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Get to know what excursions to do in Cusco and how to get to Machu Picchu

Visiting Cusco and every attraction it offers us is a wonderful experience. There are a number of tours available for each destination, but have you thought about organizing your own tour and even being able to get to Machu Picchu? Probably hiring a travel agency is the most common thing to do for these cases, but, if you want a bit more autonomy, taking charge of your excursion is an interesting alternative.

Are you interested in knowing which are the ideal destinations in Cusco and the routes that lead to the Machu Picchu citadel? We’ll tell you all about it below.

Cusco City

The city of Cusco, also known as the imperial city of Cusco, will be our starting point for all the tours we have planned. We recommend you to take a look at our article on how to get to Cusco in case you are still clueless about it.

What to see and do in Cusco?

There is much to visit in the city of Cusco. To begin, you can visit the main square or Plaza de Armas and its surroundings. The Barrio de San Blas is one of the most emblematic neighborhoods of the city, with its narrow and steep cobblestone streets where you can find souvenirs. We also have the Qorikancha, today known as the Santo Domingo Convent, which was the sacred Inca Temple of the Sun and where people gathered to worship their gods.

Finally, one of the best things to do in Cusco is definitely visit Sacsayhuaman. This is the stage of the famous Inti Raymi festival, which is usually held every June 24.

Travel from Cusco to Machu Picchu

If you just can’t wait to take a direct train from Cusco to Machu Picchu, then let us tell you that… we understand you perfectly! Luckily for you, this service is available.

  • On the one hand, a few steps from the Central Market of San Pedro, we have the San Pedro Station. Departing from this station, either on the PeruRail Expedition or PeruRail Vistadome train, you can reach Machu Picchu Pueblo in only 4 hours and 30 minutes.
  • On the other hand, in the Poroy district, which can be reached by taxi or minibus, you will find the Poroy Station. You can check the routes, rates and timetables in the links we have provided for each train!

However, later on we will tell you a little more about the trains and the different ways to get to the citadel of Machu Picchu. Don’t miss it!

Excursion to the Sacred Valley

Now, to begin with the excursions, we have the beautiful Sacred Valley of the Incas. It is not surprising to always fall in love with everything that this Sacred Valley represents, because the beauty of its landscapes is jaw-dropping. Although it had already been inhabited by pre-Inca populations, the Incas saw the full potential of its farmland and decided to settle there. As you can imagine, the objectives of our tour will be precisely the constructions that were erected in those times.

The Cusco Tourist Ticket (BTC for its acronym in Spanish) is essential if you are going to the Sacred Valley independently, since an entrance fee is required for all the destinations in the valley: Pisac, Moray, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero. The BTC is a personal document with which tourists can temporarily visit archaeological sites, museums, areas, parks and other attractions in the department of Cusco. A 2-day ticket costs 70 soles ($17) and there is also a 10-day ticket that costs 130 soles ($32). Both can be purchased at Av. El Sol 103 in the city of Cusco, and you can also find them in the other destinations of the Sacred Valley.

How do you get to the Sacred Valley of the Incas?

There are two alternatives if you decide to rent a car:

  • The first route is through the town of Pisac, a 1-hour drive from the city of Cusco.
  • The second route is through the town of Chinchero, a 45-minute drive.

In addition, you can find buses, colectivos (shared taxisand taxis that run through all the villages in the valley.

  •     Buses to Pisac cost 5 soles ($1.5)
  •     Buses to Chinchero cost 4 soles ($1)
  •     Minivan services can be found at different points: Puputi street, Pavitos street, Ollantaytambo Main Square, etc. They usually cost between 15 soles ($4) and 20 soles ($5)
  •     Taxis are the fastest means of transport and they usually wait while you visit the attractions, but they have a higher cost: between 60 soles ($15) and 120 ($30). Depending on where you’re going, this can vary significantly. Taxis can be found at the same points as colectivos.

Pisac or Chinchero? It’s your decision. Most travel agencies use Pisac as their starting point, but there are others that use Chinchero.

Pisac Archaeological Park Tour

Let’s start with the traditional and visit Pisac. We recommend taking a whole day for this visit, as the site has a lot to offer. The first attraction that you will see is the town itself, full of colonial and mestizo characteristics. Around the Plaza de Armas there are handicraft and textile markets, a perfect place to buy souvenirs.

On the other hand, the Archaeological Complex of Pisac, which is located to the north of the town and on the top of a mountain, has an area of 4 km2 and is made up of archaeological remains where you can observe aqueducts, temples and sacred precincts, platforms, walled paths, cemeteries, hydraulic engineering, etc.

