The Journey from Lima to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu – Where and How?

Plan to visit Lima to Machu Picchu Peru? Well, if you have done your research your plan will most definitely include a trip to Machu Picchu, a 15th-century citadel on a mountain ridge towards southern Peru. The Urubamba River flows through it and it is one of the most scenic spots in the country.

Considering its long history (roughly 570 years) and natural beauty it has been included in the New 7 Wonders of the World by UNESCO World Heritage Site. The journey from Lima, the capital of Peru to Machu Picchu covers approximately 1205 km (753 miles), and the next most obvious question is how to make this journey? Well fret not, there are multiple options available, and you are sure to find one most suited to your taste, budget, and time.

Cusco – the first stop:

However, first things first – to get to Machu Picchu you first need to reach Cusco from Lima. So where exactly is Cusco? It is nestled roughly in between Lima and Machu Picchu with 571.4 km distance between the capital of Peru and Cusco. Cusco is home to the Sacred Valley and numerous Incan historically significant ruins.

Cusco, itself, is quite a tourist spot, lying in the Andes Mountains, with brilliant architecture and natural beauty. Now how to get to Cusco? You can choose from almost all transport options available – train, bus, or airplane.  

Air or Land? The Inevitable Choice:

You prefer a short travel time? Well, you might want to consider air travel. Promising a relatively easy and convenient ride of 1.5 hours from Lima to Cusco. This option is perfect for those who are short on time, however we do warn you, due to the weather, you might face turbulence so those who do not feel comfortable in such circumstances should think twice before booking their tickets.

Flights pretty much leave every day, with many domestic and international flights coming and leaving. If you are going for travel by bus, it gives a 22-hour long journey with tons of different companies providing various services and budgets so you can easily find one that completely caters to your needs.

Lima to Machu Picchu

Despite the obvious disadvantages of bus travel (long hours, discomfort) it has quite a few pros like the scenery, you can enjoy nature and the Peru life on your way, slowly acclimatize yourself to the high altitude before reaching your destination and yes, there are many bus services that include a tour guide and you can stop on your way to truly soak in the beauty of the country.

Train travel is pretty rare in Southern America, and the only train going to Cusco starts from Puno, promising a luxurious ride of around 10 hours of scenery and comfort. However, its luxury means it is very expensive and requires a pretty big budget. Making a choice between these options basically comes down to your budget and how much time you have for your visit.

Trek Your Way:

Now, on to the next part of the journey – Cusco to Machu Picchu. Once again you have been presented with two choices: trek your way or take a combination of bus and train. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages but no matter what you choose you are sure to enjoy your trip and destination.

Let’s first dissect trekking your way to Machu Picchu. This method means a travel time of around 3 to 5 days and guarantees a nature-filled trip perfect for trekking enthusiasts. You can truly experience and soak in the South American beauty. You will have to get a permit almost 6 months before to get on the most popular trek trail – The official Inca Trail. Only 500 people are allowed to set on this trail a day, including all guides.

The route goes through the Andes, with the backdrop of snowy mountains and the cloud jungle forest. More, less costly, options are available Inca Jungle Trek and Salkantay Trek. The Salkantay Trek is a more challenging trail than the Official Inca Trail, and you should get a reservation a few days prior. The Inca Jungle Trek is perfect for those who balk at the idea of walking for days; it includes biking, hiking, rafting, and even zip lining on your journey to Machu Picchu.

You should reach just in time to see the sunrise at Machu Picchu, an experience not to be missed. Trekking your way to Machu Picchu needs some work: always lay out your options and never go for the cheapest one that is just calling for a disaster, go for the operator that is the most responsive to your queries. Any good trek tour will include tickets to Machu Picchu and the journey back.

The Bus & Train Combo:

Going for travel by bus and train is the far faster option, and for many a lot more comfortable and easy. It consists of first a 2 hour bus ride to Ollantaytambo station near Sacred Valley, then a 1.5 hour train ride to Aguas Calientes, a bus again to the complex. You can then tour Machu Picchu, indulge in the numerous experiences provided there and catch a bus and a train back to Cusco. If you have more time, you can make this trip up to two days by staying a night at Aguas Calientes.

Some things to remember:

  1. When reserving or booking your tickets, make sure to do so as early as possible because many services especially the Inca Trail sells out in months.
  2.  In July, there is a lot of tourist traffic meaning even Salkantay Trek and Inca Jungle Trek sell out.
  3. Most buses and trains should also be booked at least 1 or 2 days prior.

No matter what options you choose, we do know that your choice in making this trip was most definitely the right one. The views are breathtaking and as you stand at the Machu Picchu top, you will feel the beauty of the country accumulated in one sight. Be it Lima, Cusco, or Machu Picchu every place has its own trademark beauty you will enjoy. The historical architecture, the mountains, the ocean, and the greenery – need I say more?