While Machu Picchu is obviously a huge tourist attraction, there are limited ways to arrive at the archaeological site. Some people choose to hike for four or five days to get there, usually via the Classic Inca Trail or the Salkantay alternative. This is a part of many Peru adventure travel but if you don’t want to do it or have no time then going by car or train is a good option.
That said, you can’t get all the way there in transport and at least some hiking will need to be done to finish off the journey.
Machu Picchu By Train
Probably the most popular alternative for getting to Machu Picchu is by train. You can leave either from Cusco (actually the station is just 20 minutes outside the city) or, in the Sacred Valley, from either Urubamba or Ollantaytambo. From the Poroy station outside Cusco, the trip is about 4 hours. From Urubamba, about an hour from Cusco, it takes 3 hours. And, finally, from Ollantaytambo, around 1.5 hours from Cusco, it will take 2 hours by train to get to Aguas Calientes.
Many people choose to overnight in the Sacred Valley before heading to Machu Picchu. The reason why this is a popular option is because of the warmer climate and stunning scenery mixed with a lower altitude – this makes it a top place to acclimatise. You can find shared vans and taxis on (Calle) Pavitos in Cusco that will take you to either Urubamba or Ollantaytambo.
Aguas Calientes, also called Machu Picchu Pueblo, is the closest town to the site. From here, you will go by a shuttle bus up to Machu Picchu or, alternatively, you can take a short but uphill hike to get there. The buses take approximately 15 to 20 minutes and they leave regularly from town, beginning at about 5:30 am.
The train journey is quite pretty, and it´s worth taking it during daylight hours so you can really enjoy the scenery. There are two companies currently offering this service, Perurail and Inca Rail. The original, and most popular, operator is Perurail and with these you get a great variation of train types and times – Inca Rail tends to be slightly cheaper but can only be taken from Ollantaytambo. Each company offers some price differences, depending on the type of service you would like.
By far, the most luxurious way to travel is Perurail´s Hiram Bingham service. It includes welcome drinks, lunch, a selection of wines, on board entertainment, guide, tickets and transport to Machu Picchu, tea in the Sanctuary Lodge hotel at the archaeological site and, on your return trip, a gourmet dinner. This service is from Cusco only and is intended to go up and back in the same day. If you wish to overnight and return the following day, you will need to coordinate this ahead of time.
Another thing you will want to coordinate ahead of time are your tickets to Machu Picchu itself. These can be purchased in Cusco and you should do this as the number of people who can enter the site each day is limited. If you wish to hike Huayna Picchu, the nearby peak accessed through Machu Picchu, you will need to purchase these tickets at the same time.