Getting from Lima to Machu Picchu

by Cristina on February 8, 2012

by Cristina | February 8th, 2012  

Lima is the capital of Peru and also most likely where you’ll land if you fly from abroad. It’s a major domestic travel hub and many plan to tackle the rest of the journey in Peru overland rather than by domestic flights.

Machu Picchu is located in the Andes and is the site of an ancient Inca city. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is one of the most familiar symbols of the Inca Empire. It’s also one of the most visited sites in the world.

To enter the site you need a ticket which can be obtained online here . The current fee is 128 Soles / US$47.60 per adult (foreign visitor). The best time to visit Machu Picchu is from April to October, but most of visitors come here from June to August, when it’s awfully crowded.

The gateway into the Machu Picchu site Cusco , which is connected to Lima by air and overland.

>>read more about Getting from Lima to Cusco

Quick summary

Aside from making sure you have the tickets for entering Machu Picchu and all the necessary permits to hike the Inca Trail (if you choose this option), to get to the site, first you need to travel from Lima to Cusco. The cheapest option is by bus (but it takes about 20 h- 21 h). From Cusco , the only way to get to Aguas Calientes is by train. Once in Aguas Calientes you can either take the bus or hike to Machu Picchu.

Flights from Lima (airport code : LIM) to Machu Picchu via Cusco

The closest airport to Machu Picchu is Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ), which serves Cusco. The airport only handles domestic flights.

The direct flights between Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM) and Cusco are operated by: LAN Peru, Peruvian Airlines , Star Peru and TACA Peru. The travel time is 1h 25 min and the single fare in 2012 is US$176 on TACA Intl Air. Booking directly from the Peruvian Airlines will save quite a bit and you’ll pay only US$118.50 one way (including the taxes).

>>read more about Flights to Peru and Cheap flights to Lima

From Cusco there are three possibilities to get to Machu Picchu:

  • The Inca Trail: is the hardest option and you must consider that you need to get used to the altitude at least for 7 days before attempting the hike. Also, a limited number of tourists are allowed on the trail and you can only go as part of an organized group.
    >>read more about Hiking the Inca Trail

  • Train to Aguas Calientes , followed by bus to Machu Picchu: this is the easiest and the cheapest way to get to Machu Picchu. Aguas Calientes is a small town at the bottom of the valley near Machu Picchu and is the main entrance point to the site. Peru Rail has a monopoly on the Cusco – Agua Calientes Route. Single fares start at US$112 return. The bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu costs another US$5-6 one way.
    >>read more about Train Travel in Peru

  • Train to Aguas Calientes, followed by a walk to Machu Picchu: it’s also possible to hike the 8 km route similar to which buses take, but it’s mainly stairs. It takes about 1 ½ h – 2 h on the way up and 1 h on the way down. It’s not an easy hike but it’s worth the views, especially if you get to Machu Picchu before the sunrise.

Buses from Lima to Machu Picchu via Cusco

The low cost option is to take the bus from Lima to Cusco. One of the company offering services on the route is Cruz del Sur . There are three departures per day from Lima (2 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m). The travel time is 21 h and the single fare is US$68.38. Buses leave Cusco at 2 p.m. , 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. The single fare is US64.66. You can buy the tickets online and even choose the seat in the bus.

From Cusco, you have the three options presented above: the Inca Trail, the train to Aguas Clienetes followed by a bus ride or by a hike to Machu Picchu.

>>read more about Bus Travel in Peru

Driving from Lima to Machu Picchu via Cusco

There aren’t any to Aguas Clienetes, so you can only drive from Lima to Cusco. The shortest route in terms of driving time is on Panamericana Sur and takes about 13 h and 15 min (1013 km). It is a long drive so it’s best if more than one of you will be driving. But, it’s possible to rent a car in Lima and drive to Cusco.

From Cusco, you can either choose the Inca Trail – but remember to get used to the altitude for at least 7 days before you attempt the hike – or travel by train to Aguas Calientes. From here, you can take the pus to Machu Picchu or hike the 8 km to the ruins.


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