Lima is the ideal place to start your journey through this wonderful country, as it is a key point to understand some cultural aspects of the country. Surrounded by a particular architecture and exquisite cuisine, you will enjoy your stay in the capital but the adventure must continue to new destinations and this time awaits the great wonders that houses the imperial city of Cusco. For which, it is very important to know important and interesting facts about your trip from the capital of Peru to your final destination: Machu Picchu.
The distance that separates the city of Lima from Machu Picchu is 503 km in a straight line, but the route that the traveler will have to travel is composed of a distance of almost 1200 km. Within the numerous tourist packages or trips that your travel agency will offer you, you will find that a great majority have the city of Lima as the starting point of the adventure. An important amount of all international flights land in the capital of the country, that is why visitors take advantage of the short time they spend here and live the essence of this impressive and beautiful city.
Alternatives to get from Lima to Machu Picchu
There is no direct way to get from Lima to Machu Picchu. You have to make a trip composed of stops, first to Cusco and then to Machu Picchu.
There are several ways to get to the awaited wonder of the world from the city of Cusco. You can go by car, bus or train. Within these variants, it can take more or less days, everything will depend on your budget and the type of adventure you are looking for. First of all, the best thing you can do before starting your trip is to enjoy a few days stay in the capital. You have different alternatives of activities such as enjoying beautiful beaches, world award-winning cuisine and various sports of different kinds. It is recommended to take one or two days to enjoy the different museums, the typical food and the particular architecture that will dazzle more than one.
How to get from Lima to Machu Picchu in one day
It is possible to get from Lima to Machu Picchu in one day. However, the risk of doing everything in a hurry is very high and much of the magical essence of visiting the Citadel of the Incas would be lost in the rush. The visitor would have to take a very early flight from Lima to Cusco (Flights departing at 05 or 06 am). If you wish to locate the Lima International Airport, we suggest you consult a Lima city travel guide. Once in Cusco around 07 or 08 am approx. the visitor would have to go to the train station located in Poroy (1 hour away from Cusco) or to Ollantaytambo (located 2 hours from Cusco) in both options you are looking to take a train to Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu village, which is located at the foot of the mountain that houses the wonder.
You will arrive at Machu Picchu pueblo at 1 or 2 pm.
To reach the citadel of Machu Picchu, you must take a bus from the village. In this sense, your tour of Machu Picchu would start at 3 or 4 pm (Note that the archaeological park of Machu Picchu closes at 5 pm). Therefore, necessarily, the tourist would have to spend the night in Machu Picchu town to, the next day, return to Cusco and then to the city of Lima. But, why is this travel option considered a risk? The acclimatization of the body is the main factor, because it is advisable to spend a day in the Sacred Valley before reaching Machu Picchu, since the great heights at which the city of Cusco and the Citadel of Machu Picchu are located, the body that is not accustomed to the lack of oxygen can become sick and unbalanced, this is known locally as “soroche” or also called altitude sickness. The other factor, and more common, is the schedule, the visitor has to prevent possible flight or train delays. If one of them suffers a delay, the whole day will be lost.
From Lima to Cusco
If you are planning a trip to Machu Picchu, you will be offered several options to enjoy your trip. When you arrive in Peru, you will most likely land in Lima, the capital of the Andean country. Most international trips usually land in the capital. And before you set foot in the Inca citadel, you will have to travel to the beautiful Imperial City of Cuzco. After enjoying the capital of Peru for a few days, you can travel to Cuzco. There are several ways to get from the capital to the city of Cuzco, the best known are traveling by bus, plane or car.
If you are looking for the most economical option, then going by bus would be ideal. The bus trip from Lima to Cusco can take approximately 22 to 27 hours. In addition to having the opportunity to acclimatize properly because you will travel through several points where the altitude is quite similar to the climate of the Imperial city, you will also have the opportunity to explore the different sceneries of Peru. The trip takes a route that goes around the Andes mountain range, passing from the coast to the Andes, which is why the trip takes so many hours. Many travelers recommend the route that passes through Arequipa (the other route passes through Ayacucho, and it is not recommended to take it because of the excessive altitude of some points along the way). Although the route is longer, it is also a somewhat safer option. Depending on the travel company you choose, the bus will have different characteristics, so there is a wide variety of prices and amenities.
