Cusco to Machu Picchu - How to get there, Train tickets, Guided tours

Cusco to Machu Picchu - How to get there, Train tickets, Guided tours

Knowing one of the world's wonders such as Machu Picchu is something you should do at least once in your life. It will be an experience that you will never forget in your life.

The most common is to get to Cusco by plane from the capital of Peru, Lima, South America (in a flight of just over an hour) and from there choose different alternatives to go to the ancient Inca citadel.

Table of content
  1. Intro - A summary of the entire journey
  2. How to get there, from Cusco to Machu Picchu
  3. Bus to Ollantaytambo and train to Aguas Calientes
  4. Private shuttle to Ollantaytambo and train to Aguas Calientes
  5. Guided tour of the Sacred Valley and Train to Aguas Calientes (best option)
  6. Train from Poroy to Aguas Calientes
  7. Different ways to get to Machu Picchu
  8. Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
  9. Short Inca Trail
  10. Lares Trek
  11. Salkantay Trek
  12. Inca Jungle Trek
  13. How do I get the tickets to visit Machu Picchu?

Intro - A summary of the entire journey

Making a trip from Cusco to Machu Picchu by land transport takes around 3 to 4 hours, depending on the type of transport chosen. You need to keep in mind that it is not possible to go directly from the Imperial City to the Wonder of the World.

The first measure is because there are no buses that connect both places and the second is because Machu Picchu is located on the outskirts of the town of Aguas Calientes, better known as "Machu Picchu Pueblo".

How to get there, from Cusco to Machu Picchu:

- Bus to Ollantaytambo and train to Aguas Calientes

This is the most common option to go from Cusco to Machu Picchu. There are two companies that offer the bimodal service (bus + train ticket): Peru Rail and Inca Rail. Their services are similar, although they have different hours.

The buses of both companies leave from the Wanchaq station, about 10 minutes by taxi from the Plaza de Armas in Cusco. The first PeruRail service is at 3h20 am and the Inca Rail service at 4h20 am.

The bus takes about two hours to transport travelers to the Ollantaytambo train station.

Here you can choose between several train options, depending on the comforts, the size of the windows (for more or less views), and the services on board.

The most luxurious is the Vistadome Observatory, since it has 360° windows and includes snacks and drinks, dance and live music, and audio with tourist information. It is really a wonderful experience because the views are amazing and the service is very good.

The more basic train option has beautiful views but they are not panoramic, there is no show on board or snacks included.

An hour and a half after boarding the train in Ollantaytambo and having amazing views of the Urubamba River you will arrive at Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Pueblo.

Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes | Cusco to Machu Picchu

- Private shuttle to Ollantaytambo and train to Aguas Calientes

Hiring a private shuttle in Cusco is an excellent option because the driver will pick you up at your hotel. In addition, you will not have to wait for other passengers or go to any station.

As for the train ticket, it is the same for all travelers, regardless of how they got to the station (you can choose different cars and services as indicated above).

- Guided tour of the Sacred Valley and Train to Aguas Calientes (best option)

An excellent way to not only go to Machu Picchu but also to get to know the beautiful Sacred Valley of the Incas is to take a full-day tour, visiting different locations and archaeological ruins.

The tour starts very early in the morning, around 6 or 7 am, your tour guide will pick you up at your hotel in the center of Cusco.

Important information: to be able to visit the archaeological sites on this tour it is necessary to buy a tourist ticket. It has a value of 70 soles for foreigners and lasts for 24 hours. It can be purchased at the first site you visit. You only pay in cash (Peruvian soles). When traveling with Voyagers your tickets are pre-purchased for you.

Sacred Valley of the Incas | Cusco to Machu Picchu

The first place of the tour is Chinchero, where you will learn about the production of clothes using sheep, llama, or alpaca wool, and the dyeing and weaving process. Then the bus will take you to the archaeological site of Chinchero. There are the remains of the royal estate of Túpac Inca Yupanqui and a colonial temple built using part of the Inca foundations.

The second destination is the site of Moray, known as "the ancient orchard of the Incas" since there, for example, they created the different species of potatoes that exist today. Then you will go to the town of Maras, known for its salt mines, which will also be visited (the ticket must be purchased separately at the same salt mine, if traveling on your own, it costs 10 soles).

After lunch at a local restaurant (usually in the city of Urubamba), you will go to your last destination: the town of Ollantaytambo. There you will enter the archaeological site with its dozens of stairs and its wonderful views of the mountains.

