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How to Get to Machu Picchu by Train vs Hike

Wondering how to get to Machu Picchu in Peru? There are two ways to get to Machu Picchu, via train or on foot.  Here is a look at how to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco by train versus hiking the Inca Trail. As someone who has traveled to the World Wonder by both means, I touch on my experiences and share an overview of alternate hikes.

llama at machu picchu cusco peru in the background

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How to Get to Machu Picchu by Train vs Hike

Trying to make a decision on how you should go to Machu Pichu? Keep reading for information along with costs on taking the train and hikes that will get you to the Inca site.

Cusco to Machu Picchu By Train

Cusco doesn’t have a train station but you can take the train from Poroy. Poroy is a 20-minute car ride from Cusco. The car ride from Cusco to Ollantaytambo is about 1.5-2 hours and this is about the same length in time it takes to go from Poroy to Ollantaytambo. Below you’ll find information on the car ride from Cusco to Ollantaytambo. 

After the car option, you’ll find the information for the trains that will take you to Aguas Calientes, which is also known as Machu Picchu town. This is the town below the Machu Picchu citadel and where the train station is located. Note, you will take a shuttle from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. You can also hike to and from. It’s a lot of stairs so make sure you have ample time.

blue perurail train at ollantaytambo station in peru

Overview of Machu Picchu Train Cost:

Car/Colectivo from Cusco to Ollantaytambo – $6 roundtrip
Train from Ollantaytambo – $100+ roundtrip
Shuttle from Aguas Calientes – $12 one way (you can hike up or down)
Machu Picchu tickets: adults – 152 soles ($42 USD), students* – 77 soles ($22 USD), minors* – 70 soles/ ($20 USD)
Guide (optional) – $30+

Trip Length – 2D/1N from Cusco (can be done in a full day but don’t recommend, you can also stay in Ollantaytambo or Urubamba and visit Machu Picchu in a day)

*Students, 25 years of age and under, must have an original student card issued by the university containing the following: information about the university, personal information of the student, photo of the student, and effective date of no more than one year in relation to the date of visit to Machu Picchu.

*Minors are under 18 years of age.

Car/Colectivo

You can take a car or colectivo from Cusco to Ollantaytambo. This is a cheaper, and slightly more convenient way to get from Cusco to Ollantaytambo.

Colectivo

A colectivo is a shared car/van. This is a convenient and cost-effective way to travel for solar travelers and smaller parties who don’t want to opt for a long bus ride. The colectivos run from 6 am to 6 pm so plan accordingly. A colectivo will cost around 10-12 soles ($3-4 USD) per person.

One thing to note, colectivos need to be full (every seat occupied) in order to start the drive. This can be annoying if you’re on a timeline. A tip is to ask the driver how many are in the colectivo already so that your party “completes” the ride.

Private Car

If you have a larger party or traveling as a family opt for a private car. With a private car, you have a driver that will pick you up/drop you off at your hotel in Cusco and you won’t have to wait for the colectivo to fill up. A private car will cost around 100 soles ($30 USD)

Train to Aguas Calientes 

As noted above, the closest train station to Cusco is in the nearby town of Poroy. Most people will get a car from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and board the train from there. If you opt to take an afternoon train from Ollantaytambo an option would be to hire a driver to take you around the Sacred Valley to sights such as Moray and the Mares Salt Mines before dropping you off at the train station.

There are three different trains that go to Aguas Calientes: Peru Rail, Inca Rail, and the Belmond Hiram Bingham.

PeruRail

PeruRail is the least expensive train line that goes to Aguas Calientes. It starts around $50 each way. They have two different trains called Vistadome and Expedition. The Vistadome train has panoramic windows. The Expedition train is the cheapest train to Machu Picchu.

I chose the PeruRail Expedition train when I went in January 2020. The train time worked well for our schedule and it was a pleasant train ride. There are beverages and snacks available onboard. We brought our own snacks and purchased adult beverages onboard.

woman drinking sparking wine on machu picchu train

Inca Rail

The Inca Rail train is a more comfortable train than the PeruRail trains. A one-way ticket starts around $70 each way. They have a variety of different trains that offer services from comfortable seats and light snacks to first-class and private cars that offer outdoor balconies, gourmet meals, and complimentary beverages. This line is a good “in-between” choice that offers something for everyone.

You can compare the different Inca Rail trains and services here.

Belmond Hiram Bingham

Belmond Hiram Binham is the luxury train to Machu Picchu and it is next level! This is a full-on experience that includes live entertainment, artisanal cocktails, and fine dining. Prices start at $504 USD for one way between Poroy Station near Cusco to Aguas Clients (also known as Machu Picchu town).

More On The Trains

For a better understanding of the Cusco to Machu Picchu train check out Seat 61. And also check out this comparison of different train options (excludes Inka Rail train).

