- Machu Picchu is located in the Cusco region in South Peru
- Cusco is the closest airport and is located at about 100km from Machu Picchu
- In order to travel from Cusco to Machu Picchu one will pass through the Sacred Valley
- Machu Picchu can be visited in two ways; by train or on foot
- For the train there are three stations, 2 companies with three levels of trains
- Hiking to Machu Picchu can be done via the original 4 or 1 day Inca Trails or the 5 day Salkantay Trail
Visiting Machu Picchu, unless you are lucky enough to live in Peru, takes some time and effort but the rewards are undeniably unique and breathtaking. As with a visit to any of the other 6 “Modern Wonders of the World” getting to Machu Picchu for most people means taking an international flight. In this case the destination would be Lima, the proud capital of Peru. From Lima one has to make his or her way to Cusco, high in the Southern Peruvian Andes and here is when the most rewarding leg of the journey to Machu Picchu starts. In most of the other World Wonders, you can get transported from your hotel to the entrance of the site or park. For Machu Picchu this is not the case. In order to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu there are basically two options, each with their distinctive features but one thing in common; no matter how you travel to Machu Picchu, the way there is part of the experience and adds up to the final climax of when you first lay eyes on this century old lost city of the Incas. The two options are; by train or on foot.
Traveling to Machu Picchu by Train
Most people visit Machu Picchu by train either from Cusco, Poroy or Ollantaytambo Station. There are two train companies; Peru Rail and Inca Rail. Both companies operate trains from Poroy and Ollantaytambo Station and Inca rail from this year on reinstated the services from San Pedro Station in the center of Cusco. The journey from Cusco takes about 4 hours one way and 3 from Poroy Station. From Ollantaytambo Station which is located in the Sacred Valley, you get to Aguas Calientes in about 1.5 hours. From Cusco to Poroy Station takes about 45 minutes by car and to Ollantaytambo about 1.5 hours. This makes traveling from Ollantaytambo the quickest way to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco. This, together with a lot of people spending the first nights in the Sacred Valley and convenient train times makes Ollantaytambo (or Ollanta in short) the most popular station to travel to Machu Picchu by train. It is also worth noting that in the low season, December through March, trains only operate from Ollantaytambo Station. The train journey itself is considered as one of the most beautiful in the world as it allows you to appreciate the dramatic landscapes of the Andes and the transition from the highlands to the cloud forest. The journey and scenery therefore are fully part of the whole experience and we recommend to do at least one of the two legs of the train journey in daylight so you can enjoy the views to the fullest. The best views from the train you get from the river side which is on the left hand side going to machu Picchu and on the right hand side of the train coming back to the Sacred Valley or Cusco.
Traveling to Machu Picchu on Foot
For those brave enough to tackle the last kilometers to Machu Picchu on foot, there are several options. The most famous one is by far the original Inca Trail, either in its classic 4 day or the short 1 day version. Both allow you to visit other Inca sites that can only be visited by doing these treks as well as the unique experience of hiking an ingenious trail that was built more than 500 years ago. The classic 4 day Inca Trail travels over altitudes of 13,500ft (4,200m) and has a total length of a marathon; 42km (26mi). The short 1 day Trail does not have too much altitude anymore with the highest point at about 9,000ft (2,700m) and a total length of about 12km (8mi). The 4 day Inca Trail is limited in number to 500 people daily and the short 1 day version to 250 people per day. Apart from the Inca Trail, there are two other treks that take you to Machu Picchu; the 5 day Salkantay Hike and the 4 or 5 day so called Inka Jungle Hike. The Salkantay Hike is named after the second highest peak of the region which you will be circling during these 5 days. You will depart Cusco and head to Mollepata the trailhead for the hike. From here you will hike for 2 days on high altitudes before the trail starts descending towards Machu Picchu and the cloud forest. On day 3 you will start to feel temperatures going up and vegetation becoming much greener. On day 4 you will hike the last 10k over the train tracks to the town of Aguas Calientes (there is also the option to do this in local train) and spend the night here. On day 5 you will visit Machu Picchu and head back to the Sacred Valley or Cusco. The Inka Jungle is more a combination of activities (one of which hiking) than a multi day hike and involves downhill biking, white water rafting, ziplining and hiking to get to Machu Picchu. The last part of this trip to Machu Picchu takes the same route as the Salkantay Hike to reach Aguas Calientes.