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Last update: October 04, 2018

Aguas Calientes

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How to get to Machu Picchu (and Aguas Calientes)

To visit Machu Picchu, the first thing you should do is get to Cusco city and then to the town of Aguas Calientes, if you don't do the Inca Trail trek. It is important to remember that Machu Picchu is located in the middle of the Andes, in an area of difficult access and away from big cities. Arriving takes a lot of time, you should take your precautions and organize your trip well.

From Cusco there are 3 possible routes, depending on the budget of each traveler, the time available and the means of locomotion you want to use:

Trekking: From 2 to 4 days. Several treks and hikes offer different routes to reach Machu Picchu, but only the traditional Inca Trail reaches the citadel directly through the Puerta del Sol or Inti Punku. You can do it in 2 or 4 days. All other treks arrive directly to the town of Aguas Calientes, not to Machu Picchu.

Train plus minibus or taxi: From 3 to 4 hours. Trains arrive directly at Aguas Calientes station or Machu Picchu village. It is the fastest and safest, but not the cheapest, way to get to Machu Picchu. The starting points are Poroy Station, 20 minutes from Cusco by taxi, and Ollantaytambo Station, in the Sacred Valley. There are 2 railway companies that cover this route, Perural and Incarail. In their respective web pages you will be able to find the schedules, prices and routes available.

Minibus plus train or walk: 10 hours minimum. This is the cheapest way to get to Aguas Calientes, but the longest. You must depart from Cusco or Ollantaytambo to the town of Santa Teresa, via Santa Maria, by bus, minibus or taxi. It is a really adventurous trip, between the cliffs, the route is not safe and the track is not in good condition. The journey takes approximately 6 to 8 hours. If you arrive late, it is better to spend the night in Santa Teresa and leave for Aguas Calientes the next day. From Santa Teresa you have to take a transport to Hidroeléctrica. The journey takes approximately 1 hour. From there you can take the train to Aguas Calientes or follow the route on foot along a path that follows the train tracks.

Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Town

This small town is located at the bottom of the famous citadel of Machu Picchu and is its only point of access, in addition to the Inca Trail which ends at the Sun Gate directly in the citadel. It is like an island hidden in the middle of the mountains, in the cloud forest, at the edge of the river in a small valley, and receives its name thanks to the thermal waters that are 15 minutes in its upper part and that everyone can enjoy. The buses to the citadel of Machu Picchu are the only means of transport in the village, there is no public or private transportation.

In Aguas Calientes there are many hotels and restaurants for all tastes and budgets, from the simplest to the most luxurious. Tourists from all over the world have turned this town into one of the most visited towns in the country, because it is located at the bottom of the citadel of Machu Picchu. There is also a butterfly reserve, 15 minutes from the village, which you can visit with your family, children love to see the butterflies flying freely

How to go from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

The only route that connects the town to the citadel is the Hiram Bingham road. The bus journey takes approximately 30 minutes, buses run from 5:30 in the morning until 5:00 in the afternoon and depart every 20 minutes. The bus stop is near the train station, next to the ticket office. Tickets are bought right there. Take your precautions if you want to catch the first bus to Machu Picchu, queues start at 3 a.m. in high season.

You can also go up by foot, walking along the same route through a path that crosses the road and reaches the entrance to Machu Picchu from Puente Ruinas. The climb takes between 1:30 and 2 hours, and is not recommended if you want to arrive rested to start your visit to Machu Picchu because it is exhausting. However, many people prefer this way for the experience and because it is free. It is important to carry plenty of water and be careful because tourist buses cross the route all the time.

Once in Machu Picchu, you will be able to enjoy the citadel or Llacta Machupicchu, as it is called in Quechua, the mountain Machu Picchu mountain and the Huayna Picchu in all their splendor. And don't be afraid if you encounter a small spectacled bear, as it is its natural habitat. Just take care of the ruins, nature and enjoy the place.

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