How Is A 1 Day Trip To Machu Picchu, Peru?

A unique experience, and an amazing day trip. Breathtaking landscapes, beautiful mountains, incredible city built on top of a steep mountain, not of it makes sense.

Machu Picchu

A unique experience, and an amazing day trip. Breathtaking landscapes, beautiful mountains, incredible city built on top of a steep mountain, not of it makes sense.

It wasn't in my plans to go to the Machu Picchu when going to Peru, as my main goal was going white water rafting.

My days being limited, I was not able to join a trail to hike to the Machu Picchu, as they take several days, and I was only in Peru for a week.

Cusco: Find local activities

The day trips were all pretty expensive, about 300$. Fortunately, with Bloody Bueno Peru, which was recommended to me during my free  walking tour   on my first day there, I got a day tour for 239$, which was acceptable.

At the end, after having been there, it was definitely worth it, and a good idea to book it the day after the white water rafting trip.

Cusco to Ollantaytambo

Waking up at 3am, for a hotel at 4am, it was pretty difficult to fall asleep, after a full day of Cusco rafting and zipline adventure. But what we wouldn't do to join one of the best things to do in Cusco.

I was pretty much the last one to be picked up, and somebody came to ring at my hostel door, took me to the minibus, and handed me over an envelope with my tickets.

I got the last seat in the bus and, like everybody else, used the opportunity to finish my night during the 2 hours trip to Ollantaytambo, the closest train station from Cusco to go to Machu Picchu train station, in Aguas Calientes.

The Machu Picchu all inclusive trip I got for 239$ included everything, except food: bus to train station with pickup from Cusco hotels, train ticket, bus ticket to go up the Machu Picchu Peru, entrance Machu Picchu tickets, guide, and the way back.

Ollantaytambo train station

Arriving at the Cusco Ollantaytambo trainstation, our guide told us that we have to wait for the train, and gave us instructions to find the next guide, after the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, as he would hold a flag with our group name.

We quickly understood that our tickets were booked with IncaRail, and the trains that were at station belonged to PeruRail, another train company... all a bit confusing, especially early in the morning.

I got myself a coffee and a donut, which would be my breakfast, as I was told that no food was included.

However, just after having it, I went to the waiting lounge of our train company, and, what a surprise... complimentary coffee, tea, and coca for train passengers! If only they told us earlier...

I got myself a coca tea, and the train soon arrived, it was pretty easy to find my wagon and seat.

Entering the train, big surprise, it looks brand new, and the seats are very comfortable, it will be a great ride!

Only disappointment, no power plug were available.

However, the trip in the train from Cusco to Machu Picchu is amazing, with beautiful sceneries all around. At some point, we pass without stopping one station, and we can see that it is the starting point of the Inca trail... happy to be comfortably seated!

The train to Machu Picchu is a very pleasant ride, with complimentary coffee, tea and coca during the ride, plus a small snack offered.


Arriving at Aguascalientes, the Machu Picchu city, I understood that I could actually easily have booked myself my whole tour to the Inca lost city...

The city of Aguascalientes offers plenty of Machu Picchu hiking tours, has many Machu Picchu hotels, and offers lot of restaurants, bars and more.

It is basically at the bottom of the Machu Picchu mountain, about 400meters below the site, and it is either possible to take the bus up, 12$ one way for a 20minutes ride, or walk there... which must probably take about 3 to 4hours.

Right next to the trainstation, we found our guide, and waited to have a complete group, after what we went to center of the city, a bit away from the crowd, and the guide explained us how the day would go.

We had about one and a half hour to wait in the city, while he took our passports and went to get the tickets.

I used the time to take a few pictures, walk a bit around the small city... and actually found a bar with a great view, and power plugs, where I could charge my phone to be sure to have enough power for the day.

Meeting time arriving, I went to the guide, and realized the tour didn't give me my ticket to Machu Picchu. As the tickets are nominative, the guide was able to print it again, while the group already went to take the bus.

