In this article we seek to explore the various alternatives that exist about tickets, bus transportation and train transportation to visit the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.
The Inca city of Machu Picchu is located on the top of a green mountain, covered with vegetation and surrounded by a mighty river. Contrary to what many travelers think, it has a warm jungle climate, different from the climate of Cusco, characterized by cold, altitude and lack of humidity.
The distance between the city of Cusco and Machu Picchu is approximately 74.7 linear kilometers but the geography of the area surrounding this magical place is really particular, because it has the Urubamba mountain range to the east, to the west side is the Vilcabamba mountain range and the Cusichaka and Aobamba rivers are on its north and south sides, respectively.
The train to Machu Picchu was the first means of mass transportation developed to access the Inca citadel. The beginnings of its construction date back to 1914 and currently has several sections that are in disuse or obsolete.
Currently the Peruvian government has concessioned this railroad route to two companies: PeruRail, which has been operating since 1999, is a company of Peruvian and foreign capitals and IncaRail of entirely Peruvian capitals, which has been authorized to provide service in this section since 2009.
The route to Machu Picchu has basically three stations from which you can board the train:
- From Poroy station, located 20 minutes by bus from Cusco. - The train ride to Machu Picchu is an unforgettable experience and if you choose this option, the trip will take approximately three to four hours, crossing plains and valleys.
- From Ollantaytambo station, located approximately two hours by car from the city of Cusco in the town of the same name. If you take the train at this station, the trip to the town of Aguas Calientes has an average duration of one and a half to two hours.
- From the Urubamba station, located in the town of the same name and at a distance by car from Cusco of approximately one and a half to two hours. If you take the train from here, the trip takes a little over two hours.
Both PeruRail and IncaRail offer a variety of transfer services, which are detailed below:
PeruRail offers the following services from Poroy, Ollantaytambo and Urubamba stations:
- Expedition Train, which has a cost starting at USD 74.
- Vistadome train that starts at USD 99.
- Hiram Bingham Train that starts at USD 495.
IncaRail has a very similar offer to its competitor:
- The Voyager which have prices starting at USD 70.
- The 360° which has prices starting at USD 89.
- The First Class which has prices starting at USD 210.
- The Private this alternative offers to rent an entire train car just for you. Costs and availability vary.
It is important to note that there is also the so-called local service train that as its name suggests is designed to meet the transportation needs of the people of the surrounding areas to Machu Picchu, the cost of this service that is only offered from the Ollantaytambo station is S/.20 soles and can only be purchased in person (it is not possible to buy this type of ticket online). To board the train it is mandatory to present the Peruvian National Identity Card (DNI).
You can also reach the lost city of the Incas by bus, the trip is on average 2 or 3 hours longer than the train trip, with the advantage that the cost is lower.
The first part of this route consists of taking a bus from the Almudena station in Cusco to the town of Santa Teresa, the trip takes approximately six hours. This section has an average cost of S/.50 soles (USD 15).
In the second stretch you must take a collective cab from the town of Santa Teresa to the so-called 'Central Hydroelectric', a journey that lasts approximately 30 minutes by car. The cost for this trip is around S/. 5 soles (USD 2). You can also choose to take a free hike of approximately two to three hours to the plant.
The third and last section has two alternatives:
- The first one is to take the tourist class train to reach the town of Aguas Calientes after approximately 45 minutes. This alternative has a cost of USD 31.
- The second is to hike along the train tracks for approximately 3 hours free of charge to the town of Aguas Calientes.
The Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is located in the so-called 'Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu' which is a National Park and both the citadel and the Sanctuary are controlled and administered by the National Institute of Culture of Peru or INC for its acronym, which is the body in charge of issuing tickets.
The cost of the ticket to enter Machu Picchu varies depending on the season (high or low) and is around S/.140 or USD 45.
The archaeological complex of Machu Picchu has, besides the citadel, the following alternatives:
- Huayna Picchu Mountain, the entrance fee for Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu is USD 70 but tickets must be purchased at least three to four months in advance, because due to high demand these are sold out quickly.
- Machu Picchu Mountain, the entrance fee for Machu Picchu citadel + Machu Picchu mountain is USD 70 and must also be separated in advance.
- Museo de sitio Chavez Ballon, the cost of the ticket for this museum is S/.22 (USD 6).
Whatever your decision, don't forget that Machu Picchu is nestled in the middle of a sub-tropical jungle, so wearing a good wide-brimmed hat, dark sunglasses, mosquito repellent and high-grade sunscreen is not a bad idea.