It isn’t possible to travel directly from Lima to Machu Picchu. This means the journey requires 3 different sections with a range of transport options available for each.
As such, it’s important to pick routes that best match your travel style and preferences. Because here, you’re going to be sacrificing comfort for price.
So whether you’re looking to travel from Lima to Cusco and onto Machu Picchu the quickest or cheapest way possible. Or looking to build your itinerary in the south of Peru, this guide has you covered.
Here, you’ll find a detailed explanation of how to get to Machu Picchu from Lima. There’s information on flying, buses, hiking, taking the train and treks. Plus, where to stop along the way to have the best experience of Peru…
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How to get from Lima to Machu Picchu: Overview
Unfortunately, there is no way to get directly to the Machu Picchu Inca site from Lima. Unfortunate but unsurprising given the mountain-top site is completely cut off, with no roads in or out.
Instead, you’ll need to make use of planes, trains, buses and/or hiking trails to get from Lima Peru to Machu Picchu. And, you’ll have to travel via Cusco, the popular Andean city that is the gateway to Machu Picchu.
In short, the journey from Lima can be broken down into 3 sections.
- Travel from Lima to Cusco
- Get from Cusco to Aguas Calientes (the town at the base of Machu Picchu)
- Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
Here’s a top-line summary of your options for each:
|Mode of Transport
|Estimated Cost (one-way, per person) and how to book
|Lima to Cusco
|50 USD (base fare, personal item only), use Skyscanner to compare airlines and prices
|30 USD (115 Soles), use Bus Bud to see available services
|Bus via other towns/cities
|Around 50 USD (dependent on stops), use Bus Bud to check connections
|Cusco to Aguas Calientes
|60+ USD, use PeruRail or Inca Rail
|Bus + hike
|60 Soles + free, book through an agency in Cusco
|200+ USD, book through an agency in Cusco
|2 to 5 days
|Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
|12 USD, book in person in the town
Quick-Fire Questions on How to get to Machu Picchu from Lima
The answers to a few key questions before we get into the details of how to get to Machu Picchu…
Can you do Machu Picchu in a day from Lima?
While it is technically possible, visiting Machu Picchu in one day from Lima is not a good idea.
Firstly, it’s a LONG day and honestly, Machu Picchu shouldn’t be rushed. But also because visiting in one day from Lima relies on making multiple transport connections with no delays to get there and back.
If just one of those connections doesn’t happen you could miss Machu Picchu or end up stuck in Aguas Calientes or Cusco.
And delays aren’t exactly a rare occurrence in this part of the world. With protests around the Inca site happening more often and windy conditions in Cusco delaying flights frequently.
Is there a Train from Lima to Machu Picchu?
No. It isn’t possible to just travel from Lima to Machu Picchu by train.
The Machu Picchu train that you might have heard of runs from Cusco to Aguas Calientes – the town below the ruins. From there, you’ll need to walk or take the bus to the entrance of the ruins.
How do I get from Lima to Machu Picchu by Plane?
You can’t fly to Machu Picchu or any towns close to it.
- Fly from Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport to Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cusco
- There’s around 30 daily services
- You’ll then need to continue overland to Machu Picchu
With so many services and airlines, use Skyscanner to find the best prices and times for your flight from Lima to Cusco. Saving you time to enjoy your trip and keep travel planning efficient.
How Far is Machu Picchu from Lima by Plane?
Flying between Lima and Cusco takes approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes. The straight-line ground distance is 586 km (364 miles).
From Cusco, it’s another 77 km (48 miles) in a straight line to Machu Picchu. Although, overland routes will be longer as they navigate around the mountains.
How Long Does it Take to Get to Machu Picchu from Lima?
The quickest possible time is around 7 hours. This includes a flight from Lima to Cusco Peru, taxi, train and bus in quick succession.
However, it can take as long as you have.
If you travel overland by bus between Lima and Cusco you can stop at towns and cities along the way. Go sandboarding in Huacachina, see the Poor Man’s Galapagos in Paracas or visit the turquoise pools near Ayacucho.
Then, from Cusco to Machu Picchu, you can take the train, taking 4 hours. Alternatively, a 7-hour bus and 2-hour hike. Or embark on a 5-day trek.
How Much Does it Cost to Get from Lima to Machu Picchu?
Just for transport, you can get to Machu Picchu from Lima for around 50 USD. For example 30 USD for the bus to Cusco, 15 USD for the bus to Hidroelectrica and no charges for hiking to Aguas Calientes or the site entrance.