While the tour will continue to the town of Pisac (which has an archeological site on top of the mountain, where it is believed the dead were buried during the Inca Empire), you will stay in Ollantaytambo train station awaiting departure from your train to Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu town.

You can also stay longer at the archaeological site (it closes at 5 pm), spend a night in this charming Inca village, and travel on the train in the morning.

Chinchero, Moray and Maras | Sacred Valley of the Incas

- Train from Poroy to Aguas Calientes

The train from Poroy has service between May and December. The best of all is that it is not necessary to make any type of transfer since the train goes directly to Aguas Calientes. It is also only 30 minutes by bus or taxi from the center of Cusco.

Trains leave from Poroy station in the mornings starting at 6.40. If you would like to have the experience aboard the luxurious Belmond Hiram Bingham, this wonderful train leaves at 9 in the morning and arrives at Machu Picchu Pueblo in three and a half hours.

The Hiram Bingham train is the most exclusive and luxurious alternative to visit the Wonder of the world and icon of Peru. With its comfortable wooden and bronze seats, each space on this train is designed for the enjoyment and comfort of its passengers.

If you want to travel back in time, more precisely to the 1920s, this train will make your dream come true. With its dining cars, bar and observatory to enjoy incredible views, you can make the trip while drinking a Peruvian cocktail listening to live music with typical instruments.

Belmond Hiram Bingham train | Cusco to Machu Picchu

Different ways to get to Machu Picchu

There are different paths that adventures travelers can choose to live a wonderful and unforgettable experience in the Sacred Valley of the Incas:

  1. Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The Inca Trail is your best option if you are a fit person, since you will cover 40 km walking and going up the mountain. It is an experience of 4 days and 3 nights where you will be in full contact with nature using the same path that the Incas used centuries ago.

From your hotel in Cusco, a private bus will pick you up around 4 am and will take you to the starting point of the trail, on the outskirts of the town of Ollantaytambo (km 82 or Pisacucho).

This point is 2,700 meters high and on the first day you will cover about 15 km. At all times you will have support guides and porters who will be in charge of bringing everything you need to set up the camp, prepare the meals... And carry your backpack for you!

You only have to worry about walking and enjoying the wonderful views of the mountains, the forest, and the water sources... and imagine that the Inca warriors walked the same path!

The second day begins at 6 am with breakfast and continues with an intense 16 km walk, the biggest challenge is reaching Warmi Wañusqa. On the third day, you will do 10 km of moderate intensity. On the fourth and last day, you will have to get up at 4 am to be able to reach the Puerta del Sol at sunrise...

Once you arrive at the sun gate you will not believe what your eyes are looking at! The entire citadel of Machu Picchu waking up and welcoming you from afar.

The experience does not end there, since afterward, you will be among the first to enter the Wonder, tour it for around two hours, then you’ll go to Aguas Calientes to have lunch and take the train to Ollantaytambo. From there a private bus will be waiting for you to take you back to your hotel in Cusco, around 8:00 p.m.

Inca trail, Warmi Wañusqa and Inti Punku | Sacred Valley of the Incas
  1. Short Inca Trail

This path is half the size of the previous one, only two days and one night. From Cusco, you arrive at Ollantaytambo by private bus and then take the train to km 104. You will walk up to Chachabamba and Wiñayhuayna, two archaeological sites. At sunset, you will arrive at the Puerta del Sol to see how the sun hides between the ruins of the Inca citadel.

The next day, after having rested in Aguas Calientes, you will visit Machu Picchu in the morning. And in the afternoon you can return to Cusco.

Chachabamba and Wiñayhuayna | Cusco to Machu picchu
  1. Lares Trek

It also lasts 4 days like the traditional Inca trail, but the route is different. It is 37 km long and passes through Andean towns where you can learn more about the local culture and gastronomy.

The 'Cultural Route to Machu Picchu' begins with some baths in the hot springs of the town of Lares, in the Sacred Valley. On the second and third day, you visit Wacahuasi, Punta Toro, and Yanahuara.

From there, a bus takes you to Ollantaytambo. After your trip by train, you spend the night in Aguas Calientes, on the fourth day you visit Machu Picchu and return to Cusco.

Ollantaytambo | Cusco to Machu Picchu
  1. Salkantay Trek

This is a 5-day trek that begins in the town of Yucay, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and is ideal for mountaineering lovers. At times you will be more than 4500 meters above sea level!

You will be able to glimpse the highest mountains in the entire Valley such as the Salkantay Peak. This road gets to Aguas Calientes from the Hydroelectric Station, at the opposite end to where the train station is.

