Machu Picchu by car or how NOT to do it

As already mentioned a few times we came to South America pretty unprepared. We are somehow travelling with the motto: “go with the flow”, which has proven as not the best in South America.

But we knew from the start that we are going to visit Machu Picchu. There are many ways how you can do that. The most popular ways are the Inca trail, which you have to book a few months ahead, so that option was of the table for us. The second most popular is going by train, (also advisable to book in advance) which is really expensive. Because we didn’t know when we are going to be there we had to seek for an alternative. We found the »mas economico manera«, going to Machu Picchu by car. We chose it mostly because of the price: 95$.

What should have been included:

  • Transfer from Cusco to Hidroelectrica and back
  • 1 night accommodation in Aguas Calientes (the gateway to Machu Picchu)
  • 1 dinner, 1 breakfast and 1 lunch
  • Entrance fee to Machu Picchu
  • English speaking guide

We had some bad luck with our tour, but we are not going to discuss this here. 🙂

Before you decide for the same option, beware:

  • The road from Cusco to Hidroelectrica is very dangerous! The first 4 hours are very curvy with an ascent to 4300m (I had to throw up, because the driver was driving like a maniac), followed by a 2 hours of unpaved and extremely dangerous road. In our opinion, this is the real Death road, not the one in Bolivia. This one is still operating with lots of vehicles on a very narrow road (two way traffic) with huge cliffs.
  • After arriving in Hidroelectrica you have to walk 10 kilometres to get to Aguas Calientes. Yes, 10 Km, so about 2 – 2,5 hours. If you are not into this you can take the train for 28$ (one way) and the train also needs an hour. 🙂
  • If you don’t know which hotel you have to go, you have to go to the main square (Plaza del Armas) where someone should meet you. We skipped this part because we knew where we had to go.
  • In the morning the guide should come around 5 a.m. From Aguas Calientes you need about 30-45 minutes (on foot) to the bridge and another hour (uphill) to actually get to Machu Picchu. You can also take the bus (12$ – one way) and reach Machu Picchu in 20 – 30 minutes).
  • You have to leave Machu Picchu till 11:30 – 12:00 to catch your ride back to Cusco. First you need an hour or an hour and a half to get to Aguas Calientes, where you can catch a train to Hidroelectrica (28$). There are usually two departures to take the passengers to Hidroelectrica, because all the busses and minivans leave between 14:00 and 15:00. You also have to find your bus so check the departure time on arrival.
  • If you plan to walk back to Hidroelectrica you can take your stuff with you to Machu Picchu, because they have lockers at the entrance where you can leave everything. Doing this you don’t have to walk back to Aguas Calientes (like we did) and you can save a good hour and also the 28$.

The experience was very similar to a treasure hunt, but something went very wrong from the get go. 🙂

We wouldn’t do this again! Like this you don’t have the time to visit other mountains around Machu Picchu (also book in advance, because the number of people allowed on the mountains is limited). We also didn’t have any time in Aguas Calientes to go to a spa or just relax in the city.

If there is a next time, we would definitely take the train, but from Olayatambo not Cusco as it is much cheaper and the town looked nice.

Why is there so many SHOULDS in our article? Because of weird coincidences: the guide’s mom died, so there was nobody to pick us up, hence no dinner, no information. This is why we can’t really recommend any companies, we can only say DON’T use Manu!

Learn from our mistakes. 😉

3 thoughts on “Machu Picchu by car or how NOT to do it

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