There are 3 main ways to visit Machu Picchu – by taking various modes of transport to the site, by joining a hike or tour that connects to Machu Picchu, and by hiking straight to Machu Picchu. And don’t forget that all of this is assuming you’re starting out from the city of Cusco. Currently, all international flights to Peru arrive in the capital city of Lima (on the Pacific coast), so you’ll need to take a domestic flight or overnight bus ride from Lima to Cusco first.
Whew! You’re in Cusco already and gave yourself a day or two to acclimatize to the high altitude of the Andes mountains? Here are the different ways you can visit Machu Picchu from Cusco.
1. By Taking Various Modes of Transport
There’s no one mode of transport that can take you directly to Machu Picchu. Minimally, a train will be part of your trip.
- In the rainy season when the railroad undergoes maintenance work, you’ll take a vehicle from Cusco to the Ollantaytambo train station, then a train to Machupicchu Town (otherwise known as Aguas Calientes).
- In the dry season, you’ll take a train from Cusco straight to Machupicchu Town.
From Machupicchu Town (at the base of the mountain), most people take a bus up to the archeological site, but there’s also the option to hike up stone steps all the way to the top. See our article on How to Travel to Machu Picchu for more details.
2. By Joining a Hike or Tour That Connects to Machu Picchu
There are various 1-day or multi-day hikes or tours around Machu Picchu that take you to Machupicchu Town on the penultimate day where you’ll stay overnight.
On the last day, just as I describe above, you’ll take a bus or hike from Machupicchu Town to the top of the mountain where the Machu Picchu archeological site is found.
3. By Hiking Straight to Machu Picchu
Globally, the most well-known way to get to Machu Picchu is by hiking the Inca Trail for 4 days. The 4-Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu starts from the town of Ollantaytambo (we’ll take you there by vehicle from Cusco), and is a relatively challenging hike overall. Also known as the Qhapaq Ñan (literally, “Royal Path” in Quechua, the native language of the Andes), which spanned the entire Inca empire, this hike will give you a feel for what the Incas lived hundreds of years ago.
- Where is Machu Picchu located?
Machu Picchu is an archeological site located in the southern region of the country of Peru in South America. The largest urban center closest to Machu Picchu is the city of Cusco around 70 km (~45 miles) away.
- When is the best time to visit Machu Picchu in terms of time of day?
The best time to visit Machu Picchu is first thing in the morning when there's the least amount of people and a chance to see the sunrise at the ruins. The earliest entry time is 6:00 am.