The cost will, of course, vary depending on what mode of transport you use and how much in advance you book it.
The lowest prices are typically the first seats sold on planes, trains and buses. Last-minute deals aren’t really a thing in Peru.
- Flight to Cusco: Around 50 USD (booked in advance, personal item only), add 20 USD for carry-on and 30 USD for checked luggage. Check prices on Skyscanner.
- Bus to Cusco: From 115 Soles (30 USD) for a direct service. Around 200 soles if hopping from town to town on the way. Check prices for all operators on Busbud.
- Train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes: Tickets start from around 60 USD, one way.
- Bus from Cusco to Hidroelectrica: 60 soles (15 USD) each way.
- Whether you take the train or bus to Aguas Calientes, you’ll then need to take the bus to Machu Picchu, which costs 12 USD per person each way. Or you can walk, for free.
- Inca Trail: 600+ USD. Trek finishes in Machu Picchu on the last day.
- Inca Jungle Trek: 200+ USD.
- Salkantay Trek: 200+ USD.
The Inca Trail needs to be booked further in advance due to its popularity and the need for permits. Whereas the others can be booked when you get to Cusco as long as you’re willing to be slightly flexible on dates.
Unless you do the Inca Trail, you’ll arrive in Aguas Calientes for the penultimate night. As such, you’ll need to get the bus or walk to Machu Picchu.
So, how do you get to Machu Picchu from Lima? Let’s break down the stages…
Step 1: Lima to Cusco Peru
There are only two ways to get to Cusco from Lima: by plane or by bus. And understandably, one is much quicker than the other!
But, travelling by bus means you stop at destinations along the way to really see and experience more of Peru.
Time: 1.5 hours
Cost: 40+ USD
How to Buy Tickets: Through a comparison site or directly with the airline
Around 30 flights a day travel between Lima and Cusco, mostly with budget airlines. Flight time is around 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Cheap fares are generally easy to come by, even when booked just a few weeks out. Although, the cheapest fares only include a personal item. You’ll need to pay extra for a full-size carry-on bag or checked luggage.
July to September is the peak season for visiting Machu Picchu when Europeans and North Americans are enjoying their summer vacations. During this time, it’s best to book as much in advance as possible.
Cusco Airport is a 15-minute drive from Cusco Train Station and a 20-minute drive from the main plaza.
Check prices and availability for your travel dates…
> > > RELATED POST: Plan your trip with this complete guide to the best time to visit Machu Picchu.
Time: 24 hours
Cost: 115 soles (30 USD)
How to Buy Tickets: Through Bus Bud, direct through Cruz del Sur or CIVA, at the bus station
For the quickest overland route, take the direct Lima to Cusco bus. It’s scheduled to take around 23 hours, but expect this to be at least 24 hours.
- Around 115 soles (30 USD) for the cheapest and least comfortable seats
- And it’s around 150 soles (40 USD) for seats that recline more
Despite the huge difference in journey time, the cost is similar between a 90-minute flight and a 24-hour bus. The plus of the bus is that you don’t need to pay extra for luggage, which is where cost savings can come in.
Cruz del Sur and CIVA are two of the most reputable companies operating the route. Bus Bud is a good comparison site to find out times, prices and availability.
TOP TIPS FOR BUSES IN PERU
→ Pick a seat downstairs for a few extra soles as the seats on the top deck generally have less leg room, narrower width and less recline
→ Food and drink are rarely served on board buses in Peru anymore – bring your own. Since the pandemic, meal services have been replaced with stops at roadside restaurants (or have low-quality, packaged food).
Travelling town-to-town by Bus
Time & Cost: Route dependent
How to Buy Tickets: Through Bus Bud, direct through companies or at bus stations
If you’re not looking to fly and have more than a week to spend in Peru, travelling the south of the country by bus is a great option. The towns between Lima and Cusco are popular with tourists, backpackers and domestic travellers alike.
One option is to travel with Peru Hop. They’re a bus service for international tourists with on-board bilingual guides and flexible tickets, at a price premium for the convenience and added service level.
Another option is to book each leg separately with whatever bus operators run the route. Doing this means you’ll get the best price and the most flexibility to change your route as you fancy.
See more about the following Lima to Machu Picchu itinerary options in the sections below:
- Lima to Cusco direct
- Via Paracas and Huacachina, then Cusco
- Visiting Paracas, Huacachina and Arequipa before Cusco
- Paracas, Huacachina, Ayacucho and then Cusco
- Lima to Ayacucho to Cusco
Overland Itinerary 1: Lima to Cusco Peru
The direct option. 24 hours and you’re there. Great if you have little time, but more convenient to fly.