It is advisable to start the tour from the top of the complex, since the altitude is 3,300 meters above sea level and climbing may not be the best idea due to altitude sickness. You can ask the taxi driver to drop you off at the highest point and begin to descend while you take the coveted panoramic photos.

From here you can walk at your leisure, from the Toritos de Pucará to the Incan tombs that can still be seen. The entire tour of the site, including the round trip, will take about 4 hours.  If you add to that the visit to the town and the trip from the city of Cusco… well yes, that will be a full day.

Chinchero Archaeological Center Tour

The visit to Chinchero is usually the last stop for travel agencies on their return to the city of Cusco, but, considering that it is you who has the helm of the tour, let’s take it as if you were starting from here. Please don’t forget that you will be at an altitude of 3,770 meters above sea level, before venturing to climb the steep streets.

Sunday fairs are one of the biggest attractions of the place. The villagers gather in the main square to offer their products (textiles, fruits, vegetables and handicrafts) and also to carry out, at the current times, the famous ‘barter’. This is definitely something worth seeing!

At the town of Chinchero itself you will find the other most striking attraction: the Archaeological Center of Chinchero.

Would you believe that this archaeological center was the residence of the Inca Túpac Yupanqui? Well yes, it was. However, in 1536, Manco Inca burned down Chinchero while fleeing from the Spaniards and what we see today are constructions erected by them. For example, the Church of Our Lady of Monserrat was built on the ruins of what was the Palace of Túpac Yupanqui.

Were you interested in that little piece of history? You can find many more details if you explore the archaeological site in depth. For this reason, we recommend that you take a whole day for your visit to Chinchero.

Maras and Moray tour from Cusco

Now it’s the turn to visit the Maras salt mines and the Moray archaeological site. To get there, you will have to take the buses that go from Cusco to Urubamba (you can find them on Av. Grau, near Qoricancha) and get off at the “Maras branch”. Once there, you can take a taxi or a bus to the town of Maras. Please keep in mind that the entrance fee to Maras is not included in the Cusco Tourist Ticket, but its price is affordable (10 soles or about $ 3).

What to see in Maras?

The famous “natural pink salt” is found at the Salineras de Maras or Maras Salt Mines.  It is obtained through the evaporation of the water found in more than 3,000 pans that are on the site. This water comes from the Qaqawiñay mountain and feeds the different pans from which the salt will be “harvested”. Once the water has evaporated, the crystals are scraped off with a piece of wood and placed in small baskets where the remaining water will be removed.

If you are interested in learning in detail the operation of this impressive salt mine and its fascinating legend, you can take a look at our article on the mystery of the Salineras de Maras.

Interesting facts:

  • There are only 4 places in the world where pink salt can be extracted, and the Salineras de Maras is one of them.
  • It is said to be better than ordinary sea salt and its quality is comparable to that extracted from the Himalayas.

What to see in Moray?

The archaeological site of Moray may seem like a strange amphitheater located on a mountain, but, in reality, it is something even more surprising. It was an Inca agricultural research center formed by terraces, and here they experimented in each one in order to achieve different temperatures.

According to experts, it has been possible to find variations of up to 5 degrees Celsius. But… what were they experimenting with in this agricultural laboratory? They basically grew corn, kiwicha, grains, quinoa and many other plants that are consumed in the Andes. This would allow them to use the place as an experimental center and where they could adapt plants from other altitudes.

If you do the Maras-Moray tour in the morning, technically it could end by noon. If you like, you can continue moving forward and stay in Urubamba to continue the tour the next day.

Ollantaytambo tour from Cusco

Ollantaytambo is a destination in the Sacred Valley with a large influx of tourists because it is one of the options to get to Machu Picchu. If you are also thinking of going to the sacred citadel of the Incas, then you may consider staying in Ollantaytambo. In addition, a whole day is needed to explore this city in depth, so it is perfect for you.

As always, you can find minivans or buses on Pavitos street in the city of Cuzco. The trip takes 2 hours, and the fare is usually 10 soles (about $3). Here you’ll have no worries, because Ollantaytambo is located 2,400 meters above sea level, and you will not notice the effects of the altitude

What to see in Ollantaytambo?

There are two important options available:

  • Ollantaytambo archaeological site. It was a hostel for the Inca nobility and this site witnessed brutal battles between the Spaniards and the Incas back in 1537. Here there are important stone structures that you cannot miss, such as the imposing Temple of the Sun, which is made up of 6 huge rocks. There is also: the Real Casa del Sol, the Ñusta Bath, the Andenes, the Monumental Front and the 10 Niches Enclosure, the Mañay Square and the Choqana Fort.
  • The town of Ollantaytambo. Believe us when we tell you that you are going to fall in love with its narrow and cobbled streets, surrounded by a beautiful landscape that is awe-striking. Of course, there are also the traditional craft shops, cafes and restaurants that will supplement your experience.

