Among the best things to do in Cusco, a visit to the lost city of Machu Picchu stands out. It is a magical place, where you will connect with nature and with the architectural, cultural and historical legacy of a very ancient civilization, the Inca.
To get to Machu Picchu you need to plan the route. You can join a guided tour in which they organize the transportation for you and accompany you along the circuit in the Inca city. And, if you prefer to travel on your own, you will have to connect directly with the train service, bus or even venture out on foot. I'll tell you more about the options available.
1. The best way to get there: guided excursion to Machu Picchu from Cuzco
One of the best ways to get to the Inca city is through one of the day tours to Machu Picchu from Cusco. You won't have to worry about organizing the adventure (entrance fees, tickets, guide), as someone else will do it for you.
The experience begins with a pick-up at the door of your hotel in Cusco. From there, you will be transferred to the Ollantaytambo train station, a 90-minute drive.
Once on the train you will be able to relax and, for about three hours, contemplate the panorama through the window. You will be amazed by the view of the Peruvian Andes. Arriving at the Aguas Calientes station, you will get off the train with your guide and, in less than 20 minutes, you will board a bus to Machu Picchu, which is about 15 minutes away.
Then you will visit the imposing lost city of the Inca empire. And, as you walk through the flames, your guide will tell you the history of the sights discovered along the way: the Temple of the Sun, the Intihuatana stone, the Main Temple, among others. Afterwards, you will return to Cuzco.
Information of interest
- Price: the price of this one-day guided excursion starts at 280€ per person.
- Travel time: about 90 minutes from the door of the hotel in Cuzco to Ollantaytambo station, approximately 3 hours by train to Aguas Calientes and about 30 minutes by bus to the door of Machu Picchu.
- Advantages: you will not have to worry about planning a route or making reservations to get entrance to the train and Machu Picchu.
- Disadvantages: this activity does not usually incorporate the entrance to the Huayna Picchu mountain circuit.
2. How to get with fast train excursion to Machu Picchu from Cuzco
If the time of your itinerary is limited, but you do not want to miss the Inca city, then you should join one of the best tours from Cuzco to visit Machu Picchu. This is a fast train activity , which incorporates a driver to Ollantaytambo station (round trip) and a guide for two hours in the historic ruins.
Generally, the itinerary of this type of adventure starts with the pick up at the door of your hotel to Ollantaytambo. The private driver will drop you off at Ollantaytambo station to board the fast train and take you on a route of approximately two hours to Aguas Calientes. This way, you will save approximately one hour of time compared to other trains.
When you get off the train at the Aguas Calientes station, you will have to board one of the buses bound for the ancient Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, on a route of approximately 30 minutes. Right at the door, you will connect with your guide, who will lead you through the citadel for two hours to discover its mysteries and enigmas.
You can continue exploring the temples, mountains and monuments on your own until the end of the afternoon. All this, according to the circuit selected with the entrance to Machu Picchu. Afterwards, you will take the bus again to Aguas Calientes and there board the fast train. Upon arrival in Ollantaytambo, the driver will be waiting for you.
Information of interest
- Price: the price of this tour starts at around 296€ per person.
- Travel time: from the hotel in the center of Cuzco to Ollantaytambo station is about 90 minutes, the fast train ride to Aguas Calientes is about 2 hours (a shorter time than other trains), and the bus transfer Aguas Calientes-Machu Picchu about 30 minutes.
- Advantages: this activity is a quick alternative to not leave Cuzco without knowing one of the wonders of the world.
- Disadvantages: you will only have the company of the guide for a couple of hours in the Inca city and the rest of the tour you will do on your own.
3. How to get with luxury train excursion to Machu Picchu from Cusco
Among the options to get to Machu Picchu from Cuzco is the Belmond Hiram Bingham luxury train excursion. Not only will you enjoy exclusive transportation, entrance to the Inca city and a professional guide; you will also enjoy exquisite gastronomy in the two restaurant cars and some drinks in the bar car.
For this adventure, considered one of the best day trips from Cuzco, you will embark on a route of approximately 20 minutes by private car with driver to the Poroy station. There, you will board the luxurious train, whose interior evokes the classic style of the 1920s.
You will travel about three hours to Aguas Calientes. During this time, you will be able to eat, drink and enjoy a live traditional music show. You will also contemplate the natural surroundings from the observation platform. Upon arrival at the Aguas Calientes station, you will immediately board a bus reserved for you.
