Dec 6, 2017


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Traveling to Machu Picchu by Train



It isn’t possible to take a train directly to Machu Picchu.
It doesn’t take long for travelers seeking to visit Machu Picchu to realize that planning a trip to the Seventh Wonder of the World is a far more complicated endeavor than it may seem. There is a reason Machu Picchu is often referred to as “the Lost City.” The iconic Inca ruin is located in the Andes Mountains along the fringe of the Amazon rainforest and is extremely remote. In order to reach the Seventh Wonder, you must trek through the Andes or take a train to Machu Picchu from Cusco or the Urubamba River Valley.

For the vast majority of travelers, taking a train to Machu Picchu is the most viable option. However, there is a plethora of information circulating about Peru trains which makes it difficult to decide the correct train to choose and how to correctly plan your trip to Machu Picchu. The purpose of this article is to help you decide which Machu Picchu train is the right fit for you based on your budget, schedule, and individual desires.

Where is the Machu Picchu Train Station?

Going to Machu Picchu via TrainThere are no roads that take tourists to Machu Picchu. Unless you’re hiking the Inca Trail or another rugged alternative trek, taking a train to Machu Picchu is your only option.

In the process of planning your Machu Picchu visit, it is important to understand that you cannot take a train directly to Machu Picchu. The Lost City is nestled on top of a narrow ridge between two mountains, and the topography would it make virtually impossible to access by train.

The Machu Picchu Train Station is located in Aguas Calientes (also referred to as Machu Picchu Pueblo). This is a small village of approximately 1,600 inhabitants located along the Urubamba River about 400 meters (1,300 ft.) below Machu Picchu and slightly upriver.

Getting to the Machu Picchu Train Station

You have three options when planning your route to Machu Picchu by train:

1. Train from Cusco to Machu Picchu via Peru Rail

Your first option is to catch a train from the Poroy Station situated about 13 kilometers (8 miles) west of downtown Cusco. This is often advertised as the Train from Cusco to Machu Picchu, but in actuality the Poroy Station is about a 15 to 20 minute drive from the city center. At one point, this train actually did travel to the heart of the former Inca capital to the centrally located Wanchaq Station, but those days are over, and now you must catch a cab or a public bus. A small three-seat taxi should cost about 15 – 25 soles, or $5 – 8 USD one way. The local bus ride to Poroy is 6 soles per person, or $2 USD.

Expedition Train to Machu Picchu

Expedition Train to Machu Picchu

Each of Peru Rail’s trains offer one-way and round-trip tickets from Poroy to the Machu Picchu Train Station in Aguas Calientes. The 86 km (54 mile) journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu begins high in the Andes to the west of Cusco and descends to the Urubamba Valley via a series of switchbacks through the mountains. The train then follows the Urubamba River through the Sacred Valley and onwards towards Machu Picchu after passing through Ollantaytambo.

It is important to note that during the offseason (January through April), parts of the railroad are shut down for maintenance. During this time, Peru Rail will bus you from the Poroy Station to the Pachar Station, where you will then depart for the Machu Picchu Train Station. Essentially this equates to more time spent on the bus, less on the train.

2. Train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu via Peru Rail or Inca Rail

The other option is to catch a shorter train ride to Machu Picchu from the Sacred Valley. There are two main train stations in the Urubamba Valley located in between Poroy and Aguas Calientes. The first station is located on the outskirts of Urubamba, and the other is located along the shores of the Urubamba River in the former Inca village of Ollantantaytambo. The train station in Ollantantaytambo is a closer access point to Machu Picchu and is the more popular option with far greater traffic than the Urubamba Train Station (which only offers one tourist train to Machu Picchu per day). Many travelers choose to take the train from Ollantaytambo on the way to Machu Picchu, and then take the train ride back to the Poroy station after visiting the Lost City. This is a great option for those staying in the Sacred Valley to acclimatize and is what we usually offer on our most popular Small Group Tour.

Once you depart the Ollantantaytambo Train Station en route to Machu Picchu, the scenery gradually begins to change as you follow the Urubamba River towards the Amazon Basin. If you’re looking for a premiere view, try to get a seat on the left hand side of the train on the way and the right hand side returning. By doing so, you will be able to see Inca terraces and have a better view of the river and the periodic pre-Columbian ruins that are snuggled into the mountainside. Peru Rail doesn’t assign specific seats, so it is recommended that you try to board the train earlier rather than later to ensure that you get a good seat. Arriving 20 to 30 minutes beforehand is a good idea.

