How do you get to Machu Picchu?

Embarking on the journey to the mystical Machu Picchu is an experience like no other. With its breathtaking beauty and rich cultural history, it’s no wonder that this ancient Inca citadel has captured the hearts of travelers worldwide. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll outline the various ways to get to Machu Picchu and help you plan an unforgettable adventure.

Step 1: Getting to Cusco

Your journey to Machu Picchu begins in the beautiful city of Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire. To reach Cusco, you’ll first need to fly into Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima, Peru’s capital city. From there, you’ll connect to a domestic flight to Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cusco.

Step 2: Acclimatizing in Cusco

Once you arrive in Cusco, take some time to explore this fascinating city, rich in history and culture. Before setting off to Machu Picchu, it’s essential to acclimatize to the altitude. Spend at least two days discovering the best things to do in Cusco city and adjusting to the elevation.

Step 3: Choose Your Route to Machu Picchu

There are several ways to reach Machu Picchu from Cusco, each offering unique experiences and opportunities for adventure. Consider these three popular options:

1. The Classic Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is perhaps the most famous route to Machu Picchu. This 4-day trek covers approximately 26 miles (42 km) and includes visits to numerous Inca sites along the way. Due to its popularity, you’ll need to book your Inca Trail trek well in advance, as permits are limited.

2. The Scenic Train Ride

For a more leisurely journey, consider taking the train from Cusco to the town of Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo. This scenic ride takes you through the stunning landscapes of the Sacred Valley and offers a comfortable and relaxing way to reach the base of Machu Picchu.

3. Alternative Treks

If you’re looking for a less crowded trekking experience, consider one of the alternative routes to Machu Picchu, such as the Salkantay Trek or the Lares Trek. These trails offer a more off-the-beaten-path experience and showcase the diverse landscapes and cultures of the region.

Step 4: Plan Your Accommodations and Transportation

Regardless of the route you choose, you’ll need to plan your accommodations and transportation accordingly. If you’re trekking the Inca Trail or an alternative route, your tour operator will likely arrange accommodations, such as camping or lodges, as part of your package. For the train journey, you’ll need to book accommodations in Aguas Calientes and coordinate with a reliable transportation provider for your journey between Cusco and the train station.

Step 5: Explore Machu Picchu

Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for has arrived: exploring the magnificent Machu Picchu! When you arrive at the citadel, take your time to marvel at the incredible architecture, learn about the site’s history, and soak in the stunning views of the surrounding mountains. To make the most of your visit, consider hiring a knowledgeable guide who can provide insights into the ancient Inca civilization and the significance of Machu Picchu.

Pro Tip: To enhance your Machu Picchu experience, consider hiking to the top of Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain. Both peaks offer awe-inspiring views of the citadel and surrounding landscape. Be sure to book your tickets in advance, as permits for these hikes are limited.

Step 6: Return to Cusco and Beyond

After your unforgettable visit to Machu Picchu, it’s time to return to Cusco or continue your journey through Peru. If you took the train, simply retrace your steps to Cusco. If you trekked the Inca Trail or an alternative route, your tour operator should have arranged your return transportation.

As you reflect on your incredible adventure, consider exploring more of what Peru has to offer. From the diverse culinary scene in Lima to the serene beauty of Lake Titicaca, there’s so much to discover in this vibrant country. For inspiration, check out our list of historical sites and landmarks to explore on your trip to Peru.


Reaching Machu Picchu is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Whether you choose the classic Inca Trail, the scenic train ride, or an alternative trek, your journey to this ancient citadel will be filled with unforgettable memories. With our comprehensive guide and the right preparation, you’ll be well on your way to an incredible adventure in the heart of the Andes.