There are many ways you can get to Machu Picchu. You can take the Inca Trail, take the train or even get there by bus. Many of you might ask yourself, which you should pick. Here is my personal analysis.
First of all, I’d like to stress that I personally would not be able to hike the Inca trail. Health concerns made this impossible for me. You have to be surefooted and you have to be able to endure extreme hights. At the peak of the Inca Trail you will be above a height of 4,000 meters above the sea level. My heart wouldn’t be able to cope with that. But if you are young and healthy, it is, apart from the duration, just a normal hike.
Why you should take the train…
Now the pro’s for taking the train is certainly speed and comfort. It only takes 3 hours from Cusco to Aguas Calientes (which is actually quite long considering it is only some 75 kilometers). You will sit in plush luxury seats, gazing at the spectacular Urubamba valley. In fact you could possible see Machu Picchu on a daytrip from Cusco if you are leaving very early.
On a downside the train is quite expensive. With the Hiram Bingham Train there is even a super luxury option available, costing a couple of hundred dollars for a round trip. PeruRail and Inca Rail also offer cheaper versions.
Bus really is no option. But you could take a bus to Ollantaytambo and get on the train to Aguas Calientes there to save some money, reducing the cost for a roundtrip to roughly 60 US-Dollar (plus bus).
If you are not mobile enough or got any other health concerns, you should definitely take the train. Also during the rainy season hiking to Machu Picchu is not recommended. Also the Inca Trail is closed during February.
why you should hike the Ina Trail…
First of all, the Inca trail is the traditional way into Machu Picchu. For many it thus becomes some kind of spiritual or magical journey. And I guess there is no denying that the route is spectacular. Along the 4 day long trek you will discover many additional ruins and enjoy the rural side of Peru.
But the Inca trail is quite crowded. In fact, there are is a limit of 500 spots per day (including porters, etc!!). So you shouldn’t believe you will be alone on the road with nobody else around.
So if you are looking for the lonely side of Peru, you should not take the Inca Trail and rather invest the time on hiking around the country elsewhere. There are many other spectacular treks, many other ruins. As detailed out above, hiking the Inca Trail during the rainy season can be a pain, and sometimes even dangerous as landslides are known to occur.
So this was my analysis. Hope this helped.