how to get to machu picchu

It is not a secret that the answer to what is Machu Picchu has finally been revealed. The Inca citadel is one of the world’s new seven wonders, and for this reason, its tourist flow has been increasing over the last few years. Happily, the ways to get to Machu Picchu diversified along with the growth of visitors and now, we have good alternatives to get to the Incas citadel. By train, going trekking, even by bus. Depending on your budget and your time, you’ll enjoy the trip in each one of them.

And for that reason, together with the Machu Travel Peru team, we want to tell you everything to know how to get to this world wonder.

Everything you need to know how to get to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu location

get to machu picchu location

Before arriving at a place, you have to know where it is located. For this reason, first, you have to know Where is Machu Picchu located. The citadel is situated at 2430 meters above sea level (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, surrounded by a bushy tropical cloud forest, just between the cold mountains and the Peruvian jungle.

A brief history of the citadel

get to machu picchu histor

Its inhospitable location and the bushy tropical rainforest that surrounds the complex made it ideal for not being found by the Spanish invaders in 1533 and continued like this for other centuries until its discovery in 1902. It is known by all that the Spanish destroyed Inca buildings to reuse their stones in colonial constructions such as churches, and mansions, among others, and Machu Picchu would not have had a different fate if it had been found. In 1902, in the middle of the republican era, with the Spanish very far from Peruvian lands, Agustin Lizarraga (a Cusco local farmer) discovered it, the citadel was still overgrown with weeds and tall grasses. Nine years later, Hiram Bingham began to clear the site of weeds, rediscovering it and making it known to the world.

For this reason, for many years access to this wonder only was through a muddy footpath that follow an ancient path used by the Incas from Cusco (the current Inca Trail). Years later, the Peruvian government implemented the railway system in the south of Peru, one of which reached Aguas Calientes (the closest town to Machu Picchu). Most recently, car access was created to get to a certain part and then continue walking or taking a train.

From everywhere to Cusco

get to machu picchu first stop

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.

Lima, as 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, to visit Machu Picchu. But, not only Lima passengers can arrive in Cusco, on the contrary, passengers from other Peruvian cities like Arequipa (after visiting Colca canyon or the Misti volcano), or from Juliaca (after visiting Lake Titicaca), or from Puerto Maldonado (after visiting Manu National Park, the Tambopata National Reserve or the Amazon in general) can get to the ancient Inca capital, too.

1. From Lima to Cusco

get to machu picchu by plane

More than 3 million flights every year arrive at Jorge Chavez International Airport. The majority of the passengers 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.

  • By plane: If you want to travel fast and with total comfort, this is a great option. Happily, there are many flight companies with competitive prices with daily flights from Lima to Cusco, round trip, like LATAM, Sky airlines, JetSmart, and Viva air. The time of the flight is approx. 01:45 hrs to Cusco. A flight ticket can cost around $85 per person, one way.
  • By bus: This is the cheapest way to get to Cusco. However, the time of travel is long, passing an overnight onboard (around 25 hours). The most reliable bus companies are Cruz del Sur, Movil tours, Civa, and Tepsa. The bus route passes by the coast and high mountains, with the possibility of seeing beautiful landscapes. A ticket for the bus can cost around $34 per person, one way.
  • 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 account the idiosyncrasy of the Andean driver, the bad state of the highways, and streets and the few motels along the route. The trip has a similar duration to a bus trip (around 25 hours) and the cost of a rental car can go from $350 to $750 per day (depending on car style), without mentioning the tax of guarantee that you will have to deposit before around $1000 through cash or credit card. The main “Rent a car” companies are Avis and Europcar.

2. From Arequipa to Cusco

get to machu picchu by arequipa

Arequipa, together with Cusco, is the most important south city. The White City (it is due to Sillar, the white volcanic stone with which the city is built) 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, the flights last 45 min approx and cost around $55 per person, one way and twice per week. 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

get to machu picchu by puerto maldonado

Puerto Maldonado is the most important jungle city in the south of Peru. It is the capital of the Madre de Dios department, and 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, twice per week, the trip last 45 minutes approx and 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. The bus ticket is around $20 per person, per day.

4. From Puno to Cusco

get to machu picchu by puno

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. For this reason, 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.

From Cusco to Aguas Calientes

get to machu picchu by aguas calientes

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.

Let us remember that, during the Spanish occupation of Cusco, the Incas gradually retreated into the jungle, passing through Ollantaytambo, after through Machu Picchu, and finally settling in Vilcabamba. The route that they used to go into the jungle was through the Qapac Ñam (Their footpath system that connected diverse zones of Tawantinsuyo). Nowadays, tourists can enjoy a part of this route, also called the Inca Trail, making trekking from Sacred Valley to the famous citadel. This way, this was the oldest form to get to the Inca citadel.

The train was the second form to get to the Inca lost citadel, with two great companies, Peru rail, and Inca Rail. And more recently, the combination of bus and trekking routes has given rise to a third form of to getting Machu Picchu.

A. By train

get to machu picchu by train

Without a doubt, the train to Machu Picchu is a unique experience for seeing the different amazing landscapes of Peruvian geography. The pass from Sierra to Jungle (Remember that Machu Picchu is located in the jungle eyebrow, lower than Cusco) is the best form to know 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 special 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 like open bars, breakfasts and brunch, live Andean music, and even the possibility of dancing with one of the dancers on board or buying Andean fabrics of Alpaca and Llamas.

