lima to machu picchu distance

Lima is usually the beginning of an incredible adventure for many travelers. The capital of the Inca country is is the gateway for 99% of foreign visitors who want to visit Machu Picchu, the Amazon, the Nazca Lines, and the north beach among other attractions. In this form, every adventure has to continue to new places. Therefore, in the case of the most visited Peruvian attractive, it is ideal to know how much it’s Lima to Machu Picchu distance, and how to get there. That is why together with Machu Travel Peru we want to explain what you need to know for your trip to the long-awaited Inca citadel.

All you need to know about the Lima to Machu Picchu distance

Distance from Lima to Machu Picchu

from lima to machu picchu flight

First, we have to say that there is no direct way to get from Lima to Machu Picchu. You have to make first a scale in Cusco (obligatory) and after get to Aguas Calientes (the modern and support town of Machu Picchu), to, finally, get to the Inca wonder. It’s due to Cusco airport and land bus station being the closest to the Inca’s citadel. Like so, the train station located in Aguas Calientes is the closest to the world wonder, too.

In strict form, the distance from Lima to Machu Picchu is 503 km in a straight line, but the land route has a distance of 1205 km. Within numerous tour packages or trips already scheduled, you can find that a large majority have Lima as the beginning of the adventure. Almost all international flights can land in the capital. Therefore, travelers take advantage of this short time here and experiment with the essence of this awesome and beautiful city.

From Lima to Cusco

from lima to machu picchu options

If you come from abroad, it is usually fly into Lima, first, to go to Machu Picchu, after. Having said that, there are several ways to get to the expected wonder of the world from the City of Kings (Lima). You can go by car, bus, or train. Within these variants, you can arrive more or less quickly, everything will depend on your budget and how much you want to enjoy the landscapes that await you. Remember that you will ascend from Lima (0 meters above sea level) to Cusco (3,399 meters above sea level)

First, the best thing you can do before starting your trip is to enjoy at least a little of your stay in the Peruvian capital. There are many things to do in Lima, among which you can enjoy various beautiful beaches, award-winning gastronomy, and various sports of different kinds. It is recommended to take a day or two to enjoy the different museums, typical food, and particular architecture, and recharge energy to start your trip to Cusco.

1. By bus

from lima to machu pichu land map

If you are looking for the cheapest option, then going by bus would be the ideal thing. The bus trip from Lima to Cusco can take approximately 22 to 27 hours. In addition to having the opportunity to acclimatize to the altitude properly, you will have the chance to explore the different scenarios of Peru. The reason why this trip can be so long is that you will be bordering the Andes mountain range, passing from coast to highlands. Many travelers recommend the route that passes through Arequipa (the other journey passes through Ayacucho, and it is not recommendable to take it by the excessive altitude of some points located during its route). Although the route is longer, it is also kind of a  safer option. Depending on the company you choose, the bus will have different amenities.

A. Direct route: Lima – Nazca – Cusco

bus fro lima to machu picchu

The bus trip lasts 22 hours and goes through the coast up to Nazca, a city located south of Lima. From this point, the bus turned left entering the Andean mountains and beginning its slow ascend to Abancay (2,377 m.a.s.l). Passing this city, the next destination will be Cusco (3,399 m.a.s.l) It is very recommendable for help to the body acclimatize to the altitude in a better form. Usually, the buses depart from Lima central bus terminal around 2 or 3 pm, spending a night onboard, and arriving in Cusco around 12 to 1 pm. Therefore, if you are planning a trip to Machu Picchu, please take note about how is the best form to acclimatize your body to the altitude.

B. With scale: Lima – Nazca – Arequipa – Cusco

tepsa bus from lima to cusco

The bus trip can take 24 hours or more. The route goes along the coast, passing Nazca, up to Arequipa, a city located further south of Lima, almost parallel to Cusco. From this city, the bus will turn left heading to the Andes. The disadvantage is that it will take longer to reach your destination, but you will have the possibility to know other attractions on the route, like the Huacachina oasis, the Nazca lines, or the same city of Arequipa. The depart schedule of buses and the zone of departure is the same that the buses of a direct route.

2. By plane

from lima to machu pichu map

Machu Picchu is far from Lima by plane 503 km (straight line), unfortunately, the Inca citadel, due to its inhospitable location and to conserve the native fauna, doesn’t have an airport, airfield, or heliport. As we mentioned before, the visitor has to make obligatory stops in Cusco and Aguas Calientes, before. Now, if your priority is time, it is best to go by plane to Cusco. It lasts for about an hour and twenty minutes. The Lima to Machu Picchu distance seems like nothing when you move through the air. You will meet in the Imperial City in a matter of minutes.

