Where is Machu Picchu & how can you get there?

Machu Picchu Ruins:  map, geographical location, altitude & time zone

The ruins of Machu Picchu are located on the continent of South America in the country of Peru.  The ancient Inca city is positioned in the Andes Mountains on a saddle between the mountains of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu at 2450 m/8040 ft above sea level. The ruins are located about 13 degrees south of the equator and surrounded on three sides by a loop of the Urubamba River.  


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Machu Picchu is in the GMT-5 time zone and located in a natural cul-de-sac about 113 Km northeast of the city of Cusco.
(the same time zone as Washington DC in the US but no Daylight Savings Time)

STEP 1: How to get to Machu Picchu:  International gateway - Lima

To get to Machu Picchu, international flights arrive in Lima, Peru, located on the Pacific coast.  Many flights arrive late evening and because there are no flights to Cusco in the evening, travelers will spend 1 night in Lima.  The area around the Lima airport is not pedestrian friendly and most tourists who don't stay at the Ramada Inn located in the airport, should arrange transfers in advance, to hotels in Miraflores, about 45 min drive from the airport.

STEP 2:  How to get to Machu Picchu: Secondary gateway - Cusco

From Lima, there are many 1 hour/10 min flights to Cusco, which is 11,000 ft/3400 m above sea level. Most flights are scheduled in the morning & taper off by afternoon.  It is not possible to fly to Cusco in the evening, and the return flights from Cusco to Lima end by late afternoon.  It is not recommended to schedule the last flight of the day if you are trying to connect with an international flight on the same day, because weather in the mountains can cause flight delays or cancellations.  Bus service is available, but takes more than 20 hours one way over curvy mountain roads.  

Need entrance tickets to Machu Picchu or Huayna Picchu?  Should you buy online or wait until you get there? 
See our instruction guide

Adios Adventure Travel adviser Jacquie Whitt can help you find international flights and book your domestic flights in Peru


What can you see & do in Cusco and Sacred Valley of the Incas?
Many travelers spend a day or two checking out the historical Inca sites in Cuscowhile adjusting to the altitude, before heading to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It is recommended to spend at least another day in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, exploring Pisac, Moray & Maras on the way to Ollantaytambo, 9160 ft/2790 m, the oldest occupied town in Peru.  (or explore the sites on the way back to Cusco from Machu Picchu)


STEP 3:  How to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu

There is no public transportation through the Sacred Valley, however Peru rail offers full transportation services from Cusco to Aguas Calientes (the third & final gateway city to the ruins).  Peru rail buses transport travelers from Cusco to the train station in Ollantaytambo (about 1.5 hours) where they board trains for a 1.5 (sometimes 2) hour ride to the town of Aguas Calientes.  

Poroy Train Station
The Poroy station is located on the outskirts of Cusco about 15-20 min from the town center by taxi.  Most trains depart from Ollantaytambo, but 1 train each Expedition & Vistadome depart early from Poroy, followed by 1 luxury train Hiram Bingham departing around 9 am.  All the trains offer some level of service but HB serves brunch while en route to Aguas Calientes, arrives around 12:30 pm and then departs Aguas Calientes for Cusco about 6:30 pm.  A full 4-course dinner (with wine!) is served before arriving in Poroy at 10 pm.  Taxis will be waiting to take travelers to their hotels in Cusco.
If you are not taking the luxury train, your tour operator will arrange  private transportation for you between Cusco & the train station in Ollantaytambo.  If you are traveling on your own, the staff in your hotel will assist you with arrangements on request.  Be sure you review the complete description of the service.

Classic Inca Trail Hike
The other way to get to Machu Picchu is by foot on the Inca Trail.  The 45 km hike takes 4-days and is only possible by hiring a licensed tour operator to buy the permits for you.  The operator provides guide, porters, equipment, meals and a tour of Machu Picchu.  The price should include the return transportation to your hotel in Cusco. It is not possible to hike the official Inca Trail independently.  Outfitter prices vary widely and there is the possibility that if the price is extremely low it is because the porters are being underpaid.  This is a big problem on the Inca Trail and other trails and is reinforced by consumers who shop for hikes based on price alone.  “You get what you pay for,” and so do the porters in this case.

Aguas Calientes
The first train from Ollantaytambo departs early in the morning and arrives in Aguas Calientes before 8 am. There is no airport & there are no roads to Aguas Calientes. There are no cars, taxis or motorized transportation except for the 20 tour buses that shuttle people back and forth between 5:30 am – 4 pm, in 10 minutes intervals (or when buses are full), between the town and the main entry to the Machu Picchu National Park.  

What about my luggage?
Besides there not being baggage cars on the train, there is no way to transport luggage between the train and the hotels in Aguas Calienstes other than by hand-carry.  A good reason to pack lightly when you visit the ruins, even if you plan to stay overnight.  Hotels in Cusco & Ollantaytambo will store your luggage in locked rooms until you return.

Where do I get Machu Picchu entry tickets?
If you booked your tour through an operator you should not have to worry about transportation or tickets for the train, the shuttle or the entry to the ruins.  Your operator should take care of it.  While it is possible to go  from Cusco to Machu Picchu in one day, it is better to break up the journey with at least one overnight in Aguas Calientes or Ollantaytambo, either on the way to the ruins or on the way back to Cusco.  

Entry tickets can no longer be purchased at the main entry.  Machu Picchu visitors are limited to 2500 people per day and all tickets must be pre-purchased in Cusco or Aguas Calientes.  Due to credit card fraud, It is difficult for travelers to pay for Machu Picchu tickets online.  We can purchase your tickets in advance.  You can check on availability at the Machu Picchu website or we will do it for you.   http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/

Click here to read our blog about driving a car to Machu Picchu. 
Can you?  Should you?


Click here to see itineraries for Machu Picchu Train Tours


Machu Picchu is open from 6 am - 5 pm, 365 days a year.


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