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Different ways to get to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, the Inca city that was hidden in the eyes of the western world for more than three hundred years is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, not only for its original architecture and history but also for its beautiful natural environment. The trip from the city of Cusco to the Inca citadel is in itself a wonderful experience. Here we present a summary of the existing different options available to get to Machu Picchu.

1. Travel from Cusco to Machu Picchu by bus and train

Making the trip from Cusco to Aguas Calientes by bus (first part of the trip) and then continuing by train is the most common alternative among travelers. The bus tour has an estimated duration of an hour and a half, departing from the city of Cusco and arriving at the small town of Ollantaytambo. During the journey you can appreciate the beauty of the Sacred Valley and the Vilcanota River.

The train journey begins in the town of Ollantaytambo, after an hour and a half to reach the populated center of Aguas Calientes. Throughout this journey we will have the powerful Vilcanota river on our left hand, which descends furiously towards the jungle.

The railway companies that provide the service of Ollantaytambo-Aguas Calientes and vice versa are Peru Rail and Inca Rail, with a wide range of services and prices to choose from.

It is important to remember that the Inca citadel is located at an altitude of 2,400 m.a.s.l., that is to say almost 1000 meters below Cusco, which is why the train trip is actually a descent towards the jungle eyebrow.

2. Travel from Cusco to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is part of an immense network of roads built by the Inca civilization more than 500 years ago, this section has a length of 42 kilometers, starting at the 82nd kilometer of the Ollantaytambo-Cusco railroad and ending in the citadel of Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail in its classic version has a duration of four days, during which an irregular terrain is covered, full of valleys and high peaks.

The citadel of Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail are located within the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, a national park of more than 35,000 hectares that has an incredible natural wealth as well as thirteen different climatic floors, with more than 400 recorded species of orchids, around of 300 types of birds, many of them endemic, the famous spectacled bear, foxes, deer and many more. It is important to know that there are only two hundred tickets available per day for the Inca Trail and these must be reserved at least six months in advance. The Inca Trail is considered one of the best short walks in the world and it is for this reason that tickets are hard to obtain.

3. Travel from Cusco to Machu Picchu through Santa Teresa (Hidroeléctrica)

The trip from Cusco to the town of Santa Teresa is the most economical alternative to reach the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. In the first stage of this journey you take a private bus or transport that leaves Cusco and after approximately six or seven hours you reach the town center of Santa Teresa. This town is located on the banks of the Urubamba River and has a warm climate, common in the jungle villages.

In the second stage of this trip you must board a car or bus that takes us from Santa Teresa to the so-called ‘Hidroeléctrica Station’. Once here we have two options: the first is to board the train that leaves for Aguas Calientes, this section by train has a duration of 30 minutes and an average cost of USD 31.00; The second alternative is to make this section (Santa Teresa-Aguas Calientes) on foot, following the path of the train tracks. The walk takes place in a jungle climate with a lot of humidity and lasts approximately five hours, after which you reach the town of Aguas Calientes.

4. Travel from Cusco to Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu Mountain

The Huayna Picchu mountain is the one that appears as a background in almost all the photos of Machu Picchu and is one of the most popular places among travelers arriving in this part of the world. To access the top of this mountain you must first buy the entrance ticket, which is sold separately from the entrance ticket to the citadel of Machu Picchu.

The climb to the top of this mountain takes about an hour and a half, the way up and down is characterized by its danger: the Urubamba river can be seen almost four hundred meters down the hill, so a fall or slip surely has fatal consequences. It is precisely adrenaline and danger that attracts visitors and makes tickets run out so fast.

The reward after finishing the ascent route to the Machu Picchu mountain is the incredible 360° view of the entire Urubamba River valley, which has the shape of a 'U', as well as the view of the Vilcabamba and Oriental mountain ranges, respectively. On the way down, the sector called by tourist guides and some travelers is crossed as 'the stairs of death' due to its proximity to a deep chasm although, there are no records that anyone has had a fatal accident at this point.

5. Travel from Cusco to Machu Picchu taking the Salkantay snowy trail

The route from the snowy Salkantay trail to Machu Picchu is an alternative for those travelers who have not been able to find tickets available for the Inca Trail. The snowy Salkantay is an impressive mountain, one of the highest in Peru, with an elevation of 6,271 m.a.s.l. This route is not yet well known and this allows the traveler to explore the environment without the presence of many travelers. The opinions regarding this trail are the best, as travelers who have already made it describe it as an extraordinary experience, full of incredible landscapes and with and epic end at Machu Picchu.


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