Way To The Lost City: From Cusco To Machu Picchu

The way to the Lost city: From Cusco To Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is one of the 7-wonders of the world, and the dream destination for lots of adventurers! the beauty of the human mind blending in with nature gave the travelers a special tickle to the mind.
We focus on those minds, providing them with the information they need, and prices, and giving away some tips for their comfort along the journey, we will be talking about how to go from Cusco to Machu Picchu, and what options you can choose from!

Machu Picchu

“Few romances can ever surpass that of the granite citadel on top of the beetling precipices of Machu Picchu, the crown of Inca Land.”
Hiram Bingham, the discoverer of Machu Picchu

Often referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas”, Machu Picchu is one of the most iconic and enigmatic archaeological sites in the world. Located high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, Machu Picchu is renowned for its stunning mountainous setting, intricate stone constructions, and mysterious origins.

Cusco

Cusco, a city in the Peruvian Andes, was once the capital of the Inca Empire and is now known for its archaeological remains and Spanish colonial architecture.

In 1983, Cusco was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

It is located in Peru’s southern highlands, at the west end of the Huatanay Valley, which is a basin extending 20 miles (30km) east.

N.B: The name Cusco, which comes from a Quechua word (Qosqo) meaning navel or center “Qosqo” was transliterated into Spanish as “Cusco”. This reflects how much it meant to the Incas, it was their empire capital, and they wanted their view to be immortal.

Going to cusco:

Well, the first step in order to reach Machu Picchu is to reach Cusco, as it has Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport, which is the closest airport to Machu Picchu.

Direct Flights to Cusco:

You can reach with a direct flight from your country. you may not find a direct flight depending on where you’re from.

Flights to Lima then to Cusco:

If you couldn’t find direct flights to Cusco, book to Lima, the capital of Peru and then from Lima you can book a flight, going by Bus.

Flight tickets from Lima To Cusco range from **35 $ ~ 45 $. Most Popular Airlines offering flights from Lima to Cusco are Star Perú, JetSMART, LATAM, Flights are almost daily with variation in prices!

Make Sure to check our guide on Budget Airlines in South America to get the cheapest tickets possible.

Keep in mind that the city stands high in the Andes at an average elevation of 11,150 feet (3,400 metres), which if introduced suddenly, could give you an altitude sickness, which typically goes on it’s own in about 10 days, but a couple of days rest would really help!

on average:

  • A single bed in a hostel costs about 15 usd per night.
  • A single room in a mid-range hotel costs about 80 usd per night.

How to go to Machu Picchu from Cusco:

You can go from Cusco to Machu Picchu mainly by 3 methods, we will cover each one of them in detail, so you choose the most convenient one for you :))

  1. Train from Cusco (Bi-modal Service)
  2. Cusco to Ollantaytambo then Machu Picchu
  3. Trekking (Hiking)

Train (Bi-modal Service)

Taking the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes (The town with the closest train station to Machu Picchu) is the fastest and most comfy way of going there.

In Peru, there are only 2 rail stations for Machu Picchu, Inca Rail, and Peru Rail, each of them has different train options, and different schedules, which we will be covering.

Keep an eye on which station you will be booking from! as Cusco has 3 rail stations, San Pedro, Wanchaq, and Poroy in the city of Cusco.

What’s meant by Bi-modal?

It’s a service which combines buses and trains in one ticket during the rainy season, as it’s not possible to take a direct train for safety reasons.

A bus moves from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, then from there you take the train going to Aguis Calientes, and this is a one ticket!

Just to be clear, you book one ticket from the Rail-Station websites, and with this ticket you get both, a bus to Ollantaytambo, and a train to Aguis Calientes

Both railways use this as the main option for the whole year, except Peru Rails in June, July & August (the peak months) they offer a direct train ticket from Cusco to Aguis Calientes

Inca rails:

Inca Rail offers four different classes and services on its public trains from Machu Picchu to Cusco.  In order of price, from cheapest to most expensive, they are:

    • Voyager – comfy seats, refreshments trolley (additional cost), onboard mini-show
    • 360° – panoramic windows, outdoor observation area and refreshments included.
    • Premium & Lounge – priority boarding, live music, snacks included, outdoor balcony.
    • First Class – personalized service, gourmet food and cocktail, VIP waiting room at Ollantaytambo, bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu.