The flight frequencies to the Imperial city are many and daily, air companies like LATAM, Jet Smart, and Sky Airlines offer the service with high-quality standards. Similarly, as the trip is so fast, it is best to take some precautionary measures against altitude sickness. When arriving in Cusco, you can leave the imperial city and go directly to the Sacred Valley (2,871 m.a.s.l) since it is at a lower altitude than Cusco (3,399 m.a.s.l), and you’ll acclimatize more efficiently.

In case Cusco is the definitive stop, you can drink a coca tea or even resort to pills like Sorojchi. Even, you can book a travel ticket in advance to be more secure regarding your Machu Picchu tours. You can do it through your tour operator or any travel agency, which will help you throughout the itinerary of your trip. Or you can also do it on the airline page, with the different airline companies, or at the airport with a personal agent. The biggest disadvantage of traveling by plane is that you will miss the most important landscapes throughout the trip, from the Peruvian coast to Mountain Range.

3. By private car

car from lima to machu picchu

There is also the possibility to hire a private car. The Lima to Machu Picchu distance seems shorter when going by car, but it is not too different from the bus option because you have control. This measure is quite similar to the bus, with the difference of taking maybe a few hours less, depending on your driving pace and whether you decide to rest or not in an intermediate city.

Fortunately, the little towns located throughout the route have hostels and hotels for these kinds of travelers. However, the internet network throughout the country is not very good, so if you expect to use Google Maps or Waze throughout your journey, you may be disappointed. We recommend you always carry a physical map with you. Happily, there are many rent-a-car companies like Europcar, and Avis rent a car, among others. Besides paying the car rental cost, you will have to leave a guarantee of a minimum of $500 (depending on car type)

From Cusco To Aguas Calientes

main square in aguas calientes

Once in the Imperial City, it is a good idea that you enjoy the many things to do in Cusco. This charming city is home to numerous activities and archaeological ruins that are worth your visit. Also, the nearby Sacred Valley offers other incredible towns and archaeological sites to enjoy. Both places are perfect to acclimatize to the altitude. It is advisable to spend a few days and enjoy everything available in these two charming towns.

A. By train

train from lima to machu picchu

Among the best feelings, you’ll have on this trip to the Inca citadel; one of them is traveling by train. Besides being the oldest way to get to Machu Picchu, the train trip assure you enjoy beautiful landscapes from the Andes and the Peruvian jungle eyebrow. The train to Machu Picchu without a doubt adds magic and novelty to the entire trip. Depending on your desired train service, you can enjoy different comforts and wonderful views.

In Cusco are two renowned train companies that offer the route Cusco – Machu Picchu, Peru Rail, and Inca Rail, and both have three kinds of tourist services in their railway carriages that departure from different stations. The advantage is that you will have a variety of prices and services to choose from, and these are the most comfortable options to get to Machu Picchu. Using them, we can arrive rested, reserving strength and energy when touring the archaeological complex. Undoubtedly, there is nothing better on your Peru vacation than enjoying a comfortable and luxurious train ride to the Inca citadel.

Train stationsLocationTrain travel timeUsed by the train companyFinal train station
WanchaqCusco city04 hours approxPeru RailAguas Calientes town
San PedroCusco City04 hours approxPeru RailAguas Calientes town
PoroySurroundings of Cusco city (11 km from Cusco)03 hours approxPeru RailAguas Calientes town
OllantaytamboSacred Valley (61.5 km from Cusco)02 hours approxPeru Rail & Inca RailAguas Calientes town

Please, take note that no transportation types reach the same Machu Picchu (except the trekking way). The final station of the trains, in all cases, is the Aguas Calientes town (the support and modern town of Machu Picchu) It is located 8.5 km north of the same Inca citadel.

Peru Rail has 3 different train services, going from the cheapest (large windows on each side of the carriage, comfortable seats, and small snacks onboard) to the most luxurious (brunch and diner gourmet, open bar, tour guides, and observatory car onboard), these are the Expedition, the Vistadome, and the Luxury Hiram Bingham. Inca Rail offers similar services in slightly more modern carriages, the 360º, the Voyager, and the First-Class train. The prices go from $130 up to $1000, per person, round trip.