TIP: You don’t have to go each way with the same train line. If you feel like splurging but don’t want to break the bank, splurge on the way to Aguas Calientes. This is the most exciting ride. Many visitors (myself included) are SUPER tired when leaving Machu Picchu since you probably spent most of the day on your feet and end up taking a nap on the train.

women getting ready to board train to machu picchu

Machu Picchu Hike

There are several Machu Picchu hikes. The Inca Trail is the most popular hike so we’ll be using that as an example and below I list four other alternative hikes with some information on each one.

Inca Trail Hike Cost:

Inca Trail hike – $600-800, $1500+ for luxury treks, this includes transfer to and from Cusco

Machu Picchu by Inca Trail Overview:

4 Days /3 Nights
1st Day – moderate day, 5.5 hours, 14 km
2nd Day  – moderate to difficult, and longest day, 11 hours, 16 km
3rd Day – easy, 5 hours, 10 km
4th Day – easy, 2 hours, 5 km

machu picchu overcast cloudy gray moody

Additional Hiking at Machu Picchu

When you reach Machu Picchu you’ll do a lot of walking touring the Incan Citadel but you can also opt for a hike. When you buy your entrance tickets to Machu Picchu you can also buy permits to hike Huayna Picchu or hike Machu Picchu Mountain. You can do these hikes either way you visit. 

view from top of Huayna Picchu

I have hiked Huayna Picchu upon completing the Inca Trail hike. There are two different time slots and you’ll need to decide between the two. My tour operator signed me up for the 2nd hike of the day. You can read more about the Huayna Picchu hike here.

two women in matching white t-shirts standing in front of Huayna Picchu

Machu Picchu – different trails from most popular to least popular

Inca Trail – 4D/3N  – moderate – 26 miles/43 km
Salkantay Trek – 5D/4N – moderate to difficult – 46 miles/74 km
Lares Trek – 4D/3N – moderate – 21 miles/33 km
Choquequirao Trail – 4D/3N – difficult – 40 miles/64 km
Vilcabamba Trail – 5D/4N – difficult – 30 miles/48 km

Side by Side Costs: Machu Picchu Train versus Inca Trail

Train

Car/Colectivo from Cusco to Ollantaytambo – $6 roundtrip
Train from Ollantaytambo – $100+ roundtrip
Shuttle from Aguas Calientes – $12 one way (you can hike up or down)
Machu Picchu tickets: adults – 152 soles ($42 USD), students* – 77 soles ($22 USD), minors* – 70 soles/ ($20 USD)
trip length – 2D/1N from Cusco (can be done in a full day but don’t recommend, you can also stay in Ollantaytambo or Urubamba and visit Machu Picchu in a day)
Guide (optional) – $30+
———————————
Train Total: $200+ (not including any additional accommodations if staying a night in either Aguas Calientes, Ollantaytambo, or Urubamba.

Inca Trail Hike: $600-800+

friends at incan site along inca trail in peru

What to Expect

Train

You’ll enjoy the beautiful scenery from the train and a comfortable experience. Train amenities will differ depending on which train you take.

Inca Trail Hike

Hiking through the area is a geographically diverse experience. You will see various archeological sites and interact with some locals along the way and at your campsites with your porters and for some operators with their guides as well.

foggy morning view at machu picchu

What Should You Opt For

If you’re short on time take the train, but if you want a more unique experience and enjoy the outdoors opt for the hike. This is going to depend on how you like the experience things, the amount of time you have for the trip, and if you’ve allowed for acclimatization. With the Machu Picchu Inca Trail hike and the other hikes, you will reach higher elevations. However, Cusco has an elevation of 11,152 ft (3,400m), and staying in and around the city at that elevation for a couple of days prior to the hike will help you acclimate.  

Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu

Wondering when is the best time to visit Machu Picchu? The dry season is from April to October and the wet season is from November to March. The best weather for hiking Machu Picchu is June through August but this is also peak season and will be the busiest time to visit. The shoulder season months of April, May, September, and October are great if you’re looking to beat the crowds.

I did the Inca Trail at the end of March going into April and had pretty good weather. You will get a variety of weather throughout the trail no matter what time of year you decide to go. I took the train to Machu Picchu in January and there was rain for a third of the time we there. It wasn’t horrible but the upside was that there wasn’t such a huge crowd. 

cloudy overcast foggy machu picchu citadel in peru

Feel free to check out my Instagram Reel on the best time to visit Machu Picchu.

Things to Know

Only 2500 people can visit Machu Picchu in a day. If you want to visit during peak season you’ll want to get your tickets just after the new year once they become available for the year. 

The Inca Trail is only accessible with organized Machu Picchu tours. If you want to self-hike there are other hiking options. If you are looking to hike the Inca Trail and need a reliable tour operator I personally recommend Alpaca Expeditions. I had an amazing experience with Alpaca Expeditions and would 100% recommend them.

woman in yellow dress at machu picchu overcast cloudy

******

I hope this has answered how to get to Machu Picchu and you have some options for your visit. No matter how you decide to get there, being at this world wonder is an incredible experience on its own.

Follow me on Instagram for more tips, destination guides, and more! And check out my Instagram Reel for more on gettibg to Machu Picchu.

Pin this “How to Get to Machu Picchu by Train vs Hike” blog post for later!

 

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