In addition to these options, from the Pinkuylluna viewpoint you can see the ruins from another perspective and take those panoramic shots to directly post on your social media.

Tour to Machu Picchu

This is perhaps the part of the trip that most people are waiting for. How could it not be! Getting to Machu Picchu is already incredible but doing it independently will be even more so, perhaps somewhat more difficult than hiring a tour, but possible at the end of the day. The important thing is to book the entrance ticket months in advance, because yes, an entrance fee must be paid to enter the citadel. In 2021, the price of the entrance fee has dropped, as follows:

Machu Picchu tickets for Peruvians, foreign residents and members of the Andean Community (Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia):

  • Adults: 64 soles or $15
  • Students (under age 25): 32 soles or $7.5
  • Children (8 to 17 years old): 32 soles or $7.5

Machu Picchu tickets for foreign tourists:

  • Adults: 152 soles or $38
  • Students: 77 soles or $19
  • Children: 70 soles or $18

How to get to Machu Picchu on your own?

If you have been lucky enough to read this article long before starting your trip and been able to book your tickets, then you may be wondering how to get to Machu Picchu independently. There are 3 routes to get to Machu Picchu, some cheaper than others.

Inca Trail Excursion

The Inca Trail excursion, or simply the Inca Trek, does not bear the name by pure invention. It is a path built by the Incas who sought to unite Cusco and Machu Picchu. This route is ideal for those visitors who love outdoor walks and adventure. Can you believe that this hike is recognized as one of the 5 most impressive hiking trails in the world?

You can visit spectacular sites such as Patallacta, the Warmiwañusca passPhuyupatamarcaSayacmarcaRunkurakay, etc. Finally, you arrive at Puerta del Sol where the tour of the Inca Citadel begins.

The only drawback to this tour is that it is mandatory to hire a travel agency to access the Inca Trail. In addition, the price is somewhat high compared to the following two options.

The alternative Hydroelectric Plant route

The alternative Hydroelectric station route is the cheapest way to climb to Machu Picchu on foot, so to speak, but it will be an excursion that will take all day and you will have to travel a lot in buses and colectivos.

  • Departure is from the city of Cusco, on a bus that will take you to the town of Santa María in approximately 5 hours and the cost is between 25 and 30 soles ($6 and $8).
  • Once in the town of Santa María, you have to look for the buses that will take you to the town of Santa Teresa. The trip lasts one hour and has an approximate cost of 10 soles ($3).
  • At Santa Teresa, you must look for the buses that will take you to the Hidroeléctrica train station. This is a half hour trip and has an approximate cost of 7 soles ($2).
  • Once you have reached the Hydroelectric station, you will board the train to Machu Picchu Pueblo. This is a 45-minute ride and costs less than taking it from Ollantaytambo.
  • Finally, in Machu Picchu Pueblo, you must board the buses that take you to the citadel in just half an hour. The approximate average cost is 50 soles ($12).

Train journey from Ollantaytambo

The fastest, safest and most comfortable way to get to Cusco is by train. Trains do not necessarily leave from the Ollantaytambo station; there are other stations (Poroy and San Pedro), but many visitors decide to board the train there after touring the Sacred Valley.

The train journey to Machu Picchu is known as one of the most beautiful short train routes in the world. Thirty kilometers are traveled in 1 hour and 30 minutes.

What types of trains leave for Machu Picchu?

At PeruRail we have trains that offer a different way of traveling to the Inca citadel. All our services have the essentials so that passengers feel comfortable throughout the trip and enjoy the perfect prelude to their visit to Machu Picchu.

  • PeruRail Expedition: This train allows you to experience the adventure of your journey at a lower cost. Passengers can enjoy all the comforts on board, with a decoration inspired by the Inca culture capable of giving us a preview of what we will find at the end of the trip.





  • PeruRail VistadomeThe Machu Picchu PeruRail Vistadome train boasts panoramic windows on the walls and ceilings of the cars that allow you to have a connection with the outside. In this way the landscapes feel closer, and passengers will feel all the nature that surrounds them. Not only that, during the journey passengers will be able to enjoy surround background music and an explanatory audio on the most relevant places on the route to the citadel.







On the return trip there is music and a splendid dance performance of the Paucartambo region, as well as a fashion show on board of the exclusive collection of baby alpaca garments.

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