Machu Picchu is one of the seven wonders of the world and there’s no wonder why it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually! The beautiful Incan architecture and the incredible mountain ranges surrounding these ruins make it the perfect place to get away and travel back in time! There are many different ways of accessing these ruins and they all of course depend on both your budget and level of adventure that you’re willing to take. There are many things to consider when deciding what option is best for you! The costs, time, and of course your level of physical fitness. In this post I will be telling you about the many options and of course the pros/cons to each mode of travel to this beautiful Incan creation!
The budget way!
If you’re a budget traveler or simply just want to save money so that you can visit other important sites in the country than this option is for you! The first thing that you’re going to want to do is of course make it to either the city of Cusco or a smaller village known as Ollyantaytambo. There are of course other villages that you can leave from, however these two are by far the most popular. Once you arrive to one of these destinations it will be your job to find a tour agency that offers van rides to a place known as “Hidroelectrica”. From Cusco this drive will take you anywhere from 5-7 hours depending on road conditions and of course weather! The drive is extremely scenic, but I do want to warn you that if you’re scared of heights or are easily vulnerable to car sickness than this ride might not be for you. During the drive you will pass through the beautiful Sacred Valley or Valle Sagrado and you will be awarded with some of the most amazing views of the Andes mountains. The first few hours of the drive are actually quite pleasant and relaxing. However, the last two are not for the faint hearted. The last two hours of the drive will be taking place along the side of a massive valley with drops easily surpassing 300 meters! To better put it in perspective you will be traveling on a one lane dirt road that has traffic going both ways, this road also lacks infrastructure as there are no guard rails and both times that I’ve made the journey we came across two or more rock slides during the drive. To make it all worse there was plenty of crosses along this stretch signifying where vehicles have fallen over the edge….. Yes! It’s sketchy! However, if you manage to take this route and make it through this drive just fine you will be dropped off at Hidroelectrica. From here you will follow the train tracks of the famous PeruRail and after about two hours you will make it to the town of Aguas Calientes, which is also know as Machu Picchu village. If all goes well with timing you will arrive in the village at around 7 in the evening. Once in the village you can make your way over to the Machu Picchu ticket office, which is convienently located near the plaza de armas. Here you will choose your ticket option (As listed below) and decide whether or not you will be walking or taking the bus up to the top the following day. (Bus prices also listed below). This van ride to Hidroelectrica should cost you no more than 60 soles return, which is roughly 18 USD (remember this doesn’t include your entrance ticket!). I’ll be completely honest with you, this is the only way that I’ve ever traveled to Machu Picchu during both of my trips to this beautiful country. I also want to point out that both times I did it completely alone, but I wasn’t alone if that makes sense! Hundreds of people make exact trip daily and you’re guaranteed to run into other like minded travelers along the path. Here are some pictures from my recent journey!
The most affordable treks to Machu Picchu!
