On the map it looks easy to get from Cusco to Ollantaytambo on your way to Machu Picchu. For people who don't know why this is important, the main railway station for trains to Machu Picchu is in Ollantaytambo, which is a 2 hour drive over paved 2-lane country roads from Cusco. This is the weakest link in the final trip for unsuspecting travelers on their way to Machu Picchu by train, or on the easy 1-day Inca Trail hike. The average travel time from Cusco to the village of Aguas Calientes is 4.5-5 hours each way by motorized vehicle and train, if you  include time for transitions at the stations. From Aguas Calientes it's another 30 minutes by bus to Machu Picchu. 

Here's what you need to know about travel between Cusco and Ollantaytambo:

  • The village of Ollantaytambo is the main train station for Perurail and Incarail service to Machu Picchu
  • With normal traffic, it's an average 2 hour drive by motorized vehicle from Cusco to Ollantaytambo station, each way
  • Poroy station is closer to Cusco but offers limited train departures and is closed from January 1-April 30 every year during the rainy season
  • There is no public transportation and rail companies do not provide transfers from Cusco to any of their stations (except during the rainy season Jan 2-April 30)
  • The route through the Sacred Valley is over 2-lane paved roads and subject to traffic delays and seasonal unpredictable closures.
  • Unless you book a group tour or package trip, travelers must arrange their own transfers to Ollantaytambo using expensive taxis or hotel buses

Beginning in late January, 2019, a new 2-lane paved road opened between Cusco and Ollantaytambo. The new route will solve some of the issues for travelers trying to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu as efficiently as possible. From Cusco, the new road diverges right after Poroy and follows the same route as the train tracks to the village of Izcuchaca and then to Huarocondo. The final stretch is through a narrow valley until you get to Pachar where you intersect with the old route before you ramble in to the village of Ollantaytambo. 

During the rainy season, the new route is subject to closure in case of landslides. This is why Perurail chooses not to use this section of the train tracks from Jan 2-April 30. (click here to get details about the benefit of Bimodal train service) Without any infrastructure during the drive through small villages, the new road does not offer any sightseeing but for expansive views of the Andes from your vehicle. Don't expect cell phone service. Just sit back and enjoy billboard-free vistas.

The shorter drive will trim 30 minutes off your driving time and bring the total time down to 1.5 hours. For people trying to get through the Sacred Valley without stops and interruptions, the new road will save time. However, the road is not near any of the archaeological sites in the Sacred Valley.  For people who want to visit Pisac, Chinchero, Moray and Maras, the old roads through the Sacred Valley will be the only option.

Click on markers or zoom in and out. Enlarge to see Sacred Valley routes and 1 Day Inca Trail Hike