Climbing Machu Picchu

The Machu Picchu bus ride is most likely more comfortable that climbing the mountain, to go about 400 meters up in the mountain and above the clouds.

Machu Picchu bus are actually well organized, as with a ticket it is possible to take any bus, with departure every few minutes.

The bus ride up the mountain offers an absolutely stunning view, and this is where, with that day trip, we start to really get a feeling of how incredible this city is.

The bus meanders on the mountain roads, and the mountain, just like the other ones around, is very steep.

So steep, it does seems impossible to climb it without current roads or climbing equipment. The vegetation is also pretty dense.

How did anybody manage to go up there, and build a city on top of it?

After that 20 minutes ride, we arrived at the Machu Picchu site. A large welcoming area has been built, with a cafe, some shops, and a proper site entrance.

We have to wait 30 minutes for our turn to enter, as tickets are also time dependent, meaning they are sold for a specific entrance time.

Once it is our turn, we wait to regroup, and pass the first turn around the mountain, at which point we can now have a glimpse at the marvel.

Visiting Machu Picchu

Even the first glimpse is simply amazing. It makes no sense. How is this, these constructions, which are actually huge, a real whole city, even possible?

How did anybody climb there? We took the bus and it was already pretty dangerous and a miracle that we got there without any accident.

The site is so big! It is far larger in real that it looks like on picture, and actually more than the visible area – and even in the visible area, the mountain opposite to where we stand holds other constructions which we cannot see from there.

Amazing. Simply amazing.

Our guide gives us a few explanations, while some other groups are moving further. Once the stairs are clear, we go up to the most photogenic area of the Machu Picchu.

There, we spend about 20 minutes, admiring the view, and taking as many pictures as possible.

Machu Picchu Peru

The view on the old Inca city is breathtaking, 2400 meters above sea level, on top of a 400 meters mountain, surrounded by mountains all as steep and high as that one.

It all seems incredible. We take pictures, ask people to take pictures of us, take pictures for other groups.

We don't want it to stop. It is truly a unique experience, and we all understand that coming there is worth all the money we spent to get here.

After a while, our guide asks us to regroup, in order to actually start the tour which we are here to do.

Machu Picchu tour

We start by going to the highest point of the city, in which many lamas are enjoying a large grass area.

We sit down on the grass, in the middle of the lamas, and they will actually make the show. Being used to people, they mean no harm, but it is impressive when they come next to us and expect us to let them get to the grass behind.

Lama going around Machu Picchu

Our guide explains us more on the history of this place, why it was hidden by the Incas to the conquistadors, how it was discovered and rehabilitated after centuries under the vegetation.

There are still many mysteries about that place. Its location was known by locals, but simply hidden to the invaders for a long time. But what was its purpose?

Why put so much effort in building a city so big, so hard to access, on top of the mountain, where there isn't much except vegetation and rain?

Many questions are still open, and, wandering in the streets of the centuries old city, we only get to ask ourselves even more questions, which will mostly remain unanswered.

Our guide shares with us as much as he knows, but there is still a lot more to understand.

At some point, in the middle of the city, we stop to admire the stones. Here, a bunch of Inca stones shows us the precision with which they were assembled together.

Again, it makes no sense. How did they prepare, brought, and put together these stones? It simply seems impossible.

The more we see, the more impossible it seems. And the more unique the experience is.

The city was actually huge, and could host hundreds of persons, as it is made of many houses, but also had large gardens, all built Inca style, in terraces.

We end the visit at the back of the Machu Picchu, next to a huge stone which was used by the Inca for some rituals.

Our guide tells us that we are free to stay until it closes. The time is 2pm, and our train ticket back to Cusco is at 7pm, which gives us plenty of time to wonder in the streets of the lost Inca city, until we feel like taking the bus down the mountain to Agua Calientes.

