Monday, August 28, 2017

Hiking Up Machu Picchu on a Budget

Hiking Up Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu on a Budget, Train for Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu on the cheap, Cheap Machu Picchu, Buy Machu Picchu Tickets
Watch my video below!

So there are a lot of ways to visit the Sacred Valley, and although I feel that the best way to experience Machu Picchu is by partaking in one of the 1-11 day treks, there are far easier ways for the non-hikers. If you are the adventurous kind like myself, there are about 6 off the beaten treks to take, anywhere from the Inca Trail (1-4 days), to the Salcantay Route - 5 to 8 days (Mount Salcantay reaches up to 20,500 feet high), to even the Lodge Trek where you rough it during the day, and sleep in lodges at night (7 to 11 days). I didn't have that much time unfortunately, but I just wanted share with you my little journey on how I visited the Sacred Valley, and how I did it on a budget. If you're rich with FAT POCKETS, then that's great, take me with you because I would love to go back! One day I plan go back and do the Salcantay Route!

I arrived in Lima, Peru via bus from Guayaquil, Ecuador. Of course you can fly, but like I said before, I do things on a budget so that I can travel 7+ months out of the year. You can of course fly straight into Lima which I will do next time, but I actually had a film project in Ecuador, so that is why I was there. Ecuador was amazing btw, if you ever go there, you must visit Banos!

From Lima, you can either fly or take a bus to Cusco, which was once the capital of the Inca Empire, and now the main hub to Machu Picchu. I took the bus and it ran me only about $28 USD, which I booked via a website called It took 21 hours, so if you don't have much time, you may want to fly. You will find various bus companies, but I chose CIVA because it was much cheaper, but still had good reviews, and it ended up beating my expectations. CIVA also has different categories of buses such as ECONO, SUPER, and if you have a little bit of extra money to spend, EXCLUCIVA is where it's at! Just FYI, the buses in Peru are known to sometimes be better than a lot of the airlines! I mean, the buses will feed you up to 3-4 meals depending on the distance. You'll be lucky to get pretzels from an airline these days! I don't mind taking the buses because you are able to see more of the country, and I really enjoy seeing different parts of the places I visit. With flying, you miss out on a lot of amazing scenery.

Hiking Up Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu on a Budget, Train for Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu on the cheap, Cheap Machu Picchu, Buy Machu Picchu Tickets

Cusco ended up being a lot bigger than I expected, which I really didn't like. I gravitate towards the smaller towns and villages. Although I didn't care for Cusco as much, there is still plenty to do, and activities to book prior to visiting Machu Picchu. One thing that I wasn't able to do, but wished I did was visit Rainbow Mountain. It's about 2-3 hours outside of Cusco, but definitely worth the trip if you have the time. Just to warn you, the trek is about 6 days if you want to do it the right way, and get this, some people say the level of difficulty is MUCH higher than trekking up Machu Picchu! There are also one day treks to Rainbow Mountain, but I only recommend that if you have limited time.

Rainbow Mountain - Photo Credit: Forbes


From Cusco, the goal is to get to Aguas Calientes, which is the main town at the bottom of Machu Picchu. Yes, it is that tough to reach Machu Picchu, that's why it's one of those places that you have to visit. There is NO DIRECT way to visit the Sacred Valley, it's a journey, and one that you can customize yourself.

I recommend buying your Machu Picchu Tickets at least a week in advanced!

Okay, so prior to Cusco, I originally purchased a train ticket to get me from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, but come to find out, the train station that I booked with (Inca Rail) was about 2 hours away in a place called Ollantaytambo. I think there is a rail company in Cusco (Peru Rail) that goes from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, but not sure, if there is one, it is definitely going to be pricey, because the train option is not cheap, unless of course you're rich =).

Ollantaytambo is where most of the 4 day treks start from. The best way to get to Ollantaytambo if you are on a budget is to take one of the combi buses (local passenger mini vans) from Cusco. Yes, you can take a taxi, but you will get ripped off. Even if you find a good deal with a taxi ($20-40), it WILL NOT beat the price of only 10 soles ($3 USD) if you take the local mini van. Again, the ride from Cusco to Ollantaytambo is about 2 hours. There is also a bus that can take you from Cusco to a stop called "Hydroelectrica" just a bit before Aguas Calientes for about $30+ R/T (you can probably find cheaper rate at $20 I heard), but you still have to trek about 2 hours to get to Aguas Calientes, the trek isn't that difficult, mostly flat dirt and gravel road.