Overland Itinerary 2: Lima to Paracas and Huacachina to Cusco
- Take a direct bus from Lima to Paracas. Or Lima to Picsco and then a taxi
- Pick from a shuttle or public bus for the 90-minute journey from Paracas to Huacachina
- Next, take the 18-hour bus from Ica (the town next to Huacachina) to Cusco with either CIVA or Cruz del Sur. Booking in advance is necessary in the summer months.
On the coast south of Lima is Paracas – home to a fascinating mix of marine and bird life. Slightly inland is the desert oasis of Huacachina and the sprawling sand dunes.
Paracas and Huacachina can both be visited in one day. Or you can spend a night or two in each to really get a feel for the place.
Overland Itinerary 3: Lima to Paracas/Huacachina to Arequipa to Cusco
Similar to the journey above, this splits the journey between Huacachina and Cusco. Stopping at Arequipa you’ll experience its food scene and the impressive Colca Canyon.
- Deviating from the section above, take a 13-hour bus from Ica (next to Huacachina) to Arequipa – book your tickets in advance online to secure your seat.
- From Arequipa, it’s another 10 hours to Cusco. Tickets for this journey can be booked online through Busbud, an easy-to-use bus comparison site popular in Peru.
Overland Itinerary 4: Via Paracas/Huacachina and Ayacucho
- After taking the bus from Lima to Paracas and/or a shuttle or bus to Huacachina, head inland to Ayacucho – one of my favourite places in Peru!
- Take the once-daily, 9-hour bus from Ica to Ayacucho with Palomino Buses.
- Then you’ll need to buy a ticket for the 17-hour bus to Cusco in the Ayacucho bus station as tickets aren’t available online.
This route heads directly inland from Huacachina to the authentic town of Ayacucho. A place that few international visitors ever step foot in.
Located high in the Andes, Ayacucho is a bustling town off the tourist trail. Explore the local markets, take in the busy streets, take a day trip to the Turquoise Pools of Millpu and much more.
Overland Itinerary 5: Lima to Ayacucho to Cusco
If you don’t fancy Paracas and/or Huacachina and are after a shorter route, you can travel from Lima to Ayacucho and onto Cusco.
The bus from Lima to Ayacucho takes around 8.5 hours. Followed by a long, 17-hour bus through the mountains to Cusco.
Step 2: Cusco to Aguas Calientes
This part of the journey from Lima Peru to Machu Picchu has the most amount of options. And, with flights not getting you to the World Wonder any closer than Cusco, you’ll have to continue overland.
Take your pick between the train, buses and hiking. There’s something for every budget…
Time: 4 hours
Cost: 60+ USD
How to buy tickets: Official websites of PeruRail or Inca Rail
- Choose between PeruRail and Inca Rail for your Cusco to Aguas Calientes train
- Both offer similar prices, comfort, quality and journey times – so book based on what time and available price suits you
Importantly, most train services between Cusco and Aguas Calientes are bimodal outside of the peak season. This means two modes of transport, a bus and a train.
- From Cusco, you’ll take a bus to either Ollantaytambo (2 hours) or Poroy (30 minutes)
- Then it’s 1.5 hours on the train from Ollantaytambo or 3.5 hours on the train from Poroy
- Most bimodal services run via Ollantaytambo meaning less time on the train. I recommend picking a route via Poroy or direct if you’re travelling in the high season
Ticket prices start at around 60 USD one-way and are the same whether you travel direct or bimodal from Cusco to Machu Picchu. Additionally, you can pay more for the Vistadome (PeruRail) or 360-degree (Inca Rail) trains that have better views.
Bus + Hike (straight to Hidroelectrica)
Time: 9 to 10 hours
Cost: 60 soles
How to Buy Tickets: Through an agency in Cusco
A more backpacker and budget-friendly style of transport is to take the bus to the end of the closest road to Machu Picchu. This is located in Hidroelectrica around 10 km from Aguas Calientes.
- The bus takes 7 or 8 hours from Cusco
- You’ll leave at 6 am
- Tickets cost around 60 soles, book in Cusco
- Buses stop twice along the way for breakfast and lunch
When you arrive in Hidroelectrica, you’ll be dropped off next to a local restaurant where you can eat if you haven’t already.
