8 ways to get to Machu Picchu in Cusco
Undoubtedly Machu Picchu is the best tourist destination in Cusco. Although there are many ways to get there, there are three main ones: the train route through Ollantaytambo, the bus route through Hidroeléctrica, and the famous 4 or 2-day Inca Trail. In addition, there are other routes that take part of these roads to reach the Inca citadel. All can be done with a tour or on your own. Learn about the 8 ways to get to the ‘Wonder of the World’ in Peru.
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The train trip through Ollantaytambo
The train trip is the most famous route that leads to Machu Picchu starting from the city of Cusco. The reason? It is the shortest and safest.
It lasts about 4 hours in total. It begins with a trip by car or tourist transport to Ollantaytambo, located 61 kilometers away (1 hour 45 minute trip). Then you board the train that, in 1 hour 40 minutes on average, covers 34 kilometers until you arrive at the town of Aguas Calientes.
In this town you take the buses that ascend 10 kilometers until you arrive at the entrance gate of Machupicchu. All services (trains, buses and even tourist transport to Ollantaytambo) can be purchased online.
- How much does it cost? The tourist train costs approximately 50 dollars (12 soles for Peruvians on a local non-tourist train).
- How long does it last? 4 hours from the city of Cusco to Machu Picchu passing through Ollantaytambo.
The bus route through Hidroeléctrica
The bus trip through Hidroeléctrica is a route little known by tourists. However, it is the cheapest and, for some visitors, the most adventurous.
It lasts about 8 hours or a little more. It begins with a trip by public or tourist transport (the latter being the best option) from the city of Cusco to the Hydroelectric station in the province of La Convención (near the town of Santa Teresa). This trip takes 5 hours on average.
Then there is a famous walk of only 10 kilometers to the town of Aguas Calientes. This walk is easy and offers incredible landscapes. It takes 2 hours on average.
Then you must make the bus trip from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu (30 minute route). However, due to the length of the trip, the vast majority of tourists decide to spend a night in this town so that, the next day, they can visit Machu Picchu with peace of mind.
- How much does it cost? The tourist bus from Cusco to Hidroeléctrica costs approximately 8 dollars.
- How long does it last? The trip from Cusco to Hidroeléctrica takes 5 hours. The walk to Aguas Calientes 2 hours. And the final bus trip to Machu Picchu, 30 minutes.
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is considered one of the best treks on the planet. There are two versions: the 4-day route and the 2-day route. The first is the classic version and the most memorable.
Because it is a route protected by the Peruvian State (it runs through Inca trails, the famous qhapac ñan), it cannot be done on your own. That is, the only way to do this walk is to hire a tour with a tourism agency.
On day 1, a trip is made in tourist transport to the height of kilometer 82 of the train track that goes to Machu Picchu. There the walk begins. That day, 13 kilometers are traveled to the town of Huayllabamba.
On day 2 we continue on foot along difficult stone stairs until we reach the Warmiwañusca pass, the highest point at 4,215 meters above sea level. Then continue downhill to the Huayllabamba camp. That day you walk 11 kilometers, but it is the most arduous day.
On day 3 we continue through the Andean and jungle landscapes of Cusco until arriving at the Wiñayhuayna archaeological site and camp. That day we walk 16 kilometers.
On the 4th, you walk only 3 kilometers until you arrive at the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu through the Puerta del Sol (Intipunku), an incredible experience. The return to Cusco is by tourist train.
- How much does it cost? 600 dollars per tourist approximately.
- How long does it last? 4 days (includes camp, guide, porters, food, entrance fees, transportation and more).
The Inca Jungle
The Inca Jungle is the commercial name of an adventure tour that includes the practice of sports such as cycling, canoeing, ziplining and, of course, trekking.
The tour lasts 4 days and 3 nights. As its name indicates, it crosses the tropical jungle of Cusco until arriving at Machu Picchu along the route from Hidroeléctrica to Aguas Calientes.
On day 1 there is a long trip (approximately 4 hours) to the Malaga pass. From there, a 2-hour descent is made by bicycle to the town of Santa María where, before sleeping in a tourist hotel, canoeing is practiced.
On day 2, a walk through tropical landscapes is carried out until arriving at the town of Santa Teresa. There you can visit the thermal baths of Cocalmayo, considered the best in Cusco. There he spends the night.
On day 3, in the morning, ziplining is practiced in a recreational center in the town of Santa Teresa. Then continue the walk with the route from Hidroeléctrica to Aguas Calientes. There he spends the night.
Day 4 is dedicated to visiting Machu Picchu starting from the town of Aguas Calientes. You can go on foot (8 kilometers) or take a tourist bus for approximately 12 dollars. The return is by tourist train to Cusco.
- How much does it cost? 400 dollars per tourist approximately.
