Machu Picchu Travel Guide

April 8, 2017

Machu Picchu is one of the 7 Wonders of the World, and it is an absolutely incredible site to see. If you are looking for ways to explore Machu Picchu either on a budget, or quickly, this Machu Picchu travel guide will give you all the answers that you are looking for.

Where to Land in Peru?

If you are solely wanting to travel to Machu Picchu, you are going to want to fly into Cusco, Peru. Essentially any flight you take to Peru will first take you to Lima. You might have to spend the night in the Lima airport before flying out to Cusco. However, if you want the closest proximity to Machu Picchu, Cusco is the city that you want to fly to.

How to Get from Cusco to Machu Picchu?

Getting from Cusco to Machu Picchu is a pretty easy thing to do. First things first, keep in mind that there are no roads which connect Machu Picchu to the rest of Peru, so you will need to use public transportation. If speed and a quick journey is what you are after, you might consider purchasing round trip travel tickets at one of the many tourist agencies in Cusco.

Another way to get there is to take a train. There are two major companies, Inca Rail and PeruRail, Both of these companies offer round trip transportation from Cusco to Aguas Calientes (the town beneath Machu Picchu), and are great at helping travelers with time-constraints quickly make the journey.

Another option for you to consider is taking collectivos to the nearby city of Santa Teresa, and then walking along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes. This journey is the cheapest option, and offers you the most time to spend looking at the scenery of the area.

What Do the Tickets Cost?

If you want to purchase your tickets through a tourist agency, keep in mind that you will pay a slightly higher price than you would if you bought them through one of the rail companies. The rail companies, on the other hand tend to fluctuate in price, depending on the time of the year. Most tourist activity is during the months of April – August, and you will notice that ticket prices are higher during this time.

Since this is the most popular route of public transportation in Peru, expect to pay quite a bit per-mile to travel to Machu Picchu by train (at least $100). For this reason, many people choose to take a collectivo to Santa Teresa, and then walk along the train tracks to Machu Picchu. This option would cost you around $30 round trip.

Bus or Walk from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu?

Once you arrive at Aguas Calientes, you will notice that there is indeed a remote town right next to Machu Picchu. This town is pretty expensive compared to the rest of Peru, so make sure you bring plenty of cash with you. All you will need to do from here to travel to Machu Picchu is either take a bus, or walk along the trail to the site.

Many people will wake up before the sunrise and walk up to Machu Picchu, because they can get there quicker than the first bus in the morning, if they leave early enough. If you do want to take the bus, the earliest you can get there is 6AM, and you will need to whip out about $24 to make the round trip. Otherwise, the hike is about an hour long, very steep and does not offer any good views.

How to Buy Your Machu Picchu Tickets.

If you are traveling during the tourist season, you may have noticed that tickets might be sold out on the online website. However, do not worry, unless you are wanting to hike up Huayna Picchu at the last minute, you will likely still be able to buy tickets at the ticket office in Aguas Calientes. It seems like they only sell a small amount online, and leave plenty for the people who show up in-person without reservations. The online booking system is pretty terrible, if you are traveling in peak season it is highly recommended to buy tickets in advanced. 

Machu Picchu Entrance tickets cost around $45 USD.

The Inca Trail

Many people choose this option to experience Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail only allows up to 500 people at one time, so accordingly the ticket prices can get pretty high to do this. Keeping in mind that you are experiencing the two (or four) day trek to Machu Picchu as an Inca runner would have, the price you pay for the experience shouldn’t matter as much as the great time you will have doing the trek. Many luxury services such as bedding and food are provided by local tour guides (for a fee).


The Cheapest Way to Travel to Machu Picchu

If traveling to Machu Picchu on a budget is what you want to do, follow these steps:

  1. Take a collectivo from Cusco to Urubamba ($1.25)
  2. Take a collectivo from Urubamba to Santa Teresa ($16)
  3. Walk from Santa Teresa to Aguas Calientes (10-15 km)
  4. Buy Machu Picchu entrance ticket in Aguas Calientes ($45)
  5. Walk from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu (5 km)

Estimated Travel Time: 9 hours

The fastest way to travel to Machu Picchu:

  1. Take a taxi from Cusco Airport to Ollantaytambo ($30 – $40 USD)
  2. Train to Aguas Calientes ($130+ USD approx round trip)
  3. Bus to Machu Picchu ($24 round trip)
    1. Total Travel Cost = $189
    2. Total Cost w/ Ticket = $234

No matter which route you take, it’s a long ride and some of the options can be expensive, so make sure you pack some quality headphones to make the trip a lot more enjoyable!

Food and Accommodations at Machu Picchu

One final thing to keep in mind about Machu Picchu is that you need to carefully plan your trip here if you are not wanting to spend too much money. That being said, there is a $40 buffet located onsite at Machu Picchu, and a 5-star hotel. Either of these options are great for wary travelers who are hungry, tired, or both. There is also a small restaurant that sells decent food. It’s a really good idea to bring some snacks since the food is over priced. 

Be warned, traveling to Machu Picchu can be an exhausting experience, that is why there is a $40 buffet and 5-star hotel on-site. However, once you make the journey, you will be left with memories and experiences that you will never forget.

Machu Picchu Packing List

Most people visiting Machu Picchu only stay for half a day or maybe the full day. Packing for this trip is fairly easy. I brought a lot of the gear I outlined in my Best Travel Gear of 2017 post. If you are going to do a long hike like the Inca trail, you will need to prepare a lot more.

  • Poncho (it can start to rain suddenly)
  • Extra jacket (The weather can get colds due to the altitude)
  • 2-3 liters of water (High altitude = easier to get dehydrated)
  • Bring some snacks (Granola bars or other snacks)
  • Coca leaves for altitude sickness.

Machu Picchu is an unforgettable experience and although it might be expensive, it is totally worth it! If you have any suggestions or questions to add to my Machu Picchu travel guide, please leave a comment below!


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