If you’re heading to Peru, chances are Machu Picchu is on your list. I don’t know about you, but trying to work out how to get to Machu Picchu before my trip was all a bit confusing and I couldn’t logistically understand how the journey actually worked (even with tonnes of googling / blog research beforehand).
(Firstly, don’t miss these spots whilst planning your itinerary: the perfect itinerary for 2 weeks in Peru)
The nearest major hub to Machu Picchu is Cusco (so you want to base yourself here before your trip) and the nearest base to Machu Picchu is the small town of Aguas Calientes. Whichever way you decide to get there, you will need to stay a night / pass through Aguas Calientes in order to get up to Machu Picchu itself.
To get from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu you either take a 25 minute bus or you can trek it (all uphill). There’s a long queue for the bus in the morning starting at like 4:30am so it actually takes the same amount of time getting the bus / trekking in the end.
How to get to Machu Picchu…
Lot’s of people come to Peru especially for alllll the treks you can do. There are soo many treks just to get up to Machu Picchu; Inca trail, Salkantay, Lares, Inca Jungle Trek, Choquequirao, Vilcabamba, the Chaski, Huchuy Qosqo & the Lodge trek (more luxury). (Check out Twoscotsabroad’s post if you’re looking for more deets on each of these treks).
I met a few people that did the Salkantay trek and they said it was definitely challenging, but worth it. Another friend did the Jungle trek and said it was amazing – I can’t really comment on either as I took the easy way out. Most of these treks can be booked in Cusco a day or two before you want to leave, however the Inca trail is the most popular and you have to book this far in advance (think 6 months) to make sure you get a spot.
The easiest way to get to Machu Picchu is by train. We booked a 2 day 1 night trip from our hostel in Cusco which included a transfer to the train station in Ollantaytambo (1.5 hours), train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes (2 hours), 1 night in a hostel (Supertramp – would def recommend), the bus from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu and a tour guide at Machu Picchu. And then all the way back. This cost $260 USD and the company the hostel booked us with was Southern Peru Explorers. The train ride was cool, I’d definitely recommend. 🙂 Also…free wine and snacks <3. If you wanted to do it cheaper you could book each element yourself online, but would definitely recommend doing this a little in advance so you know everything is available (the trains can get booked up). The two main train companies are Peru Rail and Inca Rail.
Bus & walk
If you wanna do it cheaper, it’s possible to take a 5/6 hour bus from Cusco to the hydroelectric plant just after Ollantaytambo and then walk the rest to Aguas Calientes. The next morning you can also walk up to Machu Picchu early doors rather than take the bus – this takes around an hour and a half. We met quite a few people doing this and said it was fun and not too bad although it is all uphill.
Some tour companies offer Machu Picchu as a day trip – this is basically the same as the 2 day 1 night version but all packed into one day meaning you have to get up at like 3am and get back very late. Having done the 2 day 1 night trip I wouldn’t recommend doing it one day unless you are really pushed for time, as it would feel so rushed and wouldn’t get the most out of it as you would be exhausted!
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