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Peru Treks Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Tour Operator

Inca Trail Peru Treks - Inca Trail Tour Operator

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Machu Picchu by Train (1 day)

 

Many people email us asking us how to book a traditional one day tour to Machu Picchu. Peru Treks does not offer a 1-day package to Machu Picchu, however it really is very simple for you to organize yourselves. We've included some information below to help you.

 

In order to plan your trip to Machu Picchu you have to understand a little about the geography of the area. Machu Picchu lay hidden from the world for such a long time because its location is fairly remote and inaccessible. Machu Picchu is located high up on a mountainside. The nearest town is Aguas Calientes which is located down in the valley beside the Vilcanota River. Aguas Calientes is only a couple of kilometres away from Machu Picchu as the crow flies but it takes a bus about 20 minutes to climb the narrow, steep zigzagging dirt track that connects the two.

There are no roads that connect Aguas Calientes to the outside world, you either have to take a train to Ollantaytambo (and then take a taxi or bus to Cusco), or take the train all the way back to Cusco. For the adventurous the only other real alternative is by foot by way of a number of scenic trails including the Classic 4 day Inca Trail.

 

 

STEP 01: Transport options for getting from Cusco to Aguas Calientes

 

Trains no longer run from the train station in Cusco city center. Instead several services depart from the station in Poroy, a small village about a 20 minute bus/taxi ride from downtown Cusco. However, the vast majority of trains to Machu Picchu actually depart from the station in Ollantaytambo, a beautiful Inca town located in the Sacred Valley about 65 kilometres from Cusco. We'll tell you how to get to Ollantaytambo later on.
 
96% of the trains to Machu Picchu are operated by the company PeruRail. Prices are quite high but the service is generally good. Details of the train services, departure times and prices can be found on their website www.perurail.com  Peru Rail is part owned by Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. Orient Express is an international company who also run the 5 star Hotel Monasterio in Cusco and the US$973 a night Sanctuary Lodge in Machu Picchu. The other 4% of trains to Machu Picchu are operated by Inca Rail. Inca Rail started to operate train in June 2010. Further details can be found on their website www.incarail.com 
 

 

During the peak months of May to September all of the train tickets to Machu Picchu can be sold out several days in advance. If you are on a tight schedule it is absolutely essential that you make you train reservations as far in advance as possible. Do not wait until you arrive in Cusco to buy your train tickets. PeruRail have improved their online reservation system and it is now fairly easy to make a booking and pay online using the credit cards VISA & MasterCard . Their website allows you to check availability and search for the cheapest service available. Once you have bought your ticket online don't forget to print out your E-ticket and bring it with you to Peru. Before boarding the train you will have to check-in at the train station and change your E-ticket for an embarkation ticket. Try to arrive at the train station at least 30 minutes before the train departs.

   

(i) Poroy Station (near Cusco) to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) and back.

Peru Rail currently offers only 4 departure a day to Machu Picchu from the station in Poroy, one departure on the more economic Expedition service, two departures on the comfortable Vistadome service and 1 departure on the ridiculously high priced Hiram Bingham service. Tickets for the Expedition and Vistadome services often sell out many weeks / months in advance so best to book online as soon as you can. If tickets have already sold out for this service don't panic! Most of the trains to Machu Picchu depart from Ollantaytambo station (in the Sacred Valley) and not Poroy station.

 

Trains: Poroy (Cusco) to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu)

 

Service

Departure

Arrival

Price (one way)

Vistadome 31

06:40

09:52

US$ 85

Expedition 33

07:42

10:51

US$ 73

Vistadome 203

08:25

12:11

US$ 85

Hiram Bingham 11

09:05

12:24

US$ 397.50

  

Trains: Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) to Poroy (Cusco)

 

Service

Departure

Arrival

Price (one way)

Vistadome 32

15:20

19:05

US$ 88

Expedition 34

16:43

20:23

US$ 75

Vistadome 604

17:27

20:50

US$ 88

Hiram Bingham 12

17:50

21:16

US$ 397.50

 

A round-trip ticket on the Hiram Bingham service costs US$795 and includes pre-dinner cocktails, live entertainment, brunch served on outward journey and 4-course dinner with wine on return, all bus transfers, a guided tour of Machu Picchu, entrance tickets to Machu Picchu and afternoon tea at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge. (details and prices subject to change, see PeruRail website for information).

