Combined Suggestions, Machu Picchu
There are several ways to get to Machu Picchu:
Inca Trail: There are 2 day and 4 day options. You should book months and months in advance. Obviously, people do this for the experience, but it does take time, money and you must be pretty fit. You return on the train.
Train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes / Overnight / Early Morning Bus: Get your tickets in Cusco at least a day in advance. Take the train to Aguas Calientes and overnight. The next morning, take the first bus (5:30AM, I think -- we got there at 6AM in time for what I believe was the second bus) up the hill to Machu Picchu. This will get you there before all the crowds come, and will make for some awesome tourist-free pictures of the ruins rising from the early morning mist.
Train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes / Direct Bus: This is what most package tours will provide. You get into AC around noon, and leave MP around 4PM. This is actually enought time to see the ruins and everything, but you'll be there when everyone else is.
Train from Ollantayambo: If you have the time, you can slowly make your way from Cusco to Ollantayambo, see some stuff and catch a cheaper train from Ollantayambo to Aguas Calientes, where you will catch the bus to Machu Picchu. The overall trip might be more expensive though.
For Perurail rates, see:
Road to Aguas Calertes...
You can make out in my picture the road that snakes down the valley to the town of Aguas Calertes at the bottom of the urbamba valley,we took a tourist bus down the steep hill from here you can get a train back to Cuzco
An amusing footnote here... two local boys waved us off from the top, and were on every bend waving as we went down.. then to emerge at the bus with hands outstreched for a tip...They skid and clamber down the sharp mountainside to acheive this,
As there are a lot of sites in Cusco area, i.e. the famous "Sacred Valley" and the world famous Macchu Picchu, one week could even not be enough, moreover if you are a backpacker and you are not willing to spend to much box...
The easiest, and the cheapest way to visit all the area, is to take a taxi for two days at the cost of USD20 in total.
The cost is pretty good, moreover if you find people with whom share this cost.
In the morning of day one, you can easily visit Cusco and then drive till Ollaytatambo to visit the beautifull ruins.
Then, at night, you can drop in the "backpacker train" from Ollaytatambo to Aguas Calientes that leaves at 19.45 (2hrs).
There you will find just backpackers or locals (at the costs of 23.80USD roundtrip>>the normal day-train will costs you beetween 70 and 100USD).
Sleep in Aguas Caliente for less then 2dollars each, in a simply but clean double room (just drop of the train and there will be plenty of people offering accomodations!), and at 06 AM (the best time!!!) of the day after take a bus or walk to Macchu Picchu (3USd one way).
Visit Macchu Picchu and climb Wayna Picchu (USD 20,00 entry fee for MP) and get back to Aguas Calientes to sleep the 2nd night.
The morning after take the train back to Ollaytatambo where there will be your taxi driver waiting for you.
On the way back to Cusco you can visit all the sacred valley sites, i.e. Pisac (amazing!!!), Calca, Salinas and all the sites closer to Cusco city, i.e. Sacsayhuamàn, Qenko, Puca Pucara and Tambo Machai.
So, in this way, you will spend something like USD 60,00 plus the cost of the taxi, instead of USD 120/150 as requested from all the travel agency in Avenida del Sol in Cusco, with the big advantage that you are the one that will decide the waiting time in every sites!
The Most tourists that are arriving at Machu Picchu are going over the road that leads towards Aguas Calientes. They are probably coming from the train station or hotels and are brought up towards the historical site of Machu Picchu. But if you did the Camino del Inca you are there on foot and there are 3 options for you to go towards Aquas Calientes.
The first one is to take a taxi, the second one try to talk you into a buss or pay the fee for a one way trip (4,5 $ one way), but we walked downhill.
There is a walking trail that goes straight down over some steps and through the bushes and it’s always downhill. This path crosses the road at each turn. It’s about a 45 minute walk towards the city but it’s hell for your knees because it’s all downhill.
One you leave the hill, you will cross the river and then you will walk next to it and when you enter Aquas Calientes you go through the local market before you reach the city centre.
the inca trail is only allowed towards macchupicchu so you've got to find a way back to the world... helicopter, rafting urubamba or a train are the possible options.... let's speak about train that is what you'll probably choose: two options
a) classy touristic train: can't say anything as I didn't even see it
b) normal local 10th class train: the one I suggest.... It's packed up with people, chickens, various animals, coca leaves, police stopping the train looking for coca leaves, scenic nonsense stops and a great descent to cuzco
The way from Machu Picchu to Agua Calientes is not long, you can go easily by feet. There are also busses leaving, but not necesssary. Besides you can watch the little boys running down the hill to make fun with the bus tourists....I will explain: the way down from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes is a serpentine street. So the boys run down the hill straight on and at every corner they wave the hand to the tourists. At the endpoint where the people leave the bus the kids are there again to ask for some money.
it's probably too late for the last bus!!!! you can only walk all the way down to agua calientes and wait for the morning train to cusco