Save Your Soles by Walking to Machu Picchu
by Joani on December 9, 2010
If you're thinking of going to Machu Picchu and want to save some cash, consider walking part of the way. When I visited Peru, I really wanted to see the ancient Incan ruins at Machu Picchu but didn't want to pay the near USD$400 it would cost to take the famous Inca Rail from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the modern city at the base of Machu Picchu, nor could I afford to do other popular options like the Inka Jungle Trek. I was finally able to keep to my budget and see Machu Picchu by doing the cheapest option of them all. I walked!
There are two options for walking. The first option begins at Ollantaytambo. The second option--the one I did because I was alone--begins at Santa Teresa.
Option 1: Ollantaytambo
From Cusco, there are two roads to Ollantaytambo. The first route via Calca leaves from the terminal on Avenida Grau in Cusco. The second route via Chinchero, which is not so nice (the road is unpaved and very windy), leaves from the Terminal Terrestre. The route via Chinchero actually goes to Santa Maria but you can ask to be dropped off in Ollantaytambo. The bus fare should cost 15 Soles or less.
Once you arrive in Ollantaytambo at the Plaza de Armas (the trip takes about an hour), take a cab that will leave you at KM 82 on the Inca Trail. From there, it is about a six- to eight-hour hike to KM 113. During the hike, which is very nice, remember to say hello to the cows; they say it will bring you good luck! From KM 113, it is only another kilometer or so to Aguas Calientes.
Option 2: Santa Teresa
It is also possible to reach Machu Picchu from Santa Teresa via Santa Maria. To get to Santa Maria, catch a bus (Tourism Ampay Company is the safest) from the Terminal Terrestre in Cusco. The trip will take about five hours and is awful. The roads are windy and there is no air conditioning on the bus. The coca leaves were a big help, however.
Once you arrive in Santa Maria, you will need to catch a van to Santa Teresa. It's about 10 Soles for the hour bus ride and is worse than the first leg of the trip! On the way to Santa Teresa, I wanted to throw up. It's worth the suffering, though, because of the money you will save and, besids, it is only one hour, right? I would just advise that you take some pills before taking this trip!!!
In Santa Teresa, you will need to catch a cab (4 Soles) to the hydroelectric. You really need to catch a cab (about 25 minutes) because there are no buses headed there. Here you will find some places to eat before heading out on your hike. Look for the good corn soup and fried chicken with rice for just 10 Soles!
Bring water and nice shoes for walking and insect repellent and lamps if you go at sunset. It's a wonderful view through the jungle. As you head toward Machu Picchu, you will start to feel the energy of the Inca Imperium!!! Just follow the railroad tracks (they are always in front) and remember to ask about train departure times since you will be walking through there.
Once you are in Aguas Calientes, you have the option to walk or take a bus to Machu Picchu. If you decide to take the bus, I would advise you to get an early start, like at 6:00am, as the buses are full in the early morning. Better yet, you should try to get your bus tickets the day before.
Trip Cost (366 Soles)
The transportation to Aguas Calientes, including the food and lodging in Aguas Calientes, cost about 80 Soles. The entrance fee to enter Machu Picchu for a foreigner is 126 Soles (check for student discounts). On top of that, I paid an additional 160 Soles for the return trip to Cusco (150 Soles for the train ride from Ollantaytambo to Cusco on Peru Rail + 10 Soles for a private van from Ollantaytambo to Cusco).