Going by plane
If you do not have much time during your visit, the best option is to travel by plane. It takes approximately one hour and twenty minutes. The distance from Lima to Machu Picchu seems like nothing when you travel by plane. You will land in the Imperial City in a matter of minutes. Additionally, because the trip is so fast and the transition between altitudes is very abrupt, it is advisable to take some precautionary measures against altitude sickness. Upon arrival, you can go directly to the Sacred Valley, since it is at a lower altitude than Cusco and you will be able to acclimatize with less risk, since the citadel of Machu Picchu is more similar to this altitude than the city of Cusco.
In case Cusco is the final stop, you have the option of drinking a mate de coca, which is a traditional Cusquenian drink made from the coca leaf, a hallmark of Inca culture and a rewarding experience for tourists; or even resort to pills like Sorojchi, which can be purchased at any pharmacy in the city. Being in Cusco it is advisable to book in advance a travel ticket to ensure your arrival to Machu Picchu, you can do it through your tour operator or any travel agency, which will help you throughout the itinerary of your trip, as you can also do it on the website of the airline, the different airlines, or at the airport with a personal agent. The biggest disadvantage of traveling by plane is that the passenger will miss the most important landscapes of the whole trip, from the Peruvian coast to the highlands, which offer a pleasant spectacle during the transition between the different regions of Peru.
Going by car
There is also the possibility of going by private car. This measure is quite similar to the bus, with the difference of taking perhaps a few hours less, depending on the pace at which you go and whether you decide to take stops. The distance from Lima to Machu Picchu seems shorter when going by car, but it is not very different from the bus option, as the long distances and the time taken during the trip is still a drawback. The advantage that you can benefit from in this option is that you can visit the small villages located along the route that have hostels and hotels, as well as restaurants and small attractions, thus getting a more local experience for travelers who enjoy this kind of adventures.
Cusco to Machu Picchu
Once in the Imperial City, it is not a bad idea to enjoy the variety of activities that can be done here. This charming city is home to numerous activities and archaeological ruins full of culture and magnificent sites that are worth your visit. In addition, the nearby Sacred Valley offers other incredible towns and archaeological sites which you can visit, these places are perfect for acclimatizing to the altitude. To avoid risks it is advisable to spend a few days and enjoy everything available for a rewarding experience.
Go by train
One of the best sensations you will enjoy during your stay in Peru is traveling by train. This experience can be a luxurious one if you wish. The train en route to Machu Picchu undoubtedly adds magic and novelty to the whole trip. Regardless of the comfort you opt for, the views you will have of the Andean rainforest are unsurpassed, you will travel through amazing landscapes that are part of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. In Cusco there are two recognized train companies that offer the route Cusco – Machu Picchu, Peru Rail, and Inca Rail, both have three types of tourist services in their wagons. The advantage is that you will have a variety of prices to choose from and it is the most comfortable option to get to Machu Picchu. We will reserve energy when touring the archaeological complex compared to the other alternatives, in addition to enjoying a comfortable and luxurious train ride to the Inca citadel.
Poroy Train Station: Some types of trains depart from Poroy Train Station (town located 1 hour from Cusco) to Machu Picchu, this trip lasts 3 hours approximately, and you will have the chance to enjoy the landscapes of the Cordillera and jungle eyebrow. Ollantaytambo Train Station: Other trains depart from Ollantaytambo train station (town located 2 hours from Cusco). From this point to Machu Picchu, the trip takes another 2 hours. The advantage of taking this option is the beautiful landscapes of the Sacred Valley that visitors will pass by arriving at the Ollantaytambo train station. San Pedro train station: Less train routes depart from the same city of Cusco (San Pedro train station) to Machu Picchu. This has a duration of 4 hours to the jungle sanctuary. Unfortunately, these trains are reserved for the local population and may only be available to foreign visitors on certain occasions. If you manage to board one of them, the incredible views of Cusco’s surroundings will be your reward.
Another more economical way to get to Machu Picchu is to take a bus. However, always taking into account the best time to visit Machu Picchu. We recommend you to choose this option only in dry season. Why? Because the route from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa, which is one of the final stretches before reaching Machu Picchu town, is a dirt road that can get muddy during the rainy season, with the possibility of landslides on the road and disturbing your experience.
Usually, the mini vans or minibuses leave from Cusco itself and go to the town of Santa Maria (located 181 km from Cusco, on the road to Quillabamba). From this point, the bus makes a left turn, passes over the Santa Maria bridge to the other bank of the Vilcanota, and continues its journey to the town of Santa Teresa located in the jungle, 203 kilometers away.
