To get to Machu Picchu, you take the train from Cusco or Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley) to the village of Aguas Calientes (also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo). From there, you take a shuttle bus 9km to the Machu Picchu Sanctuary itself. By train and shuttle is the only way to get to the ruins.
There are three types of trains that go to Aguas Calientes: a backpacker train, the VistaDome, and the Hiram Bingham train.
Most people take the VistaDome train which has glass windows in the roof, so you can see out and enjoy the view. The backpacker train is cheaper and makes many more stops but is still very comfortable. Both trains have multiple departures daily up and back from Cusco and from Ollantytambo. Transfer to the train station is included.
The Hiram Bingham train is very luxurious — and has a price tag to match (about $375/person one-way). This train includes a gourmet brunch served on the train, afternoon tea served at the Sanctuary Lodge overlooking the Machu Picchu Sanctuary, and a gourmet dinner on board during your return trip.
This only one departure daily excluding Sundays — morning departure from Cusco and late afternoon departure from Aguas Calientes. This train departs from the Poroy Station just outside Cusco, so you will need a transfer to the station. You can spend the night in Aguas Calientes or the Sanctuary Lodge and the take the train over two days.
The VistaDome and Hiram Bingham trains can fill up — especially in July and August. If the train you want is full, you may have to start or end in Ollantytambo and take a bus to/from there, or you will have to take the backpacker train one-way on your trip.
- NOTE ON LUGGAGE: Only 1 small bag of hand luggage (5 kg/11 lb max) is allowed on the train to Machu Picchu. Only 1 piece of checked luggage (23 kg / 50 lb max) can be put on the luggage car.
Machu Picchu Guided Tours
Our tours include a half-day guided tour of Machu Picchu with a local guide. The Hiram Bingham train includes a half day guided tour as well as narration on the train.
If you spend more time in the Machu Picchu area, you will be on your own to explore the ruins or the village area. You may want a guide book to make the most of your visit.
Planning Your Day
Most people visit Machu Picchu in a day. Therefore, it is busiest from 10am until 2pm. If you want to visit the ruins when it is not so crowded (to get better pictures), you may want to spend the night so that you can visit later in the afternoon or first thing in the morning.
There are many great treks around Machu Picchu. The most popular is to Wayna Picchu, the hill you see above the ruins. There are only 500 tickets given out each day, which are free, but you will want to get one as soon as possible before they run out (your guide can help you with this).
There are other interesting hikes around Machu Picchu. Many people like to hike back towards the Inca Trail to get pictures from the Sun Gate. Many guide books describe all the different hiking trails in the area, but some are closed due to landslides. Check with a local guide for information on which trails are still open.
SCHEDULING TO CONSIDER FOR TRAVELERS WISHING TO VISIT MACHU PICCHU IN ONE DAY:
For those taking the train (arriving about 10:30 AM) to Machu Picchu and booking a tour of the citadel for the same day, we recommend the 11:00 AM entrance time. Travelers arriving at 10:30 AM in Aguas Calientes, will be up to Machu Picchu around 11:10AM and can visit Machu Picchu until 3:10 PM. Please note that this will mean that passengers will only be able to eat lunch AFTER 3:10PM. If this is too late, please see an alternative option below.
Passengers can also opt to do the 13:00 PM (1:00 PM). entrance if they want time to have lunch first. The problem with 13:00 (1:00 PM) entrance is that travelers will need to cut their Machu Picchu tour short, in order to get back down for the late afternoon train returning to Cusco/Poroy.
Where to Stay
We can book any hotel in the Aguas Calientes area that you wish. The most popular are
The Sanctuary Lodge is the only hotel located right at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary and is the most luxurious in the area.
The Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel is a 4-star hotel centrally located in Aguas Calientes.
The Machu Picchu Inn is a high-end 3-star hotel centrally located in Aguas Calientes.
The El Presidente is a comfortable 3-star backpacker hotel centrally located in Aguas Calientes.
Aguas Calientes is a small village with a nice local crafts market and small, interesting churches. There are hot springs near by, which are open to the public for a nominal fee.