inca trail peru machu picchu

How to get to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is one of the seven wonders of the world. Is a very popular place and almost everyone wants to visit it. Even though, when you reach the city of Cusco, you may don’t know what to do to get there.

While you visit this place you may need to keep communication. That’s why you may need to use one of our mobile phone plans for tourists to avoid high roaming costs. In order to make a nice trip here in PeruSIM, we will show you the different ways to get to Machu Picchu.

Entrance tickets

It is important to buy tickets in advance if you want to go on your own. There are several types of combined tickets. If you want a type of ticket like this, you have to buy them about three months in advance, and they are only sold on the official website.

It may insterest you: A brief history of Machu Picchu

Getting to Machu Picchu from Cusco by train

The most expensive but also the fastest option is to go by train from Poroy (20km from Cusco) to Aguas Calientes. To make the journey from Cusco to Poroy station can be done by cab or Uber.

Types of trains

There are different types of trains that make this journey, the most economical is the Expedition, a very comfortable tourist train with windows on the roof to admire the scenery. The next train up in category (and price) is the Vistadome, which has more panoramic windows than the previous one. They also put on a show during the trip with traditional dances and costumes and serve you a snack. And finally, only suitable for deep pockets, is the Hiram Bingham train, a luxurious classic train where you will live a whole experience.  You can check them all on the Peru Rail website.

Getting to Machu Picchu by van and trekking

machu picchu cusco

This is the option we chose to go to Aguas Calientes from Cusco. Firstly because we had heard very good things about the trekking experience, and secondly because the price difference with the train is very considerable. This would be the cheapest way to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco.

They go from Cusco to Hidroeléctrica

As I explained at the beginning, the town of Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes) is not accessible by road. You can go in a van (minubus) that goes to the nearest possible point, called Hidroeléctrica. It is not a village or anything like that. It is just a hydroelectric station, where there is a restaurant/shop and a train station. This trip may from Cusco to Hidroeléctrica takes 6 hours with several stops. After that, you’ll have these next options:

Option A: Trekking from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes

The trek is 12 km from Hidroeléctrica to Aguas Calientes, and you pass through the access point that goes up to Machu Picchu.

From Hidroeléctrica you have to take the road that goes to the access control point to the trekking, 1km. There you register with your data and passport, there is no fee to pay. This is only for security purposes and to know who has entered the jungle. After registering, you have to follow the indicated path. 

The first 10 minutes are uphill, but the rest is all flat, very easy to do even for children. The path continuously skirts the train track, which you might see passing by. It goes very slowly and you will hear it coming, so you can move out of the way if you are walking on it. 

There are safety signs telling you not to walk on it, and to just walk along the path next to it, but you will inevitably take a picture of yourself on the tracks.

Tips for trekking

  • Wear comfortable shoes, better if you wear hiking boots, water repellent if you go in the rainy season.
  • One liter of water per person
  • Mosquito repellent (tropical)
  • Sun protection cream

Some snacks for the trail. There are some campsites with a bar along the way, but the prices are high, so I advise you to bring what you need bought from Cusco.

Carry only a small backpack with the essentials for the night. Leave your large backpack or suitcase at the hotel in Cusco. All hotels have luggage storage for tourists who are going to spend a night in Aguas Calientes to visit Machu Picchu.

Option B: Train from Hidroeléctrica to Aguas Calientes

There is a plan B if you do not want to do the trekking, but this will not be free. There is a train that goes from Hidroeléctrica station to Aguas Calientes. The journey takes 30 minutes to make the 12km that separate this place from the town of Machu Picchu. 

Climbing to the citadel of Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes

Only the last stretch will remain, climbing from Aguas Calientes (2,040m) to the Inca citadel of Macchu Picchu (2,430m). It is almost 400m of vertical drop in a vertical line. To do this section there are two options:

Bus

They leave from a point in Aguas Calientes that you can consult in this map and it takes 30 minutes to go up. The first buses leave at 5:30am, but I recommend being at least half an hour earlier to queue if your entrance to the citadel is at 6am.

If you buy a return-only ticket, when you are at the top, you will only have to wait in line to board the bus, not for the ticket booth (which is usually long). Buses leave fairly frequently.

Climbing on foot

inca trail cusco peru

The cheapest option to climb up to the entrance gate of the Inca citadel is on foot. There is a stepped path all the way up the mountain. You will have to go through the entrance control, the pass opens at 5am and it is mandatory to identify yourself with your valid passport and the entrance ticket.

Getting to Machu Picchu by the Inca Trail

And finally, the most adventurous option and the one that requires more days, doing the Inca Trail. Although it is the most expensive, it is also the one that offers the most incredible experience. Originally, it took 12 days to cover the distance from Cusco to Machu Picchu, but today the start of the route is much closer. There are several options depending on the time and budget you have. You can do a section of the Inca Trail from 2 days, or extend it if you have more time.

As you can see, there are many ways to reach Machu Picchu, not only by train but also you can do treking or just walk a litte route and then go by bus to keep your way to this important citadel.

Finally, we know that you have to keep communication with your relatives and friends, that you need to be able to orient yourself in new cities, that you might need help with translation and that you might need to search for restaurants or hotels. That’s why with PeruSIM you can buy a SIM card including the data plan of your need without having to worry about high roaming costs.

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