Machu Picchu is the most famous destination in Peru. Its mystery, allure, and mind blowing setting bring millions of people to visit every year. For a once ancient city that was never meant to be found, Machu Picchu is quite popular. Visiting this massive complex can be a bit tricky. We broke down the best ways to reach the UNESCO World Heritage site.
TRAIN TO AGUAS CALIENTES:
Whether you decide to hike or take a bus to Machu Picchu, either way, you want to take a train to the closest city to Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes. To get to Aguas Calientes, you have two cities to choose from in terms of starting points. Here are your options:
Start in Cusco. Then, take a scenic 3.5 hour train along the Urumbamba River in the Sacred Valley to Aguas Calientes.
Start in Cusco. If tickets are sold out from Cusco, then depart to Aguas Calientes from the town of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, or vice versa. Cusco to Ollantaytambo is just over an hour each way so you can also take a taxi or a minivan. Then, from Ollantaytambo take a train to Aguas Calientes.
WHAT TRAIN TO TAKE:
Either way, there are three main train companies that offer trips to Aquas Calientes: Perurail, Inca Rail, and the Machu Picchu Train. The most popular of these three is Perurail because it offers 3 levels of class to choose from: the Backpacker, the Vistadome, and the ultra-luxurious Hiram Bingham train. The Vistadome is quite popular due to its expansive glass windows that offer endless views of the wild landscape. Regardless of which train option you choose, book in advance as tickets sell out really fast. Tickets sell out months in advance during high season.
HIKE THE INCA TRAIL:
You made it to Aguas Calientes. Now what? If you are fit enough to take on 4 day /3 night hike, then challenge yourself to reaching the ruins via the Inca Trail. Hiking the Inca Trail is certainly not an easy trek, but it is the most memorable way to reach Machu Picchu.
It is important to note that it is prohibited to do any form of an independent hike. The only options available to tourists on the Inca Trail is to travel with a sanctioned group or tour agency. This also means that you must book your travel plans well in advance as these tours sell out quickly.
There are several hiking trails to get to Machu Picchu so do your research and choose the hike that best fits you.
BUSES TO MACHU PIcCHU:
Not wanting to rough it in the mountains of Peru hiking the Inca trail? No problem. Buses run every 15-20 mins to the ruins. The bus station is a simple 5 minute walk from the train station. We recommend buying tickets in advance if possible. Also, Aguas Calientes is an ancient town that is the closest form of civilization to Machu Picchu. It is well worth staying a night or two to explore the area.
If you have the option, choose the earliest possible bus ticket time. Arrive as early as possible to the site to enjoy sunrise light and beat the tour buses. Especially in high season, the ruins can fill up quickly with hundreds of tourists. Going in the off-season or arriving early in the day can really make a difference in your experience.