Of the thousands of tourists who come to Cusco, some are encouraged to venture independently; no matter what happens, they will. It is true that when you travel to Machu Picchu on your own, it will be less expensive, and you will not be subject to itineraries, time, or something like that. It is more flexible. The only thing to highlight is what can enter it without all the existing routes but less by the Inca trail. Below, we tell you how to get to Machu Picchu with or without a travel agency.
Reaching Machu Picchu from Cusco by bus can be risky due to the constantly reported accidents and tight schedules, plus the trip duration of almost 10 hours. This alternative route is more for adventure lovers and not so much for family trips.
To get to Machu Picchu from Cusco by bus, follow the route: Cusco to Santa María and Santa Teresa to Hidroeléctrica. To do this, you can hire a tour of Machu Picchu By car for 2 days, with a tour operator, or buy only your ticket Cusco – Hydroelectric – Cusco that they offer. The cost of the ticket is around 55 dollars round-trip.
From the hydroelectric station, you have two options to get to Aguas Calientes: the first by train (for 30 minutes) and the second by walking parallel to the train track next to the Vilcanota River (for 3 hours). The walk is not about ups and downs but just following the 10-kilometer train track and spending the night in Aguas Calientes. The next day, you will go up to Machu Picchu on foot or by bus, depending on the time of entry, and finally, you will enter the Wonder of the World.
After a walk in Machu Picchu for the whole morning, according to the itinerary, you are driving; you have to go down to Aguas Calientes to have lunch and leave on foot or by train if you feel exhausted towards Hidroeléctrica. The last train leaves at 1:30 p.m. and arrives at 2:15 p.m. And the van that will take you back to Cusco will surely be there. The trip takes 7 hours to get to Cusco.
As we said before, this is the least recommended route to travel to Machu Picchu from our point of view. After making this trip, few say it was worth it and recommend it to future travelers. But if it is your second or third time traveling to Machu Picchu, maybe you can try this route, too.
The Hidroelectrica-Aguas Calientes train tickets are purchased at the same Hidroelectrica station or the Wanchaq Cusco station.
The journey to Machu Picchu from Cusco by train is truly an experience of a lifetime. At the beginning of the trip, first of all, there are the stunning landscapes of the Andean highlands, with snow-capped peaks to delight the eye, and from then on, valleys and jungle brows and the phenomenal Urubamba River will appear. You can appreciate this landscape of nature, local culture, and others from the comfort of exclusive trains with large panoramic windows. The train trip to Machu Picchu is the most recommended option and the primary way to get there.
Currently, two railway companies are providing service to Machu Picchu, with daily departures from the different stations along the way.
Machu Picchu from Cusco Train Companies
There are four stations from which you can embark on your train trip to Machu Picchu:
During the rainy season (January–May), all trains leave the Ollantaytambo station and return to the same station, except the Belmond Hiram Bingham train that returns to the Rio Sagrado hotel. Also, during this season, the train companies set up the bimodal service, that is, they transport tourists by bus and pick them up at the stations, arriving at the center of the city of Cusco.
The option of traveling to Machu Picchu by train in a single day is a bit long and tiring. The other option is to travel by train in the afternoon after a tour such as the Sacred Valley or the Maras Moray Salt Mines.
In Aguas Calientes, there is only one return station; boarding a train will not be difficult.
This type of bicycle trip is made for lovers of adventure and adrenaline—those who want to combine the journey by bus, bicycle, train, and walking. Here, you can also do more extreme adventure sports, such as river rafting on the Urubamba River and zip-lining with local companies in Santa María and Santa Teresa.
Do not think you can bicycle from Cusco to Machu Picchu because this option does not exist. You can hire a tour with a travel operator and travel part of the journey by bicycle through the tourist route known as the Inca Jungle.
It’s necessary to book in advance for three days, including Machu Picchu. It all depends on you and your time. The tour begins in Cusco, arrives in Ollantaytambo, and climbs the Abra Málaga at 4300 meters above sea level. From there, they go down on bicycles; they arrive at Santa María. Then, in the following days, they will pass through Santa Teresa and Hidroeléctrica, and thus, finally, they will arrive at Aguas Calientes Machu Picchu.
The Inca Trail is the best way to have a complete experience when going to Machu Picchu. It is not only Machu Picchu but the entire natural environment of the Vilcabamba mountain range and a part of the jungle, which appears when you enter the Inca Trail or Salkantay trek, the most frequented.
Tour operators organize the treks and include the services of porters, guides, and meals. So, at this level of organization, your trip will be unique and unforgettable since you won’t even have to carry the weight of your backpack because they can take care of it.
To enter the Inca Trail, you must book with a travel agency many months in advance; only then can you find spaces. On the other hand, on the Salkantay Trek route, you can do it on your own or with a tour operator; the landscape is beautiful, too.
Next, we present the best options to reach one of the Wonders of the Modern World excitingly and, of course, by hiking.
Today, many travel agencies take tourists from around the world to Machu Picchu. In recent years, tourism has grown enormously, as have travel agents, and thanks to them, many have come to Machu Picchu. Hiring a tour through a travel operator is more expensive, but it has advantages. We recommend you analyze it carefully, whether to travel through an agency, on your own, or combine both possibilities. Anyway, good luck!