In less than 30 minutes you will be at the gate of Machu Picchu, where a private guide will be waiting for you to discover the streets of this ancient city, dotted with temples, cultivated terraces, staircases and other areas of interest. Before returning to Cuzco, you will have free time to explore and walk to the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge hotel for tea and a snack.
Information of interest
- Price: the value of this excursion starts at 1.004€ per person.
- Travel time: about 20 minutes from the hotel transfer to Poroy station, approximately 3 hours by train, and at least 30 minutes by private bus between Aguas Calientes-Machu Picchu Picchu.
- Advantages: you will not have to worry about breakfast or lunch, since on board the train you have a restaurant car and a bar car.
4. How to get by car to Machu Picchu from Cuzco
To get to Machu Picchu from Cuzco there are no continuous and enabled roads to carry out this route. However, this is not an impediment for you to drive on your own in your adventure to know the lost city of the Incas.
Once you have the car, you can drive from Cuzco to the Hydroelectric Plant in the province of Urubamba. It is a route of almost six hours. Upon arrival, you will see a family-owned property that offers parking for around 10€, so you can leave your car in complete confidence.
From this point, you will have to walk an average of 2 hours and 30 minutes to Aguas Calientes, on a flat road along the rails of an abandoned train. Once in Aguas Calientes, you can spend the night in a hotel or continue the trip. You can walk up for 2.5 kilometers, or take a bus to the gate of the Inca city, paying approximately 12€ each way.
- Price: the total cost of the car rental is approximately 840€ and about 12€ the entrance fee for the bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu (only the ascent).
- Travel time: the route by car to the hydroelectric plant is about 6 hours, the hike to Aguas Calientes is about 2 hours and 30 minutes, the ascent to Machu Picchu is at least an hour and 30 minutes on foot, 30 minutes by bus.
- Advantages: you can stop whenever you want to explore the trail, eat or rest before going up to Machu Picchu.
- Disadvantages: if you are traveling on a budget, then this option may not be cost effective.
5. How to get by bus to Machu Picchu from Cuzco
Another option to get to Machu Picchu from Cuzco is by bus. This is a safe and inexpensive means of transportation that you can easily access. However, you should know that none of the bus routes cover the entire route to the Inca city. Therefore, you will have to combine it with train or walking.
You will have to travel about 179 kilometers in approximately six hours, thus moving from Cuzco to the Hydroelectric Power Plant in the province of Urubamba. To do so, you will have to board one of the Liz's Explorer or Machupicchu by bus buses (the only companies in charge of this route).
Once at the Hydroelectric station, you will have these two options to get to Aguas Calientes:
- Boarda train: two train services depart daily (14:20 and 16:40 hours), which will take you in about 30 minutes to your destination.
- Take a hike: since the distance between the Hydroelectric Plant and Aguas Calientes is only 10 kilometers (approximately two hours on foot), you can walk in a straight line along the rails of the old train, so it is not dangerous. All this, in the company of the Vilcanota River that you will observe at your side.
When you arrive in Aguas Calientes, you will have to go to Hermanos Ayar Avenue, which is very close to the train station. There, you will take one of the public buses managed by the Consettur company to Machu Picchu, about 30 minutes away.
- Price: the cost of the bus transfer from Cuzco to the Hydroelectric Power Plant is around 40€ per person. On the other hand, the entrance fee for the train from the Hydroelectric Power Plant to Aguas Calientes corresponds to about 10€ per person. Meanwhile, the ticket price for the bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu is about 12€ per person.
- Travel time: the bus route from Cuzco to the hydroelectric plant takes about six hours, the train ride takes at least 30 minutes and the bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu Picchu takes 15 to 30 minutes.
- Advantages: Traveling by bus along the route of the Hydroelectric Power Plant is an economical and easily accessible option, which will give you amazing panoramic views.
- Disadvantages: if you decide to walk from the Hydroelectric Plant you will invest a little more time and, if you take the train, you will have to be careful with the arrival times, since there are only two daily routes.
6. How to get by train to Machu Picchu from Cuzco
During your stay of 3 days in Cusco or more, you surely plan to visit Machu Picchu. If so, you can opt for the train transfer which, although it is one of the most expensive means of transportation, it turns out to be the fastest.
Once you purchase your tickets, you can start what could be one of the best day trips from Cuzco. You will have to go to Wanchaq Station (approximately 13 minutes walk from downtown Cuzco) or San Pedro Station ( about 30 minutes walk from downtown Cuzco). There, trains leave every four hours.