Way back from Machu Picchu

Back in Agua Calientes, I start to feel very hungry. As I have a lot of time, I go all around trying to find an affordable restaurant, with normally priced drinks.

All is very expensive! They all offer happy hour, but Peruvian happy hour... It doesn't mean 2 drinks for the price of 1, but simply that drinks are a bit cheaper when bought in bulk. Most of them are anyway overpriced, just like the food, more than 3$US for a beer, and more than 6$US for a standard meal.

I finally find a restaurant which seems to offer acceptable prices, 9$ for 4 beers, and a meal for 7.5$US. I wait there for the time to take the train, which arrives at night, and I won't see much until getting back to the hostel, at more than 11pm.

Machu Picchu facts

Where is Machu Picchu located? Machu Picchu is in the Andean mountains, 500km from Lima, or 75km from Cusco, as the crow flies – it is not possible to access it by road, but only by train or foot.

Machu Picchu weather is dry and sunny from April to October, and rainy from November to March. The temperature year round is around 20°C / 68°F, making the best time to visit Machu Picchu between April and October.

Machu Picchu elevation is 2430 meters or 8000 feet, which is 400 meters higher than the closest city of Agua Calientes.

Machu Picchu airport, or closest airport, is Cusco airport CUS.

Machu Picchu cost

  • Machu Picchu trek cost, Inca trail cost: Inca Trail 4 days tour for about 275$ / 240€,
  • Machu Picchu hike cost: the hike from Aguas Calientes is free,
  • Machu Picchu excursions: day trip from 239$ / 210€,
  • Machu Picchu tours from Lima: from 900$ / 790€,
  • Machu Picchu tickets cost: entrance S/152 (45$ / 40€),
  • Machu Picchu tours: private guide for S/140 (40$ / 37€).
Machu Picchu tours from Lima

Machu Picchu on a budget: follow the Inca trail yourself and sleep by your own means, the whole trip can be as low as 80$US / 70€, taking 5 days.

Inca Trail Peru information – trekkers guide to the Inca Trail Peru
How to see Machu Picchu on the cheap the ultimate guide

Machu Picchu day trips from Cusco

Price from 240$US/210€ and up.

Average schedule:

  • 4 am hotel pickup,
  • 4 to 6am bus to Ollantaytambo train station,
  • 6:40 to 8:20am train to Aguas Calientes,
  • 9:50 to 10:30am group meeting in Aguascalientes,
  • 10:30 to 10:50am bus to Machu Picchu,
  • 11:30 to 14:15 group guided visit,
  • 7pm to 9pm train back to Ollantaytambo,
  • 9 to 11pm minibus back to Cuzco.

How Much Does a Trip to Machu Picchu Cost

All inclusive day trip starting at 239$/209€, self organized from 216$/189€:

  • Bus + train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes 76$/67€ one way, round trip 152$/133€,
  • Bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu 12$/11€ one way, round trip 24$/22€,
  • Private guide 40$/35€.

Having a guide to visit Machu Picchu is announced to be mandatory soon – it is not yet the case, but it is anyway advised to hire one in order to have a better experience.

Incarail or Perurail? They basically offer the same prices and experience, as they compete on the same route at very similar schedule. See what works better for you.

Incarail Machu Picchu train
Perurail train to Machu Picchu

Frequently Asked Questions

What can travelers expect from a 1-day trip to Machu Picchu, and how can they make the most of this limited time?
In a 1-day trip to Machu Picchu, travelers can expect a whirlwind experience covering the main highlights of the ancient Inca city. To make the most of the trip, it's advisable to start early, have a clear itinerary, and hire a knowledgeable guide to learn about the site's history and significance.

Michel Pinson
About the author - Michel Pinson
Michel Pinson is a Travel enthusiast and Content Creator. Merging passion for education and exploration, he iscommitted to sharing knowledge and inspiring others through captivating educational content. Bringing the world closer together by empowering individuals with global expertise and a sense of wanderlust.

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