By Train, Machu Picchu
Although many people choose to hike the Inca Trail to get to Machu Picchu, many more are restructed by time and thus have to take the train. I was one of those. I took the Vistadome train to Machu Picchu at a cost of $89.00 for a round-trip. This train sets out for Machu Picchu a little after 6am and arrives in Ages Calientes at around 9:30am. There is also a backpackers train that sets out to Machu Picchu later in the morning and returns that afternoon for the cost of $60.00 for a round-trip and $41.00 oneway. I suspect that this return trip is actually the one most of the people who take the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu return on.
In enjoyed the train trip to Machu Picchu mostly for the scenery along the way. What really raised my eyebrows was the floor show put on by two, one male and one female, attendents on the return trip. It was quite good if you do not mind the fact that they were attempting to get you by lots of local clothing. The Vistadome also serves snacks along the way to and from Machu Picchu.
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.
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.
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.
I read about the 7:45 pm train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu on VT, and figured we'd take a taxi from Cusco through the Sacred Valley to get to Ollantaytambo in early afternoon to buy tickets, then have lunch and see the ruins before catching the train.
We got to town at 1:40 and already the Backpacker was sold out and had been for some time. "Luckily" we could still get tickets on the 2:55 Vistadome - at 3 times the price ($70 for two - only cash, no credit cards). So much for seeing the ruins - or even having lunch, although a small sandwich and drink is provided on the Vistadome. DO NOT buy snacks inside the waiting room, they're very overpriced (12 soles for a bag of Combos and a candy bar).
Perurail would not let us reserve seats when we'd called before leaving home. The Vistadome was only about a third full, so maybe this is a way they have to sell seats! Some of the people we talked to who, like us, had to get Vistadome tickets had planned to take the Backpacker also.
By the way, I thought the Backpacker (which we took on the way back to Cusco) was more comfortable, even if you couldn't see the tops of the mountains. The Vistadome is set up like a plane, with rows of seats all facing the same way, but didn't even have folddown tray tables and offered little leg room. The Backpacker has seats set up in groups of four, two sets facing each other with a table between and felt much more comfortable.
PLEASE NOTE: Since our trip last month, rates have increased at PeruRail - and the website is completely different.
My buddy and I took the Backpacker train up to Machu Picchu from Ollantambo and took the Vistadome train down to Cuzco the next day.
These are just our observations and thougths. You can disagree.
The backpacker train first off has a more relaxed, chilled travel atmosphere that world travellers and packpackers would be accustomed to. No,its not panoramic windows but unless you can't move your head, its sufficient. What I found to be most pleasant is the amount of luxurious room it has. More room luggage room, more leg room per passenger, and the conductors on the backpacker train are more chilled, helpful, and genuine. Bench seating with pairings facing each other. Even if you get people facing you, there is still more room in the backpacker train.
The vistadome train. Yes you get those extra windows on the top. But to be honest, it was useful for about 5 minutes of the trip. The seats are exactly like an airplane. If it wasn't for the windows, I though I was back on an airplane cabin. Numbered seats, all facing forward, less legroom, arm rests digging at your sides, and a tiny space for everyones luggage.
Continuation on the next tip. Must read.
Facts I found to be true:
1. Cuzco to Machu Picchu is actually a total decrease in elevation, not increase.
2. Even though its hard to book train tickets online in advance, try your hardest. At least book at a ticket counter a few days before.
3. If your a traveler who likes to cram as much as possible, it is possible to fly from Lima to Cuszo on the first flight out, and get to M.P. by train that morning. It just you won't catch the train in Cuzco but have to get a taxi to Ollantambo to catch the train there at 9am. You can make it if you don't make mistakes.
4. The longest part of the train ride is the hill right in front of Cuzco. Its switchback for an hour plus. As posted by other VTers, thanks for the info, you can take and get off at Ollantambo and taxi to and from Cuzco or even better get off at Punoy next to Cuzco and take a bus system waiting to take you to Cuzco and save time.
5. Check the next tip about backpacker train vs. Vistadome train.
The kicker: Again, just our opinion and some "passengers" might have found this as the best part, and good for them: The conductors/train stewards of each cabin on the Vistadmome train had a mock fashion show up and down the isle for what seemed like 20 minutes. Fashioning clothes on top of thier work clothes that the train company is trying to sell to the the more "tourist" crowd travelling in the vistadomes. What the %@&*. Even inside a train they are giving you the hard sell. I actually saw the lady in front of me buy one.The same sweater at the Agua Caliente marketplace we JUST left selling it for 90 soles, before bargaining, she got at the marked up price of 500 soles on the train. Don't be a tourist, be a traveller!
Its insulting in that 1. I paid for the transportation, my peace and quiet in that time is mine, not be interupted, 2. to sell products at such gouged up prices on top of already marked up prices shows full disrespect to all the passengers on the vistadome train.
The Pullman Train is the way many people travel to and from Machu Picchu. It's a 70 mile (112 km) ride from Cusco to Machu Picchu, and the ride is pretty comfortable. The train is usually packed so it pays to make reservations in advance. If you're hiking the Inca Trail, it's a nice way to return to Cusco because of course, you'll be tired from the 4 days it took you to get to Macchu Picchu, and, it offers another experience.
We took the train back to Cusco and I remember going over the Urubamba River, through narrow gorges where you could almost reach your hand out the window and touch the rocky sides of the cliffs, the colorful locals - and some colorful tourists - and just beautiful, wild, natural scenery.
There's food and beverages available on the ride, too.
The train Vistadome took us from Cusco to Machu Picchu. All the staff of the company is really nice..i realized that all of them are youth peple and very nice.
When we went from cusco to machu picchu we had a delicious breakfast and they started to offer some souveniers from the company. (PERURAIL).
then, when we went back we had other tea with cakes and they offered a cool show of fashiong and peruvian costums.
NOTE: To get the train tickets book at the mail address that is written down...then you have to pay at: wanchaq estacion without number...
and the train from Cusco to Machu Picchu departs from SAN PEDRO...TRAIN STATION.
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)
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 $68 roundtrip got me from Cusco to Machu Picchu. The train was quite comfortable but if you are a tall person you may be cramped for space. The seats are soft but they do not recline. There is also a large window to look out of while traveling to the site. There are many great views of the countryside. Also about 3/4 of the way to Machu Picchu, you will stop in Ollantaytambo where many women and children are waiting on the side of the tracks to sell you maize, cheese, trinkets. The maize is just a couple of cents and is a nice snack on your way to Machu Picchu. However if you will be traveling in April, make sure you bring a hat and a sweater while on the train because a lot of people will have the windows open on the train to take pics and it can become quite cold. On the backpacker train, lunch is not served, but a snack tray and a beverage tray come by with items for purchase. The prices are astronomical so make sure if you can, pack before you leave. Also of note is that if you take the backpacker train, you will have to travel through the infamous switchbacks where the train at the beginning and end of the trip goes back and forth multiple times. You feel like you aren't moving when it is doing this. The more expensive trains like the Hiram Bingham train avoids these.
Para llegar a Machu Pichu desde Cuzco hay cuatro tipos de trenes .
El local : descartado , pues sólo lo pueden utilizar los peruanos (10 soles)
El mochilero : la opción más barata , aunque cara (50$)
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
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.
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