A guide to the trains… to Machu Picchu
With visitor numbers to Peru 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.
Taking the train to Machu Picchu
Trains run from Poroy station – just outside Cuzco – through Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu station in Aguas Calientes. The full journey is just under four hours and descends from 3,486 metres above sea level down to 2,038 metres above sea level. Passing through the picturesque Incan towns and villages of the Sacred Valley, for much of the spectacular journey the railway clings to the Urubamba river with the Andes soaring high above. On arrival into Machu Picchu station, it’s a 25-minute bus ride – or at least a 90-minute hike – up to the entrance to the citadel.
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. A light snack is served en route along with a hot or cold (non-alcoholic) drink.
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 also served.
Vistadome train’s exterior and interior
For 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
To arrive at Machu Picchu in true style, take the Belmond Hiram Bingham from Poroy station. 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
Going between Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu – a 90-minute journey – Inca Rail offers three different categories of train running several times a day. The Executive Class train has plenty of large windows and plush seats to enjoy the scenery. Complimentary hot and cold drinks are served.
Inca Rail’s executive class
Travel on their First Class train and enjoy 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, bar and a balcony.
Inca Rail’s first class
The newest offering in the Inca Rail fleet is the 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.
Inca Rail’s Machu Picchu train
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.
Cuzco to Puno and on to Arequipa
Launched in May 2017, the Belmond Andean Explorer is among the highest rail journeys in the world and the continent’s first luxury overnight train. 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
For those with less time – or if you would prefer not to stay overnight on a train – PeruRail has reintroduced the one-day route between Cuzco and Puno, or vice-versa. The PeruRail Titicaca train takes ten hours but includes a three-course gourmet lunch, afternoon tea and drinks in the 1920s-style Pullman dining car. 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.
PeruRail Titicaca 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.