It is not a secret that the answer to what is Machu Picchu has finally been revealed. The Inca citadel was an exclusive neighborhood of the relatives of the Pachacutec Inca regent. It has ceremonial areas, houses, stores, and even terraces. It was ordered to be built in 1450 and the Spanish invaders visited the place sporadically. For this reason, Machu Picchu remained intact until today. Happily, now we can enjoy this treasure. And The ways to get tourists to Machu Picchu are three. By train, going trekking, even by bus. Depending on your budget and your time, you’ll enjoy the trip in each one of them. For that reason, together with the Machu Travel Peru team, we want to tell you everything to know how to get to Machu Picchu.
Everything you need to know how to get to this world wonder
- From everywhere to Cusco
- Cusco to Aguas Calientes
- Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
- Machu Picchu tour tips
Before arriving at a place, you have to know Where is Machu Picchu located. The citadel is situated at 2430 meters above sea level, and yes, contrary to popular belief, Machu Picchu is lower than Cusco 3400 m.a.s.l. In the district of the same name, in Urubamba province, at 75 kilometers northwest side of Cusco. All the structure is over the top of a mountain. And it is surrounded by a bushy tropical cloud forest, just between the cold mountains and the Peruvian jungle.
From everywhere to Cusco
Cusco was the capital of the Incas empire, the Sapac Inca (regent), and all his relatives lived there. Therefore, almost most of the roads left from the capital to other parts of the empire (The saying “all roads lead to Rome” could be applied to Cusco). In current times, the story is not so different, Cusco, as a modern city with air and land terminals, is a mandatory previous step to go to Machu Picchu. So you will have to get to Cusco first and after seeing options to get and take some Machu Picchu tours.
Otherwise, Lima, Peru’s capital, is the main entrance door to the Andean country. It is due to its international airport called Jorge Chavez with more than 4 million arrival per year. The passengers on most of them these flights have only one objective, visiting Machu Picchu. But, not only Lima passengers can arrive in Cusco, on the contrary, there are passengers from other Peruvian cities like Arequipa (travelers who arrived from cruises), from Juliaca (coming from Bolivia). From Puerto Maldonado (coming from Brazil). Or Tacna (coming from Chile) can get to the ancient Inca capital, too.
1. From Lima to Cusco
More than 3 million flights every year arrive at Jorge Chavez International Airport and the majority of them come to Peru for only one reason, to visit the ancient Incas citadel. In this form, they have three forms to get to Machu Picchu.
A. By plane
Whatever city you come from, you first have to fly to Cusco to get to Machu Picchu. Also, if you want to travel fast with total comfort, this is a great option. Happily, there are many flight companies with competitive prices and daily flights from Lima to Cusco, round trip. The flight schedules go from 05:45 am to 21:30 pm. We can mention LATAM, Sky Airlines, and JetSmart. The time of the flight is approx. 01:45 hrs to Cusco. A flight ticket can cost around $95 per person, one way. In the sale season, you can get low prices from a $50 round trip per person.
B. By bus
This is the cheapest way to get to Cusco. The Bus ticket cost around $70, round trip, per person. However, the travel time is long, passing an overnight onboard (around 23 hours). The bus route schedules are twice per day. Usually, these depart from 14:00 pm to 16:00 pm and arrive around 15:00 pm the next day. The most reliable bus companies are Cruz del Sur, Movil Tours, Civa, and Tepsa. Each bus company has its own station where the buses depart and arrive. The bus route passes by the coast and high mountains, with the possibility of seeing beautiful landscapes.
C. By private car
Despite you having the possibility of managing your own stops during the route and enjoying the natural and beautiful landscapes, driving on Peruvian highways is highly risky. Taking into consideration the idiosyncrasy of the Peruvian driver, the bad state of the roads, streets, and the few motels along the route. The trip is similar to a bus trip (around 23 hours or fewer). And the cost of a rental car can go from $350 to $750 per day (depending on the car style). Without mentioning the tax guarantee you will have to deposit around $600 through cash or credit card. The main “Rent a car” companies are Avis and Europcar.