Expedition Train Windows

Expedition Train Windows

If luxury trains are your forte, be aware that it is not possible to take the Hiram Bingham Train from the Sacred Valley. Therefore, if you plan to take the Hiram Bingham Train, it is advisable to spend the night before departure in Cusco so you can easily access the nearby Poroy station to board the train. Your other luxury option is to take Inca Rail’s First Class Train. Or, if your pockets are deep enough, you can privately charter a carriage on the Inca Princess, Inca Rail’s lesser-known Presidential Train to Machu Picchu that can be arranged upon special request.

In addition to Peru Rail’s regularly scheduled Vistadome and Expedition Trains, there are additional shuttle trains to Machu Picchu offered through both Peru Rail and Inca Rail. These shuttle trains have departures throughout the day and leave from the Ollantaytambo Train Station. You can find an up-to-date schedule of these departures later in this article.

Machu Picchu Train3. Train from Urubamba to Machu Picchu via Peru Rail

PeruRail’s Vistadome Train departs daily at 6:50 and arrives at 9:25. The return train from Machu Picchu to Urubamba leaves Aguas Calientes at 15:48 and arrives in Urubamba at 18:43.

In addition to the daily Vistadome Train, PeruRail recently opened the doors to their new Sacred Valley Train. Every morning this train departs at 10:30 and arrives at 13:34. The return train from Machu Picchu to Urubamba leaves Aguas Calientes at 19:30 and arrives in Urubamba at 22:37. This elegant train is inspired by the1920’s, portraying its wonderful Dining Car and Observatory Bar Car. A gourmet lunch is offered for guests departing from Urubamba to Machu Picchu, while a gastronomic Peruvian feast is served for dinner (accompanied with a glass of wine or Pisco Sour). For guests staying at the Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado in Urubamba, simply exit the front doors of your hotel and get picked up at Belmond’s private train station!

NOTE: The PeruRail Sacred Valley train operates every day except the first Sunday of each month.

Which Train to Machu Picchu is best for you?

Deciding which train to Machu Picchu you should take comes down to your budget, schedule, and individual desires for the train ride. There are two competing train companies that offer train rides to Machu Picchu, with Peru Rail controlling the vast majority of the tourism market for those en route to the Lost City.

Below you will find the general characteristics and updated 2018 logistical information regarding each Peru train that travels to/from the Machu Picchu Train Station.

Peru Rail

Andean-Explorer-BarPeru-Rail-Hiram-Bingham-TrainHiram-Bingham-ChampagneExpedition-Train-Service-to-Machu-Picchu

Peru Rail offers daily departures to/from Machu Picchu with four levels of service: Hiram Bingham (Super Luxury), Vistadome Train (Superior), Expedition (Standard), and the Local (Budget). However, the local train is only offered to Peruvian citizens so there are really only three options for foreigners. Peru Rail offers multiple daily departures to Machu Picchu from the Poroy Station as well as the Sacred Valley.

Hiram-Bingham-Train-Bar

Hiram Bingham Train Bar

Peru Rail

Belmond Hiram Bingham Luxury Train

Where does it run?

The Belmond Hiram Bingham Luxury Train runs from the Poroy Station (Cusco) to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu). Unlike the Vistadome and the Expedition, the Hiram Bingham does not stop in the Sacred Valley and only offers nonstop departures to/from Cusco to the Machu Picchu Train Station.

What level of service?

Belmond’s Hiram Bingham Luxury Train is first-class all the way. Of all the trains in South America, the Hiram Bingham is probably the most luxurious of them all. While the Andean Explorer Train from Cusco to Lake Titicaca is very nice, for sheer luxury, Hiram Bingham takes the cake. Guests on the Hiram Bingham are treated to a 5-star meal (lunch on the way, dinner on the way back) as well as cocktails and live Andean entertainment.

When does it run?

The Hiram Bingham operates once daily between Cusco and Machu Picchu. You can find the updated 2018 Hiram Bingham Train Schedule listed below:

DeparturesArrivals
Cusco to Machu Picchu
Cusco09:05Machu Picchu12:24
Machu Picchu to Cusco
Machu Picchu17:50Cusco21:16

 

How much does it cost?

$400 One Way
$795 Round Trip

The Hiram Bingham Train is approximately $400 per person one way and $795 per person round trip. Nearly four times as expensive as the Vistadome Train, the Hiram Bingham is clearly in a league of its own in terms of cost. However, Belmond’s service is unrivaled, and you truly get what you pay for.


 

PERU RAIL

Sacred Valley Train

Where does it run?

The Sacred Valley Train departs every morning from the Urubamba Train Station, makes a quick stop at the Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado, before continuing along the shores of the Vilcamayo River. Peer out the panoramic rooftop windows and enjoy the breathtaking Andean scenery until reaching the Aguas Calientes Train Station below the ancient Inca citadel, Machu Picchu.

