How to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu (via Aguas Calientes)

Does finding out how to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu feel confusing? Not quite sure what the options are, how much they cost or what they involve?

Because of the remote location in the mountains, it isn’t that easy to get there. And you’ll have to do the journey in 2 parts: Cusco to Aguas Calientes (the town next to the famous Inca site) and then Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu.

Luckily, there’s something for all budgets. So whether you’re prioritising comfort or trying to find the cheapest way, working out how to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco doesn’t have to be a hard decision.

Find out more in this complete guide to the available transport options, journey times, costs, how to book and much more…

Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a qualifying purchase.

Once you make the journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu, you'll be rewarded with these magnificent views of the citadel, high in the Andes Mountains. The iconic peak of Huayna Picchu sits above the ruins

How to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu

Despite being a World Wonder and one of the world’s most popular tourist sites, it’s not straightforward to get to Machu Picchu. Partly due to its remote location and partly from attempts to lessen the impact of tourism.

Cusco is the nearest city to Machu Picchu and home to its nearest airport. Ths means pretty much everyone has to pass through here to reach the Inca site, with many people travelling from the capital Lima to Machu Picchu.

Below, you’ll find an overview of transport options, including how long they take and rough cost…

TransportCost (one-way, per person, approx.)Journey Time (approx.)
Cusco to Aguas CalientesTourist Bus + 2-Hour Hike60 Soles + free10 hours
Colectivo + 8-Hour Hike*10 Soles + free12 hours
TrainFrom 60 USD4 hours
Aguas Calientes to Machu PicchuBus12 USD 30 minutes
Uphill HikeFree1.5 hours
Tours to Machu PicchuVariesFrom 100 USD
*Requires staying at least 1 night in Ollantaytambo.

The ruins in front of Huayna Picchu with endless mountains in the background

What is the Best Way to Travel from Cusco to Machu Picchu?

  • Budget friendly: bus to Hidroelectrica + walk to Aguas Calientes + walk to Machu Picchu
  • For very tight budgets: colectivo + hike from Ollantaytambo
  • Most comfortable: train + bus

Overall, the most comfortable and time-efficient way is by train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and then the bus.

If that’s not in your budget, then the cheapest way to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco on a tight budget is by taking a colectivo to Ollantaytambo and then hiking to the ruins. This will cost you as little as 5 USD.

Importantly, you cannot travel directly to Machu Picchu from the city of Cusco.

First, you’ll have to get to Aguas Calientes – the town next door. And there, you’ll switch transport and travel from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu by bus or on foot.

Can you Drive from Cusco to Machu Picchu?

No, Machu Picchu has no road links with the outside world. The only way to reach the town is on foot or by train.

It’s possible to take a bus from Cusco to Hidroelectrica, the nearest town with a road. But then you’ll have to reach the town of Aguas Calientes on foot.

I don’t think it’s possible to drive to Hidroelectrica by yourself as there’s no parking in this tiny town. Plus, the roads to reach there are not particularly safe, including passing through rocky overhangs and large construction sites.

The impressive brick work of the ruins on the site with the imposing peak of Huayna Picchu behind against a cloudy background

Step 1: How to get from Cusco to Aguas Calientes

To reach Machu Picchu, everyone passes through Cusco. It’s a city at a staggering 3400 metres (11,000 feet) above sea level where you’ll start to feel the altitude.

Luckily, the journey to Aguas Calientes (the other gateway to Machu Picchu) is 2000 metres (6500 feet) lower. Meaning the weather is completely different there!

Without doing a 5-day trek through the Andes, there are 3 ways to get from Cusco to Aguas Calientes:

  1. Bus to Hidroelectrica + walk
  2. Colectivo to Ollantaytambo + hike
  3. Cusco to Aguas Calientes Train
Machu Picchu at daybreak with a golden glow and light clouds.

OPTION 1: Bus from Cusco to Machu Picchu (Plus 2-Hour Hike)

Taking the bus to the end of the road that runs closest to Machu Picchu is one of the more budget-friendly options.

The bus runs from Cusco to Hidroelectrica, which is around 10 km from Aguas Calientes. From there, you’ll need to walk the rest of the way along the train tracks.

Coming back from Aguas Calientes to Cusco, you can do this in the reverse direction. Walk to Hidroelectrica and then the buses leave for Cusco around 2 pm.

Cusco to Hidroelectrica Bus

Getting the bus from Cusco to Machu Picchu is the perfect balance of budget without an extremely long hike. However, it’s a bumpy ride along winding mountain roads.

