As you know Machu Picchu is certainly in Peru. Once you reach Lima, you have to travel another 1165 miles to reach only Cusco city. Cusco is an important city of Peru. It was the capital at the time of Inca regime. Machu Picchu is 70 miles or 112 Km northwest of Cusco city. It is located at an altitude of around 8000 ft or 2450 meter from sea level. Machu Picchu is not a town really. Actually Machu Picchu is the famous ruins at the top of Mountain Machu Picchu. They built a super standard hotel there just at the entrance of Machu Picchu ruins. So if you want you can stay there at night around Machu Picchu. Usually people stay at Aguas Calientes, which is the closest town from Machu Picchu. Aguas Calientes is around only two miles from Machu Picchu. You will find lot of hotels and restaurants at Aguas Calientes.
You can not reach Machu Picchu directly from Lima by Plane. You have to reach Cusco first by plane (better option) or bus ( takes around 24 hours), then you can reach Aguas Calientes from Cusco by train (better option) or by a combination of bus and train. From Aguas Calientes you can reach Machu Picchu by Bus. The distance is only few kilometers.
If you are really running short of time, you can fly from Cusco by a helicopter to Aguas calientes. Helicopter service was suspended for a while. Recently ( from 2008) it resumes.
- Train Station at Machu Picchu
There are two train stations at Aguas Calientes. One is just at the entrance of the city. This station is known as Machu Picchu pueblo train station. If you are planning to spend nights at Machu Picchu then you should stop at Machu Picchu Pueblo Station. So don't be confused, Machu Picchu train station is not at Machu Picchu, it is at Aguas Calientes! You may not like the station, it is not a nice one.
It becomes over crowded when a train comes and leaves. At the side of the rail road you will see ( look at the pictures above and below) lot of restaurants, and souvenir shops. Restaurants are not bad here, very cheap pizzas available in almost all the restaurants.
Machu Picchu Pueblo Station at Aguas Calientes
A Train at Machu Picchu Pueblo Station in Aguas Calientes
There is another station at the end of the city. Once you cross the city and reach the bridge you will see this station. From here you will get on the bus which will cross the bridge to enter the winding road to Machu Picchu. This station is named as Puente Ruinas station. Look at the picture below. If you are going to Machu Picchu as one day trip, you are supposed to stop at this station, and you will come back from this station too. So you don't have to go to Aguas Calientes at all.
Puente Ruinas Station at the end of Aguas Calientes
- Bus Stations at Machu Picchu
You will find two bus stations there. One will start from Aguas Calientes main town, located a little west to Machu Picchu Pueblo train station. Every 30 minutes one bus departs for Machu Picchu ruins. One way trip is $4.50 and it is $6.00 for return ticket. Buses will pass through they other bus station, which is located at the end of the city, closer to the other train station, Puente Ruinas. Buses will stop there for only few minutes, and they start for the ruins. If you get off the train at Puente Ruinas train Station, you may take the bus from this station. Here after coming down from the train you will see a small bus ticket counter at opposite to the train station. Buses departs from here every 15 minutes. Ticket will cost you $3.00 one way and $6.00 return trip.
At Machu Picchu ruins you have to walk. Yes, walk and walk. But I think you will not feel tired or bored there. If you are staying at Aguas Calientes, you have to move by bus from Machu Picchu. Aguas Calientes is a small town. Don't expect any taxi or public transport there. The buses you see there are for only up and down to Machu Picchu. There is no taxi or any other mode of transport. Actually it is such a small city you don't need anything to ride on.
Weather of Machu Picchu is not extreme. But since it is on southern hemisphere the winter is from June to September here. So if you fly from USA or Europe during summer, it will be winter here. But during winter temperature does not drop much. Weather is less favorable from January to March. During this part of year you will see lot of rains. But Machu Picchu still remains busy these days. Only Inca trail remains closed during February for maintenance purpose.
Famous Machu Picchu Ruins
I think you see the plenty of pictures like the one above. So what are those structures! Once you will reach that place guides will certainly explain you every single structures. But they go fast, and when you will reach there, you remain so absorbed, it is really difficult to concentrate on what somebody is telling ( Hey, you are there to see something , not to eat lectures, right ?). But truth is afterward you may repent this, you may not come back here again. So my suggestion - read about those structures before you reach there. So once you look at them you know what they are.
So read some words on Funerary Rock, Royal Tomb, Sacred Plaza, Sacred Rock, Central Plaza, Intiwatana and Condor Temple on my Machu Picchu Ruins page..
If you are in a travel package, or in a guided tour, you don't need to worry about buying entrance ticket, because your tour operator will take care of that part. But if you choose to travel yourself (which I recommend) then you need to buy the ticket yourself. Usually entrance tickets are sold at the entrance, right? But that is not true at Machu Picchu ruins. You have to buy the ticket at the Machu Picchu Cultural Centre in Aguas Calientes. So if you miss it and reach Machu Picchu, you have to come back again to Aguas Calientes. So please don't forget to buy it before you leave Aguas Calientes. Machu Picchu Cultural Center is at Main plaza of Aguas Calientes. You can ask any body there to reach there.
One more thing is that, if you are touring independently don't forget to stop at Machu Picchu Pueblo Station. Those who are in a guided tour, usually stop at Puente Ruinas Station, since there guides already collect the tickets from Aguas Calientes.
If you are staying at Cusco then you can buy the ticket from Instituto Nacional de Cultura (INC) office at Calle San Bernado , which is two blocks from Plaza de Armas of Cusco.
Entrance ticket is around $40.00. For students there is 50% discount. Student s have to show ISIC card, any other student ID other than a ISIC card will not be accepted there.
All this tickets are valid for one day only. So if you plan to come back next morning, don't forget to buy one more ticket.
If you are already in Cusco and planning to go to Machu Picchu for a one day trip, you may try it yourself. I will strongly suggest you to take the challenge. It is not really a big deal. You have to buy your train ticket and Machu Picchu entrance ticket, surf the websites (If you have time read all the related pages of my site- be confident you don't need any help) and start. You can ask the hotel counter any information I am missing here, in most of the hotel you will get plenty of advice and direction from the men at the counter. And when you reach Machu Picchu you can easily hire a guide there, (at most $20.00) for few hour while roaming around Machu Picchu ruins. Sometime you will get better option like being a part of a group, where you may have to pay only $2.00/3.00.
You may decide (against all my encouragement) to go for a guided tour. May be you are in Lima, and don't have much time to do all the jobs you need to do, like buying plane tickets and hotel and other arrangements. Then you should go for a guided tour. If you have opportunity, spend time on websites to find the best deal for you. You can talk to your hotel management, they always have connection with tour operators. If you are in Cusco already, just move around Plaza de Armas, You will see offices of lots of tour operators. Check few to get a better deal.