A DREAM CALLED MACHU PICCHU
As for many of you, Machu Picchu has always been a dream destination, maybe with a little fear of the hard trek because of the altitude: but I have finally fought that fear and trekked up to the very top of the mountain.
Today you will find many ways to reach the Machu Picchu Sanctuary: via train (also with a luxury version train), by bus, by Inka trail (3-4 days trek, to be booked with at least 3-5 month in advance), walking or mixing up some of the listed options. Each of them has its own charm, it is all about what you want to experience.
In this article I will list down all the option and price on how to reach Machu Picchu, before tough, some information you need to know about Machu Picchu and its location: Machu Picchu is a Mountain who reach 3,050 meters above sea level, which make it the perfect spot to be trek and get a view of the whole sanctuary and the surrounding mountains such Huayna Picchu.
How to adapt to high altitude
Generally, the first stop for everybody is to go to the Inca city of Cusco at an altitude of 3399 meters above sea level. Being Cusco at an higher position of Machu Picchu will simplify your adjustment to the high altitude: it is highly suggested to spend at least 2 days in Cusco to get to use to the altitude, most of all if you are not use to the high altitude, also if you strain with it you might consider taking some precaution such tablet. You can find 2 different type of tablets in every pharmacy or even off-license of the city:
Soroche pill: no-natural pill, to be taken each 8 hours with a cost of 1.60 PEN (indeed cost are not the same, so you might end up to pay for each pill up to 2.50, based on where you are – I suggest always to go to Mi Farma or Inka Farma). If you are not sure about your body reaction to the altitude take the first pill 3-5 hours before to reach Cusco then another one after 8 hours. Otherwise, wait until you reach the city to check how you feel. Other than this, you MUST always contact your doctor first, as these are an only suggestion based on my experience.
Alti Vital pill: natural pill, based on Coca leaf and Guarana. You can use it as the Soroche pill. Price from 1.80 PEN each pill
Both pill: you do not need to buy the whole package, you can buy them singularly.
I have personally started with Alti Vital: I took one, few hours before I reached Cusco as I was already feeling sick on the bus, then I took the 2nd pill in Cusco and waited to adjust to the altitude. On day 2 I did not need to take any pill, although I took 2 pills on the trek-day to Machu Picchu otherwise I could not have been able to trek up to the very top.
A quick note about Coca leaf: they are not helpful for sickness, the leaf is energy boost, so they would help you to get some energy on the high altitude, but if you feel sick you should try the pill, even tough before the talk with a doctor or pharmacist anyway. You can find them literally everywhere in Cusco or in any surrounding village (Santa Maria is the place where you can get them for the cheapest price): in Cusco, a little bag (all you need for 2 days trekking) will cost you around 3 PEN.
Also if you feel very bad already in Cusco, you want to take with you some oxygen on the way to Machu Picchu – pharmacy sells it from 20 USD onward. Again: always talk with a doctor first!
Buy your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu
Buy your entrance for Machu Picchu, either online on the official website Ticket Machu Picchu or at the official vendor in Cusco: Casa de la Cultura (direction: Calle San Bernardo, close to de Armas Square). Avoid the travel agency as some of them might charge you more.
Only Machu Picchu Sanctuary 70 USD
Sanctuary + Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain 86 USD
Sanctuary + Museum : 77 USD
Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain are available only in the morning 2 slot: 0700-0800 and 09.00-1000. Means that you can only enter them in the 2 slot or you risk to lose your entrance, so make sure you will be there at the scheduled time.
Difference between Huayna and Machu Picchu mountain : Huayna is lower than Machu Picchu but more stiff with big stones and some of them need to be climbed – more or less 1 hour to go up and 40 min to go down. The Machu Picchu mountain is a longer trek as the highest pick but less stiff, although the last bit (more or less 20 min from the top) is still very edgy and can seriously give you vertigo – more or less 1 h 30 min to go up and 50 min to go down. From both, you will have a great view of the Sanctuary and surrounding mountain.
I have trekked Mountain Machu Picchu in order to have a better view of everything, being the highest point. But if you want to trek up to Huayna make sure to book this in advance as the availability run quickly (maybe 3 weeks in advance or more).
Once you enter the main gate, you have 7 hours inside the Machu Picchu: within these 7 hours you can go out and get back in twice (for instance if you need the toilet service).
Toilet service 2 PEN.
You can also buy your entrance ticket at Aquas Calientes or Machu Picchu entrance. I do not suggest this is you want to trek Huayna or Mountain, as you might do not find availability for them, and they cannot be purchased separately.
How to get to Machu Picchu by train from Cusco
You can book your train on the official website of Peru rail (sometimes there is great offer) or go to official vendor in Cusco: you can find one office at De Armas Square. I would not suggest travel agency as they would get a commission on the ticket, so a higher price for you.
Train has different departure and cost: from Cusco (Station Poroy, outside Cusco)/ Ollantaytambo or Urubamba 40/30 min away from Cusco
(you can reach both by private or shared taxi or by local bus). Train cost is from 52 USD each way, although there are plenty of offer.
