Expert Tip: You need your passport or valid identification to get into Machu Picchu so don’t forget to have it on you at all times.
Machu Picchu is a popular tourist destination in Peru, but it is one that’s not easy to get to without some serious planning. You cannot simply walk or fly to Machu Picchu, so it is important to know exactly how to get there without getting too lost or frustrated especially since Machu Picchu travel warnings and guidelines keep changing. This is a recent 2020 step-by-step guide on how to get to Machu Picchu from Lima, Peru, including how much it costs to travel to Machu Picchu from Lima, how long you need to travel to Machu Picchu, and expert tips to make your trip easier and safer.
You probably already know that Machu Picchu is an Incan citadel that is located high in the Andes Mountains of Peru. It was first constructed in the 15th century and was later abandoned. Now, it is known for its huge stone walls and buildings that allow for amazing views from all directions when you get to the top. It is definitely a magical destination on most people’s bucket list, and probably yours as well.
Important Things to Know About Getting to Machu Picchu
First, to get to Machu Picchu from outside of Peru, you will most likely fly into Jorge Chávez International Airport located just 11 Km from Lima. Lima is the capital city of Peru. A few cities like New York, Newark, Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, and Toronto have direct international flights to Lima. You can also fly from Mexico and other surrounding countries. Once you arrive in Lima, you must still complete a combination of rides that include – trains, cars, flights, buses – prior to finally setting foot on Machu Picchu.
What is the distance between Machu Picchu and Lima?
You probably want to know how far Machu Picchu is from Lima airport, your starting point. The distance from Lima to Machu Picchu is 503 Kilometers (313 miles), though actual travel time will vary widely depending on how you chose to get there. You most likely won’t go straight from Lima to Machu Picchu. More often than not, you need to travel to Cusco, a major city in Peru which is the gateway to Machu Picchu before continuing to Machu Picchu. In Cusco, you might need to stop for a few hours or even a few days and this can add more travel time to your trip. There are two alternative cities that you can also get to from Lima before continuing your journey to Machu Picchu – Ollantaytambo and Urubamba. Most people go from Cusco as it’s the easiest, most straightforward, and the most popular route. And to get to Ollantaytambo and Urubamba, you’ll still need to stop in Cusco first.
How do you get from Lima to Machu Picchu?
Note that there are no direct flights to Machu Picchu and you will need to get from Lima to Cusco (and perhaps to Ollantaytambo and Urubamba) then to Aguas Calientes (also known as Machu Picchu town or Machu Picchu Pueblo) and then to Machu Picchu.
Your journey will look like this:
International flight from home –> Lima –> Cusco city (with an optional car travel to Ollantaytambo or Urubamba) –> Aguas Calientes city –> Machu Picchu –> Aguas Calientes –> Cusco —> Lima —> International flight to home
These multiple ways to get to Machu Picchu from Lima start after you arrive at Cusco. To get to Cusco, you can hop on a quick half hour-and-half flight from Lima to the Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cusco. This airport in Cusco is the nearest airport to Machu Picchu. The cost of the flight from Lima to Machu Picchu ranges from $40-$80 round-trip on the average. Or you can take the 22-hour bus for about $15. Most people fly to Cusco. Note that the flight to and from Cusco from Lima can be unreliable because of the weather. Knowing this, give yourself a day or two extra especially if you’re trying to catch an international flight home after visiting Cusco.
From Cusco, you will most likely need to get to the town of Aguas Calientes with a train. This town is at the foot of the mountain where Machu Picchu lies. The cost of the train ride ranges from $140 to $600 round trip, depending on how much luxury you want and which train company you chose to take, and take about 3.5 hours each way.
Once you arrive at Aguas Calientes, you can either trek to Machu Picchu, or take a bus.
The bus will take about 30 mins to get to Machu Picchu while trekking will be about an hour and a half. The trek is steep and at a higher altitude which can be unpleasant if you’re not used to the altitude.
The bus to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes costs about $12 one way and you need to have your passport readily available. The bus runs from 5:30 in the morning from Aguas Calientes and departs every 10 minutes either direction so you don’t have long to wait to catch the next bus if you missed a prior one.
Bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu Time Table
First entrance to Machu Picchu is at 6am and the citadel closes at 5:30pm.
Buses depart from Aguas Calientes from 5:30 am
Last bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu is at 3:30 pm
Buses depart from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes from 6am.
