costs begin at only $185 usd per person.
The trek lets you see a wide array of Peru’s climates and terrain 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.
Inca Jungle Trek
Cost: 250 usd
Length: 3-day or 4-day options
Learn More Here
I know it can be kind of confusing if you’re just starting your research on how to get to Machu Picchu, but the Inca Trail and the Inca Jungle Trek are two very different tours.
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 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 per person.
2. 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 but they sell out quickly 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 town at the foot of Machu Picchu).
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 5 usd per person for a collectivo,(shared van ride) or 40 usd 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, the ride will range from 1.5 to 4 hours depending on the station and company that you book and end in Aquas Calientes, the last town before Machu Picchu. Aquas Calientes is surprisingly built up and has a large variety of hotels, restaurants, markets and shops.
Finally, 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 to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco, keep in mind which entrance ticket you have for the ruins. New regulations stipulate that tourists can either purchase a morning entrance from 6 am to 12 pm, or an afternoon entrance from 12 pm to 5 pm. 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.
3. 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.
Getting to Machu Picchu by bus only requires two days. The town of Hidroelectrica is a six hour drive from Cusco and the last town accessible by road before Machu Picchu. From Cusco, it’s easy to book a bus or car to this stop.
Some tour operators in the city offer roundtrip transport by bus for as little as $20 per person. However, I don’t know if this price includes a night of 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.
So, the bus or car takes you to Hidroelectrica, now what?
From this tiny town, you have two options to get to Machu Picchu. You can either:
- Pay 30 usd per person for a one way train ticket to Aquas Calientes
- Walk three hours along the train tracks to the town
We walked along the tracks on the Salkantay Trek and there were plenty of other people doing it with us. This is such a popular choice that there are even some shops and restaurants set up along them!
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.
If you go to Machu Picchu by bus or by car, 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 Hidroelectrica in time for the 3 pm busses to return to Cusco. If you’d like more time, you can always buy a train ticket for 30 usd back to Hidroelectica instead and cut out the three hour walk.
Getting to Machu Picchu can be really complicated. You can visit the famous ruins 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!
PS Learn everything you need to know about the Salkantay Trek here, continue planning your trip with these 7 day trips from Cusco that don’t require a guide, or learn how to add the famous Mount Vinicunca, Peru’s Rainbow Mountain to your Peru itinerary!