Is Machu Picchu on your bucket list? It seems to be one of the bigger items on most travel lists these days. Last February I managed to make a trip to the popular archeology site. After doing some research on the internet, I got the impression that you needed to do a 4-day hike to go from Cusco to Machu Picchu. This is not true!
You definitely can do a 4-day hike, and I hear that it is an amazing experience because you get to see some beautiful scenery and also you arrive at Machu Picchu early in the morning before the tourists get there. But you do not have to do a 4-day hike to get to Machu Picchu!
So when I say “Machu Picchu the easy way” I mean that there are easier options than a 4-day hike. I put this post together so that you can choose a route that will suit your time and budget.
I did a van/hike package to Cusco. I bought the package from the hostel where I stayed. The hostel is named Supertramp. If you buy a package through your hostel, it is most likely going to be good value. Trust me, the last thing a hostel wants is a bad review on the internet! I was very happy with my decision.
Where to start?
Although Agua Calientes is the base town to the park entrance, Cuzco is the main gateway city and a popular base for planning your visit to Machu Picchu. Step one is to get to Cuzco!
Cuzco is a great city to spend a few days or more in if you want to see a lot of ruins in the surrounding area. The town has a lot of great restaurants, and reasonably priced accommodations.
The main tourist area is full of annoying touts trying to sell you package tours to Machu Picchu and other attractions. (Do your research!) That being said, this gives you multiple options and competitive pricing to choose from.
How to get to Cusco?
It all really depends on your time and budget. The quickest way to Cusco is via the capital of Peru, Lima. From Lima, you can fly (approximately 1 hour) to Cusco using a few different budget airlines for about $100 U.S. each way. You can search flights through Skyscanner, CheapOair, Latam Air, Star Peru or Avianca.
I was doing a 5-month backpacking trip throughout South America, so I went to Cusco by bus. It really depends on your travel plans as to where you take the bus from within Peru. Arequipa (11hours) and Lake Puno(8hours)are popular cities to use as a transport hub for Cusco. If you are ambitious you can take the long bus ride from Lima(22hours), but you may want to compare prices because it is most likely cheaper to fly.
Luckily Peru has nice buses with options to upgrade to VIP seating. Cruz del Sur is the company that I used most of the time in South America. You can go to their website to find possible routes to take, prices and timetables. www.cruzdelsur.com.pe .
*Please note, Cusco is 3399m (11,152ft) above sea level so you may want to book a few extra days there to acclimatize. Especially if you fly there.
What are my options to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco?
If you are running on a short time frame your best option would be a day tour.($300U.S.) You can take a day tour by van or train with a guide, however, the day tour means an early start (5:00 A.M. pickup) in Cuzco and a very long day (14-16hours).
The big disadvantage of a day tour is that you do not get very much time to spend at Machu Picchu. The main archeology site is often covered by fog or clouds during the early part of the day. Day tours are sold everywhere, and your hotel or hostel can most likely book one for you.
If you take a van package or a train to Agua Calientes and stay a night or two, then you can plan to spend the entire day at Machu Picchu. This would give you a better chance to see it all during good weather.
Two/day tour plus an extra night
I did a tour that started early in the morning with a van from Cusco to Hidroeletrica train station(7 hours). Then I did a relatively flat 2-3 hour hike from Hidroelectrica station to Aguas Calientes (option to take the train from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes $28US one way(30 minutes)). I booked two nights at a hostel in Aguas Calientes (Supertramp) so I could spend more time at Machu Picchu.
Day 2, I took a bus $12U.S. (20 minutes) up to Machu Picchu. (Option to hike 2km (1.5hours) In the afternoon I took a return bus $12U.S.(20 minutes) back to Aguas Calientes around 3:00pm. The next morning I hiked back to Hidroelectrica where my van back to Cusco was waiting for me.
There is no direct bus to get to Agua Calientes from Cusco. It is possible to take a series of buses combined with a short train ride or a hike. There are too many variables for this method of travel so I would suggest that if you wanted to go this route to get some up to date information in Cusco or from your hostel.
The train is one of the nicer ways to travel to Machu Picchu. The prices can range from affordable $160US return up to extravagant $600US return. There are two companies that you can use for the journey. Both have ticket offices in Lima and Cusco (Perurail or Inca Rail) and you can always buy online. I recommend checking the most recent prices and times on the following websites Perurail, or Inca Rail. Both are in English.