• How long does it last? 4 days.
The Lares trek
The Lares trek is a hiking route that begins in the town of Lares and ends in Machu Picchu, where it is reached with a final route by train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes.
The Lares trek lasts 4 days and 3 nights. Although it can be done on your own, the best option is to choose a tour, since it includes: transportation, entrance fees, guide, food, camping, and more.
On day 1 there is a long trip (4 hours on average) from the city of Cusco to the town of Lares. There you can enjoy the thermal baths of the town, and then start the walk to the town of Wacahuasi.
On day 2 the route continues through natural mountainous landscapes. We cross the C’asa Pasa pass, the highest point. Then we descend to the Auroray camp where we spend the night.
On day 3 there is a walk downhill to the town of Yanahuara. From there you travel by tourist transport to the town of Ollantaytambo, from where you take the train to Aguas Calientes. That night you rest in a tourist hotel in the town.
Day 4 is dedicated to making the circuit through Machu Picchu and returning to Cusco by tourist train. The Lares trek covers a total of 37 kilometers. Unlike other walks, it is not a route that involves a significant physical challenge.
- How much does it cost? 620 dollars per tourist approximately.
- How long does it last? 4 days.
The Salkantay trek
The Salkantay trek is a hiking route considered the best in Cusco, only after the Inca Trail. The classic version of this tour lasts 5 days. It owes its name to the fact that it runs through the Salkantay pass, at 4,650 meters above sea level.
Unlike the Inca Trail, the Salkantay trek can be done on your own. The route is free for tourists. The last part of the walk makes the walk from the Hydroelectric station to the town of Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town).
On day 1 you travel by bus to the town of Mollepata where the walk begins. The route continues through Andean landscapes until visiting the Humantay lagoon. That day we rest at the Soraypampa camp after walking approximately 13 kilometers.
Day 2 is the most difficult route as you ascend to the Salkantay pass. Then you descend through an amazing mountainous landscape until you arrive at the Chaullay camp after 22 kilometers of walking route.
On day 3 we continue downhill through the green forests of the Cusco jungle. That day is the easiest because the route is pleasant. You walk 16 kilometers to camp in the town of Lucmabamba. Optionally you can visit the thermal baths of Cocalmayo.
On day 4 the walk continues ascending until reaching the archaeological site of Llactapata. Then it descends to the Hydroelectric power station, from where the famous route to Aguas Calientes is made. There he spends the night after walking 16 kilometers on average.
Day 5 is dedicated to visiting Machu Picchu. From Aguas Calientes you can walk 8 kilometers uphill or take a bus that takes 30 minutes to the gate of the Inca city. The return to Cusco is by train.
- How much does it cost? 450 dollars per tourist approximately.
- How long does it last? 5 days (there is also a short version of 4 days).
The Huchuy Qosqo trek
The Huchuy Qosqo trek is a trekking route of 3 days and 2 nights that includes a visit to Machu Picchu, which is reached by train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes.
The trek owes its name to the fact that it also includes a visit to the archaeological site of Huchuy Qosqo, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It is a simple route that only covers 22 kilometers, so it is recommended for the whole family.
On day 1 there is a short trip from the city of Cusco to the town of Patabamba. There begins the 3-hour walk to the archaeological site of Huchuy Qosqo. Near the Inca archaeological site, the night is spent in a camp.
On day 2 we visit Huchuy Qosqo and continue with the walk to the town of Lamay. There a tourist transport is boarded to Ollantaytambo. In this famous Andean town, you board the train that leads to the town of Aguas Calientes. There you spend the night in a tourist hotel.
Day 3 is dedicated to getting to know Machu Picchu, the wonder of the world. The return to Cusco is on a direct tourist train trip.
- How much does it cost? 350 dollars per tourist approximately.
- How long does it last? 3 days.
The Choquequirao trek
Choquequirao is an Inca citadel considered ‘The sacred sister of Machu Picchu’ due to its geographical and architectural similarity. The only way to get there is on foot. The ‘Choquequirao trek’ route lasts 2 days, to then return to Cusco in 2 more days of walking.
However, there is a tourist route called ‘Choquequirao trek to Machu Picchu’. This route, instead of returning to Cusco, continues with a walk to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu after visiting Choquequirao. The route lasts 8 days and 7 nights camping and covers a total of approximately 115 kilometers.
The Choquequirao trek to Machu Picchu is a challenge for visitors due to the long distance and the days spent camping. Although it is a free route for everyone, due to this difficulty it is best to do the adventure with an all-inclusive tour.
On day 7 of the route, you arrive at the town of Aguas Calientes from the Hydroelectric power station. Then, on the last day, you visit Machu Picchu and return to Cusco by tourist train. You dare?
- How much does it cost? 1,250 dollars per tourist approximately.
• How long does it last? 8 days.