Updated July 2014
Transportation options to Machu Picchu are limited due to its isolated location, tucked deep within the Sacred Valley. Travelers cannot take a car or bus to the famous ruins because there’s not a direct road. Some travelers walk the Inca Trail, but most take the train to Machu Picchu and need to consider the range of services and options available.
Taking the train to Machu Picchu
Train service to Machu Picchu explained
The railway between Cusco and Machu Picchu is considered one of the most scenic routes in the world, boasting dramatic canyons and Andean peaks. Travelers going to Machu Picchu can enjoy a luxurious ride along this beautiful stretch of track on trains operated by two companies: PeruRail and Inca Rail.
PeruRail, a company managed and half-owned by the Orient-Express Hotels, runs the majority of trains to Machu Picchu. Service to Machu Picchu is offered from Cusco (Poroy Station) and the Sacred Valley in Ollantaytambo and Urubamba.
Inca Rail is a Peruvian-owned company that started operating train service to Machu Picchu in 2010. Unlike PeruRail, Inca Rail trains only run between Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu.
Route to Machu Picchu
Cusco – Machu Picchu
Ollantaytambo – Machu Picchu
Urubamba – Machu Picchu
The railway between Cusco and Ollantaytambo meanders through a narrow gorge before dropping down into the Sacred Valley. This section of track closes during the rainy reason due to the increased risk of landslides that can block the route. During this time, PeruRail offers bimodal transportation – a combination of car and train service – for passengers that buy tickets from Cusco to Ollantaytambo. Click here for more details.
From Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu, the railway hugs the Urubamba River that snakes through the Sacred Valley. Passengers enjoy views of the crashing river, lush green vegetation and Inca ruins before arriving at the station in Aguas Calientes, a small town only a couple miles from Machu Picchu.
PeruRail offers three different train classes to Machu Picchu: Belmond Hiram Bingham, Vistadome, and Expedition.
Belmond Hiram Bingham is an exclusive and luxury train. Elegantly decorated with polished wood and plush seating, the train can carry up to 84 passengers. There are four wagons; two for dining, an observation wagon with a bar, and a car for the kitchen. Gourmet food and wine is served, complete with onboard entertainment. Specific services depend on the purchase of a one-way or round-trip ticket(s) between Cusco and Machu Picchu.
Vistadome is marketed as “a journey for your senses” by PeruRail. This middle class train has large panoramic windows to admire views of the surrounding Sacred Valley. Snacks and refreshments are served. All wagons have leather seats with plenty of leg room, air-conditioning and heating. This train departs from Cusco, Ollantaytambo, and Urubamba to Machu Picchu.
Expedition (formerly known as the Backpacker) is the most economical option. Service is basic, but the panoramic views of the Sacred Valley are stunning. Light snacks and beverages are available. There’s air conditioning and heating to ensure a comfortable temperature, and your luggage can be stowed securely in the racks placed above the seats. This train to Machu Picchu departs from Cusco and Ollantaytambo.
Inca Rail offers three different train options to Machu Picchu: Inca Princess, Inca Train, and the Machu Picchu Train. Again, these trains only operate between Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu.
Inca Princess is the most decadent of trains operated by Inca Rail. Sip on a glass of champagne while enjoying top-notch service. Savor the flavors of Peru while eating a five-course meal and cruise into Machu Picchu in style.
Inca Train is a slightly less luxurious than the Inca Princess. Within the Inca Train, three different classes of service are offered: Presidential Class, First Class, and Executive Class.
- Presidential train service to Machu Picchu is top-class. Enjoy large, comfortable seats amid tasteful wood panelled decor. Admire stunning views of the Sacred Valley from large windows and eat delicious food. As part of the service, an open bar and tea time at Machu Picchu’s prestigious Inkaterra hotel is included.
- First Class is a luxury train with plush seats and plenty of leg room. Passengers are given a welcoming drink upon arrival and enjoy meal service followed by dessert during the ride. All meals aboard the train are prepared with fresh, natural ingredients.
- Executive Class is another superior class. On-board service includes a selection of healthy snacks and selection of hot and cold beverages. Sit in comfortable seats and admire beautiful views from large panoramic windows.
Machu Picchu Train offers a comfortable ride to Machu Picchu at the most affordable price. Comparatively, it’s a no-frills ride, but the scenery is stunning, the chairs comfortable, and the interior design modern.
A helpful tip
Train tickets to Machu Picchu are regularly sold out several days in advance during the peak months of May to September. Travelers on a tight schedule should make train reservations as far in advance as possible. Don’t wait to purchase your tickets until you arrive in Cusco.
For more advice about train service to Machu Picchu, call and talk with one of our expert travel advisors. Peru For Less plans customized tours throughout Peru!
Britt is a California native who left her home to explore South America in 2013 and now lives in Peru. She’s just a little obsessed about planning getaways with her family, scuba diving, and trekking.