Getting to Machu Picchu by Road and Foot
Traveling to Peru should probably entail a visit to Peru’s and one of South America’s most visited sites, Machu Pichu. Cusco lies about 10 hours by road and foot from the bridges that cross the river to the base of the site’s mountain. You can opt to take a train from Cusco, or even from Ollantaytambo after having seen all the sites the Sacred Valley has to offer, however, there’s another way to go about it.
Pariwana Cusco staff can fill you in on all the details, but read this and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. Let’s assume you want to go straight to Machu Pichu from the hostel by bus. The adventure will begin with an early morning wake-up call.
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Pack only the essentials into your small pack, and leave your big one in Pariwana’s storage (otherwise just leave the un-essentials in a plastic bag and take your big back with you). You have a number of options. You can take a direct bus that should last around 7 hours that brings you from Cusco to Santa Maria, the last town on the paved road. Otherwise, you can take a combi (minivan) to Pisaq or Urubamba if you’d like to cut your journey in half.
There are plenty of hostels and places to camp in both of those towns, so your journey may still be a comfortable one! Anyway, the 7 hour bus ends in the small town of Santa Maria. Once there, you’ll be bombarded with taxi drivers crying out “Santa Teresa!” Santa Teresa is the last town before Machu Pichu. It costs 10 sols per person to get from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa in taxi. If you’re with a larger group, you can negotiate the per person price down. Otherwise, municipal pick-up trucks sometimes do the short journey and charge 5 sols a head.
Once at Santa Teresa, you can continue in the taxi for an additional 5 sols per person to the hydroelectrica, which is the hydro-power plant at the end of the road. Otherwise, you can walk the two hours to the plant.
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From the hydroelectrica, you’ll depart on a 2 hour walk to reach the entrance to Machu Pichu. You’ll follow the train tracks the whole way, and it’s a beautiful walk. If you go during the night, you’ll enjoy the moonlit views all to yourself, as most are fearful of a night trek. It’s best to go in groups.
Once at the entrance to Machu Pichu, you can opt to continue 20-30 minutes on the railway or on the road to Aguas Calientes, where you’ll find hostels and other accommodation. Nearby the entrance to the ruins, however, you can choose to camp and be among the first arrivals.
A backpacker's heaven, Machu Pichu will challenge your leg muscles, but the reward is an adventure worthy of lifelong memory!