There are only 3 ways to get to Machu Picchu: the Inca Trail, the train ride through Ollantaytambo and the alternative route through Hydroelectric. Each of them offers a totally different experience and varies in travel and prices. Your choice will depend on the type of experience you are looking for.
- Map of the trip to Machu Picchu
- How to go to Machu Picchu on your own?
- The Inca Trail
- The train journey through Ollantaytambo
- The alternative route by Hydroelectric
- Recommendations to go to Machu Picchu on your own
- Questions and answers about the route to Machu Picchu on your own
Most people travel to Machu Picchu by train although, according to experts, the Inca Trail is the most incredible way to visit the Inca city. The alternative route by Hydroelectric is more economical although very few tourists choose it.
Map of the trip to Machu Picchu
Route 1. Map of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The Inca Trail starts in Cusco. Then you travel to kilometer 82 of the route by train. There begins the trek for 4 days until arriving at Machu Picchu through the Intipunku. Along the way, other Inca archaeological sites can be seen.
Map of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Route 2. Map of the train trip to Machu Picchu
There are several train stations, although most tourists choose the Ollantaytambo station. To follow this route, take a bus from the city of Cusco. The train trip lasts 1 hour 45 minutes and ends in Aguas Calientes, at the foot of Machu Picchu.
Travel map by train to Machu Picchu
Route 3. Map of the alternative route through Hidroelectrica
The route begins in the city of Cusco where a bus is boarded to the town of Santa María (5 hour trip). There you take a collective taxi to the town of Santa Teresa or the Hydroelectric station (2 hours). Finally, you walk (or take the train) to the town of Aguas Calientes, at the foot of Machu Picchu.
Map of the alternative route by Hydroelectric
How to go to Machu Picchu on your own?
- You can choose the route you want to get to Machu Picchu on your own. However, none will help if you do not buy the Machu Picchu tickets in advance.
- Then you must choose the route of your choice: the Inca Trail, the train journey through Ollantaytambo or the alternative route by Hydroelectric .
- If you chose the Inca Trail you must book the tour through the website of a tourism agency, 5 or 6 months in advance.
- If you chose the route by train, you must buy the tickets to Machu Picchu as well as the train tickets, 3 or 4 weeks in advance .
- If you chose the alternative route by Hydroelectric, you should only buy tickets to Machu Picchu in advance.
The Inca Trail
- For visitors who enjoy outdoor walks, the best way to get to Machu Picchu is to travel the classic Inca Trail.
- This hike is ranked among the 5 most impressive hiking trails on the planet. It was built by the Incas hundreds of years ago in order to join Machu Picchu with Cusco.
- It combines incredible archaeological sites with the landscapes granted by the Andes Mountains and the eyebrow of the Amazon rainforest. In addition to Machu Picchu you can see the citadels of Runkurakay, Phuyupatamarca, Sayacmarca and more .
- The Inca Trail lasts 4 days, 3 nights and travels approximately 39 kilometers. During the hike, the highest point reaches 4,200 meters above sea level (13,779 ft).
- After touring several Inca sites, you will arrive at the old entrance gate to Machu Picchu, known as the Intipunku .
- Permits to travel the Inca Trail are very limited and have to be reserved several months before through the website of a tourism agency.
The train journey through Ollantaytambo
- Tourists looking for a comfortable and safe trip should choose the train journey from Cusco (or one of its train stations) to the Machu Picchu final station.
- Most visitors choose to travel by train from Ollantaytambo station, located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas .
- The train route is considered one of the most impressive short train routes in the world. It travels a little more than 30 kilometers in a journey of 1 hour 45 minutes, approximately.
- During the trip you can see the beautiful landscapes of the Vilcanota River, the mountain chain of Cusco as well as the traditional Andean villages that inhabit the route.
- After arriving at the Aguas Calientes train station, the visitor must take one of the buses that ascend 10 kilometers until they reach the entrance gate to the archaeological site of Machu Picchu. This last trip takes only 30 minutes.
