Cusco to Aguas Calientes User Travel Guide
Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire, and Aguas Calientes, the gateway to the world-renowned Machu Picchu, are two key destinations on any Peruvian adventure. The journey from Cusco to Aguas Calientes offers breathtaking landscapes, intriguing history, and a taste of the rich Andean culture. This user travel guide provides comprehensive information about the various options to travel this route, what to pack, where to stay, and what to expect during your journey.
There are several ways to travel from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, each with its own unique advantages and experiences.
Train: The most popular and convenient way is by train. PeruRail and Inca Rail are the two main operators, offering a variety of services, from budget-friendly options to luxury services. The journey takes about 3.5 to 4 hours and winds through the picturesque Sacred Valley, alongside the roaring Urubamba River. It’s a relaxing and scenic journey, with comfortable seats, onboard amenities, and window views that are a photographer’s dream.
Hiking: For the more adventurous, the iconic Inca Trail offers a challenging but rewarding four-day trek. The trail traverses high mountain passes, lush cloud forests, and several ancient Inca ruins before culminating at the Sun Gate of Machu Picchu. Note that you’ll need to book this well in advance, as permits are limited and can sell out months ahead.
Hybrid: A hybrid option involves taking a bus or collective taxi to Ollantaytambo, another historic town in the Sacred Valley, and then catching a train from there to Aguas Calientes. This option can be more economical and allows more flexibility in terms of timing.
Regardless of your mode of transport, packing light is crucial. Remember that if you’re hiking, you’ll be carrying everything on your back, and if you’re on the train, luggage space is limited. Essential items include:
Clothing: Pack for all weather conditions. The Andes can be unpredictable, with sunny mornings, rainy afternoons, and chilly nights. Layers are key. Include a waterproof jacket, warm fleece, hat, and gloves.
Footwear: If you’re hiking, sturdy, well-broken-in hiking boots are a must. For train travelers, comfortable shoes for walking around Aguas Calientes are sufficient.
Snacks and water: While there are dining cars on the trains and meals provided during the Inca Trail trek, having some snacks and a reusable water bottle is always a good idea.
Documents: Don’t forget your passport, tickets, and if applicable, your Inca Trail permit.
Aguas Calientes, despite its small size, has a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets. From basic hostels to luxury boutique hotels, you can find something that fits your needs. Many places offer hot showers and free Wi-Fi, which can be a godsend after a long journey or trek. Always check recent reviews to ensure the quality of the place you’re booking.
What to Expect
Traveling from Cusco to Aguas Calientes is an adventure in itself. Expect to be captivated by the stunning landscapes, from snow-capped peaks to lush, verdant valleys. The people you’ll meet, both locals and fellow travelers, add to the richness of the experience.
For those on the train, expect a comfortable journey with plenty of opportunities for photos. Keep an eye out for unique bird species and the ever-changing landscape.
If you’re hiking the Inca Trail, expect physical challenges but also immense rewards. The trail is tough, with steep ascents and descents, but the sense of achievement when you arrive at
Machu Picchu is truly unforgettable. Be prepared for early starts, especially if you want to catch the sunrise over the ruins.
If you opt for a non-hiking route, there are five main ways to reach Aguas Calientes from Cusco:
Bus and taxi: The journey involves taking a bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and then a taxi from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. It takes approximately 4 hours and 49 minutes, including transfers, and costs between $130 and $1751.
Bus and train: This option is the quickest, taking about 3 hours and 55 minutes. The journey involves taking a bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and then a train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. The cost ranges between $130 and $2751.
Bus and Train: This is a different service that takes you directly from Cusco to Machu Picchu. It takes about 4 hours and 4 minutes and costs between $160 and $2101.
Taxi: You can also take a taxi straight from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. The trip is approximately 210.2 kilometers and takes around 4 hours and 20 minutes. It costs between $130 and $1601.
Drive: If you have access to a vehicle, you can drive from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. The distance is about 210.2 kilometers and it takes approximately 4 hours and 20 minutes. The cost of fuel is estimated to be between $30 and $501.
Inca Rail operates a train from Cusco to Machu Picchu every 4 hours. Tickets cost between $160 and $210 and the journey takes about 4 hours1. PeruRail operates a train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes every 3 hours. The journey takes about 1 hour and 32 minutes and tickets cost around $931. Inca Rail also operates a train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu every 4 hours. This journey takes approximately 1 hour and 26 minutes and tickets cost between $160 and $2101.
Real Inka operates a bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo on demand. The journey takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes and tickets cost between $40 and $651. There is also a taxi service available from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes1.
The distance between Cusco and Aguas Calientes is 73 kilometers as the crow flies, but the road distance is 210.2 kilometers1.
Whichever way you choose to travel, the journey from Cusco to Aguas Calientes is an adventure filled with breathtaking landscapes, charming Andean culture, and the anticipation of one of the world’s most renowned archaeological sites. It’s a journey that is every bit as rewarding as the destination itself. Enjoy your trip!