Getting from Cusco to Machu Picchu
The gateway into the Machu Picchu site is the city of Cusco , which is served by an airport and a bus terminal. Cusco used to be the capital of the Inca Empire and there are plenty of things to see here. Which is great, because if you want to take the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu , you will need to adjust to the altitude and the best places to do that is in Cusco.
The Inca site of Machu Picchu is located in the Andes. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most visited sites in the world. To enter Machu Picchu you need a ticket which can be obtained online here . The current fee is 128 Soles / US$47.60 per adult (foreign visitor). While the best time to visit the sit is from April to October, most of visitors come here from June to August. Needless to say, between June and August the site is awfully crowded.
The easiest way to complete this journey is to travel by train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and then take a bus all the way up to Machu Picchu. If you want to hike but don’t plan to do the Inca Trail, then you can hike from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu ( 8 km).
Train and bus from Cusco to Machu Picchu
There isn’t a direct train link between Cusco and Machu Picchu , but you can this journey with a stop along the way.
1. Train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes.
Aguas Calientes is a small town, located at the bottom of the valley close to Machu Picchu. This is where you’ll stop for a night on the way from Cusco (unless you want to pay a fortune for accommodation in the only lodge in Machu Picchu).
Peru Rail has a monopoly on the Cusco to Aguas Calientes route. The travel time is about 3h 10 min and there are three types of trains connecting the two places. The cheapest ticket is US$56 one way. Book the tickets in advance as the cheapest option is sold out for months in advance. There are 6 departures per day from Cusco but only one train is low-cost. There are five trains on the way back.
>>read more about Train Travel in Peru
2. Bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
There is a bus which goes all the way up to Machu Picchu. The fare is US$14 return.
>>read more about Bus Travel in Peru
Train and a hike from Cusco to Machu Picchu
Once in Aguas Calientes you can choose to hike the 8 km to Machu Picchu. The trail is mostly steps and it’s not an easy hike , but definitely worth the views. It takes up 1 ½ h – 2 h on the way up and 1 h on the way down. Make sure to bring appropriate hiking boots (the steps can be slippery!) and supplies (water and snacks).
Inca Trail from Cusco to Machu Picchu
Please remember that it’s not possible to hike the Inca Trail independently, you need to be part of a group. Make sure to book the tour in advance because only a limited number of permits are granted each year. The tour departs from Cusco and even though the Classical Inca Trail is the most expensive and the hardest trail take, it’s definitely worth the views and the experience. The trail itself if a 4 days trek but together with the departure from Cusco and return, it takes 7 days to complete the tour.
>>read more about Hiking the Inca Trail