There are many options to travel from Lima to Machu Picchu but journeys usually include a combination of plane, bus and train. From Lima, all travellers will first need to make their way to Cusco by plane or bus, from where most will continue on to Ollantaytambo. From there, the final stop is Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo or Machu Picchu Town, the base for visiting Machu Picchu itself.
Aguas Calientes is normally reached by train. For those planning to arrive at Machu Picchu on foot via the Inca Trail, there is no need to go further than Cusco since most Inca Trail treks start and end at in Aguas Calientes.
We break down the travel routes and options for you.
The easiest and fastest way to transfer from Lima to Cusco is by plane, taking around 1 hour 20 minutes. Several airlines operate flights, including LAN, Peruvian Airlines, Star Peru and others. Realistic fares can range from around USD 90 to USD 250.
For those on a tighter budget and with more time to spare, it is possible to make the journey by bus. Several companies operate bus services linking Lima to Cusco, with prices ranging from around USD 20 to USD 60. The bus ride takes over 20 hours and there are departures at least every hour.
There are a few options for travel from Cusco to Ollantaytambo. The first and most comfortable is to hire a private taxi which will cost about USD 30. A cheaper option is to take a shared minibus, which costs around USD 4. Taxis and shared minibuses take around 90 minutes. Slower and least comfortable but cheapest is the public bus. This stops at Urubamba and takes up to two hours. The price is around USD 1.25. It is also possible to rent a car and drive yourself.
From Ollantaytambo, there is no bus transport and the most common way to travel to Machu Picchu from there is by train. Two companies run trains on this line, Peru Rail and Inca Rail, although the majority of trains are operated by Peru Rail. Tickets are not cheap and start from around USD120 return for one person. Peru Rail offers two services from Ollantaytambo, ‘Expedition’ and ‘Vistadome’. The first is the standard service and carriages feature large windows that allow you to admire the view. The carriages in ‘Vistadome’ have roof windows, offering an even more impressive panorama. Inca Rail offers broadly comparable services.
There are other alternatives for the journey from Lima to Machu Picchu, as per the below.
- Cusco to Aguas Calientes by train
It is possible to travel directly from Cusco to Aguas Calientes by train (trains depart from Poroy station, a 20-minute drive from Cusco itself). Tickets start at around USD 160 (return). Peru Rail offers a third service out of Cusco known as the ‘Hiram Bingham’. These trains represent the most luxurious way to travel to Machu Picchu, with beautiful 1920 carriages, a restaurant car, an observation car and much more included in the package. Unsurprisingly, the price for this service is correspondingly high, costing around USD 875 (return).
- Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes on foot
It is possible to take a local bus from Ollantaytambo to Santa Maria and then a shared minibus to the hydroelectric station. From there it is a three-hour hike to Aguas Calientes.
There are different variations for travel from Lima to Machu Picchu depending on your time restraints and budgetary limits. However, you decide to make the trip, when you finally catch your first glimpse of the mysterious ruins of Machu Picchu, you will surely think it was all worthwhile. Before planning a trip to this majestic place, it will be helpful to know when is the best time to visit Machu Picchu.