What level of service?

PeruRail’s Sacred Valley Train is comfortably luxurious. The design of the railcar is inspired by the 1920’s era, and is represented with the Dining Car and Observatory Bar Car. On a sunny day in the Sacred Valley, there is simply no better way to arrive at Machu Picchu without hiking the Inca Trail than this option. Lunch is served for guests who are going to Machu Picchu from the Sacred Valley, and a feast is served for those returning from the Seventh Wonder of the World to the Sacred Valley

When does it run?

The Sacred Valley Train operates once daily between Urubamba and Machu Picchu. You can find the updated 2018 Sacred Valley Train Schedule listed below:

DeparturesArrivals
Urubamba to Machu Picchu
Urubamba10:30Machu Picchu13:24
Machu Picchu to Cusco
Machu Picchu19:30Urubamba22:37

 

How much does it cost?

$180 One Way
$350 Round Trip

The Sacred Valley Train is approximately $180 per person one way and $350 per person round trip. Nearly twice as expensive as the Vistadome Train, the Sacred Valley Train offers you a complete appetizer, meal, and optional cocktails.


 

Machu Picchu TrainPeru Rail

Vistadome Train

Where does it run?

The Vistadome Train travels the along the main route between Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) and the Poroy Station (Cusco). Along the way, the Vistadome stops at Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. This additional departure point is a very popular option for travelers en route to Machu Picchu due to the frequent departures offered throughout the day. This is a short journey, and the views through the panoramic windows are breathtaking. Along the 1 hr. 30 min. journey from Ollantaytambo, you will witness the surrounding mountains turn lush green as the train ventures into the tropical periphery of the Amazon Rainforest.

What level of service?

The Vistadome Train is a superior train. While the service can’t compare to Belmond’s Super Luxury Hiram Bingham Train, the Vistadome is also very nice, and the views from the expansive glass windows may be even better than that of the Hiram Bingham. Guests are served beverages and a formidable snack during the journey, but not a full-on meal like the Hiram Bingham.

When does it run?

There are two daily trains from Poroy to Machu Picchu, and 2 trains that return along the same route. Keep in mind, from January to April, the train will only depart from the Pachar station. A private transfer or bus can be arranged from Wanchaq Station in Cusco to Pachar and the duration of the journey is roughly one hour and fifty minutes. Below you will find the 2018 Vistadome Train Schedule from Poroy to Machu Picchu:

DeparturesArrivals
Cusco to Machu Picchu
Poroy (Cusco)                                                 07:35                        Machu Picchu10:52
Poroy (Cusco)                                                 08:25                        Machu Picchu12:11
Machu Picchu to Cusco
Machu Picchu                                                 16:43                        Poroy (Cusco)20:23
Machu Picchu                                                 17:23                        Poroy (Cusco)20:52

 

Machu Picchu TrainIn addition to the regularly scheduled Vistadome Train from Pachar and Poroy, there are also Vistadome Shuttle Trains offered throughout the day to/from the Ollantaytambo Train Station. Below you will find the 2018 Vistadome Train Schedule from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu:

DeparturesArrivals
Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu
Ollantaytambo                                                 07:05                        Machu Picchu08:27
Ollantaytambo                                                 08:00                        Machu Picchu09:25
Ollantaytambo                                                 08:53                        Machu Picchu10:29
Ollantaytambo                                                 09:15                        Machu Picchu10:52
Ollantaytambo                                                 10:32                        Machu Picchu12:11
Ollantaytambo                                                 13:27                        Machu Picchu14:50
Ollantaytambo                                                 15:37                        Machu Picchu17:02
Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo
Machu Picchu                                                    10:55                     Ollantaytambo12:32
Machu Picchu                                                    13:37                     Ollantaytambo15:04
Machu Picchu                                                    15:48                     Ollantaytambo17:29
Machu Picchu                                                    16:22                     Ollantaytambo18:10
Machu Picchu                                                    16:43                     Ollantaytambo18:31
Machu Picchu                                                    17:23                     Ollantaytambo19:02
Machu Picchu                                                    18:10                     Ollantaytambo19:51

Machu Picchu Train

In addition to the Pachar/Poroy route to Cusco and the route from Ollantaytambo, there is also one additional daily Vistadome Train that departs from Urubamba and ends in Machu Picchu. Below you will find the 2018 Vistadome Train Schedule from Urubamba to Machu Picchu:

Departures     Arrivals
Urubamba to Machu Picchu
Urubamba                                                   06:50                   Machu Picchu09:24
Machu Picchu to Urubamba
Machu Picchu                                             15:48                   Urubamba18:43

How much does it cost?

