Visiting Machu Picchu from Santa Teresa
A road to Machu Picchu (or at least pretty darn close) goes from Santa Teresa.
Though Machu Picchu may not be connected to the rest of Peru by road, a road does go to within a few miles of the site and Santa Teresa is the gateway for this route. First, take a shared van or taxi or hike six miles (10 km) from Santa Teresa to Hidroeléctrica. From there, it’s a pleasant 7 mile (11 km) flat walk from Hidroeléctrica to the town of Aguas Calientes along a trail beside the train tracks which follow the Urubamba River (allow 2 hours).
Getting to Santa Teresa
Even just getting to Santa Teresa is an adventure involving a spectacular 6-hour drive or public bus journey from Cusco or Sacred Valley. The road winds uphill to the 14,160 foot (4,316 meter) Abra Malaga Pass at the base of massive Veronica mountain which seemed so close we were tempted to try scrambling up.
The road up to the pass is well paved as you leave the scrubby high altitude environment on the Sacred Valley side and descend down, down, down toward the lush Amazon. The last 40 minutes of the journey is done on a dirt side road through the Urubamba canyon to reach Santa Teresa.
A short trail takes you from Hidroeléctrica to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu following the train tracks. Or you can take the train.
You can also take the train between Hidroeléctrica and Aguas Calientes, but the walk is lovely (we even saw a hard-to-spot Cock of the Rock national bird of Peru in this area – it’s pictured below) and they charge US$33 for the 30-minute train ride, which seemed pricey.
From Aguas Calientes take the bus (US$12 each way) or walk (if you’re really on a budget) from town up to the Machu Picchu site. After touring Machu Picchu, return to Hidroeléctrica where you can catch one of the waiting vans to return to Cusco for 35 soles (about US$10) or take the train or return to Santa Teresa.