Getting to Aguas Calientes By Foot
On a recent trip to Machu Picchu, rather than taking the $24 USD tourist train to Aguas Calientes (the town at the foot of Macchu Picchu), my friend and I decided to take the alternative route of trekking through the rainforest alongside the train tracks. Although the walk ended up being over three hours long (many websites say 2 hours, but we walked relatively quickly and only stopped a few times and it still took us 3), the scenery was gorgeous, and there is something very rewarding about arriving at your destination on foot and carrying your belongings on your own back. The path follows the railroad the entire way, and leads you over several rickety bridges and long, dark tunnels. As you walk along the trail you can see countless varieties of lush trees and colorful flowers, you can hear the calls of birds flying through the trees above, and you can smell the ever-present sweet musk of the rainforest. It is truly magical to see and experience the raw nature that surrounds you, and definitely worth the long walk.
Some recommendations for your trek, if you choose to take the scenic route described above:
- Bring lots and lots of bug spray/mosquito repellant. We used Off, and re-applied it to our skin AND our clothing several times throughout the trek. It worked very well, and we only ended up with a few bites afterwards.
- Leave the train station with at least 3.5 hours until sunset. Thinking that the trek would only take two hours, we ended up walking later than we had planned, and walked the last 40 minutes after sunset (luckily we had flash lights – definitely bring along a few just incase!).
- The distance from the train station to Aguas Calientes is 12 kilometers, so wear comfortable clothing and pack plenty of water.
What we did to get from Cuzco (leaving around 7:30 am) to Aguas Calientes (arrived at 5 pm or so) was as follows:
-Taxi from the airport to the collectivo station (not an actual “station,” just a street where all of the collectivos (privately owned cars and vans that are as cheap as buses, and are much faster) wait for passengers.
-Take a collectivo to Santa Maria (It should cost about $8 USD per person, and is about a 3.5 hour ride.
-At Santa Maria, you will switch collectivos at another “station” that the driver will take you to. Take a collectivo to Santa Teresa (otherwise known as the Hydroelectrico station). This should cost no more than $5 USD per person, and I believe it only costed us $2 actually. This ride is about an hour.
-From the Hydroelectrico station, you will easily be able to find the path that begins right next to the train tracks and leads to Aguas Calientes.
At first we were skeptical of getting in cars with drivers who did not work for a specific taxi company or had taxi licenses, however we felt safe the entire time, and all of our drivers were great. That’s not to say that the roads and the speed at which the drivers drive are not somewhat frightening. The roads are curvy, made of dirt in some places, and are right next to steep mountain edges. However, the drivers do know what they are doing and are used to driving in these conditions, so we were able to feel safe and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Rounding the final curve of the path to be struck with this view was a highlight of the entire trip, especially since it meant we wouldn’t have to walk in the dark for very long. The quaint town of Aguas Calientes nestled among the towering mountains of the Andes was an indescribable image that will be engrained in my mind for years to come.