From here, you will have to change buses to another one that will take you to Hidroeléctrica, located 10 kilometers from Santa Teresa. From there, you have two options, the first one is to hike to Aguas Calientes (town located at the foot of the Machu Picchu mountain), this hike takes about 3 hours. And the second option is to buy a train ticket at the nearby train station and get to Aguas Calientes in about 30 minutes.
Trek to Machu Picchu
In case you are looking for something more challenging for your adventure, there is a well-known option for adventurers who enjoy hiking. The Inca Trail is a challenging trek with the promise of beautiful scenery and unforgettable memories, plus you will be part of one of the routes that made up the ancient Inca empire and which was used as a connection between the city of Cusco and Machu Picchu. You can have the classic 3 day tour or the shorter variant of only two days, just keep in mind, the first part of the route is by train (Cusco – 82 km) From this point half way to Machu Picchu, the trekking will begin. It is also important to know when is the best time to go to Machu Picchu by the Inca Trail, but keep in mind that during the month of February, the trail is closed for maintenance of the route.
Trek to Machu Picchu
Trekking to Machu Picchu is the most exciting and rewarding way to reach the renowned Inca citadel, especially if you have an adventurous soul. From a few days to a full week of hiking, you can choose from several routes that lead one way or another to Machu Picchu. No matter which trekking route you decide on, you are guaranteed incredible views and an unforgettable adventure. Among the most popular treks to Machu Picchu are:
The Inca Trail: 4 days of trekking. The visitor must take a train from Poroy or Ollantaytambo station (very early in the morning) to the so-called km 82. From this point the trekking will begin. This route crosses beautiful landscapes of the Andean mountain range up to 4224 m.a.s.l. Salkantay Trek: 5 days of trekking. The trek starts from the town of Mollepata (located 3 hours from Cusco). The route passes through incredible areas of jungle and Andean jungle.
Inca Jungle Trek: 4 days trekking. This route is for true adventurers because the experience includes cycling, trekking, rafting, and zip-lining before reaching Machu Picchu, and passes through the Sacred Valley and Ceja de Selva. This route starts by bus from the city of Cusco to Abra Malaga (4230 masl). From this point the adventure will begin and if you are looking for an unforgettable experience with outdoor activities in dreamlike landscapes, this is your adventure.
Lares Trek: 4 days of trekking. The tour begins by taking a bus from Cusco to the hot springs of Lares (the bus ride takes 2 hours). After taking a relaxing bath, you will start the trek to the Ollantaytambo train station. From this point, the visitor will take a train to Machu Picchu, making the normal journey to the Inca citadel.
Choose your best transport option in terms of price
Flying is the fastest, most comfortable and convenient alternative (of course, if you don’t mind increasing your transportation costs). Many flights depart from Lima to Cusco from morning (05:00 am) to night (11:00 pm). The plane ride takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes. There are many airlines such as Latam, Sky Airlines, Viva Air, among others. The plane tickets from Lima – Cusco airport cost around $50.00 approx. It includes transportation from Cusco to the train station (around $15.00) and train tickets (around $70.00 more). The final cost will be $135.00 approx, one way, per person.
As for the bus alternative, there are daily departures connecting Lima and Cusco. Cruz del Sur, Oltursa, Ormeno, Movil Tours and Civa are bus companies that guarantee comfortable services for long trips. It is a 22-hour road trip between these two destinations. Normally, buses leave Lima around 15:00 or 16:00 hours and arrive in Cuzco at 13:00 or 14:00 hours the following day. It is important to keep in mind that the bus option is longer, less comfortable and not very convenient compared to flights; but it is much cheaper. A bus from Lima to Cuzco costs $25.00, including transportation from Cuzco to the train station ($15.00) and train services ($70.00 more). The final cost will be approximately $110.00, one way, per person.
Of course, these prices will suffer variations if the visitor includes trekking options to get to Machu Picchu.
Everything will depend on your tastes and time available, in order to make a decision. What we recommend is to fly and thus make the most of your time in the different destinations that the city of Cusco has to offer.
The distance between Lima and Machu Picchu should not be an obstacle, but an opportunity to take advantage of. With all the travel modalities available, you will be able to enjoy a complete experience based on what you are looking for. Among all the trips available, visiting and experiencing Machu Picchu is a milestone for anyone. We hope that the distance does not prevent you from making all your most desired trips, therefore we hope that soon you decide to take Peru as your next destination, Machu Picchu is waiting for you.