By Train, Machu Picchu
There is no road access to Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes. The only way to get is to hike the Inca trail or take the train. Even if you do get there using your feet, the Camino Inca is a one-way trail so you'll need to take the train to get back to your starting point at Ollantaytambo. There are two companies offering train service to Aguas Calientes: Inca Rail and PeruRail. Our agency had booked us a passage with the former, though I dare say both are similar. I very much enjoyed the 90-min train ride to Ollantaytambo. We sat in the executive class, and the seats were very comfortable, with large windows to enjoy the view (there even were windows on the roof). Wagons are designed so that four people can sit together and share a table, which was pretty perfect for us since we had brought a deck of cards. Free on-board service features an interesting selection of hot and cold beverages and a light snack. There are three Inca Rail trains departing to and from Aguas Calientes daily - PeruRail has more, but tickets are slightly more expensive for an equivalent class.
Unless you're hiking the famous Inca Trail, your journey to Machu Picchu will take you first to the town of Aguas Calientes by train, followed by taking a bus to the top of the mountain. Trains leave on a regular basis from Cusco (Poroy), Ollantaytambo, and Urubamba and all are operated by Peru Rail.
If you are a train lover like I am, you look forward to a ride on the train almost as much as your destination, no matter which of the 3 types of train services you choose for this route:
The "Backpacker Train" known formally as the "Expedition" appeals to those looking for somewhat less expensive tickets. It has traditional comfortable seating such as on an airplane and rail cars are structured so that passengers who are backpacking while in Peru have access to the wide spaces designated for the bags or backpacks. Roundtrip fare will cost you in the neighborhood of USD $56 to $63 (2014 prices). Drinks and snacks are not included.
As part of our tour, passage had been prebooked for us on Peru Rail's Vistadome train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. The sleek blue train cars with deep yellow lettering are easily recognizable. This train is known for excellent panoramic views due to the extra large side windows as well as to the extra windows added to the curving roof of each train car. Four seats ( 2 by 2) face each other with a good-size table in between. Roundtrip ticket prices do include drink and snack service, and some entertainment as well (see picture 4). It's quite a comfortable arrangement; however, feeling obligated to speak to those across from me robbed me of being able to concentrate on the fabulous scenery! As previously mentioned, our tickets were included as part of our tour, however, roundtrip ticket prices range from USD $58 to $79 based on travel times. The tickets can be purchased as a combo including a buffet lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge for price ranges from USD $95 to $116 (2014 prices). I thoroughly enjoyed riding the train and felt the service during all parts of this leg of our journey was excellent.
The most exclusive train is the Hiram Bingham, named after the explorer who re-discovered Machu Picchu in 1911, and which I would best describe as the Orient Express of the Andeas, although without sleeping cars. The interior furnishings of these rail cars is quite exquisite. The decor features plush seating, warm wood paneling and brass accents, starched white linens, crystal and silver cutlery for meal service. This train evokes a sentiment felt during the late 19th and early 20th century when attention to detail and graciousness were highly valued by those who could afford it. The cost of tickets for the Hiram Bingham duly express its uniqueness and exclusivity, though this is definitely not a point of criticism. It has earned its title as one of the most luxurious trains in the world.
The Hiram Bingham train consists of four passenger cars, two dining cars, an observation car with bar, and the kitchen, and can accommodate up to 84 passengers. For a round trip ticket price of approximately USD $400, service (as stated on the Peru Rail website) includes:
"Welcome aperitifs upon arrival at Poroy station (Cusco). Brunch and excellent selection of Peruvian wines. On board entertainment. Tourist guide for every group of 14 passengers. Tickets and transportation to Machu Picchu. Tea Time in the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge. Gourmet dinner."
While I did not see the Hiram Bingham in Aguas Calientes, I did see it several times while we were rafting the Urubamba River and its sleek, dark-blue cars with gold lettering and trim glided by us on rails just next to the river. It was an amazing sight for me and I imagine for all train spotters.
All tickets can and should be purchased in advance. Online purchase is simple and quick and the site will give you the option of choosing the type of train service you desire depending on the time of departure you choose. Choose your train service carefully to give yourself ample time for your visit.
At this point your plans, and some tours, may include staying in the tiny town of Aguas Calientes. If so, make the most of time spent here if possible by seeing what Aguas Calientes has to offer.
If going directly on to the Machu Picchu citadel, purchasing tickets for the green Consettur buses will be the next step for most people.
The way to get to Macchu Picchu is by "The Expedition Train" from The city of Cuzco This train follows the Urubamaba River along the Urubamamba valley to the small town of "Aguas Calientes".
The information that I had for this tip when I last used the train is no longer applicable.
There apparently now are three different locations that you can catch the train as also there are three different train companies cashing in on the popularity of this amazing site.
