The journey to Machu Picchu is part of the adventure that comes with visiting this beautiful site. Here we have attempted to provide you with all the details (with relevant links) you will need in order to reach Machu Picchu.
Lima to Cusco
Fly from Lima (LIM) to Cusco (CUZ). We recommend using LATAM Airlines as they are the most reliable. That said, you can also choose from Peruvian Airlines, Star Peru, or LCPeru.
Cusco to Aguas Calientes
Aguas Calientes is the Peruvian city at the base of Machu Picchu. If you plan to spend a night, you will want to look for a hotel room in Aguas Calientes.
Once you’re in Cusco there are only 3 ways to get to Machu Picchu: trek, train, or auto/train combination.
Trek The world-famous Inca Trail sells out months in advance and needs to be booked through an accredited trekking company (like us!). It is a four day hike that will take you past more than a half dozen Incan archaeological sites. Read more about it here.
Train You can purchase a round-trip train ticket from PeruRail or Inca Rail. Pricing for the trains vary based on level of comfort. Your journey via train will start either in Poroy (30 minutes outside of Cusco) or Ollantaytambo (the heart of the Sacred Valley, 2 hours outside of Cusco). To get from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, take a taxi or micro bus. You can read more about experiencing the train to Machu Picchu.
Auto/Train This option is usually only for backpackers who are trying to get to Machu Picchu while spending the least amount possible. You need to arrange for transfer via bus or car from Cusco to Santa Teresa (approximately a 6 hour ride). At that point you either purchase a one-way train ticket from the Hydroelectric station to Aguas Calientes, or hike approximately 2 hours along the tracks to get to the base of Machu Picchu.
Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
Upon arrival in Aguas Calientes, you can head directly to Machu Picchu or to your hotel to rest for an early morning. Most hotels will have an employee waiting at the train station to lead you to your hotel.
Buses circulate between Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu every day between the hours of 5:30AM and 3:30PM. Buses return all the way until 5:45PM. A round trip ticket to and from Machu Picchu is about $24. Tickets can only be purchased the day of use. However, using a tour company (like us!) will allow you to purchase tickets ahead of time.
Seating on the buses is first come, first serve. If you are hoping to see the sunrise, we suggest getting up early because the line to purchase tickets starts forming well before the ticket office opens. The ticket office is open from 5:00am to 9:00pm. It is located directly in front of the bus stop. The town of Aguas Calientes is small enough that it won’t be difficult to find.
If you would prefer to hike to the entrance of Machu Picchu, you start with a 20 minute walk from Aguas Calientes to the Bridge known as Puente Ruinas where the road crosses the Urubamba River towards Machu Picchu. At this point you go straight up the mountainside, a la Hiram Bingham, for approximately 1 – 1.5 hours. This is a steep trail and will test your physical limits, but is well marked and well used.
Making Your Entrance
Entrance tickets to Machu Picchu often sell out. The park is limited to 2,500 visitors daily which includes 400 permits to hike the world famous Huayna Picchu hike. I recommend using a tour company (like us!) to make arrangements for your visit, as each permit is tied to a specific passport and to a specific date. If you speak Spanish you can try to book the tickets on your own.
Machu Picchu is open from 6:00AM – 5:00PM. Walking sticks or backpacks over 20lbs are not permitted.