$65–$99

Tickets aboard the Vistadome range from $65 to $99 USD per person one way. This cost is based on a round-trip booking (one-way prices are subject to increase if you only book one way). The prices fluctuate depending on time of year and desired time of train ride, with the most popular departure times being the most expensive.


 

Peru-Rail-Expedition-Train-Interior

Peru Rail: Expedition Train Interior

Peru Rail

Expedition Train

Where does it run?

Like the Vistadome, the Expedition Train has daily departures from both the Poroy and Ollantaytambo Train Stations and follows the exact same route.

What level of service?

The Expedition is considered to be an economy option, although prices are very similar to that of the Vistadome Train. While you may not have live musical performances or a gourmet meal along your journey, the Expedition Train is really not that bad relatively speaking.

When does it run?

The Expedition Train offers one daily Machu Picchu Train to/from the Poroy Station as well as multiple departures to/from Ollantaytambo. Peru Rail’s 2018 Expedition Train Schedule for departures from Poroy (Cusco) to Machu Picchu is listed in the following table. Please bear in mind that the train from Poroy to Machu Picchu does not operate during the wet season between January and April.

DeparturesArrivals
Cusco to Machu Picchu (May-December)
Poroy (Cusco)06:40  Machu Picchu09:54
Machu Picchu to Cusco (May-December)
Machu Picchu15:20  Poroy (Cusco)19:05

 

In addition, Peru Rail also offers shuttle trains throughout the day from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu. The latest 2018 Expedition Shuttle Train Schedule for Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu is as follows:

DeparturesArrivals
Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu
Ollantaytambo                                                    06:10                     Machu Picchu               07:40
Ollantaytambo                                                    07:45                     Machu Picchu               09:15
Ollantaytambo                                                    08:29                     Machu Picchu               09:54
Ollantaytambo                                                    12:55                     Machu Picchu               14:25
Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo
Machu Picchu                                                   05:35                      Ollantaytambo               07:44
Machu Picchu                                                   08:53                      Ollantaytambo               10:52
Machu Picchu                                                   14:55                      Ollantaytambo               16:31
Machu Picchu                                                   15:20                      Ollantaytambo               17:08
Machu Picchu                                                   16:22                      Ollantaytambo               18:10
Machu Picchu                                                   18:20                      Ollantaytambo               20:05
Machu Picchu                                                   20:50                      Ollantaytambo               22:20

Machu Picchu                                                   21:50                      Ollantaytambo                                         23:35

How much does it cost?

$54–$99

Expedition Train tickets range from $54-$75 one way based on a round-trip booking. The cheapest fares tend to be the earliest and latest departures and during the low season from November through March.


 

Inca Rail

Inca Rail Executive TrainInca Rail First Class CocktailsInca Rail Presidential TrainInca Princess Presidential Carriage

Peru Rail’s rivaling company offers daily trains to Machu Picchu from Ollantaytambo. Like Peru Rail, Inca Trail offers four different levels of service: Inca Princess (Private Presidential), Inca Rail First Class (Superior), Inca Rail Executive Class (Standard), and the Machu Picchu Train (Economy). With the exception of the Inca Princess, which must be privately arranged in advance, all of Inca Rail’s services are offered daily from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. Bear in mind that Inca Rail does not offer service to/ from the Poroy Station.

Inca Princess Private Train

Inca Princess: Private Carriage

Inca Rail

Inca Princess

Where does it run?

The Inca Princess operates between Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu.

What level of service?

The Inca Princess could be described as a shorter, 100% private version of the Hiram Bingham Train. This decadent, privately chartered carriage offers an open bar, hors d’oeuvres, and tea service. With only eight passengers allowed in the carriage, this is the most privileged luxury experience one can have on a Peru train.

When does it run?

Because the Inca Princess is a private carriage connected to the Inca Rail Train, the departure times are the same as the Inca Rail Executive Train (see Executive Train Schedule below). In order to make a reservation on the Inca Princess, you must reserve at least thirty days in advance.

How much does it cost?

$10,000

The Inca Princess carriage can be privately chartered for $10,000 round trip.


 

Inca Rail First Class

Inca Rail: First Class

Inca Rail

First Class

Where does it run?

Inca Rail’s First Class Train also runs from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu.

What level of service?

This is Inca Rail’s alternative to Peru Rail’s Hiram Bingham Train and offers first-class service (hints the name). Guests are served lunch en route to Machu Picchu and dinner on the return to the Sacred Valley. Though frequently advertised as a “super luxury” option such as the Hiram Bingham, Inca Rail’s First Class Train truly represents a caliber of service between that of the Vistadome and the Hiram Bingham in terms of cost.