Due to recent landslides (or fear of) there has been a change to the schedules to Machu Picchu and to get the latest information see : wwwseat61.com
I have recently looked at this site and it now has recent updates on train travel to Machu Picchu along with timetables and costs..
We bought our Backpacker Cerrojo tickets online at Peru Rail website. We printed the e-tickets which we presented to the conductor when we boarded the train with our passport as ID. The seats are arranged in four, facing each other. We had no problem finding our seats indicated on the tickets. The seats were comfortable and made for easy conversation with the couple seated facing us. The scenery as the train wound its way along the Urubamba River was very picturesque with the mountains looming up above, seeminglyat no end. The trip took an hour-and-a-half both ways from/to Ollantaytambo. On hindsight, we could have started our train trip from Cusco (Poroy) and spent more time at Machu Picchu Village, staying there overnite and taking next day late departure. There was road work being done near and around the main plaza the week we were in Ollantaytambo which did not allow us to walk around the area as much as we would have liked to. Backpacker Cerrojo Train no. 71 Leave Ollantaytambo 05:10 Arrive Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Village) 06:34 cost $31. Backpacker Cerrojo Train no. 84 Leave Machu Picchu Village 18:10 Arrive Ollantaytambo 19:45 cost $31. Compare with Backpacker Train no. 33 leave Cusco (Poroy) 07:42 arrive 10:51 cost: $48; train No. 34 leave Machu Picchu Village 16:43 Arrive Cusco (Poroy) 20:13 cost $48.00. The popular Backpacker train tickets have to be booked way ahead of time to avoid having to buy the more expensive Vistadome tickets. The Backpacker trains are just as comfortable and safe as the more expensive trains. For more questions, it is faster to get a response from Peru Rail by telephone or e-mail.
We loved our train trip. The scenery was great and it's an easy 3 and 1/2 hour trip . The vistadome has big windows all around so you can really have a good view. We made our reservations before we left on the internet and it was all so easy. The price now is $101.00 US return, the first class is $436.00 ( Hiram Bingham ) quite a diffeence in price.
Schedule: Daily departures from San Pedro Station in Cusco for Vistadome 6:00
Here's the web site . http://www.perurail.com/Pages/cusco_mapi1.htm
The way to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco is via train. The only train that leaves Cusco to Machu Picchu is operated by Peru Rail which has offices located in Cusco. They also have a website PeruRail. You can book your tickets ahead of time on the website but you have to pay for your ticket in full at least 24 hours before your intended departure. This requires that you go to the train station in Cusco where it is basically a first come first serve service, so expect to wait at least an hour or more to purchase your tickets. I took the Backpacker train which for $68 roundtrip got me from Cusco to Machu Picchu. The train was quite comfortable but if you are a tall person you may be cramped for space. The seats are soft but they do not recline. There is also a large window to look out of while traveling to the site. There are many great views of the countryside. Also about 3/4 of the way to Machu Picchu, you will stop in Ollantaytambo where many women and children are waiting on the side of the tracks to sell you maize, cheese, trinkets. The maize is just a couple of cents and is a nice snack on your way to Machu Picchu. However if you will be traveling in April, make sure you bring a hat and a sweater while on the train because a lot of people will have the windows open on the train to take pics and it can become quite cold. On the backpacker train, lunch is not served, but a snack tray and a beverage tray come by with items for purchase. The prices are astronomical so make sure if you can, pack before you leave. Also of note is that if you take the backpacker train, you will have to travel through the infamous switchbacks where the train at the beginning and end of the trip goes back and forth multiple times. You feel like you aren't moving when it is doing this. The more expensive trains like the Hiram Bingham train avoids these.
I was trying to find the best way to book my reservations before I left New York for the Machu Picchu Train - Visitadome (don't know if I am spelling it correctly).
I found there were few travel agencies who were willing to get reservations on the train. However they all charge a whooping 20US$ extra on the actual cost of the ticket.
However I found the Peru Rail has a web site and you can send them you dirct request and they will confirm you reservations for the actual price and you can go to the station with your Passport and fairly quickly pick up you ticket.
Note 20US$ is a lot of money in a place like Peru.
As we boarded the train from Ollantaytambo,the odd street seller appeared,with blankets and hats and many other things to sell.Fiona bought a few more finger dolls,to add to her collection she had started in Cusco !!!
The train had a see through roof which certainly helped us see more of this wonderful place.
The staff on the train were very smart,very curteous and most helpful.It was one of the cleanest trains I have ever been on.
Getting to Machu Picchu is not difficult, but you allow yourself time to prepare for the trip. Don't plan to buy train tickets on the day you want to travel. You will have to buy your tickets two or three days in advance. You can buy your tickets in Cusco and take the train from Poroy, which is a quick taxi ride from Cusco. There are three options for trains, we chose the least expensive, the backpacker train. Don't let them name fool you. Its not an uncomfortable or small train. As you can see from my photo the train is comfortable. We bought a round trip same day ticket. It is a long train ride to Machu Picchu, although its not a long distance. The train is slow at times as it crosses over the mountains and will take you over 3 hours to get to Machu Picchu.
