The easiest way to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu is to take the bus and train to Aguas Calientes. It’s a scenic trip each way along tracks that run right along the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley, with dramatic canyon walls on either side. There are two train companies that can take you to Machu Picchu: PeruRail and Inca Rail.
PeruRail has two options – Vistadome and Expedition, both operate a Bus + Train model and begin at Wanchaq Station. I went with PeruRail Expedition because it’s relatively cheaper, and purposely booked a hotel close to the departure place Wanchaq Station, literally 2 minutes’ walk 😃
The total estimated time from Cusco to Machu Picchu is about 5 hours, 10 hours round trip. You may need to set 3 hours for Machu Picchu, plus 1-2 hours of resting time in Aguas Calientes, the overall travel time can be ~15 hours. Many people chose to stay in Aguas Calientes overnight and head to Machu Picchu on the second day to avoid the run-around. To me, the town is too commercialized and stay overnight may take more effort to plan. Plus, travelling from Cusco to Machu Picchu in one day is totally feasible. Why? Because I did it 😉
So here’s my itinerary:
- 5:40 am – 7:40 am: Bus from Wanchaq Station to Ollantaytambo Station, takes about 2 hours.
- 8:30 am – 10:00 am: Train from Ollantaytambo Station to Machu Picchu Station (Aguas Calientes), takes about 1.5 hours.
- 10:25 am – 10:45 am: Bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu, takes about 20 minutes.
- 11:00 am – 2:00 pm: Appreciate the magnificent wonder of the Inca civilization.
- 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm: Back to Aguas Calientes, rest and chill.
- 4:45 pm – 6:15 pm: Head back to Ollantaytambo Station by train.
- 6:15 pm – 8:15 pm: Bus from Ollantaytambo Station to Wanchaq Station.
If you’d like to get a visual understanding:
What you need to know when planning for your trip to Machu Picchu:
- Book your tickets online as soon as possible. Train and site tickets can be sold out very fast. Here are the sites I booked my tickets from:
- If you decide to travel between Cusco and Machu Picchu in one day (like I did), make sure you arrange your bus, train and site entrance schedules precisely.
- Bus tickets to Machu Picchu must be printed to be presented when boarding.
- Bring the passport or identity document with which you made your reservation at the site entrance. If you updated your ID after purchasing the ticket, just need to email them (firstname.lastname@example.org) your updated ID information and they’ll send you a new ticket PDF.
- Take sunscreen, bug spray, sufficient amount of water, umbrella or poncho with you.
- Eat well before entering, since no food is allowed within the site.
- The same applies to the washroom. There’s a washroom at the entrance (PEN 2 per use), you may want to consider using it to put your mind at ease.
- Bonus: you can get a Machu Picchu passport stamp at the Aguas Calientes bus lineup 😉
Lastly, get ready to be impressed by the splendid Inca culture and the breathtaking view!