The cheapest, and probably the most perilous way to get to Machu Picchu

There are a few different ways to get to Machu Picchu. The most popular way is to walk the Inca Trail, the original Inca route to the city. If you don’t fancy that you could catch the train from Cusco. For a bit more adventure you could take one of a few tours which include mountain biking, motorcycling and hiking and will deposit you at the foot of the elusive Inca city. But if you want to save your pennies and immerse yourself some Peruvian backwaters read on…

Our journey started with a shared taxi to Pisac in the Sacred Valley. From there we took a local bus to Urubamba at a cost of about 40p each. This was a typical local Peruvian bus. Despite being hardened backpackers we still looked hilariously out of place if for no other reason that we are a lot taller than the average Peruvian.

Then we hired a local taxi for less than a pound to take us further in the valley to the Inca village of Ollantaytambo.

(Ollantaytambo with Inca ruins in the hillside beyond)

For a brief moment we considered catching the train from Ollantaytambo, but that didn’t work out so whilst we readied ourselves for the next stage of our journey we looked at the impressive Inca Ruins at Ollantaytambo. This was another important Inca site and the extent of the ruins was impressive, although not quite as impressive as those that can be found at Pisac.

(Inca baths…still working)

The next day we boarded another local bus to Santa Maria. Reports as to how long this would take differed wildly between 2 hours and 4. We learnt some time ago that in in this part of the world people will often tell you what you want to hear. The journey in fact took 5 hours as the bus was delayed by various road works. With the perilous mountainous road and the condition of the bus this was at times far from emjoyable.

(the town centre at Ollantaytambo during rush hour)

When we reached Santa Maria we needed to hire a car to get to Santa Teresa. We joined forces with 4 other backpackers and soon struck a deal involving what I refer to as “tactical nonchalance”. £2.00 each for another 2 hours of driving was the result. Some other poor chap was thrown out of a taxi to make room for us too. Ruthless stuff.

The road between Santa Maria and Santa Teresa was frightening at times. The road was dug into the side of a mountain and for most of the drive a perilous vertical drop was just feet from the car and and a vertical cliff face towered above us. Add to this the fact that our driver was at least 75 and appeared to be startled by the appearance of oncoming cars made for a nerve wracking 2 hours. I was in the front and sat perched ready to grab the wheel at any moment.

Nevertheless we arrived safely at Santa Teresa. The next leg of our journey was to walk to the hydro electric power station. Luckily our driver offered to drive us there for another £1.00 each which we thankfully accepted. This drive took another hour and would have been a hellish walk…despite us being assured by more than one person that it was an easy short walk.

The final leg of our now understandably cheap plan was to walk along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu. Despite the heat and thin air this part went nicely to plan and a couple of hours later we arrived at “tourist central” just after sunset.

(The train is coming!)

Total cost…virtually nothing. And a great (if scary at times) experience to boot.


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