I am the first to say that Machu Picchu is worth staying there for a full day, that you have to arrive early, before the groups, and enjoy the end of the day. But I am aware that not all of us have this possibility and that we sometimes may only have one day to devote from Cusco. And there I think it would be a shame to deprive yourself of Machu Picchu because yes, in one day, you can do a roundtrip from Cusco and visit this superb citadel.
Let’s see it all!
How to do a roundtrip from Cusco to Machu Picchu in one day
Well, it will take a little planning, but if you want to organize your round trip to Machu Picchu yourself in one day, you will need to:
- book your train ticket
- book your tickets to Machu Picchu
- book your tickets for the bus between Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu
All this you, have to do it in advance. Train and entrance tickets are limited and it is the most visited site in the country.
The train between Cusco / Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes
You have no choice, you have to take the train from Cusco or Ollantaytambo if you want to make the roundtrip in one day.
A company does Cusco – Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes, it’s Peru Rail. Another does Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes is Inca Rail.
There are many more trains that travel between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes. So what you can do if the return times don’t suit you is to come back to Ollantaytambo with a later train and take the bus to Cusco.
Here are the possible times. But it is ESPECIALLY necessary to pay attention to the starting point. During the rainy season, the station of Wanchaq, in Cusco itself, is closed, so you will have to leave from Poroy (a bit further). But there are bus connections included in the tickets. As soon as the tickets from the center of Cusco are available, I will add the schedules.
Be careful, Cusco – Aguas Calientes takes almost 4 hours! While from Ollantaytambo it is much faster. About 1h30.
- CUSCO (Poroy) – AGUAS CALIENTES
- 6h40 / 9h54 am
- 7h30 / 12h11
- 8h25 / 12h11
- 9h05 / 12h24
- OLLANTAYTAMBO – AGUAS CALIENTES
- 5h05 / 6h35 am / Perurail
- 6h10 / 7h40 am / Perurail
- 6h40 / 8h01 am / Incarail
- 7h05 / 8h27 am / Perurail
- 7h22 / 8h48 am / Incarail
- 7h45 / 9h15 am / Perurail
As we can see, it is much more efficient to leave from Ollantaytambo, because we arrive at 8am in Aguas Calientes. So you can take a bus from Cusco (a good 2 hour drive) or a taxi. And you will arrive early on site.
Here the idea will be not to miss your train, otherwise you will have to stay in Aguas Calientes. In the same way, you have two possibilities, return to Cusco directly, or to Ollantaytambo and then take the bus.
- AGUAS CALIENTES – CUSCO (Poroy ou San Pedro)
- 3h20 / 7h05 pm / Poroy
- 4h43 / 8h23 pm / Poroy
- 4h43 / 9h23 pm / San Pedro
- AGUAS CALIENTES – OLLANTAYTAMBO
- 2h30 / 4h04 pm / Incarail
- 2h55 / 4h31 pm / Perurail
- 3h20 / 5h08 pm / Perurail
- 3h48 / 5h29 pm / Perurail
- 4h12 / 5h50 pm / Incarail
- 4h22 / 6h10 pm / Perurail
- 4h43 / 6h31 pm / Perurail
- 5h23 / 7h02 pm / Perurail
- 6h20 / 8h05 pm / Perurail
- 7h00 / 8h41 pm / Incarail
- 8h50 / 10h20 pm / Perurail
- 9h30 / 10h54 pm / Incarail
- 9h50 / 11h35 pm / Perurail
We see it here, a lot of possibilities to return to Ollantaytambo. And since there are a lot of buses between Ollantaytambo and Cusco, really this is what seems to be best if you want to stay longer in Machu Picchu.
Recommendation and example
We can see that we really have a lot of choice in the trains, thanks to the Ollantaytambo station. And that can allow you to stay quite a few hours up there.
Let’s take an example :
- Departure bus Cusco – Ollantaytambo 4h (yes, it hurts)
- Arrival Ollantaytambo 6:15 a.m.
- Train Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes of 6h40
- Arrival Aguas Calientes 8am
- Bus to Machu Picchu at 8:30 (probably a little later with the queue)
- Arrival at Machu Picchu at 9am
- Visit of 3 hours minimum
- Bus back down at 12:30 p.m.
- Arrival in Aguas Calientes at 1 p.m.
- Train whenever you want from 2 p.m., either for Cusco or for Ollantaytambo
So with that, we can see that there are two things that will vary your stay:
- how long you want to stay in Machu Picchu (2h, 5h?)
- are you an early riser?
The earlier you arrive, the more you can enjoy the citadel, but thanks to late trains and buses, you can arrive a bit later as well. I think that an arrival until 10am in Aguas Calientes will not be a problem. But you will be in the big tourist groups.
How to book your bus ticket from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
That too you will have to book it in advance. Almost everyone takes it the day before at the Aguas Calientes sales office, except for the groups that arrive the same morning. So to avoid having to queue (quite a long time), I advise you to buy the round trip ticket here.
If you want to buy it locally, I give you all the information in this article. The Consettur sales office is located on Avenida Hermanos Ayar.
Book your ticket to the Machu Picchu
I would say with the train that’s what you need to book first. Because this is the most visited site in Peru and ESPECIALLY the places are limited to avoid too many people (and I confirm that it remains perfectly correct, and it is great).
In high season, you will have to plan a few weeks in advance. In low season, several days. Example there, November, I am doing a simulation, the first ticket available is 2 weeks later.
The entrance ticket costs around 150 soles. And you absolutely have to choose an entry time. It will be necessary to calculate your time of arrival according to your train and the bus.
Once inside, on the other hand, you really stay as long as you want.
Price and times : useful information
So, to sum up, here’s what you can do:
- take the train from 6:40 a.m. (Ollantaytambo)
- arrive at Machu Picchu from 8:30 am
- stay as long as you want, until closing time (since you have trains until 9:50 p.m.)
That leaves a lot of possibilities! and that’s cool, I didn’t expect that at all when I started this article 🙂
For the price, booking all this yourself will cost you approximately:
- minimum 160$ return train
- 30$ bus to go from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
- 40$ entrance ticket
- the bus/taxi to go from Cusco to the train station (Poroy) and back, around 5$
- the bus/taxi to go from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, probably from 15$ (more for the taxi)
A roundtrip for a day with a tour from Cusco
If organizing all this doesn’t excite you, then you can go through a tour that will take care of absolutely everything:
- bus/shuttle transport between your hotel and the train
- train tickets
- bus to Machu Picchu
- entrance tickets
- guided tour!
- visit to Aguas Calientes
- return to Cusco
We are on a little more expensive than an organization alone (from 300$), but you also have the guided tour, by a certified guide.
Sleeping in Aguas Calientes or Cusco
And if you finally want to sleep in Aguas Calientes, then I suggest the Maq’tas B&B, an unbeatable value for money at less than 40$. Or the Sacred Stone, a 3* only slightly more expensive and even better!
There you go, you know almost everything! Honestly, I had no idea it would be so easily possible. Ok it takes a little organization, but I thought we could only stay a short time in Machu Picchu. However, thanks in particular to the trains to Ollantaytambo, it is perfectly feasible! And it’s very cool 🙂
If you have ric rac on your schedule, then this organization is for you. And as suggested just above, if you don’t want to worry about bookings, then a tour can do it for you. Even easier 🙂
So now we have no more excuses not to go and see this marvel!
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