B. By trekking

hiking from lima to machu picchu

Hiking to Machu Picchu is the most exciting way to get to the renowned Inca citadel without having to pass through Aguas Calientes town. Especially if you have an adventurous soul. From just a few days to a full week of hiking, you can choose several routes that lead from Cusco or Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu. Regardless of which hiking route you decide to visit Machu Picchu, you can guarantee some incredible views and an unforgettable adventure. Among the most popular treks, you can find:

1. The Inca Trail

inca trail to machu picchu

4 days of trekking. In case you are looking for something more challenging for your trip between Lima to Machu Picchu, there is an option well-known to adventurers. The Inca Trail is a challenging hike with the promise of beautiful landscapes and unforgettable memories. You can have the classic 3-day tour or the shorter variant of just two days, just take note, the first part of the route is by train.

The visitor has to take a train from San Pedro, Poroy, or Ollantaytambo train station (Very early) until 82 km heading to Aguas Calientes. From this point in the middle of the way to Machu Picchu, the trekking will begin. This experience passes through beautiful landscapes of the mountain range to 4224 m.a.s.l. It is also important to know when is the best time to go to Machu Picchu via Inca Trail (Dry season. From April to November), but keep in mind that during February, the Trail is closed for maintenance reasons.

2. Salkantay Trek

best trekking experiences in peru salkantay trek

5 days of trekking. The trek begins from Mollepata town (located 3 hours from Cusco) Salkantay is the name of a mountain belonging to the Vilcabamba range. The trek begins in Mollepata town, 135 km west of Cusco, to which you will arrive by bus or van. The trekking will begin in the Soraypampa camp zone, you will pass by beautiful sceneries of the Andes and Peruvian jungle, surrounding the Salkantay snow, and feel the change of weather from cold and dry to hot and humid. Machu Picchu will be the icing on the cake at finalizing this trek.

3. Inca Jungle trek

inca trail jungle to machu picchu

4 days of trekking. This route is for true adventurers because the experience includes, biking, trekking, rafting, and zip-line before getting to Machu Picchu, and it passes through Sacred Valley and Jungle eyebrow. The trek begins by taking a bus from Cusco to Abra Malaga (4230 m.a.s.l). From this point, the adventure will begin biking and descending to the low jungle. The next day the trekking will begin among the undergrowth, and exotic flora and fauna. Once in Santa Teresa town, the next day, rafting will be the challenge to overcome, followed by a zip-line in the afternoon. On the last day, trekking up to Aguas Calientes will be the final step to get to Machu Picchu.

4. Lares Trek

amazing trek of lares how long is the inca trail

4 days of trekking. The tour begins by taking a bus from Cusco to Lares Hot Spring (the bus trip lasts 2 hours). After taking a relaxing bath, the trek will begin stepping on snow, surrounding snow hills, glacial lagoons, and charming towns, in 4 days of unforgettable memories. Finally, we’ll arrive at Ollantaytambo train station. From this point, you will have to take a train to Machu Picchu, performing the normal tour of the Inca citadel.

C. By bus plus train

van from lima to machu picchu

The cheapest way to get to the Inca citadel is by taking a bus. However, to take this option, always check out previously the best time to visit Machu Picchu. We recommend choosing this way only during the dry season (from April to November) Why? Because the bus road is dry and is the easiest drive over it. On the other hand, during the rainy season (from December to March) the rain can landslides, and mud, making dangerous the bus trip.

Usually, the Vans or minibusses depart from the same Cusco (Puputi or Pavitos stations) and go to Santa Maria town (a place located 181 km from Cusco). From this point, the bus makes a turn to the left, passes over the Santa Maria bridge to the other Vilcanota riverside, and continues its journey until Santa Teresa town located on the Cusco jungle eyebrow, to 203 kilometers. The road up to there is formed by dirt and dust. The bus ticket cost around $22 per person, one way, per person.

From this town, you will have to make a transshipment to another minibus that will take you to Hidroelectrica place (hydroelectric train station), located 10 kilometers from Santa Teresa, the minibus ticket cost around $3 per person, one way. From this point, you have two options, the first one is to do a trek to Aguas Calientes, this trekking lasts 03 hours. The second option is to take the local train heading to Aguas Calientes (the train trip lasts 30 minutes), you can buy the train tickets at the same station which cost $4 per person, one way. But take note that this train has a regular service (no tourist-level service) To return, you can do it in the same way or take a direct train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo or Cusco.

From Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

best time to visit machu picchu in dry season

Once arrive at Aguas Calientes town, either by train, trekking, or taking a bus, you will have two options to get, finally, to the Inca citadel.


from aguas calientes to machu picchu

These buses belong to the Aguas Calientes municipality company, in which all inhabitants of the town are shareholders. The units are modern, and well-cared, have air condition systems, padded seats, and large windows on both sides of buses. These depart every 5 minutes from its own station located in the Aguas Calientes town (It is very easy to find it due to the town being very small), and from its final station (located on the top of the mountain, just in front of the entrance to the Machu Picchu archaeological park) The buses operate from 05:30 am to 05:45 pm, every day, 365 days a year. You can buy bus tickets at the same station or via the internet. The bus ticket, round trip, costs $24 per person.