Avoid sitting at the very back and have travel sickness medication to hand. The last hour or so is on rough, dirt roads so is even more bumpy.

Journey Time

The bus takes 7 or 8 hours from Cusco, typically leaving at 6 am. Including two stops for breakfast and lunch, plus you get dropped off next to a restaurant in Hidroelectrica.

Cusco to Hidroelectrica Bus Prices

A ticket for the bus from Cusco to Hidroelectrica costs 60 soles each way.

Expect to be offered a slightly higher price. But you should be able to negotiate down to 60 soles easily enough.

Remember, this isn’t public transport, so the price is not fixed. Knowing what price you should be paying is key to successfully haggling.

Tickets can be bought through sites such as RedBus and through agency offices in Cusco. I’d recommend booking at least a couple of days in advance to avoid missing out, more in the high season months of June to August.

Hiking from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes

Once you’re off the bus in Hidroelectrica you might be forgiven for thinking you’re in the middle of nowhere. And you are, really.

There aren’t any signs pointing you in the right direction and it can feel a little ‘well what do I do now?’

Head away from the restaurant, following the road in the opposite direction of the bridge. Continue until you reach the checkpoint where you’ll need to give your details to the Machu Picchu rangers.

From this point, you’ll find a handful of signs keeping you on track until you reach the train lines. Then it’s just a case of following them until the end.

The route is safe, popular and few trains run on this part of the track. A short distance before reaching Aguas Calientes, you’ll take the path away from the tracks as they head into a tunnel. This means the end is near!

But not too near, as it’s at least another 30-minute walk to the centre of Aguas Calientes!


  • 10 km hike
  • Takes 2 hours
  • Mostly flat but made more difficult by humid conditions and bugs
Sign showing the distance of the hike from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes, doing this is one of the cheapest ways to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu.

How long does it take to walk from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes?

2 hours – for most people at a normal pace.

How far is the walk to Aguas Calientes from Hidroelectrica?

The route is almost 11 km from the bus drop-off to Aguas Calientes following the train tracks.

How difficult is the Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes walk?

The walk itself is fairly easy but the humid jungle conditions make it a bit more challenging.

Unlike many hikes in Peru, this one is almost entirely flat. However, mosquitos and other biting insects are everywhere here since it’s a lower altitude than Cusco, so cover up and bring insect repellent.

The lower altitude also brings warmer and more humid conditions. And in the rainy months, downpours can happen at any time leaving you and your belongings soaked through.

Looking along the train tracks across a green metal bridge - the path runs parallel along the right-hand side

OPTION 2: Getting to Machu Picchu by Colectivo + An 8-Hour Hike

A slight variation on the route via Hidroelectrica above, this travelling via Ollantaytambo at the heart of the Sacred Valley.

Once in Ollantaytambo, you’ll spend a full day hiking 28 km to Aguas Calientes along the train tracks. It’s budget-friendly but not easy.


  • Colectivo from Cusco to Ollantaytambo (10 soles, 2 hours)
  • Stay overnight
  • Travel to KM82 (colectivo, 30 minutes)
  • 28 km hike along the train tracks (8+ hours)
  • Return from Aguas Calientes to Cusco by train or bus from Hidroelectrica
  • This option plus hiking up to the ruins is the cheapest way to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco

Where to get the Colectivo from Cusco to Ollantaytambo

The colectivos leave from the corner of Calle Pavitos and Avenida Grau (Highway 3S).

Cusco to Ollantaytambo Colectivo Cost

10 soles per person.

Journey Time to Ollantaytambo

1.5 to 2 hours (or even slightly more), depending on the number of stops to drop off and collect other passengers.

Hiking from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes

This is a long, 28-km walk along the train tracks to reach Aguas Calientes. Once you start, you can’t change your mind and board a train or bus, you have to keep going or turn back to start over a different way.

From Ollantaytambo, you first need to get to KM82 – named based on a distance marker of the train tracks. Colectivos take 30 minutes, cost a few soles, and start early in the morning.

This is essential as the hike takes around 8 hours, so you have to start early to reach Aguas Calientes by late afternoon. As such, you really need to stay overnight in Ollantaytambo too.

It’s tough but doable as a day hike – but definitely pack light!

For a full guide on this route, check out this guide to hiking from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes by Along Dusty Roads.

