Talking about the way to get to Machu Picchu is somewhat controversial, because there is not just one way to get there. There are many different ways to arrive at Machu Picchu. You can get there by walking, by car, by train, and there is even a way to get there part of the way by bicycle. You can travel to Machu Picchu on your own, or with a travel agency.
In this post we are going to go over all the different ways and all the different routes that you can use to get to Machu Picchu.
Must-see cities on your journey to Machu Picchu
Because there doesn’t exist a way to go directly to Machu Picchu, it is necessary to pass through the following cities:
For the majority of travelers, Lima is the first place in Peru where foreign travelers stop. This is where most international flights arrive, and it is from Lima that planes and buses depart for Cusco.
Cusco is really the only city from which every journey to Machu Picchu begins. The main train stations (Poroy, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo), as well as the regional bus station are located in Cusco. So, all of the travel agencies operate their tours to Machu Picchu from Cusco.
Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Pueblo
This is a small town located at the base of Machu Picchu Mountain. It is just about mandatory to pass through Aguas Calientes if you want to get to Machu Picchu. This is where the trains from Ollantaytambo all stop, and most people who are trekking to the Citadel pass through here, too.
Ways to get to Machu Picchu
The trip to cannot be done using just one mode of transportation. Different methods of transport have to be combined: train, bus, walking, or bicycle.
This is the option that we strongly recommend, and it is also the way that most people use to get to Machu Picchu.
Actually, there are two train companies that provide daily service to Machu Picchu.
- Perurail: The local train, Expedition, Vistadome, Belmond Hiram Bingham.
- Inca Rail: Voyager, 360, First Class, Private.
There are also three train stations from which the trains to Machu Picchu depart.
- Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes (the most recommended option)
- Urubamba – Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes (only VIP travelers).
- Poroy – Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes.
In order to catch your train, you will have to get to the train station (Poroy, Urubamba or Ollantaytambo) by bus or taxi. The train will leave you at the Aguas Calientes station. From there you will have to continue your journey by bus (this is the way we recommend) or by walking.
To learn more about the ways to travel to Machu Picchu by train, visit our post at Trains to Machu Picchu.
It is hard to believe, but you can actually walk to Machu Picchu. There are quite a few options if you want to walk there. These vary according to your budget and according to how much exercise you would like to get. The principle trekking routes to the Sanctuary are as follows:
- Hidroeléctrica – Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu.
- The Classic Inca Trail from Km. 82.
- The Short Inca Trail from Km. 104.
- The Salkantay – Machu Picchu Trek
- The Choquequirao – Machu Picchu Trek.
This is the most economical way to get to Machu Picchu, but it is also somewhat risky as there are often accidents reported. This route is also known as Machu Picchu by Car.
This is an alternative route that is only recommended for adventure lovers. It is not a good option for families traveling together. The journey takes at least 10 hours (7 hours on a bus and 3 hours walking).
The bus route to Machu Picchu: Cusco – Santa María – Santa Teresa – Hidroeléctrica. You would need to find a bus that goes to Hidroeléctrica from Cusco. The cost is about $40US round trip. You can stay overnight in Aguas Calientes, and then either take the bus or hike up to Machu Picchu the following day.
You shouldn’t think that you are literally going to travel all the way from Cusco to Machu Picchu by bike. You can’t really do that. What you can do is take the Inka Jungle Tour (which many agencies offer). The Inca Jungle Tour features a 3-hour downhill mountain biking section of the Tour on Day 1.
This mountain biking option is designed for adrenaline lovers who want to combine hiking, mountain biking, bus and/or train. First there would be a bus ride between Cusco and Málaga Pass, mountain biking from Málaga Pass to Santa María, and then hiking (or taking the train) from Santa María to Aguas Calientes.
The routes that go to Machu Picchu
There are 7 main routes that will take you to Machu Picchu.
Ollantaytambo – Machu Picchu
This is the principle access route to Machu Picchu. It is easy, safe, and comfortable. This route is only available by train. In order to use this route, you would travel by car to the Ollantaytambo train station. In Ollantaytambo you would board whatever train suits you. There are tourist trains for all foreign tourists. Only Peruvian nationals can ride on the local train.
Santa Teresa – Hidroeléctrica – Machu Picchu
This is the second most popular route for going to Machu Picchu. This route is popular with adventure travelers who have plenty of time, who enjoy riding buses and hiking, and who want to save a little money.
In order to travel along this route, it is possible to take the bus that goes to Quillabamba. But the better option is to catch the bus that goes to Hidroeléctrica from Av. Arcopata in Cusco. The route you would follow is: Cusco – Urubamba – Ollantaytambo – Santa María – Santa Teresa – Hidroeléctrica – Aguas Calientes.
The Classic Inca Trail from Km 82
One route for hiking into the Citadel of Machu Picchu is by taking the Classic 4-Day / 3-Night Inca Trail Trek. You should remember that this trek is only available through travel agencies. This is one reason why the Classic Inca Trail Trek is always in high demand and tickets to hike the Classic Inca Trail sell out months in advance.