To get to the combi mini buses in Cusco, they are located at the corner of Ave Grau and Calle Pavitos. There is no specific time they leave, they try to fill up the buses to make more bang for the buck. The mini buses leave as early as 2:30 am daily, no reservations needed, just show up with your 10 soles!

From Ollantaytambo, I took the Inca Rail to Aguas Calientes, and this was the most expensive part of my journey, it was about $116 R/T, and that was the cheapest (Executive Ticket). Inca Rail does provide a complimentary beverage, snack, and a piece of chocolate for the 55 minute or so journey. If you chose a different ticket such as the Presidential, I think you get a fancy meal, and some cocktails.

Ollantaytambo is a really cool place, I would stay here over Cusco, they even have their own National Park (costs 70 soles, about $20 USD) and various hikes.

The Inca Rail dropped me off right in the middle of Aguas Calientes, where it was only a 5 minute walk to my guesthouse that I stayed at which set me back only $17 per night (Don Andre). Yes, there are some fancier places to stay, but my ass isn't going to be in the hotel, my plan was to explore, not to admire my bed linens.

Have a better Machu Picchu Experience, get in shape before hiking up!

Now if you read this far, you saw that I recommended that you purchase your Machu Tickets at least one week in advanced right, well I didn't ha ha. I actually purchased mine the day before. Here's the reason why. The main website (see above) that you purchase the tickets from is really crappy, and what I mean by that, it is very difficult to navigate, and if you are not spanish, the website does not work very well in english. I even tried to book my ticket in spanish format, but it still didn't work. Come to find out, it was my Visa Card. They only take certain visa cards, and mine happened to be the wrong one =) At that point, I tried booking with a ticket agency just to get it over, but even they were horrible to deal with, and charged outrageous booking fees, up to $20 more than what the original tickets cost. So what did I do? As soon as I arrived to Aguas Clientes, I went straight to the offices of the Regional Directorate of Culture, and I bought my ticket directly from them, with no fees! Just FYI, they only take cash, so make sure that you have some SOLES, or get some at an ATM which is near the main plaza. There is also an office in Cusco where you can purchase your tickets directly as well, that is if you are having issues with the website. But again, please do not do what I did, because you might not be so lucky. Get your tickets at least one week in advance =).

I recommend getting the Machu Picchu + Mountain Ticket, it only costs $61
There are two mountains to choose from, either one is great! 
The mountain views are amazing, and you get some serious extreme exercise!

I recommend spending at least two nights in Aguas Calientes because depending on how you make it to Machu Picchu, you may need some time to recover.


Aguas Calientes is where most of the 4 day treks end up before heading up to the hike up to Machu Picchu. If you are doing the same thing that I did, you can start hiking up from Aguas Calientes (the hike from Aguas Clientes to the entrance of Machu Picchu is FREE). The hike is about 1 1/2 hours on average if you are taking your time, or you are out of shape. It is pretty much straight vertical with some flats that crossover some of the shuttle bus double tracks. If you do not want to do the hike up from Aguas Calientes, you can take the shuttle bus which is about $10-12 each way. Be warned though, there is a long line for the shuttle buses no matter if you have a shuttle ticket or not. Let's put it this way, it was faster for me to hike up and down versus waiting in line for a shuttle.

I purchased the Machu Picchu + Mountain Ticket (Montana Mountain or "Old Mountain") because the more popular one "Huayna Mountain" was all booked up way before I started looking at tickets.  If I am not mistaken, the Huayna Mountain is shorter but steeper, and has some actual ruins, versus the "Old Mountain" is longer, still very treacherous, but without any ruins atop the mountain. The average hike time to the top of the "Old Mountain" is about 2-3 hours. If you are in pretty good condition, you can do it in far less time, my buddy and I did it in exactly one hour.

If you are not doing a multi-day trek to Machu Picchu, I recommend doing the hike up from Machu Picchu, then one of the mountain peaks, the Inca Bridge, the village, and then hike back down to Aguas Calientes. After that, you'll be craving a CusQuena Beer, maybe a few of them!

Hiking Up Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu on a Budget, Train for Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu on the cheap, Cheap Machu Picchu, Buy Machu Picchu Tickets

Hiking Up Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu on a Budget, Train for Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu on the cheap, Cheap Machu Picchu, Buy Machu Picchu Tickets

And that's how I did Machu Picchu on a budget. You don't have to spend a lot of money to see this "Wonder of the World", you just have to be adventurous, do a little bit of research, and be willing to be independent of tour companies to save some cash. If you have any questions, feel free to message me, but most of all, go out and explore, it's a beautiful world out there! =)

Hiking Up Machu Picchu

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