The iconic Inca site of Machu Picchu is a dream come true for most travelers to Peru. This mystical fortress resting precariously among the clouds is a bucket-list item for many people! Probably the first step is figuring out how to get from Cusco, the closest major city, to Machu Picchu which is somewhat hard to reach as there are no roads leading to the Inca Citadel and it can be somewhat confusing when you are trying to work out trip logistics. There are several different ways to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu, each of which involves multiple modes of travel and stops along the way. Here are the main ways of how to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu.
The easiest and most popular way to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu is by taking a train directly from Poroy, just outside of Cusco to Aguas Calientes. This direct train route is offered by both Peru Rail and Inca Rail and takes about 4 hours one way. Both companies offer several different levels of service from basic economy tickets to luxurious private cabins offering meals and live music, meaning round-trip tickets can vary in price from about $125 per person to over $1,000 per person for the highest-end ticket on The luxury Hiram Bingham service.
The bimodal service to Machu Picchu is also offered by both Peru Rail and Inca Rail. The bimodal service combines a private bus transfer from Cusco to Ollantaytambo train station with a train ticket from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. The main advantage of this ticket over the direct train route is that it offers the option to spend a couple of hours exploring Ollantaytambo, depending on the length of your layover, and can be cheaper.
Another option for getting from Cusco to Ollantaytambo is to find your own means of transportation (either taxi or public bus) from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, before taking the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. There are two main advantages of this option. First, you can spend as much time as you want to explore Ollantaytambo and it’s definitely worth a stop. This cobbled street town with several picturesque squares is also home to a fascinating and stunning archaeological site that is definitely worth a visit. You can also do this option at the end of a Sacred Valley tour that leaves you in Ollantaytambo instead of returning to Cusco.
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is by far the most popular choice, and for very good reason. You will hike along the original Inca road and visit plenty of ruins along the way. This is a must for any Inca aficionado or history buff. However, the government implements restrictions to limit the amount of tourists allowed on the trail every day, which means the Inca Trail gets booked out way in advance. If you have your heart set on doing this hike to Machu Picchu, start looking at booking it up to six months in advance or you may miss out.
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. This trek allows you to 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.
The Lares Trek is likely the third best alternative Inca trail hikes to Machu Picchu and is presented in various versions, from a 3-day hike up to a 5-day hike. Instead of entering Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate, all of these Lares treks end in the Sacred Valley Ollantaytambo, where tourists jump on trains towards the Aguas Calientes town, the city below Machu Picchu. The Lares trek hikes through stunning Andean scenery and through traditional Andean communities for a hike that is more connected to cultural aspects as opposed to archaeological sites. Take the Lares Trek to get to know about real life in the Peruvian Andes, where you will witness a more authentic way of life of the Quechua People living in this part of Cusco. Learn about their wisdom, religion as well as their philosophy.
This is definitely the cheapest option to visit the ruins, but it’s also the least fun. Getting to Machu Picchu by bus requires two days. The town of Hydro-electrica is a six-hour drive from Cusco and the last town accessible by road before Machu Picchu. You then have to walk along the train tracks for 2 hours to reach Aguas Calientes. From Cusco, it’s easy to book a bus or car to this stop. However, this trip does not include a night of accommodation in Aguas Calientes, any meals, the shuttle bus up to the archaeological site, or the entrance into Machu Picchu, so these are things to keep in mind if you choose this option.
Ask us here for the best way to get to Machu Picchu and arrange your trip to the magical Inca citadel. We will take care of all the finer details so that you can concentrate on the exploration of this ancient Inca city!