How to Get to Machu Picchu from Lima or Cusco

By Camila Perez on Aug 08, 2019

Machu Picchu: It’s one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, hidden away high in the mountains of Peru. The Incans who engineered and built this incredible site intended to keep it a secret, as it was used as a royal retreat. They succeeded: It was so well-concealed that Spanish conquistadors never discovered it. Today, travelers have a number of options for getting to the site. Let’s take a closer look.

In this guide, we'll take a look at:

  • 1. Schedule Travel Months in Advance
  • 2. Hiking to Machu Picchu
  • 3. Take the Train to Aguas Calientes from Ollantaytambo
  • 4. Take the Bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
  • 5. Conclusion: There’s More to Explore!

Schedule Travel Months in Advance

Visiting Machu Picchu Peru calls for plenty of planning. To begin with, ensure that you can actually visit on the day(s) you are considering. The reason for this is that in order to reduce tourism impact at the site, there are a limited number of reservations per day. Your tour operator may be able to handle everything on your behalf, or you have the option of buying your ticket to Machu Picchu online, in advance. It is a very good idea to discuss your options with your tour operator before you buy a ticket – again, we have to stress that advance planning is key. In the event that you’d like to gain entrance to Huayna Picchu mountain as part of your tour, you will need to book at least two to three months ahead of time.

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Ready for a closer look at how to get to Machu Picchu? Here’s a breakdown of some different ways to get to this amazing destination and witness one of the new seven wonders of the world for yourself.

The First Step – Getting to Cusco

Before you start your journey to Machu Picchu, it is important to know how to get to Cusco, the city that acts as a starting point for all expeditions to the ancient citadel. To get to Cusco, you can get a flight to Alejandro Velasco Astete Cusco International Airport. It’s one of the major airports in Peru, with flights from all prominent cities in the world.

But there’s a catch. The airport is situated in a bad weather zone, and delays are a routine for flights to Cusco, Peru. Also, the airport has a 14,000ft high mountain range to the west, meaning that planes can only land from the east.

While planning how to travel from Cusco to Machu Picchu, make sure that you allow for an adequate buffer between your landing time at Cusco and the departure time to Machu Picchu to avoid any inconvenience.

How to Get From Cusco to Machu Picchu?

The distance from Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru, is just 75km. However, this 75 km will take you more time than it takes to travel the same distance on a freeway or by an Amtrak train because the route goes through the Andes.

But don’t worry. You can easily travel to Machu Picchu by train. The train leaves from the town of Poroy near Cusco. And since Cusco has pretty congested traffic, you need to make sure that you leave the city in advance and reach the train station in time.

It would drop you at Aguas Calientes train station, from where you can take a bus to the top.

You also need to buy the tickets beforehand as the tickets are almost always sold two weeks in advance. If you happen to miss the train, you can stay in Selina hotel near Plaza de Armas, Cusco, and explore the city. Have some quality time at our bar with live music, or attend a yoga class to regain your strength before the big adventure. You can also go to the city of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley and get a direct train to Aguas Calientes.

It’s best to take at least two days to acclimate – consider taking some day trips or just enjoy Cusco before continuing on to the mountain.

How to Get to Machu Picchu from Lima

If you’re wondering how far is Machu Picchu from Lima, it’s nearly 504km or 312 miles.

If fate brings you to Lima, you can stay in Selina hostel in Miraflores, Lima, for a day or two and then continue your journey to Cusco and, ultimately, Machu Picchu. Enjoy some relaxation time in our wellness area, chill in a jacuzzi or just have fun attending our live music events. Get some rest and you can definitely go to Cusco from Lima in one of the following ways.

Lima to Cusco – Peru Hop Bus

If you have time and you’d like to see more of Peru, you can take a bus from Lima to Cusco. The best way is via Huacachina and Arequipa. This method takes far longer than flying but it gives you the opportunity to view the landscape and it exposes you to higher altitudes gradually, which can be a bit easier on your body.

If you want to fully enjoy your time in Peru, we recommend that you opt for the Peru Hop bus. This 29-hour bus ride will cost you $199 one way and will take you through some of the best sceneries Peru has to offer.