Looking out the train window on the journey from Machu Picchu to Cusco. Windows in the ceiling mean you get a much wider view of the beautiful mountains

OPTION 3: Cusco to Machu Picchu Train

Taking the Cusco to Aguas Calientes train is the quickest and most comfortable way of completing the journey.

The route offers fabulous views and is an experience in itself. Marvel at the mountains from the comfort of your seat.

But remember, the train doesn’t go all the way to Machu Picchu. The station is in Aguas Calientes, from where you can walk or get the bus to the site entrance.


  • Journey time: 4 hours
  • Cost: From 70 USD
  • Try to travel during daylight
  • Direct services are better than bimodal (train + bus)


PeruRail and Inca Rail are the two companies that run train services between Cusco and Aguas Calientes.

There is little difference between the two companies in terms of ticket prices, comfort levels, quality of service, and journey times and departure times.

I’d recommend you book with whichever company has the time or price that best suits you.

What is the best Train from Cusco to Machu Picchu?

Unless you really need to be somewhere for a specific time, I’d recommend getting a train that runs entirely in daylight. This way you’ll see the incredible views and won’t miss the imposing snow-capped mountains if it’s dark outside.

Sunrise is at around 6 am and sunset is at around 6 pm all year round. Meaning if you get a train back from Machu Picchu to Cusco after 6 pm, you might not see anything out the window!

Another top tip is to get a train that runs all the way between Cusco and Aguas Calientes.

Some services are bimodal (bus plus train) whereas others are just train. So make sure you check when booking to avoid disappointment.

What is a bimodal train service?

The majority of train services operating between Cusco and Aguas Calientes are bimodal outside of the peak months of June, July and August. This means two modes of transport: a bus and a train.

If you’re taking a bimodal service, the bus will take you from Cusco to Ollantaytambo train station (2 hours on the bus) or Poroy train station (30 minutes on the bus).

From Ollantaytambo, the train then takes 1.5 hours to reach Machu Picchu town, or from Poroy the train takes 3.5 hours. You’ll always arrive at and leave Aguas Calientes by train.

Perhaps sadly, most bimodal routes run via Ollantaytambo. Which means less than half the journey is actually on the train.

I’d recommend booking a bimodal service that runs via Poroy (PeruRail only). Or booking a direct, train-only service if you’re there in the high season.

Cost of the Machu Picchu Train

Tickets for the Machu Picchu train start from around 60 USD one-way. The cost doesn’t change whether you travel direct or bimodal.

Upgrades are available for better views on the Vistadome (PeruRail) or 360-degree (Inca Rail) trains, which have bigger windows.

The stepped design of the agricultural zone of Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu Train Times

Even though the first service leaves Cusco at 3.20 in the morning. It’s not possible to get to Machu Picchu in time for the first (6 am), second (7 am) or third (8 am) entry slots of the day if you leave Cusco that morning.

And the earliest direct (not bimodal) train won’t get you to Aguas Calientes until almost 11 am. This means you’ll have to book at midday or later entrance ticket.

Trains from Cusco heading to Machu Picchu generally leave in the morning, mostly between 5 am and 9 am. However, Inca Rail do have afternoon departures, which are perfect if you’re wanting to visit Machu Picchu early the next day.

Coming back from Aguas Calientes to Cusco, the opposite happens. Almost all trains leave Aguas Calientes from mid-afternoon onwards.

Train times do vary by season and day, so make sure you check online for times on your travel dates.

If you want to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, you’ll most likely have an early time entrance ticket. For this, it’s best to stay overnight in Aguas Calientes before so you don’t miss your slot.

Booking the Machu Picchu Train

For the best price, book directly on the PeruRail or Inca Rail websites.

Also, keep your eye out for offers. Especially in the low season, you can sometimes get sales with around one-third off.

Tickets are valid for the specific service you book but can be exchanged in advance (up to 24 hours). Once you’ve booked online, you’ll receive a confirmation via email.

Importantly, before getting on the train, you need to go to a ticket office (Cusco or Aguas Calientes) to collect your actual paper ticket.

This is when get assigned a seat, so avoid leaving it to the last minute as you could be split up from anyone you’ve booked with. You can collect your ticket up to a few days in advance.

Step 2: Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

Aguas Calientes is the gateway to Machu Picchu. This small town sits at the base of the mountain, housing and feeding thousands of visitors daily.

From Aguas Calientes, there are only 2 ways to get to Machu Picchu – taking the bus or walking.

