If you want to visit the Machu Picchu you will soon discover that you can’t do this directly from Cusco, but from Aguas Calientes. This village has a beautiful location, half an hour’s drive from the world famous Machu Picchu, and therefore mainly consists of hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. A special feature of Aguas Calientes is that no road leads to it so you will have to walk (part of it) to get there. Or you can take the train!
Transportation from Cusco to Aguas Calientes
There are three popular ways to get to Aguas Calientes: the Inca Trail (or another hike), with a minibus from Cusco to the Hidro-Electrica power station to walk along the track for 2 to 3 hours or by train . We chose the latter option and found this one of the coolest train journeys so far. The Machu Picchu is impressive, but this train journey with Perurail makes the adventure complete. There is also another train company, Incarail, but we personally have no experience with that.
Where does the train leave in Cusco
There are several stations in Cusco where you can start your Machu Picchu adventure. We left Perurail from Poroy station and from here you travel to Aguas Calientes in around 3.5 hours. Poroy train station is approximately 30 minutes outside of Cusco and a taxi costs 20 to 30 soles (depending on your location in Cusco). Are you traveling on a low budget but still want to take part of the train journey? Then you can also choose to go by train only the last part. You then take a minibus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and travel the last 1.5 hours by train to Aguas Calientes.
There are several trains per day between Cusco and Aguas Calientes. All available times and rates can be found on the Perurail website. We have chosen to sleep in Aguas Calientes for one night so that we could go in with the first group in the morning to admire the sunrise at the Machu Picchu (recommended). We left Aguas Calientes at 5.00 am for the Machu Picchu and were back in the village at the end of the morning. Then you can take the train back to Cusco in the afternoon.
Tip: ask in your hotel in Cusco if you can leave your suitcase / backpack there and only travel with your hand luggage to Aguas Calientes. If you sleep one night there, just like we do, you probably need a backpack. We slept in Cusco in hotel Cascada Del Inka and there it was no problem.
Bus Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
Buses run from Aguas Calientes up to the entrance of the Machu Picchu. This bus ride takes half an hour and you can buy the tickets near the bus stop (is clearly indicated with signs). The bus costs 12 dollars per person per way and leaves in the middle of the village, next to the river. People are waiting here all day long so you can’t miss it. We had entrance tickets before 6 am and went upstairs with the first buses. We were at the bus stop around 5 a.m. and were in the fourth bus. Then we were at the front of the line at the Machu Picchu and walked in with the first group of people.
Hiking Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
It is also possible to walk up from the village to the entrance of the Machu Picchu. This is a tough walk that mainly consists of a lot of steps up. If you want to admire the sunrise from the Machu Picchu, this means that you have to leave at night. The path is poorly lit so a flashlight is necessary. I personally recommend that you take the bus up and save your energy for the Machu Picchu itself. Because we were curious about the walk, we went by bus and went back for a walk. We did more than an hour on the walk from the exit of the Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes. It was not a nice path (mainly large steps down), but it was a beautiful area. Plus you save a bus ticket with it. Not sure about the way back? You can always buy a ticket for the bus back on the spot.
Tickets Machu Picchu
You can buy your Machu Picchu entrance tickets online at the official website: Machupicchu.gob.pe. To dose the crowds, you must select your arrival time. For example, we had tickets that allowed us to enter only between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. And we were lucky with a clear sky and beautiful sunrise! Because we bought our tickets fairly last-minute, only standard tickets were available. If you are up early and want a nice hike, you can also opt for a combi ticket for the Machu Picchu + Machu Picchu Mountain or Machu Picchu + Huyana Picchu. These tickets are always sold out quickly so make sure you get there early (2-3 months in advance) if you wish.
Food and drink in Aguas Calientes
The average prices in Aguas Calientes are higher than in other places in Peru. For an evening meal you pay on average 35 to 40 soles. There is nevertheless a large price difference between the various restaurants, so check the menu before you walk in. Do you want a cheap lunch? Then go to TAO: for a sandwich combination with a drink we paid around 18 soles. In the evening we had dinner at Mapacho, good food and a large (special) beer menu. At the Machu Picchu there is only one restaurant at the entrance and this is of course quite pricey. We therefore recommend that you bring enough water and some sandwiches / snacks. Officially, food is not allowed, but the bags were not checked with us so we were glad that we had brought something. Hotels often offer breakfast from 4:30 am and lunch boxes are also an option. So check this carefully before you book. You can also buy water, snacks and, for example, a sandwich or croissant at the bus stop.
Sleeping in Aguas Calientes
For a basic double room with private bathroom and breakfast, you can easily spend 30 euros. Are you a light sleeper? Pay particular attention to the location; choose a hotel a little further from the river and the railroad. Are you traveling on a low budget? Then we recommend Chakana Machu Picchu. You can check in early here and an early breakfast is available. Do you have something more to spend? Then Retama Machu Picchu is a very good option.
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