Buy your tickets for at least 1 week in advance to get a better price.
The train will reach Aquas Calientes a very pretty village worth one day visit if you are not in a rush, so you might try to reach it in the late morning, get to used to the altitude and meantime get a stroll to its lovely old-fashioned streets, ending up in the main square having a good meal. You can find any kind of accommodation here, from hostel (min. 8 USD) to more expensive hotel: have a look here to book your accommodation booking.com
Train from Cusco to Aquas Calientes take around 3 hours, from Ollantaytambo – Urubamba around 1h and 45 min.
Once you are in Aguas Caliente you can either reach Machu Picchu sanctuary straight away or rest one night in the village.
How to get to Machu Picchu by touristic bus from Cusco to Hidroelettrica
In Cusco you find many travel agency selling a cheaper version to reach Machu Picchu: by the touristic minivan.
Price with return vary from 55 to 80 PEN, depends on your negotiation skills. You can also buy one way for a min of 30 PEN. In this case, agency will prefer cash.
Minivan, generally a Mercedes 18 seaters, will collect you at your hotel around 07,30/08.00 am (the travel agent will confirm you the right time, but always give some flexibility)and drop you at Hidroelettrica. Mind that there is only one slot in the morning, so you do not have other time option. On the way back a minivan will wait for you at Hidroelettrica around 1500 and take you back to your hotel in Cusco. Minivan run every day, you can also book the previous night.
One way trip is around 6 hours: long part of the route is over mountain roads, so many curves that sometimes might feel dangerous, on top of this, you will encounter fog. Do not worry as all the drivers are professional, but avoid this option if you are car-sick as you won’t feel in a good shape at your destination and risk to spoil the experience.
How to get to Machu Picchu by local bus from Cusco Hidroeletrica : Adventure version
Note: this is going to be the hardest version and not necessarily the cheapest, but it will be rewarding for the villages you will encounter over the route, the incredible view and the adrenaline to run over some dangerous mountains roads.
Avoid if you are car sick if you are not used to this kind of roads and if you are in a rush.
From Cusco reach the Quillabamba station (from the old town is a 3-4 PEN taxi ride). At the station get on the bus to Santa Maria
Daily timetable: 07.30 am/ 08.00 am/ 01.00 pm/08.30 pm/ 09.30 pm
Bus cost 10 PEN and will take around 5 hours to Santa Maria.
At Santa Maria, the driver will drop you where you can take a shared minivan (“Collectivo) until Santa Teresa.
Minivan cost is 10 PEN / Ride take 1 hour all the way through a not easy mountain road, overhung a ravine. Sometimes feel really dangerous, and I cannot hide that it is not, but it is part of the adrenaline. Just hope to find a driver that won’t run much…. as some of them might not be that sensitive.
Once you reach the village of Santa Teresa, you can now finally get on the last vehicle: a smaller minivan that will drop you to Hidroelettrica in 40 min for a 5 PEN cost: ride as from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa, bumpy and over the edge.
Both in Santa Maria and Santa Teresa you might end up to wait a while until the minivan is full, otherwise, the driver won’t go.
This journey can take from 7 to 8 hours, depends on the combination. It can be very tiring and overwhelming, so be prepared to this and do it only if you are sure.
In order to reach Hidroelettrica on a decent time with some sunlight you must take the morning bus in Cusco to Santa Maria. If you missed them I suggest taking a shared taxi outside the station – cost from 30 PEN. , ride takes 4 hours to Santa maria, then take shared minivan as explained above.
Once you are at Hidroeletrica, you have 3 options: from comfort to adventure
- Take the Peru rail train until Aquas Caliente (ticket cost around 32 USD): 40 min ride by the river. The train stop right in the village, everywhere walking distance.
- Walk to Aquas Calientes : follow the track trail, you will see many other people do the same. It takes between 1h 40 min and 3 h depends on your speed. No heel, all plain and the view is outstanding. It is always safe to walk over this path, although better to do it with sunlight. I suggest taking the path until 1700 so that you can reach Aquas Calientes around 18.30/2000. IMPORTANT: do not walk over the rail track as it can be very dangerous and avoid to listen to music with ear-plug as yo might not listen the train reaching.
- Walk to Machu Picchu entrance/gate at the bridge: walk the same path to Aquas Calientes, then detour 1 km before down to the bridge and you can directly get into Machu Picchu (this is based on your entrance time to Machu Picchu, and you trek to Huayana or Montana Machu Picchu).
Inca trail: trekking to Machu Picchu
You can also try the sporty version to reach Machu Picchu via trail: trekking can last from 2 to 4-5 days, based on different packages, departures from Cusco.
You can buy them online or in one of the many travel agency in Cusco. For the most Famous Inca Trail, you should try to book with at least 3-5 months in advance, although you can be lucky to get the last minutes availability.
There are also alternative treks like Salkantay and Inka Jungle.
Price varies based on length of the trek and what is included, but to give you an idea:
Salkantay trek 4 days and 3 nights with accommodation (sometimes hotels/tend) and daily meals (breakfast/lunch/dinner) and guide can be 160 PEN in total, also purchased at the travel agency.
