By Train—Most people travel to Machu Picchu by train (indeed, the only other way to get there is by foot). You can go to Aguas Calientes, at the base of the ruins, from either Cusco or two points in the Sacred Valley (Ollantaytambo and Urubamba). The 112km (70-mile) trip from Cusco is a truly spectacular train journey. It zigzags through lush valleys hugging the Río Urubamba, with views of snowcapped Andes peaks in the distance. From Cusco, PeruRail (www.perurail.com; tel. 01/612-6700 in Lima, 084/581-414 in Cusco) operates three tourist trains from Estación Poroy, a 25-min. taxi ride from Cusco, all arriving in under 4 hr.: the Expedition, the slowest and least expensive ($70 one-way); the Vistadome, the faster middle-class service ($105); and the top-of-the-line and pricey luxury line Hiram Bingham, named after the discoverer of Machu Picchu ($525 one-way, including meals, cocktails, and a guided tour at the ruins). Scheduled times, the number of services, and the number of cars on the train and seats available vary by the season, though Expedition and Vistadome classes usually offer several departure times each day, leaving from Poroy as early as 6:20am and returning as late as 7pm. Make your train reservations as early as possible; tickets can be purchased online or at PeruRail offices in Ollantaytambo or Cusco, which are open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5:30pm, Saturday and Sunday from 8:30am to 12:30pm. Most hotels or tour operators can also book your train tickets for a small fee. Note: During the rainy season, from January through April, PeruRail trains only operate out of Pachar station in the Sacred Valley or Ollantaytambo, though bus transfers are available.
Travelers already based in the Urubamba Valley have additional options to travel by train to Machu Picchu. PeruRail travels to Machu Picchu from a station in Pachar near Urubamba, also making a stop at the Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado. Vistadome trains make the 2 1/2-hr. journey.
From the station in Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu, the journey takes under 2 hr. Inca Rail, Portal de Panes 105/Plaza de Armas in Cusco (www.incarail.com; tel. 084/233-030 in Cusco), operates tourist, executive, and first-class trains, with fares ranging from $65 to $85 for adults. Trains (eight per day) begin running at 6:40am, with the last return at 7pm. PeruRail’s Expedition and Vistadome services also originate in Ollantaytambo, leaving several times a day, from 5:10am to 9pm. Fares range from $65 to $115 each way. Both train companies permit online booking and ticketing, with major credit cards accepted.
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 two companies handling service (rather than just one), all employing the same tracks. It’s wise to make your reservation at least several weeks (or more) in advance, especially in high season. For PeruRail’s high-end 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 (www.perurail.com; tel. 084/238-722) or Inca Rail (www.incarail.com; tel. 084/233-030).
By Bus—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 min. before depositing passengers at the entrance to the ruins. The cost is $12 each way. 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 5:30am and come down all day, the last one descending at 5:30pm. Some people choose to purchase a one-way ticket and walk down (30–45 min.) to Aguas Calientes, which can be dangerous given the lack of clear walking paths.
By Foot—The celebrated Inca Trail (Camino del Inca) 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. See “Hikes in Machu Picchu” later in this section, for more details; many new regulations have been introduced in the past few years.
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.