2. From Arequipa to Cusco
Arequipa, together with Cusco, is the most important Peruvian south city. Moreover, it is now as The White City (it is due to Sillar, the white volcanic stone with which the city is built) and is located 514 kilometers northwest of Cusco. Usually, tourists after visiting Misti volcano or Colca canyon go directly to Cusco by airplane or bus. Happily, there are direct flights between both cities, twice per week, and the flights last 45 min approx, with a cost of around $55 per person. On the other side, the bus trips have a duration of 10 hours (travels at night) and cost around $20 per person, one way, the buses depart every day.
3. From Puerto Maldonado to Cusco
Puerto Maldonado is the most important jungle city in the south of Peru and it is the capital of the Madre de Dios department. Also, it borders Bolivia and Brazil, besides hosting the Manu National Park and the Tambopata National Reserve. It is located 478 km northeast of Cusco. Precisely, many tourists after visiting Peruvian Amazon go directly to Cusco by flight and bus, too. LATAM and JetSmart are the two companies that offer direct flights to Cusco, indeed, these companies offer twice per week, and the trip last 45 minutes approx. The flights cost around $50 per person, one way. On the other hand, the bus services depart every day, and these ones last 6 hours of the trip, with a ticket of around $20 per person, per day. Without mentioning that the bus trip is on the night.
4. From Puno to Cusco
Puno is the city of the amazing Tiahuanaco pre-Inca culture, the floating islands of Uros, and Lake Titicaca. It is located on the southeast side of Cusco, 387 kilometers in distance. The city is situated at 3810 m.a.s.l. And it is bordered by Bolivia through Lake Titicaca. Consequently, many tourists from Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and even Uruguay and Chile enter Peru, the land route, through this city.
Unfortunately, the only way to get to Cusco from Puno is by bus within 7 hours of the trip with a cost of around $25 per person, one way. A separate note is that Puno doesn’t have an airport. In this sense, if you want to take a flight, you can travel to Juliaca, a city 1 hour from Puno, to take a flight direct to Cusco, the frequency is only one per week. The flight trip lasts 45 minutes and costs around $50 per person, one way.
5. From Tacna to Cusco
Tacna is the southernmost city in Peru and, it borders Chile, receiving more than 900 visitors per day. These tourists come from Chile, Bolivia, European countries, and even from the United States. There are no direct flight connections to Cusco. The only way to get to the Imperial City is by bus and its route schedules are 5 per day and last 16 hours. These depart from 11:00 am to 18:00 pm. The cost of the bus ticket is around $28 per person, one way. The route will pass by other tourist places like Juliaca and Puno cities. On the other hand, if you have a private car, the trip can last 13 hours.
Cusco to Aguas Calientes
If you are planning a trip to Machu Picchu, you already know Aguas Calientes is the modern town of Machu Picchu. Once in Cusco, the next step is to see the options to go to Aguas Calientes town and later, to know how to get to Machu Picchu. In this sense, you will have three forms to get to the awesome Inca citadel. Whether by train, walking, or bus, you’ll see that getting to Machu Picchu is not so hard, not at all.
A. By train
The train to Machu Picchu is a unique experience for seeing the different amazing landscapes of Peru’s geography. This is the first and most ancient option to get to Machu Picchu, consequently, the train is the best form to go to Machu Picchu, in comparison to bus or trekking options! The pass from Sierra to Jungle is the best form to feel the variety of zones, weather, flora, and fauna of the south Peruvian zone.
Of course, if you have a Machu Picchu map, you can follow the route while traveling calmly on board one of these trains. Cusco has two specialist companies like Peru Rail and Inca Rail. Both have three levels of services with all the facilities. You can imagine services like open bars, breakfasts, brunch, and live Andean music. And even the possibility of dancing with one of the dancers on board or buying Alpaca and Llamas fabrics.