- Train tickets can be purchased online through the websites of Peru Rail or Inca Rail, the only two companies that operate the train route to Machu Picchu .
The alternative route by Hydroelectric
- Tourists looking for a cheaper trip to Machu Picchu can choose the alternative route by Hydroelectric. This trip also includes a short walk through landscapes rich vegetation.
- This route starts in the city of Cusco and will take you to the town of Santa María (it will take around 5 hours). Once there, you must take a collective vehicle to the town of Santa Teresa or directly to the Hydroelectric station (approximately 2 hours trip).
- From the Hydroelectric station you can reach Aguas Calientes walking (in approximately 2 hours). However, it is also possible to take a train that will take you in 20 minutes .
- Despite the length of the route (almost 8 hours of travel), it is still the cheapest way to get to Machu Picchu.
- Once in the town of Aguas Calientes, it is recommended to spend the night in a lodging and visit Machu Picchu the next day.
- To make the route by alternative by Hydroelectric it is not necessary to buy any ticket online. The buses to Santa María depart from Antonio Lorena Avenue in the city of Cusco.
- It is not recommended to make this alternative route during the rainy season (from January to April). In those days landslides caused by heavy rains can occur.
The alternative route of Santa María turns out to be a pleasant and economical way to get to Machu Picchu
Recommendations to go to Machu Picchu on your own
- If your ticket includes the Machu Picchu or Huayna Picchu mountains, you must take the train very early. Another option is to spend the night in Aguas Calientes and visit the mountains early the next day.
- The high season in Machu Picchu (May – September) demands that tickets must be purchased in advance . Especially the ticket that includes the Huayna Picchu mountain (3 or 4 months in advance).
- Train tickets must also be purchased online with an advance time of 2 or 3 weeks.
- Entrance fees to Machu Picchu have discounts for university students, children under 18 and citizens of Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador.
Questions and answers about the route to Machu Picchu on your own
1) Is going on my own cheaper than going on a tour to Machu Picchu?
Yes. Going on your own allows you to choose an economic trip or one with all the luxury. If you choose the first option, the cost is cheaper compared to the trip with a tour.
2) Yes or yes, should I buy my tickets to Machu Picchu in advance?
Tickets to Machu Picchu must be purchased 1, 2 or 3 weeks in advance. The ticket that yes or yes you must buy 3 or 4 months in advance is the ticket ‘Machupicchu with Huaynapicchu’.
3) Can I do the Inca Trail without a tour?
No, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu can only be done with a tour organized by a Cusco tourism agency.
4) Can I do the Salkantay trek without a tour?
Yes, this route can be done with a tour or on your own. For this last option it is necessary to organize the necessary utensils and food products.
5) Is the route to Machu Picchu by Hydroelectric dangerous?
No, the route is safe. However, it is recommended not to do it in the months of intense rains: January, February and March. The rest of the year the route is very safe.
6) What should I take to the route to Machu Picchu by Hydroelectric?
During this route, it is recommended to wear sports clothing with long sleeves and pants, mosquito repellent, sunscreen, a hat, water, snacks, a poncho in case of rain, and more.
7) Can I walk from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu?
No, this route is very long and the best way to complete it is by train. The way to get there on foot is along the Hydroelectric route.
8) Can I walk from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu?
Yes, this 10 kilometer route is free for all. However, due to the fatigue it causes, it is best to take the bus to Machu Picchu.
9) Can I get a tour guide in Machu Picchu on my own?
Yes, at the door of Machu Picchu you can get tour guides for the trip on your own. The price varies from 10 soles per person in shared service.
10) Where to have a cheap lunch in Machu Picchu?
On the trip to Machu Picchu you can have lunch in the town of Aguas Calientes. In the local food market you can get lunch from 8 Peruvian soles.
Advice from people who have been there
“It really deserves to be called one of the wonders of the world. Since you arrive, beauty, energy and magic flood your senses.“
By Ticket Machu Picchu – Last updated, February 12, 2022