Getting to Machu Picchu
How best to visit and tour Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the world, set deep in the Andes mountains of Peru. Known as the ‘Lost City of the Incas’, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed citadel was originally designed to be completely self-contained, surrounded by agricultural terraces sufficient to feed the population and watered by natural springs. Located high above the Urubamba River, the cloud-shrouded ruins include palaces, baths, temples, storage rooms and some 150 houses, all in a remarkable state of preservation that will take your breath away.
Archaeological evidence shows construction began around 1462 at the height of the Inca Empire and ended with the arrival of Spanish conquest less than a hundred years later, when the unfinished site was abruptly abandoned. The Spanish never found the site as it was located some 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Cuzco and the polished dry-stone walls and buildings remained largely intact. Over time jungle gradually covered the site and few knew of its existence.
In 1911, American explorer Hiram Bingham was led up to the site by a local Quechua boy and the ‘Lost City’ was revealed to the Western world. There is still debate about whether Hiram Bingham was the first European to reach the site, however he is indisputably the most famous and July 2011 marks 100 years since his ‘rediscovery’ of this magnificent site.
There are several options you can choose from to visit Machu Picchu. You can either:
- Join a group tour and hike the Inca Trail or Lares Trek and visit Machu Picchu at the end, or
- Join a group tour, skip the hike and have free time in Cuzco then visit Machu Picchu on a day trip from Cuzco, or
- Take an Independent Travel package, with or without a trek
Please note: Due to Inca Trail permit restrictions, you must decide at the time of booking whether you want to trek the Inca Trail or not so that there is plenty of time to organise your permit in advance. Check this page for details on Inca Trail permits.
For a relaxing trip to Machu Picchu, we take a short transfer from Cuzco to Poroy, followed by a scenic rail journey to Aguas Calientes. Here we spend the night in a local hostel before rising early and taking a short bus ride to the summit. Seated in comfort in economy class, you will enjoy impressive passing views of the Andes and have plenty of space to store your belongings above your head or in luggage compartments. The transfer from Cuzco to Poroy takes about twenty minutes. The train takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes to reach Aguas Calientes and the bus ride the following day is approximately 30 minutes to the entrance of Machu Picchu. During the afternoon spent in Aguas Calientes you will be able to browse the shops and take a dip in the hot springs. The following morning, you will have plenty of time at Machu Picchu with your guide, making your way back to Cuzco in the afternoon.
If you are on an Overland Expedition or Adventure Tour that includes time to trek the Inca Trail or Lares Trek but you would prefer not to take part, you will have free time to enjoy the sights in and around Cuzco. A train/bus trip to Machu Picchu is then included in your tour price. If you are on a Budget Expeditions tour you can book a bus/train ride to Machu Picchu as an optional excursion.
See our Peru adventure tours page for the full list of packages that include a visit to Machu Picchu.