1. Peru Rail
Is the most ancient train company in Peru (the company bought the old government rail company called ENAFER in 1999) and offer three level of tourist service.
- The Expeditions are trains with comfortable seats, large tables for food tasting, and large windows to see the spectacular Andean landscapes, with some snacks onboard. These usually depart from San Pedro train station (located in the same Cusco city). And the trip lasts 04 hours to Aguas Calientes town. Also, these can depart from Poroy train station (a town located 15 km from Cusco), and the trip lasts 03 hours to Aguas Calientes town. Or, the trains can depart from Ollantaytambo train station (located in the same Sacred Valley, 61 km from Cusco). And this trip lasts 02 hours to Aguas Calientes. The cost of an Expedition train trip, one way, is around $80 per person.
- The Vistadome is a level of service with the same characteristics as the Expeditions trains. The difference is the little brunch (only on one-way trips), a fashion show whit Alpaca fabrics onboard with the possibility of purchasing these fabrics, longer windows, and seats with more space. The trains depart from the same train stations where Expeditions depart. The cost of a Vistadome train trip, one way, is around $90 per person.
- The Hiram Bingham is the most luxurious service of Peru Rail. The train remembers those luxury Britain Pullman trains of the 1920s. The Hiram Bingham has 3 restaurant carriages, 1 observatory-bar carriage, and 1 cooking carriage. The service includes a gourmet brunch on one way and a gourmet dinner on the return way. Open bar, Andean music live band, tour guides onboard, and charter buses from the Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu, with entrance fees, including exclusive tour guides. The trains depart from Poroy train station and the trip lasts 03 hours to Aguas Calientes town. Or, these ones can depart from Ollantaytambo train station, the trip lasts 02 hours to Aguas Calientes. The Hiram Bingham tickets cost around $500 one way per person.
2. Inca Rail
Inca Rail is the most recent train company formed in 2007, the trains have a similar class of services to Peru Rail. The only difference is that these trains are much more modern but depart only from Ollantaytambo train station in the Sacred Valley, because the company doesn’t have stations in Cusco.
- The 360º trains have similar services to Expeditions of Peru Rail, with differences in modern carriages, and a free snack per passenger, consequently, the costs are usually cheaper than Peru Rail.
- The Voyager train, in the same way, has similar services to Vistadome trains, with the difference that these are more modern, moreover, the station of departure is from Ollantaytambo and is usually cheaper than Vistadome.
- The First Class is a train similar to Hiram Bingham of Peru Rail, therefore the only difference is that these operate only on demand and the cost is usually more expensive than the Hiram Bingham. The carriages have a contemporary style.
B. By trekking
Going trekking to get to Machu Picchu is one of the best things to do. Your effort and perseverance will be rewarded with beautiful landscapes, archaeological zones rarely visited on the route, the local endemic flora, fauna, and the great Machu Picchu. The Qapac Ñam was an ancient Inca path system that connected all Tawantinsuyo in the Inca times, and centuries later it was revalued by the Peruvian state. Now, some stretches can be trekked by adventurous souls who want to pay tribute to the Incas before getting to Machu Picchu, and the most famous of these routes is those that reach Machu Picchu from the Sacred Valley of the Incas and receive the name of The Inca Trail.
- Inca Trail: 4 days / 3 nights. This is the most famous and demanded trekking heading Machu Picchu. Therefore, the Inca trail to Machu Picchu requires an entrance ticket bought 6 months in advance, to respect the carrying capacity of the route which is 500 tickets per day. Without mention that all these tickets have to be managed through a travel agency. Going trekking on your own on the Inca Trail without a travel agency is forbidden. The path begins from a train stop located 84 km, in the middle of the rail Ollantaytambo – Machu Picchu, you have to get off at this point to begin the trek. For that, your travel agency will issue you a special permit (prior coordination with the train operator; Peru Rail or Inca Rail) to get off at this stop. The trekking passes by beautiful landscapes, and hills over 4224 m.a.s.l. Besides amazing archaeological sites, and cliffs.