When does it run?

The Inca Rail First Class Train has one daily departure to/ from Ollantaytambo year round. You can find the 2018 Inca Rail First Class Train Schedule below:

DeparturesArrivals
Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu
Ollantaytambo                                                    11:15                     Machu Picchu               12:45
Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo
Machu Picchu                                                   19:00                      Ollantaytambo               20:32


Be aware that Inca Rail only offers the First Class Train during the high season between April 1 and October 31 and during the holidays between December 21 and 31. First Class service is not available during the low season.

How much does it cost?

$135 One Way

The Inca Rail First Class Train costs approximately $135 each way.


 

Inca Rail Executive Class

Inca Rail: Executive Class

Inca Rail

Executive Class

Where does it run?

The Inca Rail Executive Class Train operates between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes.

What level of service?

In many ways, Inca Rail’s Executive Class Train is like Peru Rail’s Vistadome Train. During the ride, guests are served a snack and choice of beverage and will also have the opportunity to buy last-minute items such as sunscreen and insect repellent.

When does it run?

The Executive Train has three six round-trip departures per day offered year round. The 2018 Executive Train Schedule is listed below:

DeparturesArrivals
Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu
Ollantaytambo                                                 06:40                        Machu Picchu08:01
Ollantaytambo                                                 07:20                        Machu Picchu08:48
Ollantaytambo                                                 11:15                        Machu Picchu12:45
Ollantaytambo                                                 12:36                        Machu Picchu14:00
Ollantaytambo                                                 16:36                        Machu Picchu18:09
Ollantaytambo                                                 19:27                        Machu Picchu21:09
Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo
Machu Picchu                                                    08:30                     Ollantaytambo10:10
Machu Picchu                                                    10:32                     Ollantaytambo12:12
Machu Picchu                                                    14:30                     Ollantaytambo15:56
Machu Picchu                                                    16:12                     Ollantaytambo17:50
Machu Picchu                                                    19:00                     Ollantaytambo20:41
Machu Picchu                                                    21:30                     Ollantaytambo22:54

How much does it cost?

$49–$63 One Way

While Inca Rail’s Executive Class Train is considered to be a step up from the Economy Class in terms of service, oddly enough, the Executive Class is often cheaper than Inca Rail’s Machu Picchu Train. Depending on the departure date and time of day, the Executive Class Train ranges anywhere from $49 to $63 USD one way.


 

Machu Picchu Train

Machu Picchu Train

Inca Rail

Machu Picchu Train

Where does it run?

Inca Rail’s Machu Picchu Train operates daily between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes.

What level of service?

The Machu Picchu Train is an Economy Class option that is very similar to that of Peru Rail’s Expedition Train. While the train itself seems older than Peru Rail’s Expedition and the ride a bit bumpier, the layout is a bit more spacious and the seats do offer a bit more legroom.

When does it run?

The Machu Picchu Train travels once daily to/from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. The 2018 Machu Picchu Train Schedule is listed below:

DeparturesArrivals
Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu
Ollantaytambo7:20Aguas Calientes8:48
Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo
Aguas Calientes16:12Ollantaytambo17:50

 

The Machu Picchu Train travels once daily to/from Poroy (Cusco) to Machu Picchu. Keep in mind that this route is closed January-April due to maintenance on the railroad. The 2018 Machu Picchu Train Schedule is listed below:

DeparturesArrivals
Poroy (Cusco) to Machu Picchu
Cusco (Poroy)05:55Machu Picchu8:48
Machu Picchu to Poroy (Cusco)
Machu Picchu16:12Poroy (Cusco)19:38

How much does it cost?

$63–$85 One Way

The Machu Picchu Train ranges from $63 to $85 USD per person each way.


 

As you can see, there is no shortage of options when it comes to traveling to Machu Picchu by train. While Peru Rail has long been considered the gold standard for Peru trains, Inca Rail is on the rise and offers good quality train services to Machu Picchu as well.

Now that you have a better grasp of the train routes to/ from the Machu Picchu Train Station, hopefully you are better equipped to choose which train is best suited for you and your traveling companions. However, if you decide that trains and time tables are not your forte and would prefer to let the Machu Picchu experts take care of the logistics for you, we would be more than happy to create a Custom-Tailored Peru Expedition just for you. Or, if you prefer traveling with a small group, then check out Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

If you would like to learn more about either of the trains, visit www.perurail.com or www.incarail.com for more information. Be aware that the 2018 time tables listed above are subject to change periodically, so be sure to check the website for the latest arrival and departure times.