The second most popular way of visiting Machu Picchu is of course to take. a several day long journey by foot to this beautiful wonder of the world. There are three extremely popular hikes to Machu Picchu all of them requiring different levels of physical fitness and some a lot more adventurous than others. The first route that you could take is the Salkantay trek, which is an alternative to the very famously known Inca Trail. This trek cross the Salkantay Pass at 4600 meters above sea level and descends into the famous “cloud forest” before getting to an iconic view of Machu Picchu. This trek is often time done as a % day/4 night route, however they also have a 4D/3N option available as well. During this journey you will visit Soraypampa, Humantay Lake, the famous Salkantay pass (which offers some of the most amazing views of the snow capped mountains), before finally reaching your destination of Machu Picchu. This hike at a minimum will cost you about 150 USD, which will include your meals, accomodation, and of course your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu. This is definitely not a bad option, but you do have to be in good physical condition before embarking on this journey! As many of the other trails it is highly recommended that you take a few days to acclimate and get used to the altitude, as altitude sickness is very much real and it very much sucks. The other possible option is to do the more adventurous Inca Jungle trek. This trek also requires you to be in somewhat shape, as you will be doing a few hours of hiking at high elevations, but unlike the Salkantay this journey will include many amazing activities that don’t require much hiking at all. On the first day of your journey you will leave Cusco and head towards the town of Ollyantaytambo where you will get off enjoy some of the nearby sites and ruins. From this town you will than head up to the top of the Malaga mountain by bus and then start a beautiful two hour journey down by mountain bikes, giving you incredible views of the Andes and also an amazing adrenaline experience. Once you make it back down to the closest town you will have an option of either taking a bus to the village that you will be sleeping in that night or taking the more adventurous route, which will be white water rafting along the Urubamba river. However, do keep in mind that rafting usually comes to a halt during the rainy season months of January to May, simply because water levels rise and the river becomes extremely powerful. The second day will be a lot more tougher than the first as you will actually be hiking for about 7 hours. This hike will take you along parts of the original Inca trail and along the way your guide will teach you about the trails history and importance to the Inca people. Later on that evening you will make it to the town of Santa Teresa where you will be given the opportunity to visit four of their natural pools, a few of them being hot and few of them being extremely cold. On the third day you will be given the option to take a three hour trek to the town of Aguas Calientes or enjoying a beautiful three hour zip-lining adventure through the canyon, which also includes many suspension bridges. After your canopy adventure you will start the walk along the rail road tracks from Hidroelectica until reaching the town of Aguas Calientes. Once in the village you will get to enjoy the evening there and also be able to get some rest, before visiting Machu Picchu on the following morning. This four day adventure will also run you about 150 USD, however do keep in mind that often times the zip-lining and rafting come at an extra price, typically 30 USD per activity. The third option is of course the famous Inca trail, but I will only be touching on this briefly simply because it can be very expensive and typically speaking even doing it on a budget will cost you around 600 USD per person on the low end of things, but can easily surpass 1,500 USD. The Inca trail is without a doubt one of the most famous treks in the world, however it can be vary difficult to obtain permits as they only allow a certain amount of visitors on the trail per day and the permits can only be obtained by booking your trip through one of the recognized tour agencies. This hike is also known to be a lot more difficult than the others as you literally spend days hiking well above 3,500 meters, so please do prepare properly and know your physical capabilities before booking this journey.
Taking the train via Peru Rail!
By far the most popular way of getting to Machu Picchu is by taking the famously known Peru Rail from Cusco to the town of Aguas Calientes. This journey is definitely the fastest option so I highly recommend for both those who are short on time and those who are elderly or just might not be in the best physical shape. There are many different options in trains all of them ranging in different levels of comfort, as well as of course price. There are five different train options: The Belmond Hiram Bingham, Vistadome, Expedition, Perurail titicaca, and the Perurail Sacred Valley train. The train journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu will typically take 3hours and 50 minutes. The Belmond Hiram Bingham train is the most luxurious of the trains. It has some of the most elegant train carriages, as well as a beautiful restaurant, a baby alpaca fashion show, and of course a wide selection of alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages. This is of course the best option for those who love to travel in class and don’t mind dishing out several hundred dollars. The most popular of the options however has to be the Vistadome train. This beautiful train offers you amazing panorama views as you make your journey through the Andes to Aguas Calientes. Having windows on all sides of you makes it so that you never miss the perfect view. Please note that I can’t give you accurate prices on these trains, as they all vary between the time of year that you visit and of course how far in advance you book your trip. I also highly recommend that if you’re considering taking the train to always make sure that you check out the Peru Rail website because every once in a while you can come across some incredible promotions.
Machu Picchu entrance ticket prices/options:
Machu Picchu solo ticket (2,500 spaces a day) : 65 USD for foreign adults, 39 USD for foreign students, Peruvian adults 28 USD, Peruvian students 19USD.
Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu (400 spaces per day) 80 USD for foreign adults, 54 USD for foreign students, Peruvian adults 42 USD, Peruvian students 33 USD .
Machu Picchu + Machu Picchu Mountain (800 spaces per day) 80 USD for foreign adults, 54 USD for foreign students, Peruvian adults 42 USD, Peruvian students 33 USD.