Getting to Machu Picchu should be as exciting as enjoying your day in the lost city of the Incas. Depending on your agenda and time limitations, you should decide on either:
a) Trekking the famous 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (now there is also alternative 3-, 2- or 1- day treks), or
b) Taking a train and doing the one day visit. You also have the option of sleeping in Aguas Calientes.
c) Following the railways from the last bus stop in Urubamba Valley (rough but cheap). This is not an option recommended by Pariwana Hostel- 1-day walk-in, 1-day visit in the citadel, and 1-day walk-back. In any case, in order to get to Machu Picchu you should first arrive in Cusco and then go to Aguas Calientes.
Departing from Lima, take the 1-hour flight or the 20 hour bus into Cusco. There is an average of 10 daily Lima-Cusco flights from 5.30 am until 3.30 pm, and also plenty of buses leaving at all schedules.
A) Seating (and enjoying the view) - Train option
· Arrive to Cusco, the capital of the Incas Empire, and you will have a chance to either stay at the city for a couple days at Pariwana Hostel Cusco or to take a bus (or a taxi) to the Urubamba River into Ollantaytambo train station (approximately 1.5 to 2 hours ride)
· All trains, except one, depart from Ollantaytambo. There are actually 8 to 10 daily train departures from there. You can also take the train from Cusco, but it will take you longer (as it has to go up in the mountains and down again to reach the Urubamba Valley). The single train service from Cusco to Machu Picchu leaves at 6am from Cusco (really, really early.)
· From Ollantaytambo enjoy the 1.5 hour fantastic train ride entering into the Rainforest Jungle of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary area until arriving in Aguas Calientes (small town just below Machu Picchu citadel)
· From Aguas Calientes, you need to take the 20 minute bus ride to the top of the archaeological complex. Alternatively you can save the bus ride and walk up, which will take approximately one hour)
· You will then be at the front steps of one of the most fantastic experiences of your life: a visit to Machu Picchu. A usual tour around the ruins will take 3 hours, but you can stay more in the complex just to feel its energy and vibe. Nevertheless, your visit will be restrained to the train departure schedule on your way back to Cusco. If you would like to enjoy the citadel at your own pace, you could stay the night in Aguas Calientes, and return to Cusco on the next day.
B) Trekking - Inca Trail option
· Arrive to Cusco, the capital of the Incas Empire, and you will have a chance to either stay at the city for a couple days at Pariwana Hostel Cusco or to take a bus (or a taxi) to the Urubamba River into km 82 or 88 of the Valley
· You will start the 4-day trek from there, and reach Machu Picchu in the morning of the fourth day.
C) Walking – Follow the railway option
Following the rules, the Rail operator prohibits walker on the train rails, of course many local porteadores, as well as many peasants use this perfect road to move along the valley.
First take a bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and then take another local bus (2 soles) from Ollantaytambo to the kilometer 88 of the Urubamba River (last stop on the valley road to Machu Picchu)
From there, you will need to walk 28 kilometers into Aguas Calientes. Remember your way in should be easier as your way back (uphill from 2,000 m.a.s.l. to 2,700). Estimate a total of 7 to 9hours: first estimate an hour waiting for the combi (local bus name), then another hour in the combi, and finally 7 hours by foot
There are many reasons to consider this route dangerous, apart from the many tarantulas you might find in your way. First, Inca Rail doesn´t permit walking on the road. Second, there are short tunnels on the road that might get you in some trouble (hopefully that will be it) as trains in the opposite direction appear round blind. Third, it is difficult to hear a train approaching as the river makes a quite strong constant sound. If you dare to do it, good luck.