Every year it attracts a lot of tourists and I think I can say that its one of the most visited cites in all South America. Almost 2500m high Machu Pichhu is the lost city of the old Inca kingdom, and one of the 7 wonders in the world.
The main thing is to get from Cusco to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu pueblo), and there is no road leading there. Aguas Calientes is the closest town to Machu Picchu, its a very cute little town, great to explore. Usually, you spend a night there and then early morning you head to Machu Picchu, by bus or on foot.
We read a lot of blogs on the internet and also people were scarring us that you need to book like 2 weeks in advance, that it cost a lot of money, so we were asking ourself if its even possible to do Machu Picchu on a budget at one point we didn’t even know if we want to do it. We did our research and I’m happy to tell you that you can do Machu Picchu on a budget.
Here is how we saw Machu Picchu on a budget, for under 90$ (80€) per person, with all expenses included.
Buy the tickets at least 2 days in advance
You can buy the tickets in Cusco, at the Ministerio de Cultura at San Francisco plaza. I recommend that you do the reservation online and then you can just pick them up in their office (and pay of course). You will pay S152 (45$;40,1€) per ticket, they charge you a bit extra if you pay with the card. It is super easy, we recommend you buying the 6 am tickets, its the less crowdy and also a good timing if you don’t have time to spend two nights in Aguas Calientes. You have 3 options to reach Aguas Calientes:
With a train
The train is the most expensive one, but the most comfortable. You can take the train to Aguas Calientes (the closest town to Macchu Picchu) from Cusco, the ride takes around 2 hours and the cheapest tickets are from 70$ up. When we were there a one-way ticket was 86$, which no way we could afford, so we went for the second option:
Take a bus to Hidroelectrica – Machu Picchu on a budget
The second option is to take a bus to Hidroelectrica, and then walk 12km to Aguas Calientes from there. I think its the best way to see Machu Picchu on a budget, I mean, it is hard but still manageable if you like to walk of course. You need to buy the tickets in Cusco, I recommend you buying return cause it’s cheaper. I think that every agency there offers this, so it won’t be a problem for you, just maybe don’t buy from the first one, ask around to get a better price, we bought it for S55 (16,2$;14,5€), return. They will probably pick you up from your hotel at 7 am or you will need to come to Plaza de Armas as we did.
The road to Hidroelectrica is quite impressive but long and very curved and our van wasn’t among most comfy ones. First, you will be driving through the sacred valley, so beautiful, and then the scenery will be getting more and more green. Yes, you are approaching the jungle, getting close to it, it was also raining while we were driving there. I recommend you buy some food, that you won’t be hungry like we were, the drive is long, more than 5 hours long. They will drop you at Hidroelectrica around 1:30 pm. You will have to register yourself at the official checking point and then start the 12 km walk. the road is the same as the train, and basically, you walk by the tracks. Besides that, the road is very impressive full of green jungle and rock cliffs. It took us about 3 hours to reach Aguas Calientes and it was pouring rain all the way, we were a bit unlucky.
Walk from Cusco
This is the third option of how you can visit Machu Picchu and the most economic one. But it is a long way to go. If you walk from Cusco to Aguas Calientes it is a long 28km walk and it takes at least 11 hours.
We are walkers and we were thinking about this option but when we found out that you can drive two-thirds of it and walk just one third we decided for that one, much more comfortable and we still had a nice walk in the end. But just that you know, this is an option as well. I guess it’s up to you and your budget which of the options you will pick but I would recommend the second one.
Once in Aguas Calientes
We recommend you book a place in advance, CLICK HERE to get 30€ off your first Airbnb stay. Aguas Calientes is full of accommodations, so it won’t be a problem finding something for you. We stayed in a very low budget place, which unfortunately I can’t recommend, we weren’t happy with the accommodation, cheap is not always better.
After our cold shower we went out to find dinner, you have a lot of restaurants to pick from. The prices are a bit higher, but we managed to find a menu del dia for only S8 (2,3$;2,1€) and it was good. Just walk a bit out of the center and you can find cheaper places to eat. After dinner we went to sleep very early, we needed a good sleep cause we had to wake up at 4 am (if you go by bus you can sleep more, lucky you!).
We got dressed and headed towards the bridge, where you start the climb up, they open the bridge at 5 am. It will probably be a queue of people already waiting to enter. Don’t forget your passport!
You have 2 options to reach Machu Picchu:
The ride takes about 20 minutes, you catch the bus in Aguas Calientes and it drops you off directly at the entrance to Machu Picchu. One way ticket cost 12$ (10,7€), the first departure of the bus is at 5:30 am.
If you are traveling on a budget as we do, the bus will probably be a too expensive option for you. So you will have to walk, and I can tell you it won’t be easy and it will take approx. 1,5 hours. You will need to walk a lot of stairs but the end is very rewarding and you will feel excellent when you will reach the entrance.
Just take into consideration that if you walk the way up and the way down you also need to make it all the way back to Hidroelectrica the same day, I think we needed to be there around 3 pm. We were really exhausted, I think that we walked more than 30 km all together that day.
Like I already mentioned, we weren’t sure if we even visit Machu Picchu, we were afraid it’s too touristic and that we will be disappointed. In the end, we decided to visit and I can say that I am very happy we decided to go. it is touristic, of course, it still is one of the 7 wonders in the world. But they manage to keep it mystical and beautiful, it is a special place.