How to Get from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu?

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To visit Machu Picchu, you’ll likely need to spend a night in Aguas Calientes beforehand. The town is touristy and offers a variety of restaurants, hotels, and guest houses. From Aguas Calientes, you can reach the site of Machu Picchu either by bus or by foot.

Walking: The hike up to Machu Picchu is straightforward. Simply leave the village, cross the bridge, and follow the signs. The hike is steep and takes about 1.5 hours (less for the return journey).

Bus: Public buses depart from Aguas Calientes every few minutes, taking you directly to the entrance of Machu Picchu for $12 one way.

What to Do at Machu Picchu?

Most people wake up very early, around 4 am, to make it to Machu Picchu in time for sunrise. If the sky is clear, it can be a beautiful sight. However, if it’s foggy like when I was there, visibility may be limited during the first few hours. Fortunately, the sky cleared up later in the day.

If you choose one of the tours mentioned above, a tour guide will be included. They will lead you around the ruins and provide background information. After the guided tour, you’ll have free time to explore and take pictures.

Important: If you plan to return to Cusco on the same day, you’ll need to leave the site around 11-12 am. This allows enough time to hike back to Hidroelectrica, where minivans depart for Cusco around 2-3 pm (no later). If you want more time and perhaps hike one of the peaks (see below), I highly recommend staying another night in Aguas Calientes. When I booked the Jungle Trek, I asked if they could arrange an extra night in the village (for an additional $10) and reserve my transport back to Cusco for the following day, which was not a problem. This also increases your chances of enjoying great views since, during my visit, the sun only came out in the afternoon.

In addition to exploring the ruins, there are two additional hikes you can do, but you need to obtain a permit in advance:

  1. Huayna Picchu: The mountain in front of the ruins, featured in classic Machu Picchu pictures. The hike is steep and short, but access is limited, and you need to book a permit online ($15) a few weeks in advance. This may not be suitable if you prefer not to plan ahead.
  2. Machu Picchu Mountain: This often causes confusion. Machu Picchu Mountain is different from the Machu Picchu ruins; it’s a high and steep mountain located directly behind the ruins (opposite of Huayna Picchu). It’s slightly higher than Huayna Picchu and also requires a permit, which can be easily booked shortly before your trip. I asked the agency that organized the Jungle Trek to book it for me (an extra $15) just a few days in advance. The hike is steep, but the views are stunning when the sky is clear.

UPDATE: Since July 2017, entrance tickets are only valid for the morning or afternoon. Therefore, you need to decide which time slot to choose. When I was there in June, I spent the entire day, and the morning was foggy and crowded, while the afternoon was sunny and less crowded. This may vary in different seasons, so it’s challenging to provide a clear recommendation.

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