Once on board the train, you just have to enjoy the scenic ride that will give you exuberant landscapes to Aguas Calientes, where you will have to take a bus to Machu Picchu, about 30 minutes away. You will find the bus stop onHermanos Ayar Avenue, a few meters from the train station.
- Price: The entrance fee to board the train starts at 150€ per person. Meanwhile, access to the public bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu has an approximate value of 12 € per person.
- Travel time: the direct train ride to Aguas Calientes takes 3 to 4 hours, while the bus ride from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu takes up to 30 minutes.
- Advantages: you will travel directly from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes, saving time and enjoying a scenic ride.
- Disadvantages: Train tickets sell out easily, so you must purchase them in advance.
Other means of transportation
Any time is the best time to go to Cusco and visit the lost city of Machu Picchu. You can get there by guided tours, rental car, bus or train. You also have the option of taking a cab.
For example, you can take a cab from Cuzco to the Hydroelectric Plant. It will take you about 5 hours and you will pay approximately 100€ to 150€. Afterwards, you will have to walk on your own to Aguas Calientes, for about 2 hours 30 minutes, and then go up to Machu Picchu by bus, for about 30 minutes, or walk for about 90 minutes more.
You can also take a cab from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo, a trip of about 90 minutes, paying a fare of between 30€ and 45€. Once at the station you will board the train, whose ticket must have been purchased in advance. Thus, you will travel to Aguas Calientes in a maximum of four hours and then go up to Machu Picchu by bus or on foot.
- Price: from 100 ¤ to 150 ¤ it can cost you the cab to Cuzco Central Hydroelectric, and around 30 ¤ to 45 ¤ the cab from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo, from 70 ¤ the train to Aguas Calientes, and about 12 ¤ the bus from Agua Calientes to Machu Picchu.
- Travel time: approximately 5 hours by cab from Cuzco to the hydroelectric plant. About 90 minutes by cab from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo. About 2 hours 30 minutes trekking to Aguas Calientes. At least 4 hours by train to Aguas Calientes. And finally about 30 minutes by bus to Machu Picchu, or about 90 minutes of walking.
- Advantages: you don't have to wait in long lines to board the public bus and you don't lose time in the regulatory stops of this type of service.
- Disadvantages: the cab transfer could be a bit expensive compared to other means of transportation.
We compare the options
- Guided tour
- Price: from 280€ per person (includes entrance fee, round trip transportation)
- Duration: 5 hours approximately
- Advantage: convenience of not having to plan the route.
- Disadvantage: does not include the entrance to the Huayna Picchu mountain.
- Excursion by fast train
- Price: approximately 296€ per person (includes entrance fee, round trip transportation)
- Duration: about 4 hours
- Advantage: this activity is a fast alternative
- Disadvantage: guide for only a couple of hours
- Luxury train excursion
- Price: from 1.004€ per person (including entrance fees, round-trip transportation)
- Duration: about 3 hours and 50 minutes
- Advantage: on the train you will find a restaurant car and a bar car, for you to eat and drink.
- Disadvantage: very high price
- Price: 840€ approximately (round trip)
- Duration: from 9 to 10 hours and 30 minutes (Approx.)
- Advantage: you can make as many stops as you want and move freely.
- Disadvantage: it is not profitable to rent a car because the cost is very high.
- Price: about 40€ (one way)
- Duration: about 6 hours
- Advantage: quite cheap price
- Disadvantage: you will need to transfer to a train or walk.
- Price: about 150 ¤ (round trip)
- Duration: about 3 hours and 30 minutes
- Advantage: direct journey
- Disadvantage: tickets sell out quickly.
Tips for the journey between Cuzco and Machu Picchu
The journey between Cuzco and Machu Picchu is a long route, which will offer you amazing natural panoramas. Make the most of this experience and avoid inconveniences, taking into consideration some tips:
- Do not leave the purchase or reservation of tickets to the last minute. In Machu Picchu daily access is limited to a certain number of people, so you must purchase tickets in advance. The same applies to train tickets.
- Respect the schedules. You should arrive at the train station at least 30 minutes before departure time.
- Don't forget your identification documents. Whether you board the train, take a guided tour or decide to walk, you will need to present your passport, ID card, student card and even the entrance ticket for Machu Picchu.
- Always have cash with you, preferably in small denominations, as most stores in Aguas Calientes do not accept credit cards.