How to get to Machu Picchu
There are several ways to reach the ruins of Machu Picchu – and all of them start in the beautiful city of Cusco. The distance from Cusco to Machu Picchu is only 75 kilometres as the bird flies. However, in practice, it is more complicated than this, as there are no roads that directly lead to Machu Picchu. Instead, you can arrive by train or foot.
The Inca Trail
The most famous route to Machu Picchu is the Inca Trail, a 43 km path beginning nearby the village of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. This path takes four days to arrive at Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu hikes
Besides the Inca Trail, other treks lead to Machu Picchu too. Those treks take a different route - in the same region - and end in Aguas Calientes, the small village at the foot of the mountain. All those hikes offer splendid, high-Andean scenery that culminates in the startling ruins of the Inca city. After a night of rest in Agua Calientes, the trekkers visit Machu Picchu the next day. Examples of those treks are the two-day Inca Trail, the Salkantay Trek, the Lares Trek, or the Inca Jungle Trek.
»Read more about Inca Trail tours and Other treks.»
However, the classic Inca Trail is the only hike that truly uses the old Inca path, arriving in Machu Picchu through the sun gate Inti Punku: the privilege of arriving by foot in Machu Picchu is only for the Inca Trail hikers.
Machu Picchu By Train
Machu Picchu by train is a popular choice for travellers who want to reach Peru’s most iconic landmark quickly and in comfort instead of hiking a Machu Picchu trek. The Machu Picchu train depart from Cusco (Poroy) or Ollantaytambo and goes straight to the village of Aguas Calientes.
There are different options for the train to Machu Picchu, with each train service priced accordingly to a level of service (more or less comfortable seats, more convenient time tables, bigger (panoramic) windows, snacks on board etc.). There are currently two rail companies: Inca Rail and Peru Rail.
From Aguas Calientes, you can hike up to Machu Picchu (approx. 1.5 hours), or take the pendle bus (20 minutes, one way USD 12).
The train tour to Machu Picchu is an amazing experience with spectacular scenery, raging rivers and cute little villages. You can visit Machu Picchu in one day or take a two-day train tour with an overnight in one of the many cosy hotels in Aguas Calientes.
Machu Picchu By bus
Since there is no road to Machu Picchu, the Inca Citadel cannot be reached by car or by bus. However, it is possible to travel either overland, by public transport or tourist transport, from Cusco to the village of Santa Teresa. This trip takes about 7 hours. After arrival, you can start hiking (or first take a small van do the hydroelectric plant first (Hidroeléctrica)) and start your trip: walk the last 12 kilometres to Machu Picchu, along the railway to Aguas Calientes. You can also take the train at Hidroeléctrica (cost approx. US$ 25) and get off in Aguas Calientes.
»Note: These last 12 km are also the last part from the Inca Jungle Trail.»
It is not recommended to travel by bus during the rainy season due to the (bad) conditions of the road. Also, the trip is not very comfortable and you will (necessary) have to sleep a night in Aguas Calientes.