How To Get To Machu Picchu From Cusco

The Complete Guide

machu picchu peru

How To Get To Machu Picchu From Cusco

{The Complete Guide}

As one of the most visited travel destinations around the world, The Citadel of Machu Picchu welcomes a staggering 1.3 million visitors each year.

While its volume of tourism is no surprise considering that this wonder of the world is debatably the most popular of the bunch, the thing that is quite surprising is how difficult it is to actually travel to Machu Picchu.

Especially considering how many people visit here on the regular, you would think traveling to Machu Picchu would be a much simpler task, when in fact is it exactly the opposite.

However, in this blog, we will help to make things as simple as possible and explain to you in detail all the best ways to travel from Cusco to Machu Picchu.

Where Is Machu Picchu Located In Peru?

Cusco is considered the gateway city to Machu Picchu and if you’re like most, you probably thought that once you arrived in Cusco, your journey was almost complete.

However, you would be very wrong.

Although Cusco is the closest major city to Machu Picchu, don’t let this confuse you into thinking they are located just around the corner from each other.

Which is why before we discuss exactly how to get to Machu Picchu, we need to discuss exactly where Machu Pichu is located in Peru.

how to get to machu picchu | hidroelectrica to aguas calientes

The lost city of the Incas is perched atop the Andes Mountain Range above the Urubamba River valley around 80 kilometers from the city of Cusco.

Though at first, that distance doesn’t seem too far, keep in mind that the journey consists of navigating the steep, winding and often unpaved roads of the Andes Mountain Range.

These difficult roads turn the 80 km journey to Machu Picchu into a six-hour long journey by car plus an additional 2.5 hours walking.

And guess what… You’re still not there.

Therefore, because of its extremely remote location, visiting requires a little bit more planning than just a simple day trip.

How To Travel To Machu Picchu?

The first step of traveling to Machu Picchu is to travel to the gate way city of Cusco.

Cusco is a major city in Peru that is very easy to get to by either plane or bus from anywhere in Peru. Additionally, Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport makes it very simple to travel directly to Cusco from destinations outside of Peru.

how to get to machu picchu

How To Travel To Cusco From Lima?

 Traveling to Cusco from Lima is a very common and affordable route in Peru.  You can either take the bus or fly depending on what you may prefer.

Bus From Lima To Cusco

The cheapest way to travel to Cusco from Lima is by bus.

The bus takes around 22 -24 hours to arrive and can cost anywhere from $30 to $60 USD. I recommend taking the Cruz Del Sur bus company.

Cruz Del Sur buses are highly recommended in Peru as one of the most comfortable and reliable buses in the country.

However, they are typically the first buses to run out of available seats so be sure to book ahead of time or risk being stuck on an uncomfortable 24-hour bus ride to Cusco.

Flight From Lima To Cusco

The flight from Lima takes around an hour and 15 minutes with plenty of direct flights to choose from.

However, flight prices can vary pretty significantly between airlines as well as the day.

Therefore, I highly recommend not waiting until the last minute and instead try to book this in advance, at least several weeks before your planned departure date.

This is especially true during the high season in Cusco, otherwise, you could get stuck paying a ridiculous fare.

How To Get To Machu Picchu From Cusco?

Once you have successfully arrived in Cusco, which is considered the gateway city to Machu Picchu, the next step is to reach the city of Aguas Calientes (which translates to hot water).

Aguas Calientes is a small town located just at the bottom of the mountain near Machu Picchu. It is recommended to spend one or two nights here during your visit.

aguas calientes to machu picchu

From Cusco, you will have to decide between three different travel methods in order to reach Aguas Calientes.

Minivan – The most affordable but most troublesome method

Trek – The most memorable but also the longest method

Train – The shortest but also the most expensive

Minivan To Aguas Calientes From Cusco

 The first and most common option is to take a minivan from Cusco to Aguas Calientes.

Prices range anywhere from $30 – $40 USD for a roundtrip from Cusco to Aguas Calientes.

All local minivan transports depart each day from the Plaza de Armas (the town square) in Cusco at around 8:00 a.m.

Tickets can be purchased from practically anywhere including tour companies, hostels, and hotels or even local street vendors selling tickets down at Plaza de Armas.

Although this is the cheapest transportation method to reach Machu Picchu, there are some things to keep in mind.

  • There are 15 seats per minivan and the vans will not depart until each seat is filled.
  • The minivans do not take you directly to Aguas Calientes, but instead to the town of Hidroelectrica.
  • The journey to Hidroelectrica takes about 6 hours with a couple of bathroom/snack breaks along the way.
  • The majority of the trip is full of winding and bumpy roads alongside very steep cliffs.
  • Once you arrive in Hidroelectrica, you must then walk alongside the train tracks for about 2.5 hours until you finally arrive in Aguas Calientes.
  • The walk to Aguas Calientes is not strenuous at all given it is flat most of the way. In fact, it is actually quite scenic.
  • Although there is the option to take the train from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes, the walk is quite picturesque with many beautiful scenic locations along the trail.

Once you arrive in Hidroelectrica, you may be a little sketched out because at first glance it seems they have dropped you off in the middle of nowhere right next to westbumblef**k.