B. Climb up to Machu Picchu

trek from lima to machu picchu

There is a zig-zag footpath that begins in the Ruins bridge, located 1.7 km southwest of Aguas Calientes town. From this point, you will begin the climb through a mountain for 01 hour approx to the same Machu Picchu entrance. The return is the same way. Please, take into account that it is not recommended to do this walk in the rainy season (from November to March), because the path will be full of mud, it will be slippery and dangerous landslides can occur, due to the sharp fall of the Aguas Calientes river.

Getting from Lima to Machu Picchu in one day

flight from lima to machu picchu
  • Of course, getting from Lima to Machu Picchu in one day is possible. However, the risk is very high. The visitor would have to take a flight from Lima to Cusco very early (Flights that arrive in Cusco at 05 or 06 am ). But, Why? To catch the morning trains that depart from Cusco (Wanchaq or San Pedro) or Poroy. After 08 am, there are no more trains that leave for Machu Picchu.
  • Once in Cusco, the visitor would have to go to Poroy Train Station (Located 1 hour from Cusco). If it is already later than 08 am, the visitant will have to go directly to Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley (Located 2 hours from Cusco) to take a train to Machu Picchu town. From this place, the trains can depart later than 08 a.m. But be careful, the train trip up to Aguas Calientes is 02 hours, and while catching a bus to the top of the mountain (01 hour trip), where is located Machu Picchu, and makes a tour through it (at least 02:30 hrs), the time may not be enough since the Inca citadel close at 05:00 pm.
  • The return to Cusco could be on the trains that depart at 7 or 8 pm to Ollantaytambo. And, from the Sacred Valley, you will have to catch a transport (van or minibus) to Cusco.

But, Why this travel option is a risk? The body’s acclimatization is the principal factor. Let that your body acclimatize, at least, one day in Sacred Valley or Cusco before reaching Machu Picchu, is recommendable. The other factor, and more common, is the schedule, the visitor has to prevent possible delays in flights or trains. If one of them suffers a lag, the day will be lost.

Choose your best transportation option regarding price

train to Cusco

Flying is the fastest, most comfortable, and most convenient alternative (of course, if you don’t mind spending some dollars more). Many flights leave from Lima to Cusco from the morning (05:00 am) until the evening (11:00 pm). The trip by flight lasts approx 1 hour and 20 minutes. There are many airlines like Latam, Sky Airlines, and Jet Smart, inter alia. The flight tickets from Lima airport – Cusco cost around $60.00 approx. If you add to the flight cost, the transportation from Cusco to Train Station (around $15.00) and train tickets (around $70.00 more). The final cost will be around $150.00 approx, one way, per person.

As for the bus alternative, there are daily departures that connect Lima to Cusco. Cruz del Sur, Oltursa, Movil Tours, and Civa are renowned bus companies that offer comfortable services for long trips. These are from 22 to 24 hours of road trips connecting both destinations. Usually, the buses depart from Lima around 3 or 4 pm and arrive at Cusco at 1 or 2 pm the next day. Therefore, the bus option is longer, less comfortable, and not very convenient compared to flights; but it is much cheaper. A bus from Lima to Cusco costs $25.00, including the transportation from Cusco to the train station ($15.00) and the train services ($70.00 more). The final cost will be $110.00 approx, one way, per person.

Of course, these prices will suffer variants if the visitor includes the option of trekking to get to Machu Picchu.

Therefore, depending on your tastes and available time, you can choose one or the other. But we highly recommend flying and thus making the most of the time on the different tours in Peru.


As you will see, the Lima to Machu Picchu distance should not be an obstacle, but rather an opportunity to take advantage of. With all the available travel modalities, you will be able to enjoy a complete experience within the Andean country. Among all the available trips, visiting Machu Picchu is a milestone for anyone. We hope that the distance does not stop you from undertaking all your most desired trips. For this reason, Machu Travel Peru hopes that, whatever your decision, you will enjoy your entire experience in this beautiful country.

Peru has so much to offer, it can be hard to know where to start. With many years of experience in the tourism sector, Machu Travel Peru is happy to help with anything regarding your trip to Machu Picchu and any tours around it. Make your Machu Picchu experience an unforgettable one!