Because everything is included on this trek, your travel agency has to provide you with transportation to Km. 82 where the trek begins. After hiking for 3 days, you will arrive at the Incan Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.
The Short Inca Trail from Km 104
The second option for hiking into Machu Picchu is to take the Short Inca Trail of 2 days and 1 night. This trek begins at Km. 104. To complete this trek it is also necessary to book it in advance through a travel agency.
This is very beautiful and exciting route for those people who appreciate great adventures,. It is not necessary to travel with a travel agency, but for your security it is recommended that you travel in a group or with a tour operator. The trek takes 4 days and 3 nights.
The route that you would follow in order to get to Machu Picchu by way of Salkantay is:
- By car: Cusco – Mollepata – Soraypampa
- Hiking: Soraypampa – Paso Salkantay – Huayracmachay – Chaullay – Colpapampa – Sahuayaco.
- By car: Sahuayaco – Santa Teresa – Hidroeléctrica.
- Hiking: Hidroeléctrica – Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu.
- Depending on how much time you have, you will also have the option of visiting Humantay Lake and the hot springs at Cocalmayo during this trek.
Another option for getting to Machu Picchu is to take the Inca Jungle Tour. This tour combines traveling by bus, mountain bike riding, and hiking. The tour lasts for 3 or 4 days and should be booked through a travel agency.
The Inca Jungle Tour usually consists of:
- Travel by bus from Cusco to Málaga Pass.
- Mountain bike riding from Málagas Pass down to Santa María.
- Two days of hiking between Santa María – Santa Teresa – Hidroeléctrica – Aguas Calientes.
- The climb up the trail from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu.
Choquequirao – Machu Picchu
This is the most demanding route and it is designed for strong trekkers who love challenges and adrenaline rushes. It is the longest trekking route to Machu Picchu, and the trail passes through some remote country.
This trek lasts from 7 to 9 days. It is not necessary to book this trek through a travel agency, but we recommend that you do so for your own safety and security.
In order to get to Machu Picchu from Choquequirao you would first travel by car to Capuliyoc (in the district of Cachora). From there you would hike for 6 days on the trail: Capuliyoc – Santa Rosa – Choquequirao – Pinchaunuyoc – Maizal – Yanama – Totora – Playa. At Playa you can catch a ride to Hidroeléctrica, and then continue hiking to Aguas Calientes.
How do you get to Machu Picchu?
Now that we have explained different ways and listed different routes about how to travel to Machu Picchu, we are going to answer a few of the most frequently asked questions.
How do you get to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes?
There are two ways. The first option is to take the Consettur bus which leaves from Hermanos Ayar Ave. and costs $24US round trip. The ride takes approx 23 minutes.
The second option is to hike up. The hike is somewhat demanding. If you choose to hike up, you would follow Hiram Bingham St. out to Ruins Bridge (Puente Ruinas). Cross the bridge and hike up the narrow trail that runs parallel to the road. The time for the ascent is about 45 minutes.
How do you get to Machu Picchu from Cusco?
As you can see above, there are plenty of possibilities. You can choose any of the 7 routes that we mentioned. Of these, the 2 most popular options are:
- Take the bus to Ollantaytambo. From there, take the train to Aguas Calientes Then take the bus up to Machu Picchu.
- Take the bus to Hidroeléctrica. From there, hike or catch the train to Aguas Calientes. Then hike up or take the bus to Machu Picchu.
How do you get to Machu Picchu from Lima?
The most highly recommended option is to fly from Lima’s Jorge Chávez Airport to Cusco’s Alejandro Velasco Astete Airport. There are 6 airlines that fly this route: Latam Perú, Avianca Perú, Peruvian Airlines, Star Perú, Viva Air Perú and Sky Airline. It is best to buy your ticket in advance. Flight time is 1 hour. The cost is about $100US.
Another option is to travel by bus. You could choose any of the three routes, and you could make stops along the way or go directly to Cusco.
- Lima – Paracas – Nazca – Abancay – Cusco (This is the shortest and the most popular route). Distance: 1102 Km. Time:23 hours.
- Lima – Paracas – Nazca – Arequipa – Cusco. Distance: 1523 Km. Time: 28 hours.
- Lima – Paracas – Nazca – Arequipa – Juliaca – Cusco. Distance: 1624 Km. Time: 30 hours.
To get to Machu Picchu from Cusco you can use any of the methods and routes that we mentioned above. We would recommend that you stay overnight in Cusco. After resting up, you could use the most popular route from Cusco to the Incan Sanctuary. Take the bus to Ollantaytambo. Take the train to Aguas Calientes. Take the bus up to Machu Picchu.
All roads lead to Machu Picchu! Don’t put off your dream trip to this ancient Incan Citadel. Book one of our Machu Picchu Travel packages, and start, right now, to make your dream come true.