There are three ways to get to Machu Picchu. The best known is the train journey to the town of Aguas Calientes, the last point before arriving at the Wonder of the World. The other is through the famous 4-day route known as the Inca Trail. The last one is the walk from the hydroelectric power station, a route of approximately 2 hours through lush vegetation until arriving at Machu Picchu town. How is the road? Learn more about this incredible alternative route to the Inca Citadel.
Machu Picchu town is known as Aguas Calientes. This is the town located at the foot of the Historic Sanctuary. It is the last point of arrival of the train before climbing to the entrance gate of the Inca Citadel. It has numerous hotels and restaurants of varied qualities so it is possible to spend the night there before visiting the Wonder of the World. Due to the mixture of tourists and residents there is a multicultural atmosphere in its streets.
Aguas Calientes has tourist attractions beyond Machu Picchu such as the thermo-medicinal baths, located fifteen minutes from the main town square. Other places you can visit are the Mandor Falls, the Putucusi Mountain, the Manuel Chávez Ballón Site Museum, the artisan market and the food market. From Machu Picchu town buses depart to the entrance gate to the Wonder of the World.
Two routes to get to Machu Picchu
How to get to Machu Picchu is one of the main questions that tourists ask before traveling to Cusco in Peru? There are two main routes to reach the Inca Citadel. The first is the traditional 4-day treeking route known as the Inca Trail. The second is the popular train route of almost 2 hours from the town of Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes.
- The Inca Trail – A walk of 4 days and three nights to the old entrance gate to Machu Picchu known as the Puerta del Sol or Intipunku. It travels almost 40 kilometers through places of great height and places of the jungle eyebrow. It is considered among the 5 best hiking trails in the world. There is another modality of 2 days. It is necessary to book this adventure months in advance.
- The train route – The most common way to get to Machu Picchu. It is a journey of a train of 1 hour and 45 minutes from the town of Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. The same time that the Cusco-Ollantaytambo section takes by bus. Once in Machu Picchu town you must travel for almost half an hour by bus to the entrance door to the Wonder of the World. Train tickets must also be booked in advance.
The Hydroelectric route to Aguas Calientes
There is another way to get to Machu Picchu besides the Inca Trail and the train route from Ollantaytambo. This is the hydroelectric road to Aguas Calientes, also known as the alternative route through Santa María. This journey can be done by train (30 minutes) or on foot (approximately 2 hours). From Cusco, the hydroelectric power station is reached as follows:
- From Cusco to Santa María by bus: The buses take an average of 5 hours and cost between 25 and 30 soles ($ 8 and $ 10). They are taken at the terminal located on Antonio Lorena Avenue, not far from the Plaza de Armas of Cusco.
- From Santa María to Santa Teresa by taxi: Collective taxis (traveling with other passengers) take an average of one hour and cost between 8 and 12 soles ($ 3 and $ 4). They are taken very close to the town square of Santa María.
- From Santa Teresa to hydroelectric in taxi: In the town of Santa Teresa they leave collective taxis to the hydroelectric power station that take 30 minutes on average. The general cost is 5 soles ($ 2). In the town of Santa Teresa you can enjoy the thermal baths of Cocalmayo.
How is the tour?
Once in the hydroelectric power station there are two options to reach the town of Aguas Calientes. The first is to take trains that generally depart only twice a day in the afternoon and take 30 minutes to arrive. The other option is to walk parallel to the train rails and the Vilcanota River to the final station. This tour takes an average of 2 hours and is an incredible experience due to the adventure and the beautiful landscape that surrounds it.
The road is flat, it has no slopes that make the journey difficult. It presents signs along the approximate 10 kilometers of the route. The flora and fauna abound along it where you can glimpse the variety of orchids and even see anteaters in their natural habitat. It crosses tunnels where care must be taken. There are vendors that offer mineral water, fruit and other products along the way.
Along the hydroelectric route-Aguas Calientes, the visitor will meet other tourists who also do the trek. While there is no greater danger on the road, precautions should be taken with trains carrying cargo or passengers on the road. It is not advisable to listen to music with headphones during the tour. All senses must be aware of the path. It is one of the best experiences before Machu Picchu.
The alternative hydroelectric route to Machu Picchu is an economical alternative to reach the Inca Citadel. You do not need advance train reservations or guides to travel along its paths to the town of Aguas Calientes. However, some precautions should be taken. Here are some tips to enjoy this adventure in the best way:
- While to enhance this hike, you don’t need advance reservations for tickets or guides, it will be worth the visitor if you don’t book the Machu Picchu Ticket. It is advisable to do it months in advance if you intend to visit Huayna Picchu.
- Without wishing to do this route on your own, another option is to hire a Machu Picchu bus service that for a few dollars more transports the visitor directly from Cusco to Hydroelectric and vice versa.
- The best time to do the route is during the dry season (from April to October).
- It is recommended to wear a hat, flashlight, rain poncho (in case of precipitation), sunscreen and mosquito repellent.