Going from Cusco to Machu Picchu (3.5hours) you depart from Poroy Station which is 13km away from the city and usually takes 30minutes and should cost around 20 Sols($6U.S.) with a taxi. You will arrive at Machu Picchu Station that is located in the town of Aguas Calientes. From here you will need to take a bus(see Bus Agua Calientes to Machu Picchu below.)
*Please note that you can only get a more expensive bus/train combo service during the rainy season when part of the route is shut down due to flooding. The rainy season prices apply from Jan. 2 to Apr. 30.
Bus Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu.
In Aguas Calientes, you can buy a ticket from a booth in town or buy one online Consettur Machupicchu S.A.C. and print it out. You will need your passport! The bus cost $12U.S. (20 minutes) up to Machu Picchu. (Return $24U.S.). Buses run from 5:30am – 4:30pm. and run every 10 minutes. There are usually line-ups to get onto the bus.
Where to buy tickets for Machu Picchu?
You can buy tickets in Cusco, Aguas Calientes (address & hours) or online at the Ministerio de Cultura. Tickets are limited so you should book in advance if possible. You can see how many tickets are left for each day when you go to the website. Adults cost 128Sol ($40U.S.), or 90Sol ($28U.S). after 1:00 P.M.
*note Machu Picchu closes at 4:30PM, check to see when the last bus leaves.
Ticket Combos Include Hiking
If you want to hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Montańa you need to book a few days ahead in Cusco, Aguas Calientes, or online Ministerio de Cultura. Both hikes have two different start times available letting only 200 people climb at a time for a total of 400 climbers for each mountain daily.
Combo Prices Entrance & Hike
The cost of entrance to Machu Picchu & Huayna Picchu is 152Sol ($46U.S.)
The cost of entrance to Machu Picchu & Machu Picchu Montańa is 142Sol ($44)
Hikes within Machu Picchu
This is the most popular climb and takes between 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. It is much steeper than Machu Picchu Mountain. Huayna Picchu is 2720m(8920ft) above sea level.
Machu Picchu Montańa
This hike takes longer to climb (3hours), but it is usually less crowded and has great views from the top. Machu Picchu Mountain is 3,082m (10,111ft) above sea level.
I climbed Machu Picchu Montańa in late February.The view from the top was amazing and worth the effort. I strongly recommend bringing water and please just take your time. You will most likely find it difficult to breathe while hiking at these altitudes. It is important to do some research on Altitude sickness before your trip.
Make sure you bring it! You need it to buy your tickets and to enter Machu Picchu. Plus you can stamp your own passport just before the main entrance with a cool Machu Picchu print.
The famous photo
The famous “me and Machu Picchu” photo is usually taken near the Care Taker’s Hut. This is located just after you get past the main entrance. You must walk up about 200 to 300 yards. Next to the hut there is a very big area where you can take this famous photo. You can relax, you do not have to rush to get there before everybody else. A lot of people can be taking this photo at the same time without getting into each other’s pictures.
Yes, they are real lol! Due to ancient customs food and washrooms are not allowed in Machu Picchu. There is somebody at the main entrance randomly searching bags and confiscating food. And they watch people at the top of Huayna Picchu & Machu Picchu Montańa making sure that nobody is eating anything.
You do have an option to store a small bag in a locker for 3Sol($1U.S.) The price of food and drinks outside of the gate is very expensive!
Use the washrooms before you enter the park. They are located just before the main entrance. There are no washrooms after the main entrance! You will need to come back out then line up again to re-enter Machu Picchu. I believe you can only re-enter the park 2 or 3 times and the lines are long in the morning. So save your ticket and keep your passport handy.
The hiking entrances for both Huayna Picchu & Machu Picchu Montańa are located after the main entrance within Machu Picchu. Your ticket will have a specific start time.
Huayna Picchu; The first group can start anytime between 7:00 A.M. – 8:00 A.M., the second group can start between 10:00A.M-11:00A.M.
Machu Picchu Montańa; The first group is between 7:00A.M. -8:00A.M., the second group 9:00A.M. -10:00A.M.
I hope this information helps you with your planning, and I really hope you enjoy your time at Machu Picchu. It truly is an amazing experience. Thank-you for your visit here today, please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org.