 

  

(ii) Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley) to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) and back.

This involves a combination of bus/taxi between Cusco and Ollantaytambo and then train between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes.

The round-trip services between Poroy (Cusco) and Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) tends to fill up pretty quickly so if they're full you'll have to travel by road from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and then take the train between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu). Ollantaytambo is about 65 kilometres from Cusco along a scenic paved road. You can take a taxi from Cusco to Ollantaytambo which takes about 1 hour 45 minutes and costs about US$35. Alternatively you can take a local bus from Cusco to Urubamba and another local bus from Urubamba to Ollantaytambo which takes about 2 hours 30 minutes in total and costs about US$5 per person. Trains between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes take about 1 hour 30 minutes.  You have to arrive at the station 30 minutes before the departure time.

 

Information about "Routes & Timetables" between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes can be found under the heading "Sacred Valley > Machu Picchu."

 

 

Trains: Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley) to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu)

 

Service

Departure

Arrival

Price (one way)

Expedition 71

05:07

06:34

US$56 (US$60)

Expedition 81

06:10

07:40

US$56 (US$60)

Vistadome 301

07:05

08:27

US$74 (US$78)

Expedition 83

07:45

09:15

US$63 (US$65)

Vistadome 601

08:00

09:24

US$75 (US$80)

Vistadome 501

08:53

10:29

US$75 (US$80)

Vistadome 203

10:32

12:11

US$79 (US$84)

Expedition 73

12:58

14:24

US$56 (US$60)

Vistadome 303

13:27

14:49

US$65 (US$66)

Vistadome 603

15:37

17:02

US$58 (US$60)

Expedition 75

19:00

20:43

US$56 (US$63)

Expedition 51

21:00

22:50

US$52 (US$56)

     

   

Trains: Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) to Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley)

 

Service

Departure

Arrival

Price (one way)

Expedition 50

05:35

07:44

US$48 (US$56)

Expedition 72

08:53

10:52

US$50 (US$58)

Vistadome 302

10:55

12:32

US$65 (US$72)

Vistadome 204

13:37

15:04

US$70 (US$86)

Expedition 74

14:55

16:31

US$63 (US$74)

Vistadome 304

15:48

17:29

US$80 (US$92)

Expedition 504

16:22

18:10

US$72 (US$86)

Vistadome 604

17:27

18:56

US$80 (US$106)

Vistadome 606

18:10

19:45

US$77 (US$85)

Expedition 84

18:45

20:18

US$58 (US$70)

Expedition 76

21:30

23:01

US$55 (US$66)

 

 

Notes: the prices given are the price each way when bought as part of a return ticket. For example if you take the Expedition 83 service from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes (US$63) and come back on the Expedition 84 service (US$58) it will cost you 63 + 58 = US$121 per person.
The prices shown in brackets are only if you decide to buy just a one way ticket. For example say you walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and then want to buy a one way ticket from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo on the Expedition 84 service it will cost you US$70 per person.

         

*The above timetable and prices were taken from the Peru Rail website on 15 December 2013 and are valid until the end of 2014. Details, times and prices may be subject to change. The information refers to arrival & departure times at Aguas Calientes station. Walking from the train station to where the buses depart for Machu Picchu plus the bus ride can add another 30 minutes to you journey assuming that you don't have to queue for either your bus ticket or your entrance ticket. Booking online is a similar process to booking flights. After you have paid for your ticket online you can then print out two copies of an E-ticket which you will have to bring with you to Cusco. The E-tickets will have to be exchanged for embarkation tickets at the train station so try to arrive at the station at least an hour before departure.

      

 

The Trains

  

Expedition Service (Peru Rail)

This is a new train service introduced in 2010. The Expedition service has large panoramic windows and additional windows in the roof allowing you to enjoy the mountain scenery. A snack and hot drink are included with the Expedition service. There is also a table in front of you and the seats are comfortable. Overall not a lot of difference from the more expensive Vistadome service and, in our opinion, offering good value for money.

 

The Vistadome Service (PeruRail)

The Vistadome service has large panoramic windows and additional windows in the roof allowing you to enjoy the mountain scenery. A snack and hot drink are included with the Vistadome service. There is also a table in front of you. With the Vistadome service you get posh leather seats which are very comfortable with more leg room than the Expedition service. However the main advantage is that you arrive at Aguas Calientes before the Expedition train (but only just).