Each train type has 3 different levels of service, they call ”Experience” all ranging in prices:

    • Lite
    • Plus
    • All Inclusive

Image from the official Inca Rails website

Tickets start from about 50 $ for a one-way trip with the “Voyager Lite” 

 

A Tip from author

We recommend going with the 360° Panoramic windows, and going back with the Voyager.
Because on the way there it’s your first time going, and you got to make the best out of it!!
while on the way back, it’s probably night, and you will be tired, so you can sleep at the cheaper option :))

Journey time on the Cusco to Machu Picchu route is from 3 hours and 40 minutes to 5 hours.

    • Departures from Cusco to Machu Picchu:
      • Earliest >> 04:20 am
      • Latest >> 04:15 pm
    • Departures from Machu Picchu to Cusco:
      • Earliest >> 08:30 am
      • Latest >> 09:30 pm
  • With these schedules, unfortunately, you will not be able to catch the sunrise from Machu Picchu citadel, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible!
    Check our guide to make it on time: Machu Picchu Sunrise 

These schedules are only from Cusco, and there is a different one if you’re going from Ollantaytambo

 

Also just a little extra piece of information; the ticket-difference if starting from Cusco or Ollantaytambo is almost the same price as the price of a public van from Cusco to Ollantaytambo about 3 $ for the Lite experience.

Peru Rails

The other company is Peru Rails, which runs trains on the route from Cusco to Machu Picchu and it has four different services, which are from cheapest to most expensive:

    • Expedition – audio commentary and panoramic windows
    • Vistadome – live performance, snack included, panoramic windows
    • Vistadome Observatory – live performance, snack, hot and cold drinks included, panoramic windows
    • Hiram Bingham Belmond Train – ONE OF THE MOST LUXUROUS TRAINS WORLDWIDE, live show, gourmet lunch, afternoon tea, welcome drink, transport, and entrance to Machu Picchu citadel with guide included.

Peru Rails offers a direct train in June, July & August, and sometimes in different months, so check them at the time of booking, Bi-modal & Train services are almost the same price category

The same tip from author :))

We recommend going with the Vistadome, and going back with the Expedition.
Because on the way there it’s your first time going, and you got to make the best out of it
while on the way back, it’s probably night, and you will be tired, so you can sleep at the cheaper option :))

The journey time with Peru Rails ranges from 3 hours and 15 minutes to 4 hours and 45 minutes.

    • Departure from Cusco:
      • Earliest >> 03:40 am
      • Latest >> 04:30 pm
    • Return to Cusco:
      • Earliest >> 01:30 pm
      • Latest >> 06:20 pm

Train schedules are subjected to change anytime, so double-check the Peru Rails & Inca Rails official sites for the latest details.

Cusco to Ollantaytambo then Machu Picchu:

We’ve already gave you an idea about Ollantaytambo in the Bi-modal service, so what’s the difference?

You’re not tied to a schedule, your time is completely yours, you can go directly to Ollantaytambo by taxi and stay there a couple of days, then start your journey towards Machu Picchu

Why Ollantaytambo?

  • It sits on a lower altitude than cusco, 2,792 m (9,160 ft) above sea level, More than 600 meters differnce, it’s a good place if you’re feeling mild to modrate Altitude Sickness.
  • It’s just 90 mins away from Cusco.

Ollantaytambo is a village in the Sacred Valley of south Peru, sitting on the Urubamba River amid snow-capped mountains.

It’s known for the Ollantaytambo ruins, a massive Inca fortress with large stone terraces on a hillside. Major sites within the complex include the huge Sun Temple and the Princess Baths fountain.

The village’s old town is an Inca-era grid of cobblestoned streets and adobe buildings.

From Cusco to Ollantaytambo

  • A taxi to Ollantaytambo with about 15$ (60 soles)
  • You can take the public transportation, to get closer to the culture! And it’s always a new experience!

