How to reach Machupicchu without blowing your budget is a question many travellers ask themselves. And to be honest, before doing it, we had the same question. Here some explanations.
How to reach Aguas Calientes (Machupicchu village) from Cusco:
From Cusco, many options are available to reach Machupicchu village :
– The first one, that I would name Classic is as well the most expensive one. For 120$ (including the return) you leave Cusco and reach Aguas Calientes (what we call Machupicchu village) by train within 5 hours. Simple, direct and efficient.
– The second option (more fun) is to travel by mini-van.
The journey will take you through different valleys, you even go through a pass of Abra Sijlak asa at 4,300m…The road is longer (8 hours of driving) but the cost is much more less as only 80 Soles (or 30$) are necessary for it.
Around 8am of the morning, you leave Cusco and drive until Hydroelectrica. You go up, then through the pass at 4,300m, go down, then go accross some roadworks (which close the road during some hours), then drive on a dirt road for a few hours and finally arrive around 4pm at Hydroelectrica.
Below some pictures of our journey:
There, you still have 2 hours and half of walk along the railway until Agua Calientes.
Or if you are really tired (and want to arrive on time before the night) you can take the train for 10$.
In all the case, train or walk, the path is the same in the valley along the Vilcanota-Urubamba river just below Machupicchu site we cannot really see.
To return to Cusco, this is the same thing, however you need to leave Hydroelectrica by 2pm.
So most of the people on budget (backpacker like us) do it over two days :
-Day 1 : Journey from Cusco to Aguas Calientes
-Day 2 : Wake-up at 5am (or earlier if you going up walking) to go up to Machupicchu. At 11am, you need to leave the site to be sure you are at 2pm at Hydroelectrica to catch your minivan. And finally arrive at 10pm at Cusco.
Here the google map showing the different options:
In red, the bus journey from Cusco to Hydroeletrica
In purple, the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes
In Green the parts you need to walk
and the red in Zigzag is the portion you can do by bus for 10$ to walk up to Machu picchu from Aguas Calientes.
Where to sleep in Aguas Calientes?
At Aguas Calientes, there is nothing to see really, There is all types of hotel for all different budget. We found one for 12 Soles per night quite clean. Some travel agencies will ask you if they can book yours but usually this means that they take a commission on the top of the room price, and this is for you to pay.
There is an option to camp, but it is far way from the village and it is recommended only if you plan to go up walking to Machupicchu (otherwise you will have to walk back to Agua Calientes to take the bus)
How to reach Machupicchu site from Aguas Calientes?
Once at Agua Calientes (or Machupicchu village) two options are available to reach the site :
– By bus. You can catch it in the center of the town. But for 10$, you have only one way. Which means that you will have to pay the same amount to go down. It takes around 30min to reach the site. If you want to arrive before the doors open at 6.00am (for the sunset) you will need to start to queue from 5am in town… (Everyone wants to do like you) Some streets vendors sell hot coffee and food while you are waiting. A good option if you didn’t have breakfast before leaving your hotel or you haven’t prepared anything for your lunch.
– The second option is to walk up following the path that Hiram Birgham would have taken in 1911 prior the discovery of Machupicchu. While the bus goes up in Zigzag, the walking path goes straight up. It usually takes around 1 hour to go up. And half an hour to go down. Some people will tell you it takes 30 minutes to go up and 20 minutes to go down, but it is usually because they run not walk
What we recommend you :
– Day 1 : Journey from Cusco to Agua Calientes by minibus
– Day 2 : Whole day to visit Machupicchu, climb Machupicchu mountain or Huyana Picchu. Go up by bus and go down walking
– Day 3 : Leave Aguas Calientes to walk to Hydroelectrica around 8/9am. Don’t bother going to the hotspring (10 Soles the ticket) in Aguas Calientes. Catch a taxi at Hydroelectrica (there are always plenty waiting) to reach Santa Theresa Hot Springs. Taxi ride is 5 soles and entrance to the hot spring is 5 soles. Taxi back from the hot spring to santa Theresa to wait for your minivan to collect you at 2.30pm on the way back to Cusco or if you are keen you can walk back to Santa Theresa (count on half to a full hour)
If you decide to follow this plan, make sure you have talked with the travel agency you book your journey so they don’t wait for you at Hydroelectrica while you are expecting them at Santa Theresa.
Where to book?
The cheap option at 80 Soles needs to be booked through any agencies you can find in Cusco (a few of them are not far from Loki backpacker in Cusco). However, you can purchase your own train ticket at the train station.
That is it. You know everything to go to Machupicchu although we haven’t talked to the different options available if you want to do it trekking. (Jungle trail or Inca trail). The last thing left is to discover it, and this will be the next post to be published on jacquesandcaro.me. If you have any comments or question, don’t hesitate to contact us (email or leave a comment)
Blog you soon,