From Aquas Calientes to Machu Picchu entrance: from comfort to adventure
- You can take a bus for a value of 12 USD each way: the bus will take you to the main entrance in around 20 min
- You can walk from Aquas Caliente until the main bridge – 15 min easy walk. There you will find the first document and ticket check and then you can cross the bridge and start the first trek up to the official main entrance. Around 40-50 min trek up to the hill and some stairs. The Bridge-gate open at 05.00 am
Once you reach the Machu Picchu main entrance
When you are finally at the entrance, be prepared to show once more your document and your ticket to the official staff.
Also before to enter you can go to the public toilet, and relax a little bit (most of all if you have trekked up from Aquas Caliente. The Machu Picchu open at 06.00 am.
You can also buy some water and snack once you are here, of course, prices will be quite high compared to the normal price in Peru. Ex: one small bottle of water can be 5 PEN.
After you enter you can directly visit the sanctuary or do your planned trek to Huayna or Machu Picchu if you have one – based on your time scheduled.
If you have a guide booked, make sure to meet him/her at the entrance. If you do not have one I suggest to look for one at the entrance or also once you are in.
Guide price: a private guide in Spanish min. 50 USD (although with a good negotiation you can have it for 30 USD). You can also join other group and it will cost you 15-20 PEN. Guide in another language might cost you more. Tour through the sanctuary can be from 1 to 2 hours.
Combination to reach Machu Picchu:
Based on above information, you can also mix and match the way to reach Machu Picchu and come back.
Ex. You could opt to go by minivan or public transport to Hidroelettrica and take the train in Aquas Calientes. You can take the train all the way to Machu Picchu and on the way back choose to reach Hidroelettrica and get on a minivan (note that minivan is only until 1500, then you might find one until 1600 but not guaranteed- in this case there is also the option to go to Santa Teresa by Mini Van Collectivo, then To Santa Maria where you can grab a bus to Cusco – also night bus).
And so on: all based on what you want to experience and your budget literally, here you have plenty of information to choose your way.
On the way back from Machu Picchu:
You can go back by bus to Aquas Calientes or walk (as explained above- down to the bridge and off to Aquas Calientes)
You can walk down to the bridge and take some steps that will take you on the train track trail, and walk to Hidroelettrica – you will find the stairs beyond the restaurant and the bridge entrance.
TIPS AND IMPORTANT INFO
- Both in Aquas Caliente and at Machu Picchu (Also Cusco) you can pay with USD. In Cusco, you can easily exchange your money too, also plenty of banks.
- Take some tablet altitude with you for the Machu Picchu and some coca leaf, they will both help you. For the pill consult your doctor first.
- Take with you at least 1.5 liters of water for the one day trek. Or you can buy on spot for a much higher price.
- Try to avoid greasy or fat food before to trek the Machu Picchu. If you are trekking have a light breakfast instead and take with you some healthy snack such granola bar, a banana, dry fruits or chocolate.
- Avoid alcohol at least the previous day of the trekking. Also if you are not trekking I do suggest the same.
- Once you enter the main entrance there is no toilet, so if you will need one you have to go out – wasting at least 30 min before to get in again. You can go out twice in 7 hours.
- If you have the 0700 am the entrance to both Huayna or Machu Picchu mountain, make sure to leave early Aquas Calientes (if you will walk, leave your hotel around 0400 am. As at the bridge you will encounter some queue).
- If you can spend the 2nd night at Aquas Caliente, if you decide to go and come back via MiniVan, so to have some rest.
- If you go by Minivan remember that Minivan will collect you at 07.30/0800 in the morning and can only collect you from Hidro at 1500 of the following day. So if you think that you cannot reach Hidro by 1500, as the agency to get collected on the 2nd day (in this case you will sleep at Aquas Calientes after your trek).
- If you are not in a good shape just take the train, as the view is still very pretty and you will reach your comfort
- For both Huayna and Mountain Machu Picchu you do not need to be a climber but yes I suggest to be in a good shape otherwise you might risk to stop at halfway or to feel seriously bad.
- At Santa Teresa there are some hot springs at 20 min walking distance from the village (or by taxi 3 PEN) : entrance is 10 PEN
- Don’t forget to take your identity doc with you
HOW TO DRESS AND WHAT TO TAKE WITH YOU
A light raincoat as in the early morning it might rain. Good if you are trekking all the way from Aquas Calientes.
Short-sleeves T-shirt and a light jacket only for the early morning. Trek pants or sports leggins or short.
Good trainers or trekking shoes.
Sun Lotion only if you plan to stay over 1200
Light repellent as in the sanctuary there is some mosquito that will bite you. Make sure to use it only for the sanctuary, no need of you climb the mountains.
re-usable bottle of water
Sunglasses and a good camera
snack/chocolate/ coca leaf and/or tablet for altitude.
Whatever is your choice, Machu Picchu will be an experience that you will never forget, and trust me every picture even the most gorgeous one won’t give you the idea of how rewarding and incredible is to be there.
if you need further info, message me 🙂