How to get to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, located 2400 meters above sea level, is without any doubts one of the most breathtaking tourist destinations. However, it is not very easily accessible, but nonetheless, worth the effort! First, quite a long trip awaits you from Cusco to Aguas Calientes.

Then, if you are fit enough you can walk and then climb the mountain with the ruins (quite steep and difficult, for about 1,5 hours) from the village of Aguas Calientes, which is basically the base for tourists visiting Machu Picchu (with the exception of the Sanctuary Lodge Hotel right beside the ruins, the only hotel at the site - 'only' about 700 USD per night).

Or, if you are unfit or prefer the easy and comfortable way, you can take the bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu (about 20 USD return). But where's the fun and adventure? During the climb up to the ancient Inca city you will start wondering, how on Earth were the Incas able to built it in such a remote place? To fully understand and experience this amazing place, I would recommend that you climb Machu Picchu city (although probably 90% tourists were taking the bus from Aguas Calientes), and also the neighboring Machu Picchu Mountain (3080 meters above sea level) which offers unforgettable views of the Andes and the ruins themselves.

 

Ruins of Machu Picchu

Ruins of Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Peru Rail train

Peru Rail train

Getting to Machu Picchu is not very easy and, also, not very cheap, because it is situated in a remote and difficult to access area in the middle of rain forests and steep mountains. First, you have to get to Cusco (or Cuzco), the capital of the Inca Empire. Usually, you get there through Lima airport, there are many flights from Lima everyday (every hour or so). Me and my friend flew from Sao Paulo and had a problem with our luggage which, as it turned out, had not been sent to Cusco but we had to collect it in Lima. Because of this we missed our flight, but the staff reserved the seats for us for the next flight within 1 hour, free of charge. If you travel from abroad, remember, you must collect your checked-in bag in Lima and check it again for the flight to Cusco. This is because it's a domestic, not an international flight.

Flight from Lima to Cusco is about 1 hour and a couple of minutes long and the views are spectacular. The airport in Cusco is situated very near the city center, the taxi should cost around 10 soles (around 3 EUR or 3.9 USD).

Now, from Cusco, you have to get to the village of Aguas Calientes, the start point to Machu Picchu. There are a few options. You can take the Peru Rail train (terribly overpriced - around 70 USD per person one way or the luxurious one - 350 USD one way) straight to Aguas Calientes, or take the local mini-van (called colectivo) to the village of Ollantaytambo (10 soles per person, 3 EUR, 4 USD) in Sacred Valley, which is also definitely worth visiting. Colectivo station is located very close to Plaza de Armas in the city centre, opposite the Incan Museum. Colectivos departure when they are full (usually every 20 minutes). The journey to Ollantaytambo takes 2 hours.

From Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley), you have no other choice but to take the Peru rail train (there's no buses or roads) to Aguas Calientes. To get on the train you have to book it in advance on the Peru Rail website: http://www.perurail.com/

If traveling from Ollantaytambo, choose the option on the website: Sacred Valley -> Machu Picchu. Prices vary from 49-100 USD one way depending on the type of the train and time. The journey takes about 1.5 hours. There is an option to buy the train ticket together with the buffet at the Sanctuary lodge restaurant. This is the only restaurant (apart from a small cafe) near the ruins, the other restaurants are 1.5 hour walk away - in Aguas Calientes. The meal costs 43 USD per person at the restaurant, so if you buy it online together with the train ticket in advance, you will probably save around 10 USD. At least there's one good thing - you can eat as much as you want and the food is very good. And, if you decide to climb Machu Picchu mountain or Wayna Picchu - you really will be hungry!

 

Chinchilla in Machu Picchu

Chinchilla in Machu Picchu

Ruins of Machu Picchu

Ruins of Machu Picchu

Warning: To enter the Machu Picchu site, you will have to book the ticket in advance (there is a limited number of entries, especially to Wayna Picchu - only 400 a day). It is not cheap - around 60-80 USD - depending on what you want to visit. You can book it on the government website: http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/

However, I read that the government website does not accept foreign (not Peruvian) credit cards anymore. I don't know if this is true, but there is also a website in English that accepts any cards for sure, you can check how many tickets are still available for the chosen date, etc. The fees are slightly higher than on the government website, because they include commission etc.: http://www.ticket-machupicchu.com/

In short, the options you have to get to Machu Picchu (apart from walking the Inca trail of course):

1. Cusco -> Aguas Calientes (the whole journey by train)

    Aguas Calientes -> walk up to the ruins (1.5 h) or bus

2. Cusco -> Ollantaytambo in Sacred Valley (you can go by train or take the local mini-van 'colectivo')

    Ollantaytambo -> Aguas Calientes

    Aguas Calientes -> walk up to the ruins (1.5 h) or bus

 

River in Aguas Calientes

River in Aguas Calientes

View from Machu Picchu Mountain

View from Machu Picchu Mountain

View from Machu Picchu Mountain

View from Machu Picchu Mountain

Rainbow at Machu Picchu, down in the valley - Aguas Calientes

Rainbow at Machu Picchu, down in the valley - Aguas Calientes

 

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