How Scary is the Bus Ride to Machu Picchu?

How scary is the bus ride to Machu Picchu?  In two words: pretty scary!!  And why is this question relevant to thousands of people who visit Machu Picchu every year?  To put it simply: there’s only ONE WAY to get there…up a HUGE, STEEP mountain.  And there are only two ways to get up it: by bus, or with your own two feet!  No one else, aside from private drivers to the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel that overlooks Machu Picchu, is allowed to drive up the mountain. 

And when you make the journey, you’ll see why…

How Scary is the Bus Ride to Machu Picchu? Girl Who Travels the World

My friend Nina, taking shots of a looming Machu Picchu from our crazy bus ride, up the mountainside…

Quick Facts About Machu Picchu Bus

  • Where to Buy Bus Tickets for Machu Picchu: At the bus stand in Aguas Calientes (in a small, wood hut next to the river).  Bring cash, as they only accept certain credit cards.  Tickets are $12 US, each way.  (Everyone in town knows where the bus stand is, in case you get lost).  Also bring your passport when purchasing bus ticket.
  • Where Do You Line Up to Catch Your Bus?  In lines (that you’ll see) right near the bus stand.
  • How Long is the Bus Ride from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu?  About 20-30 minutes, up a steep road with numerous switchbacks.  The road is so narrow, when buses pass each other, one of them typically needs to pull over to the (very narrow) side of the road.  This part is cringe-inducing.
  • What Times Do Machu Picchu Buses Run?  Generally, from about 5:30AM (for those wanting to catch 6AM sunrise), until closing, around 5:30PM.  You can expect new buses to arrive at either depot approximately every 15 minutes.

Sooo…Can I Hike Up Instead?

If you’re afraid of heights, the hike from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu won’t be much better in terms of fear.  And ~ you’ll need to climb over 2,000 steps!!  Climbing these steps can take 1-2 hours, depending how fit you are.  And remember, you’re at an elevation of over 8,000 feet, which makes breathing far more difficult than at sea level. 

Then, once you actually reach the entrance to Machu Picchu: the hiking isn’t over!  The site is massive, & you’ll likely be walking for several hours, up & down large Incan steppes & rocky staircases.  And if you’re hiking either of the two “extra” hikes: Machu Picchu Mountain (super steep) or Huaynu Picchu (scary steep!), trust me…you will NOT want to hike those extra 2,000 steps. 

Unless you’re a superstar athlete! 

How Scary is the Bus Ride to Machu Picchu? Girl Who Travels the World

Once you get up to Machu Picchu: the hiking fun is just beginning. To reach the Sun Gate, or many of the complex’s attractions, requires lots of climbing.

Soo..How Scary is the Bus Ride to Machu Picchu Then? 

If you’re afraid of heights, chances are: you WON’T enjoy this bus ride!  Likewise, if you’re always the driver, & like to be in control: you also probably won’t enjoy the ride.  The scariest thing, aside from the steepness of the mountain ~ is passing other buses coming down the mountain.  That part can be genuinely terrifying.  Bus drivers (in general) in Peru drive fast, & they tend to take turns fast…& that can lead to some really hairy situations. 

Machu Picchu is a very remote place, & as such, is hard to reach.  The Peruvians have done their best to make getting there as tourist-friendly as possible…but given the treacherousness of the Andes, they can only do so much.  That said, thousands of people of all ages have made it there safely ~ so, unless you have a debilitating fear of heights, you’ll be just fine!

How Scary is the Bus Ride to Machu Picchu?

In the beginning of the video below, you’ll see footage of the Inca Rail journey to Machu Picchu ~ as well as the bus ride there.  On a scale of 1-10, with “10” being the scariest, I’d rate the Machu Picchu bus ride as a solid “5.”  Neither of us were wetting our pants, but when you pass dangerously close to other buses (& the cliff edge), it’s very disconcerting…

Where We Stayed by Machu Picchu

  • If you’re coming ALL the way to Machu Picchu, I highly recommend staying at least one night in Aguas Calientes (the town nearest Machu Picchu).  We stayed at Inkaterra’s luxury property in town, El Mapi Hotel ($150+/night), which I highly recommend.  Their bar & food are to die for, as is their day spa with jungle views (& “Head Scratcher” that will make the end of your massage absolutely orgasmic). Inkaterra’s other property, Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, is even more high-end ~ set on such lush grounds that you may never want to leave.
  • Here’s a more complete list of hotels in Aguas Calientes. Make sure to book your hotel in advance ~ this town is always busy.
    How Scary is the Bus Ride to Machu Picchu? Girl Who Travels the World

    Is this “The Jungle Book?!” Photo of Inkaterra’s Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel.

How Scary is the Bus Ride to Machu Picchu?

Peru is filled with steep mountains ~ & also filled with crazy drivers, who race up & down mountains like Mario Andretti!  Either you’re down for the adventure….or you’re not, but it’s good to be informed beforehand.  Read about the time my friend & I got into a head-on collision en route to the Moray Ruins, or my favorite post-Machu Picchu hotel: El Albergue.

(You could make a game of counting people’s bug bites…) 

xoxo Noelia

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