Train Journeys… in Peru
Train journeys are a highlight of travel in Peru. With visitor numbers continuing to increase, so too do the different options for travelling in the country by train. Here is our guide to the different routes and styles of trains on offer in Peru this year.
Trains to Machu Picchu
The spectacular ruins of Machu Picchu can be reached by train, followed by a 25-minute bus ride up a serpentine road to the entrance to the citadel. Trains run from Poroy station – just outside Cuzco – through Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley to Aguas Calientes, the station below Machu Picchu. The full journey is just under four hours and descends from 3,486 to 2,038 metres above sea level. Passing through the picturesque Incan towns and villages of the Sacred Valley, for much of the scenic journey the railway clings to the Urubamba river with the Andes soaring high above.
There are two companies currently offering trains to Machu Picchu: PeruRail and Inca Rail. Here’s what’s on offer:
The comfortable Expedition train, with picture windows in the ceiling, is the most affordable train to take you to Machu Picchu. Carriages are sociably laid out with comfortable seats in groups of four and colourfully decorated with designs of Incan culture. Snacks and hot or cold (non-alcoholic) drink are available to buy throughout the journey.
Expedition train’s exterior and interior
Upgrade to the Vistadome, which has panoramic windows that curve up and over the roof, giving spectacular views from your seat. Watch the river, mountains and sky changing as you travel from Cuzco. On the return journey, the staff will model Alpaca clothing and perform traditional dances. A light snack and drink is served.
Vistadome train’s exterior and interior
A further upgrade is available to those staying in the Sacred Valley, there is a daily departure of the Sacred Valley train, which starts in Urubamba and makes a brief stop at the Belmond Rio Sagrado hotel. The train’s interiors are inspired by the elegant 1920s and there is an open observatory car at the back, which is perfect for enjoying the scenery pass by with a Pisco sour in hand. A three-course lunch is served on the way out, with dinner on the return and includes a glass of wine. The journey takes around three hours in each direction.
Sacred Valley train’s exterior and interior
For those wishing to arrive at Machu Picchu in true style, Cox & Kings recommends the sumptuous and glamorous Belmond Hiram Bingham from Poroy station or the Sacred Valley. You will be served a delicious lunch on the way there, and gourmet three-course dinner on the return, with free-flowing Pisco sours throughout. You’ll be able to take in the spectacular views from the observation carriage at the back of the train, or from the comfort of your seat. Guests on the Hiram Bingham train also have a guided tour of Machu Picchu included as well as afternoon tea at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge hotel, just by the entrance to the citadel.
Hiram Bingham train’s exterior and interior
The alternative rail company Inca Rail also runs services between Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu – a 90-minute journey – in two different categories. The Voyager Class has plenty of large windows and plush seats to enjoy the scenery. Complimentary hot and cold drinks are served.
Inca Rail’s executive class
An upgrade to First Class includes a delicious meal accompanied by wine as well as a cocktail when you board, along with hot and cold drinks. The train features an Observatory-Lounge carriage, which has live music, a bar and balcony.
Inca Rail’s first class
The newest offering in the Inca Rail fleet is the 360° Machu Picchu train with wide panoramic windows that stretch into the dome of the carriage. Unlike most other trains on the route, the carriages are interconnecting, allowing passengers to walk to the central open-air observation carriage. An interactive journey app provides information on various highlights along the journey.
Inca Rail’s Machu Picchu train
Please note: During the Andean rainy season – from January to April – the line is closed between Cuzco and the Sacred Valley. Passengers on the PeruRail services will board a private bus in Cuzco and take the train from Ollantaytambo. Guests on the Belmond Hiram Bingham will be taken to the Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado by private bus and will board there.
Day rail journeys between Cuzco & Puno
The one-day journey (10.5 hours) between Cuzco and Puno, or vice-versa, on the PeruRail Titicaca train follows in the footsteps of the Incas. The journey from the ancient Inca capital to the shores of Lake Titicaca is regarded as one of Peru’s most scenic routes. Enjoy a three-course gourmet lunch, afternoon tea and drinks in the 1920s-style Pullman dining car with cedar-panelled walls and plush seats. For the best views, head to the back of the train and enjoy the open-air observatory car and watch as the train winds through Cuzco’s markets and out into the wide open plains, dotted with alpacas and vicuñas.
PeruRail Titicaca train
Luxury overnight train journeys in Peru
For the ultimate train journey experience in Peru, we recommend an overnight journey on the Belmond Andean Explorer. Launched in May 2017, it is the continent’s first luxury overnight train and is one the highest rail journeys in the world. Travelling from Cuzco to Arequipa, via Puno – and vice-versa – there are options for both one- and two-night journeys. Travelling across the highest plains of the Andes, you’ll see Incan sites, explore Lake Titcaca and have plenty of time to just relax and enjoy the spectacular journey.
Andean Explorer Junior double bed cabin
The open observation car at the back of the train is the perfect place to watch the changing landscapes pass by. The two dining cars serve sumptuous meals inspired by the traditional food of Peru’s Andean region, designed by Diego Muños, an ambassador of Peruvian cuisine. Standard cabins have en suite facilities and bunk beds but you can upgrade to twin or double beds. New for this year on the train is a spa carriage – perfect for a relaxing treatment after a day’s excursions.
Belmond Andean Explorer train
Cox & Kings can include any of these trains as part of a tailor-made holiday to Peru. The popular Train to Machu Picchu escorted tour includes an overnight stay on the Andean Explorer and the Vistadome train to Machu Picchu. For more rail journeys in Peru with Cox & Kings please visit here.