After sleeping in Aguas Calientes, you will end your adventure by visiting the wonderful Machu Picchu citadel. That same afternoon you will return to Cusco.

Salkantay Trek | Cusco to Machu Picchu
  1. Inca Jungle Trek

This option is 3 days-2 nights, ideal if you do not have much time available. From Cusco, you will go to Abra Málaga, where in addition to walking you will ride a bike and do rafting. It's an adventure with all the ingredients!

On the second day, you will arrive at Hidroeléctrica and from there to Aguas Calientes, where you will rest and if you want you can enjoy the hot springs at night. The next day, you will visit Machu Picchu and return to Cusco.

Abra Malaga | Cusco to Machu Picchu

How do I get the tickets to visit Machu Picchu?

Tickets for Machu Picchu can be purchased on the official website and paid by credit card. On guided tours, your Voyagers travel advisor will have these booked well in advance for you.

Depending on the time of year, they can also be obtained at the Cultural Office of Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town) one day in advance. They accept payment in cash (soles and dollars) or by credit card.

It is important to know that the entrance to Machu Picchu is not unique, but has different circuits. The 1st circuit, Llaqta, is the one that allows you to visit the typical area and take a classic photo with the citadel and the mountain behind. The first entry time is at 6 AM and the last at 2 PM.

Then there are three interesting circuits to climb the mountains of Huayna Picchu (the most famous and with incredible views of the citadel), Huchuy Picchu and Machu Picchu. In either case, admissions are only in the morning (first shift 7 AM, last shift 1 PM).

Something you can do is go up to Huayna Picchu very early and after lunch enter the citadel (circuit 1) and thus visit most of the wonder.

Visit Cusco to Machu Picchu

Frequently asked questions about visiting Machu Picchu

What is the best season to travel from Cusco to Machu Picchu?
The dry season (May to October) is the best to visit the entire area of the Sacred Valley, including Machu Picchu. The days are warm and the nights are cold or cool. It does not rain for weeks or months. The bad thing is that there are more tourists and it is more difficult to get tickets or hotels.
Is it better to enter Machu Picchu in the morning or in the afternoon?

If you go in high season, at any time of the day there will be a lot of people. However, most tourists prefer to go in the morning. Therefore, in the afternoon you will have more space and time to walk and take pictures.

If you want to climb Huayna Picchu, you can go very early to descend before noon, rest and enter Llaqta in the afternoon.

Is it worth spending the night in Machu Picchu Pueblo?

If you make a single-day trip you may not enjoy your tour to the fullest. You must leave very early and return to Cusco at night.

Although you will be able to climb Huayna Picchu in the morning and do Circuit 1 in the afternoon, you will miss the opportunity to get to know the town of Aguas Calientes a bit, which has to offer, for example, the hot springs.

The best alternative would be to go from Cusco to Machu Picchu Pueblo in the morning, explore the surroundings, go to the hot springs, and sleep there. The next day, get up early to see Machu Picchu and return in the afternoon.

How long does it take to visit Machu Picchu from Cusco?
The minimum you need to visit Machu Picchu departing from Cusco is one day. You can take the first train, arrive in Aguas Calientes around 8:30 in the morning, enter the Wonder at 9 or 9:30, enjoy the citadel until closing time and return on the last train to Ollantaytambo, arriving at the Imperial City of Peru almost at 10 PM.
How long in advance do I have to book?

It all depends on the time of year. Keep in mind that the high season is from May to October (dry months) and the low season is from November to April (rainy months).

If you want to go to Machu Picchu, for example, in July and August, the most popular months, you will have to buy your tickets at least two months in advance.

If you go in the less touristy months, such as February or March, you can even buy from one day to the next.

What is the luggage limit on a day tour to Machu Picchu?
You cannot enter Machu Picchu with large backpacks or suitcases, only with a handbag or small backpack. If you will only be there for one day, you should take water, a hat, sunglasses, and a jacket for the cold in the morning. Only snacks are allowed and you cannot eat inside the wonder (there is a restaurant at the entrance).
Difference between a day trip and a multiple-day tour?
In a single day, you will be able to visit the basics of Machu Picchu and you will not have time to visit Aguas Calientes, even according to the time of the train you will only be able to be in wonder in the morning.
How long is the train ride from Cusco to Machu Picchu Pueblo?

The direct train from the outskirts of Cusco (Poroy station, service available from May to December) takes approximately 3 hours and a half to Machu Picchu Pueblo.

If you take the train at the Ollantaytambo station (two hours by road from Cusco), it will take you an hour and a half to get to Aguas Calientes.