Lima to Cusco – Flight

Since helicopter operations were shut down several years ago, there are no direct flights to Machu Picchu. For most people, the first step is to fly into Lima, and then to take a connecting flight to Cusco, which offers the closest airport to Machu Picchu.

Lima to Cusco is one of the busiest flight routes in Peru, with a flight available every hour or so. The main operators on this route are LATAM and Viva Air, and the average ticket price is $255. If you just need to get to Machu Picchu in the fastest way, this is the option for you.

Hiking to Machu Picchu

One of the most fascinating things you’ll discover if you decide to go by foot is that at 7,972 feet, Machu Picchu elevation is actually lower than Cusco’s altitude, which is 11,152 feet. Whichever route you take – even if you choose the shorter Inca Trail – you’ll be going over 4,000 meters (13,123 feet). All routes are challenging so be sure to focus on training before you go. Stairclimbing and climbing a treadmill set on a challenging incline are two gym workouts that will prep your muscles for the steep hills you’ll encounter along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu as well as along other routes.

There are three popular trails that you can take for hiking to Machu Picchu from Cusco. These are the Inca Trail, Salkantay Inca Trail Trek, and the Inca Quarry Trail Trek. These trails are often busy, and you need to book way in advance.

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Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The Inca Trail is a world-famous official trail that you can take to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco. This trail is part of the ancient path used by the Inca people, known as Qhapaq Ñan, which translates to ‘Royal Road.’

The trail, classified as medium to hard in difficulty, is 42km or 26 miles long and will take you three nights and four days to complete.

You’ll have to walk for 7 hours on the first and second day and 5 hours on the third day. On the fourth day, you’ll need to get up around 3:00 am to reach the ruins in time for sunrise. Which is quite the view.

An important thing to note here is that this trail is closed for the whole month of February.

Salkantay Inca Trail Trek

If you want to take an easier way to Machu Picchu, you can opt for this trail. It is a 43-mile path (70km) that will take you 5 to 6 days. Operated by Salkantay Trekking, it is the easiest and safest trail in the Cusco area.

Inca Quarry Trail Trek

If you are up for a bit of an adventure and don’t mind climbing, you can go for the Inca Quarry Trail Trek. This trail offers some of the best views the Andes have to offer and touches a maximum height of 14,337ft (4,370m) at the Puccagasa Pass. It is the shortest of the trails – just 27km or 17miles. But due to its elevation, it is suitable for more experienced hikers.

Hint: Even if you’re not trekking, it’s a great idea to get plenty of leg days in before your trip. The entire site is hilly, with thousands of stairs to climb as you explore. You’ll be thankful that you spent plenty of time working out once you arrive.

Trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Take the Train to Aguas Calientes from Ollantaytambo

If you have a limited amount of time to spend, then consider taking the train from Cusco or Ollantaytambo. To get to Ollantaytambo, you’ll need a taxi that will cost you $40-50 and take an hour. From there, it’s a 1.5-hour train journey to Aguas Calientes that costs $70. This is fast and convenient, and there are now quite a few different rail services to choose from:


The most popular railways service, used by locals, too.

Note that you will probably need a train reservation for your IncaRail trip, so plan in advance if you’d like to try this option. From Aguas Calientes, you can take a bus to the entrance point, or you can walk to the site.


The Vistadome is a premium train travel experience, with railway cars that feature massive windows along both sides as well as overarching skylights that provide an exceptional view of the mountaintops and forests. Live entertainment features local dances, and passengers are treated to snacks made with local ingredients. Non-alcoholic beverage service is included with the price of your ticket. PeruRail train stations are equipped with WiFi.

The Expedition features beautiful, comfortable passenger cars minus some of the windows on the higher-priced Vistadome option. You can purchase food and beverages and you can choose from a range of departure times.

Belmond Hiram Bingham Luxury Train:

If you’d like to travel in style, then you’ll appreciate everything the Hiram Bingham Luxury Train has to offer. It runs on the same rails as other trains, however it is exclusive in that it has seats for only 84 passengers at once, and its appointments are designed to offer the best experience money can buy.

Each car has been beautifully outfitted so that the interior resembles an original 1920s Pullman carriage, complete with comfortable seats, polished wood, and stunning details everywhere you look. Meals and drinks are included, plus there is a bar car to enjoy. The observation car offers astonishing views, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, and on the return trip, you’ll be treated to live entertainment.

