If you were hoping to soar over the Andes to Machu Picchu in a helicopter, you're out of luck: All flights have been suspended indefinitely, due to very real environmental concerns.
Most people travel to Machu Picchu by train; one can go to Aguas Calientes, at the base of the ruins, from either Cusco or Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. The 112km (70-mile) train from Cusco is a truly spectacular journey. It zigzags up Huayna Picchu and then through lush valleys hugging the Río Urubamba, with views of snowcapped Andes peaks in the distance. From Cusco, Perurail (tel. 01/612-6700 in Lima, 084/581-414 in Cusco; www.perurail.com) operates three tourist trains from Cusco, all arriving in under 4 hours: the Backpacker, the slowest and least expensive ($48 one-way); the Vistadome, the faster first-class service ($71); and the top-of-the-line and very pricey luxury line Hiram Bingham, named after the discoverer of Machu Picchu ($307 to $334 one-way, including two meals, cocktails, and a guided tour at the ruins). The Backpacker departs Cusco daily at 7:42am and arrives in Aguas Calientes at 10:51am (returning at 4:43pm and arriving in Cusco at 8:13pm); the Vistadome leaves at 6:53am and arrives at 9:52am (returning at 3:20pm and arriving at 6:50pm); and the Hiram Bingham leaves Cusco at 9:05am and arrives in Aguas Calientes at 12:24pm (returning at 5:50pm and arriving in Cusco at 9:16pm). Perurail's tourist trains depart from Cusco's Estación Poroy, a 15-minute taxi from Cusco, 6 days a week in high season (May-Oct) and 4 days a week in low season (Nov-Mar). Make your train reservations as early as possible; tickets can be purchased online or at Estación Huanchaq on Avenida Pachacútec (in cash, dollars or soles) for tickets reserved in advance. It's open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5:30pm, Saturday and Sunday from 8:30am to 12:30pm.
Travelers based in the Urubamba Valley have additional options to travel by train to Machu Picchu, with two new rail lines challenging the decade-long monopoly held by Peru Rail. From Ollantaytambo, the journey takes about 90 minutes. On the new Inca Rail, Av. El Sol 611, in Cusco (tel. 084/233-030; www.incarail.com), first-class travel from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu is $75; executive class is $50. Trains (3 per day) run beginning at 6:40am, with the last return at 7pm. On the similarly just-launched Machu Picchu Train, Av. El Sol 576, in Cusco (tel. 084/221-199; www.machupicchutrain.com), full fare from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu is $59. Perurail's Backpacker Cerrojo and Vistadome services also originate in Ollantaytambo, leaving several times a day, from 5:10am to 9pm. The trip costs $31 to $43 each way in Backpacker class, $43 to $60 in Vistadome.
Tip: For the best views on the way to Machu Picchu, sit on the left side of the train.
Estación Machu Picchu Pueblo, the train station in Aguas Calientes, is along the river side of the tracks, just beyond the market stalls of Avenida Imperio de los Incas. Porters from several hotels greet the trains upon arrival each morning.
Train Schedules to Machu Picchu -- Train schedules have changed with alarming frequency in the past few years, according to season and, it seems, the whims of some scheduler -- and that's likely to be especially true now that there are three companies handling service (rather than just one), all employing the same tracks. It's wise to make your reservation at least several days (or more) in advance, especially in high season. For Perurail's luxury Hiram Bingham service, reservations several weeks or more in advance are recommended. It's also smart to verify hours and fares at your hotel (if you're staying in one of the better ones with good service and informed personnel), the Tourist Information Office in Cusco, or via Perurail (tel. 084/238-722; www.perurail.com); Inca Rail (tel. 084/233-030; www.incarail.com); or Machu Picchu Train (tel. 084/221-199; www.machupicchutrain.com).
You can't travel from Cusco to Machu Picchu by bus until the final leg of the journey, when buses wend their way up the mountain, performing exaggerated switchbacks for 15 minutes before suddenly depositing passengers at the entrance to the ruins. The cost is $14 round-trip. There's no need to reserve in advance; just purchase your ticket at the little booth in front of the lineup of buses, at the bottom of the market stalls. Buses begin running at 6:30am and come down all day, with the last one descending at dusk. Some people choose to purchase a one-way ticket ($7) up and walk down (30-45 min.) to Aguas Calientes.
The celebrated Inca Trail (Camino del Inca, or Camino Real) is almost as famous as the ruins themselves, and the trek is rightly viewed as an attraction in itself rather than merely a means of getting to Machu Picchu under your own power. There are two principal treks: one that takes 4 days (43km/27 miles) and another shorter and less demanding route that lasts just 2 days. The trails begin outside Ollantaytambo (at Km 82 of the Cusco-Machu Picchu railroad track); you can return to Cusco or Ollantaytambo by train. Many new regulations have been introduced in the past few years.
For those who take the train to Aguas Calientes but still want a small dose of what it's like to walk to Machu Picchu, it's straightforward (if a little difficult) to walk up to the ruins from town up a steep path that cuts across the switchback road. It takes a little over an hour to make it up and about 45 minutes to descend. Because you'll probably want to save your energy for exploring Machu Picchu, if you are fit and want to walk at least one-way, I recommend walking down from the ruins (which is still pretty strenuous on one's knees).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.