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Posted by on Apr 2, 2012 in Peru, South America, Travel Info

Getting from Cuzco to Machu Picchu; Hike, Train, Walk?

Getting from Cuzco to Machu Picchu; Hike, Train, Walk, Half-Bus?

There are a few options of getting from Cuzco, Peru – the last major city in the Andean Mountains before heading up to Machu Picchu. Yes there are more cities on the way – beautiful ones at that. But most people start their route up to Machu Picchu from Cuzco. So How do you get to Machu Picchu?

 

Hike

The Inca Trail is the famous route the ancient Inca’s walked. It is picturesque, it is strenuous, it is pricey. But it is still a possibility. There are also other hiking routes up to Machu Picchu which has the same traits, but without being the “original” route, and can save you money and are shorter lengths. But whichever way you choose to Hike – You’ll end up in Machu Picchu. So what are those routes and what are the prices (Included your Entrance ticket to Machu Picchu)?

  • Inca Trail – 4 days – US$400
  • Salkantay Trek – 5 days – US$200
  • Inca Jungle Trek – 3/4 days – US$185
  • Lares Trek – 4/5 days – US$360
 
 

There is an option to hike yourself without having to partake in a tour. You cannot hike the Inca trail alone as it is monitored, but all other treks are available to hike alone – but do not take this on lightly. You should come VERY prepared and have experience hiking alone previously. Read the last section on how to Hike Machu Picchu Alone.

Train

This was my option. With a time constraint and a propensity towards relaxation; this was the best option for me. There are a few trains which take you from Cuzco or alternatively, Ollantaytambo, up to Aguas Calientes, the city at the bottom of Machu Picchu Mountain. The prices are all within $1 of eachother, but PeruRail offers the most time options so lets review those:

Cusco – Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu)

  • Expedition – $56 per adult – departure/arrival times: 16:40-21:05
  • Vistadome – $71 per adult – departure/arrival times: 15:20-19:40 | 17:30-21:20 | 16:20-20:30
  • Hiram Bingham – $300 per adult – departure/arrival times: 17:50-22:25

Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu)

  • Expedition – $33/$37/$43 per adult – departure/arrival times: 14:55-16:30 | 18:45-20:20 | 21:30-23:00
  • Vistadome – $53/$60 per adult – departure/arrival times: 13:40-15:05 | 15:50-17:30 | 16:20-18:00
  • Autowagon – $60 per adult – departure/arrival times: 18:10-19:45
If you’re catching a train out of Ollantaytambo, the easiest slash cheapest method of traveling between the two cities is via minibus. Ask your hostel about where to catch the minibuses; and it should cost around 10 Sol or $4 USD.  

 

Walk

This is actually possible. Is it easy? No. Is it for the inexperienced trekkers? No. Is it an adventure? Hell Yeah!

As stated previously, one cannot hike the Inca Trail without a permit as it is government regulated. If you do not want to pay this fee, nor want to partake in an organized tour (which you can pay a single supplement and have it be just you and the guide). You Can take the risk and go on an incredible journey and Walk to Machu Picchu yourself.

So where do you go? How do you start? My suggestion would be to invest in a published self-guided walking tour book. This will give you greater advice than I could here as this is only a quick overview. It will give you detailed routes, maps, packing lists, and what to do in emergency situations.

The best and simpliest route is the take a minibus from Cusco to Santa Maria. Santa Maria is the “backdoor” into Machu Picchu. Once there, you can simply follow the train tracks up to Aguas Calientes for 3 hours and you’ve made it! Easy Peasy.

You can hike straight from Cuzco and there are many different routes. This is for more advanced hikers who understand navigation and camping. But it is do-able. Plus – there are many a tour group alone the way you can ask for advice; given you haven’t walked in the wrong direction for the past 4 hours!

 

Extra Important Information

Price of Machu Picchu Tickets:

There is a government set price for entrance to Machu Picchu. There is also a price to climb Wayna Picchu as well as hike the Inca Trail AND/OR take the Train. But, the price of entrance to Machu Picchu:

  • Machu Picchu Foreigner (Adult): 128 PEN = $48 CAD
  • Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu Foreigner (Adult): 152 PEN = $56 CAD
  • Machu Picchu + Montana Machu Picchu Foreigner (Adult): 142 PEN = $53 CAD


Cuzco – Where to Buy Machu Picchu Entrance Tickets

 

Machu Picchu tickets are available online for reservation ONLY. You’ll have to go into an agent or into the Ministery of Culture in Cuzco to actually pay and be given your ticket. I went 2 days before hiking Machu Picchu without a reservation for my ticket. This was for January 15th. This is NOT recommended for the summer aka BUSY months from June-September.

Ministerio de Cultura/Dirección Regional de Cultura Cusco
Av. la Cultura  Nº 238 Condominio Huáscar, Cuzco, Peru
Telephone: (051)-084582030
Website: http://www.drc-cusco.gob.pe
 
 

Cuzco – Where to Buy PeruRail Tickets

  • You can buy tickets online at PeruRail or if you’re in Cuzco head to the office located at the address below. I walked into the Office in Cuzco and bought my tickets 1 day in advance. Again – This was for January.
Portal de Carnes 214 Plaza de Armas, Cusco
Hours: Monday – Friday: from 08:00h to 22:00h | Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays: from 08:00h to 22:00h
Telephone: (051) 084581414
Website: http://www.perurail.com

Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu Ruins

Each of these route alternatives takes you to Aguas Calientes. You’ll notice upon arrival a lack of beautiful ancient Inca Ruins. You are correct – you have NO reached Machu Picchu yet. If you head to the river and look straight up – The top of that mountain is what you need to reach! So how can you get there?

  • Walk – You can walk straight up a path from Aguas Calients to the Machu Picchu Ruins, or you can alternatively walk the zig-zagging bus road up to the top.
  • Bus – If you walk to the main road next to the river, you’ll see a lot of buses – take one of these. It costs $17 USD Round-Trip or $9 USD one-way. This will take 20 minutes to reach the top. They start at 5AM.
Whichever alternative you choose. They both get you to the ruins. At 6AM – I personally did not feel like walking up a muddy path in the drizzle – so I opted for the comfort and ease of a bus. After 6 hours wandering around Machu Picchu, including the hike up Huayna Picchu mountain, I did not feel like hiking down either. Although the weather was nice, I bused down too. Sure I paid for this, but atleast my legs did not.

So What IS the best way of getting to Machu Picchu from Cuzco? I do not believe there is ONE best way. All routes have their pros and cons and each person needs to decide their time constraints, financial situation, physical ability, and desires.

1 Comment

  1. All above info is excellent and quite detailed but needed your expertise as to whether a reasonably fit 69 year old can handle train ride from Cusco to Mach Pichu?

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