Last bus from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes is 6pm
You need your passport to ride on this bus so don’t forget this at anytime
If you are not traveling from Cusco and have chosen to get to Machu Picchu from Urubamba (a city in the Sacred Valley), your first step is to get to Cusco from Urubamba. This is about a one-hour car drive from Cusco. From Urubamba, you can take a 2.5 to 3 hour train to Aguas Calientes and then continue with a bus or hike to Machu Picchu.
Your third option if you decide not to travel from Cusco or Urubamba is to travel from the city of Ollantaytambo, also located in the Sacred Valley. Just like Urubamba, you will need to catch a car ride from Cusco and this takes about 1.5 hours. Ollantaytambo is just a 1.5 to 2-hour train ride to Aguas Calientes from where you can either take a bus or hike to Machu Picchu.
If you’re in top shape, don’t have the kids with you, and feel adventurous, you can hike the “Inca trail” from Cusco to Machu Picchu. This would be your fourth option. This very famous hike takes about 4 days to complete, a feat that might be difficult for young ones but great for backpackers and people who want something different.
Once you’ve arrived at Aguas Calientes from Cusco, Urubamba, or Ollantaytambo, (and have decided not to complete the 4 day hike from Cusco to Machu Picchu) you’re just a few minutes away from your destination. Aguas Calientes is sometimes referred to as Machu Picchu town and is located at the foot of the mountain where Machu Picchu was built. There are just 9km between the town and Machu Picchu and you can either walk for about 2 hours or opt for a 30-40 mins bus ride to your final destination. You will need your passport or valid identification to buy bus tickets!
So, your options after you arrive at the international airport in Lima, Peru include:
Take a bus from Lima to Cusco bus (22 hours) or fly from Lima to Cusco (90 mins)
Once you arrive at Cusco, you have a few options for your onward journey:
Cusco to Aguas Calientes by train (3.5 hours)
Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu by bus (35 mins) or by trekking (1.5 hours)
Cusco to Ollantaytambo by car (1.5 hours) to Aguas Calientes by train (1.5 hours)
Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu by bus (35 mins) or by trekking (1.5 hours)
Cusco to Urubamba by car (1.5 hours) to Aguas Calientes by train (3 hours)
Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu by bus (35 mins) or by trekking (1.5 hours)
Trek to Machu Picchu from Cusco (3-5 days trek)
There is an alternative option of getting from Lima to Puno and then catching a luxury train to Cusco but this is not a popular option as it’s expensive at $220 one-way, but it’s an option for anyone who doesn’t want to fly or take the bus from Lima to Cusco.
How to get from Machu Picchu to Lima and back home
You pretty much will have to retrace your steps back home. You’ll start from taking the bus (or hiking 90 mins) from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes. Then take the train (or 4-5 day Inca trail or any other hike) back to Cusco, Ollataytambo, or Urubamba. If you’ve arrived back at Ollataytambo or Urubamba rather than Cusco, then take a shared van/taxi/car ride back to Cusco. From Cusco, you can catch a flight (or 22 hours bus) to Lima. And from Lima, you can catch your international flight back home.
Remember to build in extra travel time for your trip from Cusco to Lima and Lima to Cusco for weather disturbances.
When is the best time to go to Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu experiences wet and dry seasons. The trip is harder during the wet seasons of November, December, January, February and March, so we recommend that you visit between the dry season months of April to October. If you’re trying to hike, some trails are closed during these rainy months for safety. If you chose to go later in the year, the weather is warmer and more pleasant during these months – April, May, June, July, August, September and October, but the crowd is also more especially in July and August which is the peak travel period for this destination. If you have more flexibility, you can visit at the beginning of the rainy season like the months of November and December when the weather is still relatively okay, and the crowd is thinner. You can also plan to travel on other shoulder months like April, May, and September. During these months, you will have decent temperatures, fewer tourists, and less rain to deal with. The general average temperature in Machu Picchu ranges from 46 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but the coldest mornings are in June and July.
Can you do a day trip from Lima to Machu Picchu?
Not really! Many of the methods to get from Lima to Machu Picchu take more than a day and even if you could pull it off, you won’t have enough time to spend at Machu Picchu. We recommend a minimum of 2-3 days to visit from Lima since you would still need to get to Cusco even before you head to Machu Picchu. This stop will add additional time to your travel but it’s necessary. In fact, since Cusco and Machu Picchu are at a much higher elevation than Lima, most people spend a few days in Cusco to acclimatize to the altitude before heading to Machu Picchu. Lima, your port of entry, is at 505 feet elevation but Cusco and Machu Picchu are several thousand feet higher.
