Before going to Machu Picchu I’ve been doing a fair bit of research on what is the cheapest(and easiest) way to actually get to Aguas Calientes and while there is a lot of Information floating around a lot of it was either misleading or conflicting. As a result I decided to put together this little guide which should make reaching the ruins a pretty straightforward issue.
What this Guide will show you is how to get to Aguas Calientes by way of driving to Machu Picchu Hidroelectria and hiking along the Train Tracks to Aguas Calientes.
First off I read on a couple of forums that it is no longer possible to hike from Machu Picchu Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes along the train tracks as there is Police posted along the Tracks that will prevent you from doing so.
This is definitely not true. There are no Guards posted anywhere along the Tracks, the only thing you will find a warning signs telling you not to walk on the tracks, thats it.
Again, misleading Information here. Everywhere I looked it is mentioned that you can buy the Ticket to Machu Picchu either at Cusco or directly in Aguas Calientes. That is only true to some point.
The Office in Cusco will sell you tickets but only in combination with a Bus or Train Ticket.
Considering you will most likely want to ride there this isnt an option so you will have to buy the Tickets in Aguas Calientes.
Now keep in mind we did this during off season and there werent a lot of people there, I imagine that during High Season you might have issues actually getting the Ticket in Aguas Calientes as they simply might be sold out.
Important: The Office in Aguas Calientes only accepts Cash in Soles, no Dollars, no Credit Cards
The Prices as of December 2017 are:
Regular 155 Soles
Student 77 Soles
Locals pay half price. So if you have a student ID make sure to bring it as it will save you a lot of money.
How to get there
Let me start this off by saying the Ride from Cusco to Hidroelectrica is one of the most epic ones I’ve done so far. It’s about 220km of mostly corners and hairpins so dont count on doing it in just 2 1/2h because of the relatively short distance.
Once you start heading up into the mountains you will go way above 4000m so bring some warm weather riding gear. The Area you will ride through is also prone to clouds. On the Way to Aguas Calientes we rode in 4° with visibility down to about 5-10m and drizzle for about an hour. On the way back luckily there were no clouds and the road was dry but chances are no matter when you go it will get cold and rainy at some point so be prepared.
Once you turn off the main Highway the Road turns to dirt with more spectacular scenery to be had along the way. You really dont need any offroad worthy Tires, we did it 2up with a TKC70 Rear/Motoz Tractinator GPS Front and had no issues whatsoever riding. Be mindful tough that if it rains you will encounter some muddy patches and there is a lot of traffic on that road as that is the way all the tourist buses take to get to Hidroelectrica.
Once you get there dont go all the way to the end of the road, about 700m before the road ends there will be a bridge on your left. Take that bridge and after a couple hundred meters there will be a couple of buildings to the right. This is where you can park your bike and leave your riding gear. The price is 10 Soles per day.
From that part on continue on foot. It’s about a 2 1/2h hike along the aforementioned train tracks.
There are a couple of small Tiendas and Restaurants immediately where the Tracks start, one of the first ones sells really good Avocada & Cheese Sandwiches for 3 Soles, Breakfast is 7 Soles. This will be the last cheap food you will get until you return.
The Hike is pretty much flat walking all the way but since its Train Tracks theres a lot of stones so Flip Flops might not be the best choice. It can also easily be done after dark(we did it in pitch black darkness) which is an experience in itself.
Be mindful that there will be trains from time to time so no walking on the Rails.
After 2 1/2h you will arrive in Aguas Calientes, the most expensive town in Peru.
Im not joking when I say Aguas Calientes is the most expensive town im Peru. The Price for almost everything pretty much triples. Use Booking, Trivago or some similar site to find the cheapest Accomodation. Calculate around 20$(< yes, Dollars) per Night.
Food is also very pricey but you can bargain with me. One thing to note here is that unless posted otherwise you will pay 10% Service Tax on top of everything else.
Look for Promotions and offers. Most places will have Pizza, Burgers or Menu Turistico on Offer which usually includes one free Pisco Sour or Lemonade. The cheapest we found was 15 Soles for Menu Turistico(Soup, Main, Desert), Burgers can be had for 10 Soles. Make sure they will actually give you the Promo price, the night we got there it was around 9pm and they told us promotions were not available so keep that in mind.
If you want some beer my advice would be to not buy it at any bar or restaurant, the prices are ridiculous. What Costs 7 Soles in Cusco will spring you 20 in Aguas Calientes so get your booze at a Tienda.
So you made it to the Town, have your Ticket and are ready to go to Machu Picchu. Theres 2 ways of doing so. The expensive way is to just take the Bus from Town which is about a 30min Ride and cost you 25$. But since thats too touristy lets just assume youre gonna hike. It’s a pretty straightforward issue. Head out of town towards the entrance, theres really only one way leading out and theres signs posted so you cant miss it. Disregard what you heard about acclimatisation and preparing. You’ll only go from 2000m to 2435m so no big deal. It is mostly steps but pretty steep so account for about 1 1/2h to 2h of hiking to get up there.
As I mentioned before we were there during off season and bought a Ticket for the afternoon but since there werent that many people they let us in early. During High Season you may actually have to wait at the Entrance until your time has come.
That’s it, you’ve made it to Machu Picchu 😀
The Hot Springs
After the hike and seenig the ruins you might think “Hmm, id like to relax in the Hot Springs in Town”.
My recommendation is, dont. The Price is 20 Soles no matter what time you get there. So if you get there late in the afternoon youll spend 20 Soles for 2h. Also, the water is filthy in the evenings as there is no real circulation to speak, cant even see your own feet and there is a Ton of people there so relaxing isnt really possible cause theres always some yelling near you.
Just my 2 Cents on that.
Take a hot shower, grab a beer from the Tienda and just hang out at the River, much nicer 😉