However, keep in mind that Hidroelectrica (which literally translates to hydropower) is nothing more than a water plant that happens to be the closest drop off point to Aguas Calientes. There are some restaurants and small shops located in the area, which is perfect for any hungry travelers or anyone who simply needs a rest before beginning the 2.5-hour journey to Aguas Calientes.

Additionally, if you can’t be bothered walking, there is the option to take the train from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes.

However, it is quite expensively priced at around $25 USD for just a 30-minute ride.

Trek Along The Inca Trail To Aguas Calientes

Hiking to Machu Picchu is by far the most rewarding method of traveling to Peru’s most sought-after destination.

With miles of different hiking trails taking you high into the clouds towards the famous Lost City of the Incas, the more adventurous and athletically inclined travelers will most likely choose this option.

While there are several different trekking options to choose from, they are generally all the same, varying mostly between the hiking routes and difficulty.

how to get to agaus calientes

Inca Trail (Moderate)

The most famous of the Machu Picchu hikes is the Camino de Inca, which translates to Inca trail which takes you along the Sacred Valley.

Camino de Inca is the original Inca trail which is why it remains one of the most popular out of the bunch.

This 4 day/3 night rugged hike will have your head in the clouds with a maximum elevation of 13,700 feet as you travel along the 19.4 mile trail towards Machu Pichu.

More Details About The Camino de Inca

Salkantay Trek (Difficult)

Another popular route to hike to Machu Picchu is the Salkantay Trek.

This particular trekking route travels over the mesmerizing 15,000-foot Salkantay Pass providing hikers with plenty of breathtaking moments along the way.

This 4 day/3 night trek is much more difficult than the Inca trail, however it does not require a guide or a permit.

More Details About The Salkantay Trek

Inca Jungle Trek (Easy)

The third and insanely popular option, especially for those who would like some adventure traveling to Machu Picchu but aren’t keen on hiking for 4 days straight, is the Inca Jungle Trek.

This modernized trail combines white water rafting, downhill cycling, ziplining and a minimal amount of trekking into one adventure-filled and unforgettable journey to the ancient ruins.

Considered to be quite easy when compared to the alternative options listed above, this trek varies between 3 and 4 days trek time depending on which option you select.

More Details About The Inca Jungle Trek Here

Train To Aguas Calientes From Cusco

The third and final option is to take the train directly to Aguas Calientes from Cusco.

Although this is the fastest and most simplistic way to travel to Machu Picchu, be prepared to pay a hefty price tag.

  • This route completely eliminates the 2.5-hour trek along the train tracks from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes.
  • Therefore, instead of taking a 6-hour minivan + and an additional 5-hour walk to Aguas Calientes, this option can get you there in an average of 2.5 hours. (2.5 hours of total travel time from Cusco to Aguas Calientes.)
  • Definitely the best option for the elderly, those with a time restriction or those who just simply can’t be bothered with the two previously mentioned options above.
  • Prices are between $150 – $600 USD per person roundtrip depending on which train service you select (1st class being the most expensive).
  • While there are several different trains to choose from, they all pretty much offer the same services and travel times.
  • There is a $6 train option, however, this is exclusive to only Peruvians.

How To Get From Aguas Calientes To Machu Picchu  

Aguas Calientes is the small town located at the bottom of the mountain where Machu Picchu sits atop of.

Therefore, it is known as the final destination before your long-anticipated visit to the historic Incan ruins.

This is where you will be staying during your Machu Picchu adventures.

You can reach Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes either one of two ways:

  • Take a bus up to Machu Picchu along Hiram Bingham road.
  • Hike up to Machu Picchu via the jungle trail.

Bus from Aguas Calientes To Machu Picchu

If you have made it this far (without taking the train of course) pat yourself on the back.

And if you trekked any of the trails, pat yourself on the back twice.

If you have managed to trek 38 km to this point and decide to take the bus up the final mountain to Machu Picchu, I could not even blame you.

  • The bus takes around 30 minutes to after departing Aguas Calientes to reach the top of the mountain and the ancient masterpiece that is Machu Picchu.
  • The bus costs $12 USD for a one-way ticket and $24 USD for a roundtrip.
  • You can only purchase bus tickets by presenting your passport or a valid form of ID.
  • Bus tickets can be purchased along the river near the final station in the town of Aguas Calientes.
  • Buses depart from 5:30 a.m until 3:30 p.m. However, you can enter Machu Picchu until 4 p.m and stay until 5 p.m.
  • The line for Machu Picchu will seem impossibly long (especially during the high season), however don’t get discouraged because it does in fact move quite quickly.

aguas calientes to machu picchu

Hiking From Aguas Calientes To Machu Picchu

  • If you decide to go with this option, be prepared for a vertical climb up a steep 400-meter mountain as you make the final ascent to Machu Picchu.
  • The hike takes around 2 hours to reach the top, therefore be prepared to wake up extra early to begin your hike in order to reach the top by your designated time slot.
  • Be sure not to forget your passport, otherwise, you will be denied entry to Machu Picchu and all that climbing would be for nothing.
  • However, if you do decide to hike up and are too tired to make the trek back down once you exit Machu Pichu, it is still possible to purchase a one-way ticket to take the bus back down the mountain to Aguas Calientes.


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