OPTION 1: Machu Picchu Bus

Although not cheap, taking the bus to Machu Picchu is the quickest and easiest way to get to the ruins.

It also saves a 2-hour uphill climb with a 400-metre elevation gain! Worth it, if you ask me…

Machu Picchu Bus Prices

The bus costs 12 USD one-way and 24 USD return, per person. Discounted rates are available for children and Peruvians.

Machu Picchu Bus Times

The buses to Machu Picchu run from 5.30 am until 3.30 pm and take 30 minutes to complete the 10-km journey.

You’ll leave in order of your entry time. And, the earliest you’ll be on the bus is 30 minutes before the time on your Machu Picchu ticket.

Where to buy Tickets

Tickets can be bought from the office in Aguas Calientes. They can be purchased on the day or in advance (no more than the day before is necessary).

You’ll need to buy your ticket from the office before joining the queue for the bus. Payment is taken in either USD or Peruvian soles with cash or card. Your passport will be required.

You can also buy a ticket from the small booth at the entrance of Machu Picchu. This is a good option if you’re unsure about wanting to walk down from the site to Aguas Calientes.

Alternatively, if you’d like to book your bus tickets online in advance, especially if you’re planning on getting an early bus. Tickets will be sent to you via email around 48 hours before you’re due to travel.

Where is the Bus stop to Machu Picchu?

The Machu Picchu bus stop in Aguas Calientes is located on Avenida Hermanos Ayar. This is the main road alongside the river, between the two main markets.

You won’t be able to miss the ever-growing queue of people that line the road every day waiting for the buses to Machu Picchu.

OPTION 2: Walking to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes

Opting to walk rather than take the bus to Machu Picchu is money-saving and gives you a great sense of accomplishment. But it’s not quick or easy.

Tickets for the buses can only be bought in Aguas Calientes. And this is also the only place you can board a bus.

So once you start walking up, there really is no changing your mind unless you walk all the way back to the start!


It’s completely free to walk from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu.


In total, walking to the entrance of Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes will take around 1.5 to 2.5 hours.

The first 20 to 30 minutes of the walk are flat as you head out of the town. At the checkpoint by the bridge, you’ll only be allowed to enter the trail around 1 to 1.5 hours before the entry time on your ticket.

From the checkpoint, it’s another 1 to 2 hours (depending on fitness) of pure uphill, upstairs walking to the entrance.

Since one of the best times to visit Machu Picchu is at 6 am (the first slot of the day), if you’re hoping to make this, I’d recommend taking the bus unless you’re an experienced uphill hiker.

Difficulty of the Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu Walk

This is a hard hike! Once you pass the checkpoint, it’s 1.7 km of steps heading uphill – at over 2000 metres above sea level!

Hot and humid conditions combined with the endless steps make this a mentally tough climb. But, you’ll get a great reward when you finally get to look out over Machu Picchu from inside the site.

ALTERNATIVE: Machu Picchu Tours from Cusco

As probably the most famous and most visited tourist attraction in Peru, there’s no shortage of tours running to Machu Picchu. So whether you’re after a cheap but cheerful day out or a more luxurious experience, there’s something for everyone…

Machu Picchu Day Tour from Cusco

To get to Machu Picchu and back in a day from Cusco, you’ll have to travel by train. There’s no other way to complete the journey in this time.

Many agencies in Cusco offer one-day tours, plus they can be booked online through tour operators and sites like Get Your Guide. For instance, this Machu Picchu one-day tour from Cusco includes all travel, a guided tour and your ticket for the Inca site.

Day trips to Machu Picchu typically start early in the morning, as it takes at least 4 hours to get to Aguas Calientes. Then it’s straight on a bus up to the citadel ruins. A short period of free time in the town to grab some souvenirs is followed by the return train journey.

Overnight Tours to Machu Picchu

For most 2-day, 1-night tours, you’ll stay in the town of Aguas Calientes at the foot of Machu Picchu. When booking a tour, a hotel room is normally included in the price but the quality can vary.

Overnight tours do give you greater flexibility in transport options. One option is to take a bus from Cusco to Hidroelectrica on Day 1. Then visit Machu Picchu early on Day 2 before hiking back to Hidroelectrica to get the return bus.

The journey times are long with the bus option, but you can save some money by doing it this way. For example, this 2-day bus tour from Cusco, which includes lunch and dinner.

Do you have any questions or want any more information? If so, drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

Information is correct as of January 2024 but is subject to change in future.

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How to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu

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