    1. Go to Calle Pavitos in Cusco. Walkable from the Centro Historico (or take a cab for 4-6 Soles).
    2. Walk toward the yellow “Collectivo Ollantaytambo” signs. You will know the cars from the yelling of drivers!
    3. Expect to pay around 15 soles Per person oneway, but still ask for the price in person! It could be cheaper in one of the bigger vans.
    4. Sit in the car/van. Wait for the driver to hustle some more passengers (usually takes about 15 minutes).
    5. Enjoy your ride squished against your new best friends. Enjoy having an adorable child (not yours) fall asleep on you or talk to you :))
    6. Arrive at Ollantaytambo main square.

    “Prices are from March 2023, information is from Sofra7, a Reddit user :))”

Trekking (Hiking)

Trekking to Machu Picchu, either on the Inca Trail or via one of the alternative trails, is an unforgettable and unique experience. The combination of the mountains, sky , diverse flora and fauna, and rich cultural and archaeological sites is hard to beat.

Here are the main Machu Picchu routes along with information on the alternative Inca trail treks.

Inca Trail Hike

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is by far the most popular choice. You will hike along the original Inca road and visit plenty of ruins along the way.

Keep in mind that the governorate had put restrictions to limit the number of tourists allowed on the trail every day to 500/day, which means the Inca Trail gets booked out way in advance. If you have your heart set on doing this hike to Machu Picchu, start looking at booking it up to six months in advance or you may miss out.

The trail reaches a height of 13,828 feet (4215 meters) above sea level, so remember to breathe well, and stay hydrated! and don’t worry guides are knowledgeable about altitude sickness, and they have oxygen tanks if needed.

Classically it’s a 4-day & 3-night hike, with guides, and camps ranging about 700$ per person!

What to expect to be included in the price?

  • Camping in 4-man Eureka tents only used for 2 people

  • All entrance fees ( Inca Trail & Machu Picchu)

  • Door-to-door service (pick up and drop off)

  • Personal porter up to 7k per person

  • Expeditions Tourist Class Train to return on the last day

  • First aid kit

  • oxygen tank and Satellite phone

  • safety first Drinkable water along the trek

  • Dinner (3)

  • Lunch (3)

  • Breakfast (4)

Best touring agencies:

The Salkantay Trek

The Salkantay Trek is a stunning route to Machu Picchu from Cusco, Peru. It’s a popular alternative to the Inca Trail, offering incredible scenery along the way. With its beautiful mountains, lakes, waterfalls, and wildlife, this trek is a must-do for nature lovers. In this article, we’ll explore why the Salkantay Trek is a fantastic choice for reaching Machu

It’s even higher than the Inca trail, reaching 15190 ft (4630 meters) above sea level!

Also, It has a longer duration classically, 5 days & 4 nights.
Yet!! it’s usually cheaper with an average of 550 $

Best touring agencies:

The Lares Trek

The Lares trek provides a true Andean cultural experience. The Lares Valley is home to traditional Andean communities, little of which has changed in the last 500 years.

It’s a bit different than other treks, as it doesn’t end in Machu Picchu, rather it ends at Ollantaytambo, from which you should take the train into Aguas Calientes.

What makes it special?

Not being tied to a limited number of trekkers like the Inca Trek, and also, it’s rich in Andean culture; it is famous for its homemade textiles. If you want to bring an authentic piece of Peru back home with you, don’t forget to take extra Soles so you can get a souvenir!

It starts from a small town called the Lares, hence the name! and it has different treks to choose from, almost all ending at Ollantaytambo.

With a maximum height of 14927 ft (4550 meters), it’s close to the Salkantay Trek height, while still higher than the Inca trail!

The average person’s price will be around 600$.

Usually, it’s 4 days & 3 nights, just like the Inca trail, but keep in mind it ends at Ollantaytambo, some tours include a train ticket price and a Machu Picchu entry ticket.

Best touring agencies:

Last but not least, we can proudly say that we have dived together into the various ways to reach Machu Picchu from Cusco.

From the convenience of direct flights to the adventurous trekking options that immerse you in breathtaking landscapes and rich cultural tapestry of the region. 

Whether you opt for the comfort of a train journey, the flexibility of exploring Ollantaytambo before making your way to the ancient citadel, or the exhilaration of trekking along historic trails, there’s a path to Machu Picchu that suits every traveler’s preferences and aspirations.

So, Enjoy :))

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