The train to Machu Picchu provides incredible views of the landscape.

Take the Bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

The easiest way to ride the bus to Machu Picchu is to combine a bit of rail travel with some bus travel. From Cusco, take the collectivo to Ollantaytambo. From there, take IncaRail to Aguas Calientes.

Once you are in Aguas Calientes, it is a $15 round trip bus ticket to Machu Picchu that will take 45 minutes. From Aguas Calientes, you can take a bus to the entrance point, or you can walk to the site.

Conclusion: There’s More to Explore!

Ready for more? Be sure to read Part One of our complete Machu Picchu travel guide, where you’ll learn more about the site’s history and prominent features. Be sure to check out our packing list while you’re there, learn more about different lodging options, gain insight into Machu Picchu’s weather patterns, and take a look at some other activities to round out your trip. However you travel and whenever you visit, this destination promises a world of discoveries and memories to last a lifetime.

Machu Picchu FAQs

  • What city do you fly into for Machu Picchu?

    The best place to fly in for going to Machu Picchu is the Alejandro Velasco International Airport in the city of Cusco. However, if you cannot get a direct flight there, you can get a flight to Jorge Chavez International Airport, in the Peruvian Capital city, Lima.

  • What is the fastest way to get to Machu Picchu?

    The fastest way to get to Machu Picchu is to get a flight to Alejandro Velasco Airport in Cusco and then get a taxi to the town of Poroy. From Poroy, you can get a train that will take you to Aguas Calientes. You can then hop on to a bus and reach Machu Picchu in an hour.

  • When is the best time to go to Machu Picchu?

    Machu Picchu is open all year, but you should still plan ahead and book in advance. The best time to travel to Machu Picchu is the months of April and May. It is because these months are the least crowded and the weather is also acceptable.

  • When is the best time of the day to visit Machu Picchu?

    However, the place gets crowded between 11 am and 3 pm, so you should plan to visit in the early morning or late afternoon. From a weather point of view, you can visit Machu Picchu at any time of the day.

  • How long does it take to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco?

    It is a 5 hours journey to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco. It will take you an hour to get from Alejandro Velasco Airport to Poroy. From there, you’ll need to catch a train and reach Aguas Calientes, which is a 2 – 3 hour journey. Finally, a 45-minute bus ride will take you to the ruins.

  • Can you go to Machu Picchu without hiking?

    Yes, you can go to Machu Picchu without hiking. If you cannot or do not want to hike, you can get a train to Aguas Calientes, and from there, you can get on a bus that will take you to the ruins. But if you can hike, you should go for it, since it is totally worth it.

  • Is it hard to get to Machu Picchu?

    No, it is not hard to get to Machu Picchu. The hike is gentle and can be completed easily. If you still don’t want to hike, you can go there on a bus. It is neither difficult nor expensive.

  • How many days do you need for Machu Picchu?

    If you just want to see the ruins and the surrounding scenery, that can be accomplished in 3-4 hours. But it is recommended that you spend a full day in Machu Picchu, get back to Aguas Calientes, and then give it another day to fully appreciate the ancient landmark.

  • Do I need a guide to explore Machu Picchu?

    Having a guide has been made compulsory for entering Machu Picchu since 2019. If you are a part of an organized tour from Peru, you can enter without a guide. Otherwise, you’ll have to hire the services of a guide before you can enter the ruins.

  • How long does it take to climb Machu Picchu?

    The hike to Machu Picchu takes around four days. You can complete it in three days too, but in doing so, you’ll miss the sunrise at the site. For that reason, you’ll have to stop and complete the last portion by getting up early on the fourth day to reach Machu Picchu in time for sunrise.

  • Are there any COVID-19 restrictions or measures in place?

    As of July 13th, 2021, people visiting Machu Picchu would only be allowed entry after a temperature check – if their body temperature is below 37.5°C (99.5° F). Once allowed inside, all groups need to be up to a maximum of eight visitors. It’s compulsory for the visitors to wear a mask and maintain a distance of at least 1.5 meters (5 feet). Lastly, all visits must be up to 4 hours or less.

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