What is the elevation or altitude of Machu Picchu?
If you are worried about elevation or altitude sickness, then consider spending a day or two in Cusco before heading to Machu Picchu. The elevation at the top of Machu Picchu is 7,972 feet or 2,430 meters. The elevation difference from Lima to Machu Picchu is 7,467 feet since Lima stands at just 505 feet elevation or 154 meters. Cusco stands at 11,200 feet or 3400 meters, a huge difference from Lima. If you spend a few days in Cusco, you will most likely be fine with the elevation at Machu Picchu which stands at a lower altitude than Cusco. There are many ways to prevent or treat Altitude sickness but consult your physician for options as some of these options are prescription medications.
Is Machu Picchu Safe
Machu Picchu is safe but like every other country in the world, remember to take proper precautions and you’ll be fine. Machu Picchu ranks high on our list of the safest South American places to visit this year solo, as a couple, or with kids. However, even though Machu Picchu is safe with regards to petty crimes, you still have to be careful since altitude sickness can be dangerous if you already have preexisting respiratory illness, or are not physically able to walk around when you’re there. This is probably more of an issue if you’re trying to hike to the top versus taking the bus and train combination to the site. If you go during the rainy season, be aware of mudslides and other unsafe weather and take the proper precautions. We would advise you to get a travel insurance prior to making this trip, or any other international trip, to cover any medical emergencies. So take proper precautions, make sure you’re physically fit, give yourself time to acclimatize to the altitude changes, and have fun at this bucketlist-worthy location.
Are there hikes at Machu Picchu
Yes, there are a few choices of hikes to get to the top of Machu Picchu. Be warned, however, that these hikes are not easy. The most famous hike is hiking the traditional Inca Trail which takes about 4 days to hike from Cusco. There are a few other trails that are less difficult, but if you’re traveling with kids, taking a train might be your best option to getting to Machu Picchu safely and with little complaints. If you do decide to hike, most hikes will challenge you and they will take more than just one day to complete. If you don’t hike the Inca Trail, you can also use the Lares Trek which takes about 3- 4 days, or the Salkantay hike from Cusco which takes about 4-5 days. Other options include the Inca Jungle Trek which takes 4 days from Cusco as well. One of our readers hiked the adventurous Salkantay trek and shared his story here.
Is there an entrance fee?
Yes! There is a fee to get into Machu Picchu itself. The ticket depends on whether you are a foreigner or not, your age, and attractions you want to see. The tickets can range anywhere from $21-$62 with the lowest being for children 12 years and under. Children 8 and under can enter for free.
Expert Tips You Should Know About Machu Picchu
You can’t stay longer than 4 hours at a time at Machu Picchu
First time guest can’t visit without an official guide. You can hire a guide when you arrive at the gates though.
Tickets into Machu Picchu are limited so you want to buy your tickets online months in advance
You can’t buy entrance tickets on location so buy them online months in advance
There are limited amounts of ticket available per day thus the peak months of June, July, and August sell out quickly
You need to have your passport to be granted access into Machu Picchu as well as many other things along the way. Please don’t forget your passport or you won’t be able to get past Cusco.
You can only enter during the times designated on your ticket
Make sure you plan for bad weather, especially if you’re flying
Plan to prevent or cure altitude sickness as it’s bound to happen
Where to stay when Traveling to Machu Picchu
When you’re traveling to Machu Picchu, it will take you a few days to get there. You may want to look into places to stay in Lima, Cusco, or Machu Picchu itself to be on the safe side. Below are some places that you can stay during the many phases of your journey. Please do your due diligence in order to find a place that works best for you and your family.
- Country Club Lima Hotel
- Hotel de Autor I
- Hotel B
- Belmond Miraflores Park
- Belmond Palacio Nazarenas
- Belmond Hotel Mansterio
- Palacio del Inka
- JW Marriott El Convento Cusco
- Casa Cartagena Boutique Hotel and Spa
- Belmond Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge
- El MaPi Hotel
- Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel
- Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel
If you want to visit somewhere with history, sights, and beauty, you may want to add Machu Picchu to your travel list this year. Machu Picchu is a primary destination for tourists from around the globe and for good reason. It is deeply rooted in the history of the area, and it has breathtaking views! There is a variety of ways to get there, places to stay, and things to do. And whether you choose to take a flight or take a hike, you still get to experience all the wonders and beauty of the magnificent and magical Machu Picchu.