From there, you hike the remaining distance along the train tracks until you arrive in Aguas Calientes. The 10-km route takes about 2 hours at a leisurely pace and is mostly flat. Directions are:
- Once off the bus, head away from the drop-off spot and follow the road to the checkpoint
- Give your details to the rangers and then follow the signs and walk along the train tracks
- Just before Aguas Calientes, the train tracks run into a tunnel and the footpath splits away
- From there, follow the road as it heads into the town where you can finally rest
Don’t worry, this is a safe, popular and well-signposted route. Very few trains run along this section of the route as it is past Aguas Calientes when you come from Cusco. Mostly, it is used for trains to turn around or bring supplies.
- Pack light to avoid carrying too much. It is much hotter (and more humid) here than in Cusco due to the lower altitude.
- Wear long trousers and sleeves and apply insect repellent. The hot, humid, jungle-like conditions mean there are mosquitos and bugs everywhere!
Visit Ollantaytambo and the Sacred Valley + bus + hike
Time: However long you spend in Ollantaytambo + 9 to 10 hours
Cost: 70+ Soles
How to Buy Tickets: Through an agency in Cusco and/or at the bus stop
A slight variation on the route above, this includes stopping and spending time in Ollantaytambo at the heart of the Sacred Valley.
- Either take a tour of the Sacred Valley Inca sites and get dropped off in Ollantaytambo. Or catch local transport from Cusco (10 soles from Calle Pavitos and Avenida Grau (Highway 3S))
- Book a bus to Hidroelectrica, it takes 5 to 6 hours
- Hike the 2-hour route to Aguas Calientes along the train tracks using the directions in the section above
Another option is to hike most of the way from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes.
- Head 15 km out of Ollantaytambo to the KM82 checkpoint at Ollantaytambo Station
- From there, it’s a 28-km walk to Aguas Calientes along the train tracks as they run parallel to the river
- It’s doable in one day if you start early but is tough. Definitely pack light for this hike!
One of the most popular ways to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco is on a multi-day trek.
The Inca Trail is the most famous of these and permits sell out all year around.
- Booking in advance is essential, especially if you want to travel in the peak season (July to September)
- The traditional Inca Trail route takes 4 or 5 days
- There’s also the option to take the short Inca Trail, which is a 2-day trek
- Both Inca Trail routes bring you into Machu Picchu through an Inca Trail-only entrance on your last day
For all other treks, you’ll arrive in Aguas Calientes for your final night before travelling to Machu Picchu in the morning by foot or bus. These include:
- The Salkantay Trek: a popular alternative to the Inca Trail that doesn’t require booking as much in advance (and is much cheaper)
- The Inca Jungle Trek: 2- to 4-day options. This includes loads of fun activities such as mountain biking, rafting and ziplining, to name just a few but doesn’t follow the full Inca Trail
Step 3: Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
Once you reach Aguas Calientes, there are only 2 ways to get to Machu Picchu. You can take the bus or you can walk.
Bus from Aguas Calientes
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, you need your passport and entrance ticket too.
- Buses run from 5.30 am until 3.30 pm
- Tickets cost 12 USD each way, per person. Discounted rates are available for children
- The journey time is 30 minutes
- Boarding is in order of your entry time and you can’t get on a bus until 30 minutes before your entry time
Walking from Aguas Calientes
Alternatively, you can walk from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. The route is tough and mostly stairs, plus conditions are often warm and humid.
However, this option is free of charge. Perfect for those travelling on a budget!
- First, walk 20 to 30 minutes to the Machu Picchu checkpoint just outside of the town
- Next, you’ll start the 1.7 km uphill climb on the near-endless steps – taking 1 to 2 hours depending on fitness and walking speed
- You can only enter the trail 1 to 1.5 hours before your entry time
The view over the ruins and Huayna Picchu Mountain behind will be all the sweeter (and sweatier) for walking!
Still not decided which option for how to get to Machu Picchu from Lima is best for you? I’d recommend seeing what your budget is and going from there…
Looking for the cheapest option? Take a long but cheap 24-hour bus from Lima to Cusco. Then book a local bus to Hidroelectrica and hike to Machu Picchu!
Or the quickest and easiest option? Book a flight to Cusco and then the train to Aguas Calientes. You can book the bus up to the entrance of Machu Picchu on the day.
Something more leisurely? I’d recommend visiting Paracas and Huacachina on your trip from Lima to Cusco, both are incredible for different reasons. But they are popular, so book your buses in advance if travelling between June and August.
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 February 2024 but is subject to change in future.
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