- Salkantay Trek: 5 days / 4 nights: This is the best alternative for those who did the Inca Trail in past years and want to experience another new route to get to the world Wonder. The path begins at the Soraypampa Camp, located in the Mollepata district, 122 km northwest of Cusco. You can get up to this point on the bus. During the trek, you will pass through beautiful landscapes of Sierra and jungle, and you’ll be bordering the Salkantay snow (6264 m.a.s.l). Also, some glacier lagoons are guaranteed. Moreover, the glaciers, flora, and fauna of the place will surprise you. Of course, the path ends at the citadel of Machu Picchu. This trail doesn’t require tickets but is highly recommended to do it through a travel agency.
- Inca Jungle Trek: 4 days / 3 nights. This trek is specially designed for those adventurers who want a real challenge before getting to Machu Picchu. Because, during the trek, you’ll go trekking, rafting, and even biking. At the same as the Salkantay Trek, you’ll feel the experience of passing the Peruvian Sierra to the Jungle, enjoying the beautiful landscapes, extreme weather change, and the adrenaline of the activities developed there. The highest point of the route is called the Abra Málaga (4316 m.a.s.l), where you will begin the biking experience by going down to the Jungle area, continuing with rafting, and trekking. Machu Picchu will be the cherry on the cake of this experience. This trail doesn’t require tickets but, with the complexity of activities to develop and the logistics, doing it with a travel agency will be highly recommended.
- Lares Trek: 4 days / 3 nights. Lares is a community located on the right side of Sacred Valley. 150 kilometers from northwest Cusco. Therefore, the experience begins by car, the transportation will pick you up from Cusco and drop you off in Lares (198 km of distance), to enjoy the unique hot springs of the same name located in the town, previously to the adventure. From this point, the trekking will begin bordering glaciers, and lagoons for 3 fantastic days. Finally, on the fourth day, the trek will end at the Ollantaytambo train station, where you’ll have to take the train heading to Machu Picchu. This trail doesn’t require tickets, but it is recommended to do it again through a travel agency.
C. By Bus followed by Train
Among the Machu Picchu facts, the car route is the recent alternative to get to the world wonder. The trip begins in Antonio Lorena Avenue, in the district of Santiago, in Cusco, there are public transportations that will pick you up to go to San Teresa town, (This is a little town located 203 kilometers from Cusco northwest, to 4 hours of trip), the cost of bus tickets is around $13 per person, one way. Some parts of this highway are unpaved. Therefore, it is recommended to take this option only during the dry season (April to November). Otherwise, in the rainy season from December to March, you will suffer from transport stagnation due to puddles and mud along the way.
Once in Santa Teresa town, you can enjoy its hot springs called Cocalmayo, and even you can spend a night there, specifically in one of its modern hotels, among restaurants, bars, and even discos. The next morning, public buses offer transportation heading to Hidroelectrica Train Station (Hydroelectric) 11 kilometers of distance, the cost per person is $3, one way, per person. From this point, you will have two options to continue.
- Walking: The trek of 03 hours will begin at the Hydroelectric train station following the train rails, by one side, and arriving at Aguas Calientes. Finally, once arrived at the town, you can rest and spend a night there. The next morning, you can take a tour of Machu Picchu.
- Train: From the Hydroelectric train station, you can take a train direct to Aguas Calientes town (30 minutes trip), the tickets for this train can be bought in the same place and don’t need a previous reservation, the train ticket costs around $4 per person, one way. Do not expect to have a tourist class service, this train is used daily by the residents of the towns of Santa Teresa and Aguas Calientes.
Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
Now you are in the last step of how to get to Machu Picchu and by the way, a Machu Picchu virtual tour can be an interesting idea to get to know the citadel before embarking on your real adventure. Returning to our item, once in Aguas Calientes, it is essential to take a shuttle bus to Machu Picchu. The only local company that operates these bus services is CONSETTUR (a company operated by the same Aguas Calientes municipality) The one-way journey takes about 35 minutes.