 

Hiram Bingham Service (PeruRail)

The Hiram Bingham train is the most luxurious way to journey between Cusco and Machu Picchu. The carriages are painted a distinctive blue and gold while interiors are luxurious, warm and inviting with elegant decoration in the style of the 1920's Pullman trains. As passengers step on board they are encompassed in a world of polished wood, gleaming cutlery and glittering glass. The train consists of two Dining Cars, an Observation Bar Car and a Kitchen Car, and can carry up to 84 passengers. Enjoying such a luxurious journey as you pass through small villages that can't afford adequate schools or healthcare may make some people feel uncomfortable, and rightly so.  Ecotourism at its worst.

 

 

       

STEP 02: Bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

The bus from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu takes about 20 minutes and costs US$10 each way (US$19 return). The ride itself is spectacular as the narrow track winds its way up the mountainside. It can be a bit scary at times with almost vertical drops plunging down into the Vilcanota Valley below especially when you meet a bus coming in the other direction! The scenery is lush cloud forest with great views of the sacred mountain Putucusi on the opposite side of the valley. If it wasn't for the rush to get to Machu Picchu this ride would be an attraction in itself. If you look closely out of the window you can see splashes of pink and orange flowers growing on the slopes - these are actually the orchid Wiñay Wayna which can be commonly seen throughout the region.

The buses are clean and modern with air-conditioning.

You have to buy your bus ticket before you get on the bus in the morning. There is a small ticket office just opposite the departure point which opens at 5:15am. The first group of buses depart from Aguas Calientes at about 5:20am then at 10 minute intervals throughout the day depending on demand until about 4pm. However if you really want to get to Machu Picchu early I would recommend arriving by about 5:10am since during the peak season there can be quite a queue by 5:30am!! It speeds things up if you buy your bus ticket in advance, either from the ticket office in Aguas Calientes the night before or from the Consettur offices in Cusco (located in Avenida Pardo opposite Parque Espana - its a short walk from the main post office or just ask a taxi driver to take you there which will cost 3 Soles / US$1). Each bus departs when its full so by the time the 20th bus departs Aguas Calientes the 1st bus is already on its way back.

The last buses depart Machu Picchu at about 5:30pm, be sure to check the time of the last bus as it can be a long walk back to Aguas Calientes if you miss it (well about 1 hour if you follow the more direct route rather than follow the road)

 

Why do so many people want to get to Machu Picchu by 6am in the morning? Climbing Huayna Picchu.

A few years ago you could wake up in Aguas Calientes, have breakfast and stroll down to where the buses depart, buy your ticket, have another coffee and easily get on the first bus at 6:30am arriving at Machu Picchu for just before 7am. You'd be one of the first people there. The next bus wouldn't arrive for another 20 minutes. Although officially sun rise at Machu Picchu is at about 5:30am the sun doesn't actually start to break out from behind the mountains until about 7:20am (give or take 10 minutes due to variations throughout the year). So arriving at Machu Picchu for about 7am in the morning is ideal as it takes about 10 minutes to walk up to the Watchman's Hut which offers the best views over Machu Picchu.

As from May 2007 the government has put a limit of 400 on the number of people who can climb Huayna Picchu, the mountain that you see rising up behind Machu Picchu. This means that during the peak season if you really want to be among the lucky (or mad!) 400 you really have to make the effort to get up early. As soon as you enter Machu Picchu its recommended that you make your way over to the base of Huayna Picchu where you'll find a small hut handing out the tickets to climb. The tickets are free. The first 200 people can climb Huayna Picchu straight away, however they all have to be back down by 10am when the 2nd group of 200 can make the climb. It takes about an hour to reach the top climbing slowly - not recommended for sufferers of vertigo. The narrow trail can be quite dangerous at times after wet weather. Unfortunately if you are arriving by the Inca Trail or by train the same day then it is becoming increasingly difficult (in fact almost impossible in the peak months) to climb Huayna Picchu the same day. You'll just have to spend the night in Aguas Calientes and return early the following morning. 

