Machu Picchu is known for its remote and inaccessible location, in fact, it lay hidden from Spanish Conquistadors and other explorers until it’s re-discovery by Hiram Bingham on July 24, 1911. Many travellers find it confusing to plan for an unguided journey to Machu Picchu, as with most things in Peru, it’s not exactly straight forward.
Hike the Inca Trail:
If you are passionate about hiking, then you will be happy to hear about a couple of popular multi-day hiking options. Getting to Machu Picchu on foot is an amazing experience itself, hiking along either the Lares Trail or Classic Inca Trail. Along the way there are fascinating traditional villages and historical sites and plenty of awe-inspiring panoramic mountain views. If booking with a travel company, you’ll need to book well in advance of your intended hike. Many visitors say it’s best, and more enjoyable to travel as part of a guided tour with a small group. There are several reputable tour operators that organise trips to suit all travel styles and budgets. Some adventure tour operators include biking, kayaking and other activities as part of their Peru tours.
You can travel to Machu Picchu by train from Cuzco. Peru Rail offers a semi-luxury service that takes around 3.5 hours to reach Aguas Calientes (now known as Machu Picchu Town), the town located at the base of Machu Picchu. The available train journey options include the Expedition, Vistadome, and Hiram Bingham. If you opt to book yourself, don’t forget to book your train tickets in advance using the Peru Rail website. Also, keep in mind that the number of trains per day is limited.
If you want to make the most of your Machu Picchu tour, a stay in historic Cuzco, with its own cultural landmarks and archaeological features is a must! Walk around the market stalls, and admire the intricately designed, expertly constructed Inca built walls and buildings for a couple of days before you depart for Machu Picchu. A stop in Cuzco will also help you adjust to the change in altitude. At 11,203ft. (3,395m), Cuzco is located at a higher altitude to Machu Picchu (2,430m or 7,972ft), which makes things easier when you do move on to Machu Picchu and the next stage of your adventure.
While in Cuzco, you can take a city tour or opt for a Sacred Valley tour. You will also find guided hiking tours to Machu Picchu along the Lares or Classic Inca hiking trails.
If you’d prefer to make some stops on your way to Machu Picchu, it’s best to drive and take a detour through Ollantaytambo. When travelling by car or taxi you can expect the journey to take about 2 hours to Machu Picchu (obviously longer with stops). The beautiful town of Ollantaytambo is a great place to explore, with many temples and ruins.
If you prefer to book a package tour, your guide will give you a local account of the rich and fascinating history of each location as you visit or pass by these waypoints.
By Bus from Aguas Calientes:
Once you reach Aguas Calientes, you’ll need to take a short and scenic 20 minutes uphill ride to the entrance to Machu Picchu. Hiking this route may take up to 2 hours. There is a bus departing every 10 minutes starting from 5:30 AM through to 5:30 PM. You can get the bus tickets from the ticket booth near the departure area.
By Inca Or Lares Trail Hikes:
Machu Picchu is just one of many fascinating archaeological and cultural destinations to immerse yourself in while in Peru. If you choose to travel to Machu Picchu by opting for a multi-day hike, which can also include cycling through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, or Kayaking Lake Titicaca and exploring Amantani and Taquille islands. If you decide to walk the Lares trail, you'll be treated to literally a host of Peruvian hospitality in villages that are still inhabited by people who are descendants of the Inca themselves.
If you do decide to visit Lake Titicaca, you'll enjoy a whole different cultural cultural experience, hanging around among people who have lived for centuries on these islands, and developed their own unique way of life safe from the rest of Peru, and the world.
No matter how you decide to get to Machu Picchu, it's well worth investigating what other wonders await you in Peru. If you are at all curious to know how you get your complete full of experiences - and see the real Peru from all it's varied perspectives, then check out the itinerary for the Jaguar Trip.
Check out some other experiences you can enjoy on your way to Machu Picchu.
- Hiking the Lares or Classic Inca Trail
- Exploring Machu Picchu - facts about Machu Picchu
- Hiking in the Amazon jungle
- Sea kayaking on Lake Titicaca
- Staying with a local family on Amantani Island
- Hiking Sacsayhuamán fortress
- Hiking and cycle in the Sacred Valley of the Incas
- Exploring Cuzco
- Cycling through Andean villages and La Raya Pass
- Hiking Amantani and Taquile Islands
- Don’t forget to secure your entrance tickets to Machu Picchu well in advance. They are not sold at the gate and are limited to a certain amount of people per day.
- Carry your original passport to the Machu Picchu entrance.
- The entrance gate remains open from 6AM to 6PM.
- Entry tickets are valid only for a day. You have to buy a new ticket if you wish to spend another day at Machu Picchu.
There is so much interesting history in Peru, particularly at Machu Picchu, and there is an abundance of amazing sights, textures, architecture and culture to take in. It’s easy to pass by something (or someone), and miss out on a fascinating story that could make your experience so much richer. For this reason, you can and should do your homework well in advance, before you leave home.
If you want to enjoy a trip that immerses you in the full experience of Peruvian culture and history, with local guides and without the hassle of thinking about how to get to machu picchu, from organising transport, permits, accommodation, food and all the rest, check out and compare Peru guided tours.