1. CONSETTUR buses
These are all modern and air-conditioned, they go up from 05:30 am to 3:30 pm and go down from 06:00 am to 5:30 pm, with a departure frequency every 10 minutes. So, you don’t have to worry about running out of space.
The bus ticket cost $24 per person, round trip, and can be bought at the same CONSETTUR bus station on Hermano Ayar Avenue in Aguas Calientes. The bus tickets don’t need a reservation. Also, if you want to buy only one way, the cost is $12 per person.
Upon receiving your bus tickets, you will not find a specific time of departure selected in it, you only need to take a bus considering the entrance ticket you have for Machu Picchu and the bus schedules to get on and off. In other words, if your ticket to Machu Picchu allows entering starting at 11 am, you’ll have to take the bus 1 hour or 45 minutes before.
2. Climb up the mountain
Another option is to climb up the mountain to the citadel’s entrance, which may take a while depending on your hike pace. Usually, it takes 1 hour to go up, and another one to go down. After this, you can fully enjoy your Machu Picchu guided tour, where you will learn some interesting Machu Picchu facts.
Keep in mind that once inside the citadel, there are many things to do in Machu Picchu. In this sense, you can choose some hiking routes such as the Huayna Picchu trek or the hike to Machu Picchu mountain. Just remember that these require an extra ticket in addition to your entrance to the citadel.
Machu Picchu tour tips
- Consider that the temperature in Machu Picchu is usually pleasant. You will not feel too hot or too cold. The temperature average is from 66.2 ºF to 69ºF in the rainy season (from November to March), with warm days, not so cold nights, but cloudy skies, hard rains, and muddy and slippery roads.
- On the other hand, the Dry season goes from April to October with an average temperature of 62.6ºF to 66.2ºF. Clear skies, warm breezes, and freezing nights. It does not rain at 95%, however, a sudden drizzle may fall, but it will not ruin your day in Machu Picchu. It is considered the best time to visit Machu Picchu.
- Take layers of clothes with you as maybe during the morning you will be cold. But when the sun rises, you will be glad to wear just a T-shirt.
- The mosquitoes can also be trouble. So be sure to use an organic repellent, or if you have a light long-sleeve t-shirt, take it with you.
- Take good walking shoes as the roads can be difficult in certain parts. And that will allow you to explore more.
- Regarding the entrances, be sure to buy your Machu Picchu tickets in advance. You can do it easily on the governmental web: www.machupicchu.gob.pe
- The entrances are sold for different times or shifts during the day, and some turns start very early. So, choose the best suited for you. If you want to avoid the crowds, so you go up during the first schedule. On the other hand, if you want to have a better view of the mountains around you, a later entry would be better.
- Also, consider that if you want to visit the citadel at 6 am, you should sleep in Aguas Calientes the day before, so you will have the time to take the bus and stay most of your time there.
- It’s also good to have train tickets reserved beforehand. You can use Inca Rail or Peru Rail, and also visit their websites and make your reservation.
- All returns from Machu Picchu to Cusco are realized by train. As we mentioned before, there are two train companies like Peru Rail and Inca Rail.
“TRAVEL. YOUR MONEY WILL RETURN. YOUR TIME WON’T”
As you will see if you were wondering how to get to Machu Picchu. So, there are no excuses to miss out on this wonderfully unique place on planet Earth. We hope together with the travel experts of Machu Travel Peru have been helpful. Remember, if you want to be able to enjoy the great archaeological complex, it is necessary to book in advance. And for us, it would be a pleasure to help you reserve a place for the trip of your dreams. You can consult with our certified advisors, who will be happy to help you fulfill your plans. Our team will be happy to help you with all the details and reservations. Don’t miss out on the magical adventure that is Peru.