To get to Machu Pichu, you can take the twice daily backpacker train from Cusco. Trains depart early in the morning and arrive at Aguas Caliente mid morning. From there, you must take a bus up the mountains to the ruins. The trains leave for the return trip to Cusco at 3:30 and 4:00. At least one hour of the trip is the descent down switchbacks into Cusco. To avoid this, you can get off at Poroy and take a bus back to the city and save about 40 minutes on the trip.
The Backpacker was sold out on the way back, so we took the Vistadome. The Vistadome train offers some ridiculously cheesy entertainment to amuse you on the 5 hour trip. First, one of the porters will perform a traditional dance in which he prances up and down the aisles in a really cool hat and what appears to be a ski mask. Our porter refused to take off the ski mask the whole time, but you could tell it was him. Next, the rest of your cabin crew will put on a fashion show. Yes, a train fashion show, featuring alpaca shawls and sweaters. They will choose the prettier porters to do the fashion show and the poor tubby one will be stuck doing the ski mask dance. The best part of the trip was a lady a few seats in front of us, who got waayy too into the fashion show, like she thought she was at fashion week in Milan or something, complete with encouraging nods, taking notes and enthusiastic clapping.
My friend JP had to go to the bathroom during the fashion show, and scurried down the aisle/runway. The whole train applauded him going down the catwalk.
Opt for the cheeper Backpacker if you can, the experience is not much different, excepting the lack of entertainment.
The Backpacker train is the best value option to get to Aguas Calientes. Experience-wise, there is barely any difference between the Backpacker and the Vistadome. The Vistadome has some higher windows and some cheesy entertainment.
The train will make a couple stops on your way from Cuzco. Often, there will be ladies selling corn at the train stop. Sometimes, they will give you free cheese to go with your corn. This is the best part, as the cheese is so fresh and delicious.
To get the cheapest rates, book a few days in advance. When we went (booking 1 day in advance), the backpacker was sold out on the way back (Inca-Trailers take the train back). We got backpacker tickets on the way there and Vistadome tickets on the way back. The price was somewhere in between the $73 roundtrip for the backpacker and the $113 roundtrip for the Vistadome, but we did not have to pay the full one-way/one-way fare.
On the return trip from MP via the Backpacker get off at the stop before Cusco and take the bus to save time. I believe the stop is Poroy but you will know because many people will get off at this stop and buses are waiting outside. The bus costs 5 soles and saves you about 30-40 minutes times. (The last part of return trip to Cusco the train eases its way down the mountain through a series of switchbacks which takes more time and makes for a bumpy ride)
Trying to decide between the Backpacker and the Vistadome?? Take the Backpacker. It's comfortable, it's safe and it's less expensive. The additional cost ifor the Vistadome ncludes a meal and more windows for better views but they often fog up and you can see all you need through the windows of the Backpacker.
Para llegar a Machu Pichu desde Cuzco hay cuatro tipos de trenes .
El local : descartado , pues sólo lo pueden utilizar los peruanos (10 soles)
El mochilero : la opción más barata , aunque cara (50$)
El Vistadome: tiene el techo de cristal y es una pasada cuando vas entre montañas , aparte de que te hacen un pase de modelos para venderte prendas de Alpaca (75$)
El Hiram Bingham: descartado , carísimo (480$)
-Para ir a Machu Pichu hay que llegar a Aguas Calientes
- Puedes coger el tren en Ollantaytambo a las20h 20m después de visitar el valle Sagrado (Llega a la estación antigua en el centro)
-Para ahorrarte casi 1 h de viaje puedes bajarte en Poroy , pero te pierdes la llegada a Cuzco , bajando en zig zag por la gran pendiente que existe
-Puedes comprar los billetes en la estación o en una agencia de viajes , pero si puedes hazlo con un par de días de antelación
To reach Machu Pichu from Cuzco there are four types of trains
The local : Deleted , because only the Peruvians may use (10soles)
The Backpacker :The cheapest option though expensive(50$)
The Vistadome : It has a glass roof and it is very nice when you go between the mountains , in addition they make you an exhibition to show you the Alpaca clothes (75$)
The Hiram Bingham : Deleted , extremely expensive (480$)
-To go to Machu Pichu you must stop in Aguas Calientes
-You may take the train in Ollantaytambo at 20h20m after visiting the Sacred Valley(It arrives to the old station in the village center )
-To save nearly one hour of travel you may leave the train in Poroy and to take a taxi , but you are missing the impressive arrival to Cuzco , descending in zig zag due to the steep slope
-You may get the tickets in the train station or in a travel agency , if you can book a couple of days before