How to Get to Machu Picchu: The Definitive Guide

How to Get to Machu Picchu: The Definitive Guide

Nestled among the misty peaks of the Andes are the beautiful ruins of Machu Picchu. Travelers from all over the world are drawn to this magnificent archaeological place.

Knowing how to get to Machu Picchu is key to your itinerary, so we’ll share the best transportation options and everything you need to know. Let’s get started!

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Geographic Location of Machu Picchu

machu picchu ruins

A wonder of ancient architecture, Machu Picchu is situated in Peru’s Andes Mountains and 44 mi (72 km) away from the city of Cusco. This UNESCO World Heritage site is close to the town of Aguas Calientes and glances at the flowing Urubamba River.

The trip to Machu Picchu is rich in culture, history and breathtaking natural beauty, and the geographic setting becomes an essential part of your journey. Let’s have a look at how you can reach this beautiful place.


How to Get to Machu Picchu

You first have to get to the ancient city of Cusco, from where you take the train to Aguas Calientes (around 4 hours). Once there, you take a 20-minute shuttle bus that takes you to the entrance of Machu Picchu.

couple in front of machu picchu ruins

This is the quickest way to reach Machu Picchu, but there are different ways to get there, such as different trains or multi-day hikes. This is what we will explain in the following. Let’s begin by first checking out how to get to Cusco.


How to Get to Cusco

How to Get to Cusco From Lima

The best way to get to Cusco from Lima is by plane. There are numerous daily flights and you can travel the distance between the coast and the Andes in just 1:20 hours. We recommend Latam Airlines, the most reliable airline in Peru.

If you have more time and want to save some money, you can also go by bus, but keep in mind that this trip takes 20 to 24 hours.


How to Get to Cusco From Arequipa

You can choose between a 1-hour flight from Arequipa to Cusco or jump on a bus for a 9-hour ride.

cathedral at plaza de armas in cusco

How to Get to Cusco From Puno

Puno is located on the west coast of Lake Titicaca. Traveling from Puno to Cusco is only possible with a layover in Lima, which takes between 5 to 7 hours in total. Another option is a 6 to 7-hour bus ride with beautiful views on the way.


How to Get to Aguas Calientes

small city and a river is dividing it into two parts

How to Get to Aguas Calientes from Cusco

Once in Cusco, there are different ways of getting to Aguas Calientes. The most common option is to take one of the different trains to Machu Picchu.

They offer a smooth trip along the majestic Andean mountains until reaching Aguas Calientes, where your Machu Picchu tour will begin.


Expedition Train

This is a comfortable option for you if you are traveling on a normal budget. This train allows you to fully immerse yourself in the scenery, with half-panoramic windows framing breathtaking views.


Vistadome Train

The Vistadome Train offers larger windows and even a glass-domed roof for those of you looking for a more immersive experience. We highly recommend this train option on the way back from Machu Picchu, so that you can review your unforgettable time and just indulge in the beautiful sceneries. On top of that, there will be a 20-minute show on board including a traditional dance performed by the staff.

train from inside with half panoramic windows and view on andean landscape


Belmond Hiram Bingham

The Belmond Hiram Bingham train is the pinnacle of luxury. This train, which is named after the American discoverer of Machu Picchu, delights you with fine dining, live entertainment, and excellent service.


How to Get to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes is a small town in the valley below Machu Picchu. We recommend spending the night there before visiting Machu Picchu, as this allows you to enter the ruins as soon as the gates open.

view on machu picchu ruins and surroundings

There are two ways to get to the entrance of Machu Picchu.

1.) By shuttle bus. The more comfortable and recommended option is the 20-minute bus ride that will take you to the gates of Machu Picchu.

2.) By foot. The hike takes around 1.5 hours along a rather unspectacular path. By doing this, you may get there before others, but you might be sweaty when your guided Machu Picchu tour starts.


Different Treks That Lead to Machu Picchu

The route of how to get to Machu Picchu is just as varied as the surroundings. Every adventurer of you can find the perfect trek to Machu Picchu, from strenuous hikes at high altitudes to breathtaking routes through the incredible valleys.

Let’s explore the various routes that all end at Machu Picchu.


Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

view on ancient inca trail path

The Inca trail is one of the most well-known and popular hiking routes in the world. An adventure that will enchant you with nature, amazing scenery and Incan culture.

The Wayllabamba Valley, Warmiwauska Pass, Pacaymayu Gorge, Wiaywaya Citadels and the renowned Machu Picchu are some of the historic sites that you will discover on this trail.

Choose from one of our 2- or 4-day Inca Trail tours to reach Machu Picchu by foot, just like the Incas did. Whichever tour you choose, you’ll have the chance to experience a remarkable aspect of Incan history while traveling through one of South America’s most stunning regions.


Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

crystal clear lake and behind snow-capped mountain

An amazing alternative to the Inca trail is the 5-day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. In this hike, you ascend to heights of over 15,092 ft (4600 m) before descending to just 3,280 ft (1000 m) above sea level.

It’s a must-do for every adventurer and nature lover as you will see glacial lakes, snow-capped mountains, the jungle, Inca ruins, and -of course- Machu Picchu.

If you’re not sure which trek to choose, check out our blog post about Salkantay Trek vs Inca Trail: which route to Machu Picchu is best for you?


Lares Trek to Machu Picchu

snow capped mountains and horses in front of it

The Lares Trek offers a cultural immersion that combines historic traditions with breathtaking scenery for those of you looking for a different perspective on the trek to Machu Picchu.

This trek usually takes four days and passes the Andean highlands, where you come across indigenous communities that are still maintaining their way of life.


Inca Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu

couple in hiking gear surrounded by jungle and river

The Inca Jungle Trek is an exciting and dynamic route that shows Machu Picchu’s wonders from a unique perspective for adventure seekers. This trail is for every adventurer as it combines hiking, biking and other adrenaline-rich activities, such as zip-lining or rafting.

You are not only getting in touch with nature as you travel through various landscapes, such as high mountains and cloud forests, but you are also following in the footsteps of ancient civilizations.


Embark on an Adventure: Your Path to Machu Picchu’s Enchantment

There are many different ways of how to get to Machu Picchu during your Peru tour, from hiking for several miles through the Andean highlands or taking an unforgettable train ride through the beautiful landscapes.

The journey to Machu Picchu itself is a memorable experience and once you get there, you’ll become speechless by the unique location and impressive history behind this place.

Not sure when to visit? Check out our blog about the Machu Picchu weather so you know when is the best time to visit.

  • 21 August, 2023 at 12:52 pm

    Thank you for this helpful article and for sending it over, I thought there was a direct train from Lima to Machu Picchu lol.

    • 22 August, 2023 at 12:48 am

      Hello Jake,
      thanks a lot for your comment. Haha that would be for sure a great train ride, but sadly you have to take some other transportations inbetween both places. 🙂

      Let us know if you have any additional questions.


  • 14 August, 2023 at 8:36 am

    I wasn’t aware of the different options of getting to Machu Picchu. But I think me and my wife will fly directly from Lima to Cusco and spend most of our time there.

    • 15 August, 2023 at 3:21 am

      Hi Takumi,
      thanks for your comment. Sure, it’s not that easy to get to Machu Picchu but once there, you’ll totally love it!
      Let us know if you and your wife need any support from us.

      Enjoy your trip.


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