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Alternative route to Machu Picchu
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Alternative route to Machu Picchu – By Santa María

It is estimated that 85% of people enter Machu Picchu taking a train from Ollantaytambo. 10% enter the Inca Trail. The rest, 5%, decides to enter the Inca City by the alternative route through Santa María.

Next we will indicate the necessary steps to get to Machu Picchu without using the train or the Inca Trail.



Machu Picchu along the Santa María route
Machu Picchu along the Santa María route

The alternative route through Santa María is the longest but also the cheapest route to reach Machu Picchu. It is estimated that it can take 9 hours. The trip can cost less than 20 dollars. It is recommended for young adventurers.

How to go to Machu Picchu without using the train or the Inca Trail?

  • There are many ways to get to Machu Picchu such as the Inca Trail, the 4-day hiking route to the Inca City through the ‘Puerta del Sol ( Intipunku )’.
  • Another way to get to Machu Picchu is by taking the train from Ollantaytambo station to the town of Aguas Calientes.
  • There are also other hiking trails such as the Salkantay Trek or the Lares Trek. These hiking trails reach the Inca City through Aguas Calientes.
  • Finally, there is another alternative route which runs through the town of Santa María. This long route leads to Machu Picchu through Aguas Calientes.

How to get to Machu Picchu by Santa Maria?

  • The alternative route through Santa María takes approximately 9 hours.
  • The trip begins in the city of Cusco. There the buses that will take them in 5 hours to the town of Santa María, in the jungle eyebrow of Cusco are approached.
  • Then you must board one of the ‘collective’ taxis that will transfer you from Santa María to the town of Santa Teresa. The trip takes 1 hour on average.
  • In Santa Teresa are the famous thermal baths of Cocalmayo. In this town, collective taxis are taken to the ‘Hydroelectric’ train station. This trip takes approximately 30 minutes.
  • At the Hydroelectric station you can board one of the trains to Aguas Calientes (45 minutes trip). The other option is to walk (2 hours of travel).
  • From Aguas Calientes, one of the buses that will take you to the entrance door to Machu Picchu in 30 minutes will be taken.

Alternative route to Machu Picchu through Santa María: step by step

  • The alternative route through Santa María is the least frequented way to get to Machu Picchu. However, it is an adventurous route recommended for young people. It crosses the villages of Santa María, Santa Teresa until arriving at the train station ‘Hidroeléctrica’. From there you walk or travel by train to Aguas Calientes.

Step 1 – Buy Machu Picchu tickets

  • The first step to visit Machu Picchu on your own is to buy the entrance tickets to the Inca City. These are sold online in advance as availability is limited.
  • A frequent mistake that tourists make is to wait to arrive in Cusco to book the entrance tickets to Machu Picchu. Tickets must be purchased at least 1 week in advance. The entrance ticket to Huayna Picchu, 2 months in advance.
Entrance ticket to Machu Picchu
Entrance ticket to Machu Picchu

Step 2 – From Cusco to Santa María by bus

  • There are many buses that depart daily from Cusco to the town of Santa María. The tour lasts about 5 hours so it can be tiresome for tourists.
  • The cost of the bus trip is 25 or 30 Peruvian soles (8 or 10 US dollars).
  • The buses from Cusco to Santa María do not depart from the Cusco land terminal but from a small terminal located on Antonio Lorena street, near the Historic Center of the city.

Step 3 – From Santa María to Santa Teresa

  • Once you are in Santa María you will find dozens of taxi drivers offering to take you to the town of Santa Teresa. The cost of the trip is 10 Peruvian soles (3 US dollars). The trip takes approximately 1 hour.
  • You can choose to go to Santa Teresa to spend the night and enjoy the hot springs of Cocalmayo. The other option is to have lunch there to continue the trip to Machu Picchu that same day.
Cocalmayo hot springs
Cocalmayo hot springs

Step 4 – From Santa Teresa to Hydroelectric

  • The journey from Santa Teresa to the Hydroelectric station is also done in a collective taxi. The trip takes about 30 minutes and will cost you 5 Peruvian soles (2 US dollars).
  • In addition to the thermal baths of Cocalmayo, the town of Santa Teresa offers extreme sports such as zipline and crossing a chilling suspension bridge.

Step 5 – From the Hydroelectric Station to Aguas Calientes

Once at the Hydroelectric station you can choose to go to Aguas Calientes walking or by train. Most tourists choose to walk.

Travel by train to Aguas Calientes.

  • Trains depart only 3 times a day: at 2.17 pm / 2.50 pm / 5.10 pm The ticket can be purchased at the same station. The trip takes 45 minutes on average. It is recommended to organize the trip to arrive on time at the time of departure of the train.

Travel to Aguas Calientes walking

  • The road is easy. It consists of following the train tracks to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town) crossing through abundant vegetation (do not forget a good repellent).
  • Walking from the Hydroelectric station to Aguas Calientes will take between 2 or 3 hours, depending on the pace with which it advances. The route crosses 2 tunnels so it is recommended to take their precautions.
Aguas Calientes Town Machu Picchu
Aguas Calientes Town Machu Picchu

Step 6 – From Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

  • Aguas Calientes is one of the most cosmopolitan villages you will see in Peru and is almost entirely dedicated to Machu Picchu. It is full of hostels, restaurants, bars, craft markets, etc.
  • After spending the night in Aguas Calientes, there is only one last section to reach Machu Picchu. You must choose to reach the Inca City by walking or by bus. Most tourists decide to board the bus.

Get to Machu Picchu by bus

  • Aguas Calientes is 9 kilometers from Machu Picchu. This route is on the rise so most tourists ascend by bus. Thus they arrive with all their energies to the Inca City.
  • The bus trip will cost you 24 US dollars (round trip). A good economic option is to buy only the ticket of rise (12 US dollars) and return walking towards Aguas Calientes.

Reach Machu Picchu walking

  • Walking up to Machu Picchu has a moderate difficulty. The road is along the same road and through a hundred stone steps.
  • This journey on foot can take approximately 2 hours. It is not recommended if tourists travel with children, seniors or visit the Huayna Picchu mountain.

Step 7 – In Machu Picchu

  • Upon entering Machu Picchu, you will be asked to present your admission ticket with your original passport. If you do not carry your passport, you will not be allowed to enter the Inca City.
  • Don’t forget to bring sunscreen and rain poncho. The climate in the Inca City can change from rain to heat in a short time.
  • Tour Machu Picchu in the company of an official tour guide. So you can fully enjoy the Inca Citadel.

Step 8 – The return of Machu Picchu to Cusco

You can return to Cusco by taking 2 routes: the train journey through Ollantaytambo or by the alternative route of Hydroelectric, the same route you entered.

Return to Cusco by Ollantaytambo

  • This train route is the fastest way to arrive and return from Machu Picchu. The train journey from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo takes 2 hours. Then you must board one of the minivan to the city of Cusco (2 hours trip).

Return to Cusco by Hydroelectric (Santa María)

  • This route is the longest way to return to the city of Cusco. You must walk (or take a train) to the Hydroelectric station. From there you take one of the bus services to Cusco (approximately 6 hours of travel).
Return train Machu Picchu to Ollaytambo
Return train Machu Picchu to Ollaytambo

 

By Ticket Machu Picchu – Last updated, August 5, 2019