If you find yourself in Peru you probably have a vague desire to visit Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. There are several ways to get there and it really depends on what sort of adventure you want, how much time you have and how much money you’d like to spend.
We were told that Machu Picchu is commonly mispronounced. It roughly translates to “old mountain” or “big mountain,” but if you pronounce Picchu like peach, you’re actually saying old or big “penis.” Pronounce Picchu like peak. This quickly morphed into Machu “Pikachu” in our motley crew of immature individuals.
inca trail to machu picchu
My friend and I were intent on hiking the Inca Trail. I don’t know from where this desire came, and I questioned myself several times during the hike. Still, I highly recommend hiking 4 days (and sleeping 3 days in the Andes) to get to Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail is the classical trail that the Incas built over 500 years ago and it is the very path they took for their pilgrimage to the holy city in the mountains. We planned the bulk of our trip ourselves to save money; spent a week in Lima, jumped over to Cusco and then met our trekking group there. We used Ince Trail Reservations and were please with the experience they provided. Everything during the trek was included, even the train and bus back to Cusco.
I have met several people who used G Adventures for their trek and they were thrilled with their experience, so I think they are worth looking into as well.
High season for hiking in the Sacred Valley is April thru October, July and August are apparently the busiest. In March, we were plagued with a bit of rain and fog, but not much. The benefit of the rain was that everything was bright green and in full bloom. We planned our March hike in November. If you have your heart on the Inca Trail, plan ahead. Only 200 tourist are allowed permits on the trail a day, and these are snatched up quickly.
non-inca trail treks
I was mostly unaware and wholly uninterested in doing any trek to Machu Picchu that wasn’t the Inca Trail… but research has me retracting that sentiment. I can’t speak to the other treks with any authority, so here are some sources that Google helped me find:
- Top six alternative routes to Machu Picchu from National Geographic (by Mark Adam, author of Turn Right at Machu Picchu, which I highly recommend reading)
- Hike to Machu Picchu, trails and route options from MachuPicchuTrek.net
- Alternative Ince Trail Treks that Rock from MachuPicchuTrek.net
- 5 Alternative Route to Machu Picchu from Kandoo Adventures
Table from MachuPicchuTrek.net
not interested in a trek? no problem
The train to Aguas Calientes (also known as Machu Picchu Town) is its own kind of trek. It requires you to get from Cusco to Ollaytatambo (which is worth visiting) and taking a scenic–I’m not saying this for marketing speak, it really is a gorgeous–train ride to Aquas Calientes. From there you catch a bus up to Machu Picchu.
I hiked to Machu Picchu and then my transportation back to Cusco was arranged, so I’m not the authority on organizing the to and from cheaply and easily. Here are some other sources that speak with some authority:
- Ince Rail has several offices in Cusco. One-way tickets cost about $60 USD.
- How to see Machu Picchu cheap from Thiffy Nomads
- The cheapest way to visit Machu Picchu in 7 steps from Pirwa Hostels
- Cheapest way to visit Machu Picchu from South American Living
- The cheapest and best ways to get to Machu Picchu from The Culture Trip
ready to explore the rest of the sacred valley?
A bonus little treat for you: the scene from The Motorcycle Diaries where Che Guevara and Alberto Granado spend some time in Machu Picchu.