There are three ways to get to Machu Picchu. The best known is the train journey to the town of Aguas Calientes, the last point before reaching the Wonder of the World. The other is through the famous 4-day route known as the 4 day Inca Trail Tour. The last one is the walk from the Hidroeléctrica to Machu Picchu, a route of approximately 2 hours through lush vegetation until arriving at Machu Picchu town.
The Machu Picchu Hydroelectric Power Plant is not so much a city or town (it is, in fact, just a hydroelectric plant), and the only indication you will have that you are in the right place is a row of stalls selling drinks and snacks. You'll find a clearly signed checkpoint to log in so authorities have an idea of how many people are walking on the tracks, so leave your signature and head towards the slopes! How is the way from Hidroeléctrica to Machu Picchu? Learn more about this incredible alternative tour to the Inca Citadel.
To get from the Hidroeléctrica to Machu Picchu, there are a series of steps that you must follow:
You have two transportation options to make the trip from Cusco to Santa María.
The first is to take a collective minibus that departs from Calle Inca (25s./$8/$5) and the second is to take a slower bus (15s./$5/$3) from the Quillabamba Terminal (also called Terminal Santiago) in AV. Antonio Lorena. To get to any of these places, take a taxi (4s./$1.3/$0.8) to Plaza Almudena. From there, you will find the Quillabamba Terminal on the opposite street or the buses on Inca Street one block away.
For the above two options, the actual marked destination of the bus will be Quillabamba, so be sure to confirm that they stop at Santa Maria, which is where you want to get off.
If you want to take the slowest but cheapest bus and your visit coincides with the high season, it would be a good idea to buy your ticket the day before, as the demand for the 7.30am bus may exceed the morning supply.
If you prefer to spend a few days seeing ruins and hang out in beautiful Ollantaytambo, instead of overlooking it entirely, you can take a bus from there to Santa María from the northwest corner of the main square for 15 seconds. / $ 5 / £ 3, 3-4 hours. These buses come from Cusco, so seats may be scarce and there is a possibility that you may miss them. If that happens, you can go to neighboring Urubamba and find a connection there, or negotiate a group rate with taxis in Ollantaytambo.
COST: 19-29 SOLES | TIME: 5-6 HOURS
From where they left you in Santa María, you will have no trouble finding the buses that connect you to Santa Teresa, you have three options:
Spend the night to rest, eat, hang out in thermal baths and start the trip. This is the option we recommend.
COST: 10 SOLES | TIME: 1.5 HOURS
The same afternoon or the following morning, take the Santa Teresa bus to the Machu Picchu Hydroelectric Power Plant. (5s./$2.6/$1, 45 minutes). This is very easy to find and as a backpacker you will probably come to ask if this is where you are going.
COST: 5 SOLES | TIME: 45 MINUTES
Once at the hydroelectric power station, there are two options to reach the town of Aguas Calientes. The first is to take the train from Hidroeléctrica to Aguas Calientes that generally depart only twice a day in the afternoon and take 30 minutes to arrive. The other option is to walk from Hidroeléctrica to Aguas Calientes parallel to the train rails and the Vilcanota river to the final station.
Since this is such a popular way for budget-minded backpackers to head to Machu Picchu, finding the "starting point" should be easy, but feel free to take a quick look at your GPS to make sure the correct address.
From here, it is a pleasant 2-3 hour walk from Hidroeléctrica to Aguas Calientes along the railway line.
Just remember at all times that this is an active rail line in daily use - stay safe and watch the signs around the route.
These are the boarding times at the train station from Hidroeléctrica to Aguas Calientes:
These are the boarding times at the Aguas Calientes station heading to Hidroeléctrica:
The walk from Hidroeléctrica to Aguas Calientes takes on average 2 hours and is an incredible experience due to the adventure and the beautiful landscape that surrounds it.
The path is flat, it does not have slopes that make the journey difficult. It presents signs along the approximate 10 kilometers of the route. Flora and fauna abound along it where you can glimpse the variety of orchids and even sigh anteaters in their natural habitat. Go through tunnels where care must be taken. There are vendors that offer mineral water, fruit and other products along the way.
Along the walk from Hidroeléctrica to Aguas Calientes, the visitor will meet other tourists who also do the walk. Although there is no greater danger on the way, precautions should be taken with trains that carry cargo or passengers on the track. It is not advisable to listen to music with headphones during the tour. All the senses must be aware of the journey. It is one of the best experiences before Machu Picchu.
The final step of the route to Machu Picchu by Hidroelectrica is to get from Aguas Calientes to the Inca citadel. There are two ways to get to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes: walk for 90 minutes on some steep steps or take a bus. There are no prizes to guess which option most people choose.
Buses from Aguas Calientes leave every 10-15 minutes from 05:30 a.m., and during the high trekking season queues can form from 05:00 a.m. You can take the bus near Plaza Principal in Aguas Calientes. The bus ride lasts 30 minutes on the return road (also known as the Hiram Bingham Highway) to the official tourist entrance to Machu Picchu. A return ticket currently costs ~ US $ 20 (~ US $ 10 for a single trip) and can be purchased in Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu, if you only need a return ticket.
The queues of visitors returning from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes begin to form around lunch time. Expect to queue for at least 45 minutes, so be sure to plan enough time to return to Aguas Calientes for your train (i.e. 45-minute queue + 30-minute bus ride)
Do you think train tickets for Machu Picchu are very expensive or are they sold out? Do you have a traveling spirit? This alternative route to Machu Picchu is for you.
The route from Hidroeléctrica to Cusco by bus is one of the best routes with multiple and beautiful landscapes such as: the Sacred Valley of the Incas, views towards the Andes Mountains and visiting local towns located in the eyebrow of the Cusco jungle.
It is a trip by mini bus of 6 Hours and 30 minutes approximately, from the city of Cusco to the Hydroelectric station of Machu Picchu round trip (90% paved and 10% on a carriage-affirmed trail).
A trekking of approximately 3 hours is made each way from the Hydroelectric station to Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Pueblo. (You have the option of taking a tourist class train)
The price of transportation from Hidroeléctrica to Cusco by bus is 30.00 US dollars, the journey is from the city of Cusco to the last station of Hydroelectric and vice versa.
The bus from Hidroeléctrica to Cusco leaves at 3:00 pm and you must be 30 minutes before to board the bus, you will arrive in Cusco at 9:45 pm approx.