1. Peru Rail

train to Cusco

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 in the most complete way, the spectacular Andean landscapes during the route, with the possibility of 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.
inca trail booking vistadome train
  • The Vistadome is a level of service with the same characteristics as the Expeditions trains with the extra of a little brunch (only on one-way trips), a fashion show whit Alpaca fabrics onboard with the possibility of purchase, windows longer, and seats with more space. The trains depart from the same train stations where Expeditions depart. The cost of an Expedition train trip, one way, is around $90.
  • 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

incarail train to machu picchu

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, 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. 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. 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, the only difference is that these operate only on demand and the cost is usually more expensive than the Hiram Bingham.

B. By trekking

get to machu picchu 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, 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 on 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 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 by the Salkantay snow (6264 m.a.s.l) So, some glacier lagoons are guaranteed. Also, glaciers and the 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.
best way to get to machu picchu inca jungle trek
  • 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. So, 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 amazing hot springs of the same name located in the town. 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

get to machu picchu by bus

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, 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.

get to machu picchu by hydroelectric
  1. Walking: The trek of 03 hours will begin at the Hydroelectric train station following the train rails, by one side. Once arrived at Aguas Calientes town, you can rest and spend a night there. The next morning, you can take a tour of Machu Picchu.
  1. 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 cost 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.

From Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

finally get to machu picchu

Now you are in the last step of how to get to Machu Picchu. Once in Aguas Calientes, it is essential to take a shuttle bus to Machu Picchu. The only local company that operates these bus services that take you to Machu Picchu is CONSETTUR (a company operated by the same municipality of Aguas Calientes) The one-way journey takes about 35 minutes.

  • CONSETTUR buses 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 and the departure frequency is 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.
bus to machu picchu
  • 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.
  • Another option is to climb up the mountain to the entrance of the citadel, which may take a while depending on your pace of hike. 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. 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.

Get to know Cusco before going to Machu Picchu

get to machu picchu by cusco

The most recommended thing is to spend 1 to 2 days in a nice and cozy accommodation in Cusco and do some tours there before touring Machu Picchu. Although many say that it is better to go immediately to Aguas Calientes once you arrive in Cusco, due to its lower altitude and to prevent altitude sickness (Aguas Calientes 2040 m.s.n.m. against Cusco 3400 m.s.n.m.). This is technically impossible since the arrival times of the flights to Cusco almost never coincide with the departure times of the trains to Aguas Calientes (unless you arrive at the imperial city at dawn).

For this reason, almost always You will spend one night in Cusco or in the Sacred Valley of the Incas (2900 m.s.n.m) Think about it, this will be more convenient for you because now all the lodges in Cusco and the Sacred Valley have oxygen and air conditioning systems in their rooms, helping better acclimatization In addition to taking advantage of the time to visit the Cathedral, the Qoricancha or Sacsayhuaman in Cusco and Pisac, Maras, Moray or Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

things to do in sacred valley and pisac market

On the other hand, the local town of Aguas Calientes doesn’t have anything to offer to tourists besides Machu Picchu. While it is true that there is a Handicraft market, most of the products shown there, you can find in Pisac (Sacred Valley) or in Cusco, with better prices and best quality.

The decision is yours, in both places, Cusco and the Sacred Valley, you will find cheap to luxurious hotels, and you will have options for activities, so check with the experts. A Machu Picchu day trip from Cusco by train is one of the best ways to get to know the Inca citadel. And a Machu Picchu virtual tour can be an interesting idea to get to know the citadel before embarking on your real adventure.

When to go to Machu Picchu

get to machu picchu in the best time

If you are planning a trip to Macuhu Picchu, you have to know that visiting Machu Picchu is possible throughout the year. You will find permits/tickets to explore this magical citadel in the morning or afternoon as you wish or according to availability (in case of last-minute reservations). Machu Picchu is located in a subtropical area, on the Peruvian jungle eyebrow, protected by the Salkantay snow to the south and the Verónica snow to the north. This rugged geography is responsible for a varied climate; ranging from cool and warm, to sunny and rainy days, depending on the season. The climate of the citadel can be divided into two well-marked seasons.

  • The rainy season is from November to March. And, despite the continuous rains, the days are warmer, with temperatures ranging between 19 °C / 66.2 °F and 21 °C / 69.8 °F. Also, the nights are not as cold as in the dry season. But be careful on the muddy and slippery roads.
  • The dry season runs from April to October. The days are warm, with an average temperature between 17 °C / 62.6 °F and 19 °C / 66.2 °F. The flora is at its best, but there are usually insects (a good repellent will help you a lot). On the other hand, nights are freezing, and it is not uncommon for temperatures to drop below 0 °C / 32 °F, especially in June and July. Besides, these months and August are characterized by having the driest climate. It does not rain at 95%. However, a sudden drizzle may fall, but it will not ruin your day in Machu Picchu.

In conclusion, the best time to visit Machu Picchu will depend on your plans and the time available.

Things to consider before booking a Machu Picchu tour

get to machu picchu tips
  • Consider that the temperature in Machu Picchu is usually pleasant. You will not feel too hot or too cold. The minimum temperature is 6 °C, but this is only during the nights in the wintertime, and the maximum is 29.5 °C.
  • 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.
tourism in peru machu picchu
  • 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. If you, on the other hand, want to have a better view of the mountains around, 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. You can 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.


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.

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!