Machu Picchu in just one day

Not so long ago, spanish friends of mine challenged me to prove if it was possible to walk through Machu Picchu in just one day. ¿Is it possible? Yes, it is and here I share a few tips to achieve it.

When talking about Machu Picchu, a sort of pressure feels in the air. It is Peru´s jewel. We can´t be disappointed, although, sometimes it turns out complicated to have a better understanding of where it is, how one can get there, and how much does it cost.

Let´s start with the beginning. Machu Picchu it´s an Inca city located in the region bordering the peruvian jungle, 7972 feet above the small but very popular town of Aguas Calientes, renamed “Machu Picchu Pueblo”.

Trains from Cusco/ Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes

To reach Aguas Calientes, you have to take the train. There are several train options, rates and exit stations. Some guides say there is a train station in Cusco. Indeed, there is Wanchaq station but trains no longer depart from that point.

The nearest station to Cusco is Poroy, located 30 minutes away. From this point, the train takes 3 hours and 30 minutes to get to Machu Picchu Pueblo station. Perú Rail works this route with 3 kinds of trains (From economic rates to more expensive rates). The Expedition, Vistadome and Hiram Bingham.

The fast way: The first train in Poroy, Vistadome, departs at 6:40am and arrives at 9:52am. With this option, you can get to Machu Picchu Pueblo by 10 am. and at 11am to the Inca city. We can enjoy its magic until 4 pm. and be on time to the last Vistadome, to get back to Poroy. It departs from Aguas Calientes at 5:23 pm. and arrives at 8.50pm. You’ll be back in Cusco at 9:30pm. Round trip cost 170-200 USD.

PeruRail also has a station in Urubamba, 1 hour away from Cusco, 2 hours by train from Machu Picchu Pueblo.

The economic way: The train station with more exits and arrivals is Ollantaytambo, 1 hour and 30 minutes away in a shared cab from Cusco. From there, it is about an hour and 45 minutes until Machu Picchu Pueblo by train. There are 2 operators: Peru Rail and Inca Rail.

With Peru Rail, if you leave Ollantaytambo by 5:07 am. you can get to Machu Picchu at 6:34am. And they can depart for example at 6:35pm. and return at 8:15pm. in Ollantaytambo. An Expedition rate cost between 100 and 120 USD.

Inca Rail has also a round trip on the same day from Ollantaytambo. Its Machu Picchu train is the most affordable with 110 USD round trip.

From Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

The fast way: With the buses from Consettur enterprise. They spent the day coming and going between Machu Picchu Pueblo and Santuario entrance. The road takes 30 minutes. The rate is 19 USD per foreigner adult round trip (10 USD just round trip) and 13 USD per national adult round trip (7 USD round trip). There are also rates for children or students. You can buy those tickets in the offices located in Machu Picchu Pueblo, Av. Hermanos Ayar S/N. from 5 am to 9:30pm. or with anticipation in the Cusco Offices, Infancia street 433. The tickets expire within 3 days.

The economic way: There is an Inca road made only of stairs which turn around the mountain, it is lovely to walk through it very early in the morning watching the clouds dance and hide in the mountains. It requires a great deal of physical effort.

The entrance to Machu Picchu

Since July 2011, the entrance allows only 2500 persons per day. An electronic tickets system was enabled, which is recommended to use in anticipation through the web. You can also buy last minute entrance tickets (if it’s  available)

Careful with this rates:

  • The entrance to Machu Picchu its worth 126 soles for a foreigner and 64 soles for a national with ID or foreigner card.
  • The access to Wayna Picchu needs a special entrance: you can go through between 7am and 8am (200 people) or between 10am. and 11am. (200 people). One must choose the Machu Picchu Ticket + Wayna Picchu: 150 soles for a foreigner and 90 soles for a national for ID or foreigner card.
  • The third access is Machu Picchu Mountain which offers another sight, you can find entrance from 7am to 11 am. For this option you must choose the Machu Picchu ticket + Machu Picchu Mountain : 140 soles for a foreigner and 80 soles for a national with ID or foreigner card.

Take notice the Machu Picchu sanctuary is open from 6 am and the last entrance is at 4pm. Closes at 5 pm. Be attentive, because there has been talk of the possibility of a more economic schedule, just in the afternoon.

So, where do I sleep?

This isn’t about fast or economic but to know how to make a choice: ¿How much time I want to dedicate to my Cusco visit, the sacred valley, the Inca city?
If you spent the night in cusco, you will have short time to enjoy the Inca city, 5 hours at maximum but it is possible and the magic undoubtedly will be present.

To sleep in Ollantaytambo it´s a good choice, the town is lovely, made of rocks, much more authentic than Machu Picchu Pueblo, Besides it is located in less than 9842 feet high and it is a good first step to get used to the height. You may leave early and return on time to enter Wayna Picchu (Choose the 10-11am schedule) or to the mountain.

In Machu Picchu Pueblo there are accommodations for every taste: From very luxurious
to backpackers. If you spent the night there, we recommend to wake up in the early hours of the morning to enter by foot or with the first bus at 6am. and have the entire day to explore the imposing peruvian jewel.

There aren’t other routes?

Yes, to walk through the Inca road it is necessary to hire an authorized travel agency and a good physical conditions. 500 persons enter per day, you enter in the early hours to Machu Picchu by the Intipunku (Puerta del sol). There are 2 or 4 days trips. Spectacular, but expensive.
The alternative route of Santa Teresa-Hidroeléctrica, can be made by “combi”, by foot, with the jungle trail, by train from Hidroelectrica. It is recommended for those who love adventure. The services are more basic, but you can also get to Machu Picchu Pueblo. There is also the Inca Trail Salkantay-Machu Picchu that reaches Intipunku.

In all cases you will return by train. We’ll be talking soon about this and much more routes. See you next time!

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