 

STEP 03: Entrance to Machu Picchu

IMPORTANT NOTE: Tickets to enter Machu Picchu can no longer be bought at the entrance to Machu Picchu itself. You now have to buy the entrance tickets at the Machu Picchu Cultural Centre in Aguas Calientes (10m from the main Plaza, opens at 5:15am). The entrance fee is 122 Peruvian Soles (which is approximately US$44). There is a 50% discount for students with a valid ISIC card. They only accept payment in Peruvian Soles and rarely have any change so make sure that you take the exact amount. If you don't they'll just tell you to come back when you have the correct change - which can be difficult at 5:15am !! If you can, best to buy the entrance tickets the day before. Alternatively you can buy the tickets in Cusco at the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (INC) offices which can be found at Calle San Bernado a few blocks from the main Plaza de Armas). The tickets are valid for 3 days from the day of purchase which means you have time to travel to Aguas Calientes, stay the night and enter Machu Picchu the following morning. However once you enter Machu Picchu they are only valid for that day. If you want to return to Machu Picchu the following day then you have to buy another ticket!!

 

Machu Picchu opens at 6am and stays open until 6pm. You can take small bags into the ruins but anything larger must be left at the luggage store near the entrance for US$1.5 a piece.

Machu Picchu is a lot quieter before 11am and after 3:30pm. Monday is the busiest day, as many people head off to Machu Picchu after visiting Pisac market on Sunday. Sunday is one of the quietest days. June, July, August and September are the busiest months when as many as 2500 people visit the ruins everyday. Even during the low season you can expect between 1500 and 2000 visitors per day.

 

STEP 04: Guided Tour

Guides are available at the site. Expect to pay around US$20 per guide for a 2 hour private tour. You may be lucky and find a group that you can join for as little as US$3 per person depending on the size of the group. Check that the guide speaks a language that you understand !! If you don't want to spend half your time listening to the descriptions again in Spanish go with a guide that is going to speak just in English (the information will be more in-depth and informative). Guides are not mandatory and you can enter Machu Picchu and explore it on your own or with the help of a guidebook (or you can just stand next to one of the several places of interest and listen to the explanations given by someone else's guide!)

A description of the ruins in detail is beyond the scope of this web site. For an excellent guide try Peter Frost's Exploring Cusco which can be bought quite inexpensively in Cusco. As the name suggests it also has plenty of information about Cusco, the Sacred Valley and the Inca Trail. The website www.machupicchuperu.info has some good photos and tourist information.

  

Optional: Staying an Extra night

If you want longer at the ruins or want to see them at sunrise when the light is more gentle and there are fewer visitors then you'll have to stay the night. You can stay at the super expensive US$750 a night Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, which is the only hotel adjacent to Machu Picchu ruins, or you can spend the night in one of the many hotels in Aguas Calientes.

   

There's not a great deal  to do in Aguas Calientes - it doesn't rate as a particularly pretty town being built mostly of concrete, much of which looks half finished, but I think visitors will agree that it does have its own individual charm and character. There's a feel of a frontier town about it, with the railway forming the high street and the steamy jungle-clad mountains closing in on all sides.

There are plenty of restaurants and hotels in the town and its main attraction are the thermal springs which gives Aguas (waters) Calientes (hot) its name. The outdoor springs are situated 15 minutes walk up from the town centre. They are fairly basic, with facilities to change and shower, and are used by the locals as much as the tourists, but it's a great place to relax, buy a beer, and enjoy the views.

 

Taking the easy option - buying a tour

 

Note: Peru Treks does not offer this service. You must purchase this service with another company.

There are hundreds of tour companies in Cusco and Lima queuing up to sell you a space on their tours to Machu Picchu, as well as specialist (and not so specialist) international tour operators. Most local operators offer a simple one day excursion from Cusco to Machu Picchu including all transport and a professional guide (check to see if the guide speaks good English). It is also worth checking to see what is the maximum number of people in the group. A group of up to 16 persons is easily manageable for a tour guide but more than 20 becomes difficult. I've seen plenty of guides in Machu Picchu with groups as big as 40 people trailing after them so make sure the maximum group size is put in writing when you sign up. Also make sure that everything included in the price is clearly listed. Consider items such as the transfer from you hotel, train tickets to Aguas Calientes (service and departure times), bus tickets between Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu entrance fees, guide (is the tour in English only), any meals etc. You'll usually have about 4 hours at the ruins themselves

 

 

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Peru Treks, Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Specialists, working to help the community.

Office Address: Avenida Pardo 540 (in the corner of the small park), Cusco, Peru

Telephone 00 51 84 222722 (from overseas), 084 222722 (from in Peru), 222722 (from in Cusco)