When planing our Amazon Cruise my Dad said that we should also go to Machu Picchu. I thought that was a good idea and wondered why I did not think of that because I am after all a Travel Blogger. I think I was more concerned with figuring out when we could both go and how we were going to get there. I was also wondering if I could take that much time away from my business.
Once we decided on the dates I had to figure out how we were going to get from Lima to Machu Picchu and back in the three days. Many people asked me if we were going to be hiking the Inca Trail. My answer to that was we did not have time. Even if we did have time I had no interest in hiking for two or four days at a high altitude just because some people think that it is the only authentic way to get to Machu Picchu.
Since hiking was out the only other option for getting there was taking the train. As far as I am concerned this is the best way to get there. It is comfortable and the scenery is beautiful. You are also not exhausted when you get there so you can enjoy Machu Picchu without thinking that your legs are sore and you have not taken a shower in four days.
Taking the train requires planning because there are options of where you can board it along the route. If you are in Cusco the night before you can take an early train to Agua Callientes. If you are flying in from Lima in the morning like we did you will have to take a bus or cab to Ollantaytambo to catch one of the later trains.
One issue we had with the trains when we tried to book online was that they were all full. Since it was four months before our trip I suspected that this was not the case. The Machu Picchu website also showed that almost all the tickets were available for that day. I think the tours companies put a hold on tickets in advance which is why I could not book our tickets. I contacted our hotel in Cusco and asked if they could help. They said they do this thing all the time and were able to book our train tickets, Machu Picchu tickets, shuttle bus and a tour. They also arranged for a taxi to pick us up at the airport and take us to the train station in Ollantaytambo which is about a two hour drive from Cusco.
There are two companies that provide rail service to Agua Callientes/Machu Picchu: Peru Rail and Inca Rail. Peru Rail runs from Cusco, Ollantaytambo and Urubamba while Inca Rail only has service from Ollantaytambo. Peru Rail has three different classes of service: Hiram Bingham, Vistadome and Expedition. Hiram Bingham is a luxury service and costs about four times as much as Vistadome. Vistadome is the mid level service and includes a meal while the Expedition is the lowest priced option. There is not much difference in price or service level between the Vistadome and Expedition so I would chose based on your schedule.
We chose the Vistadome because it fit our schedule the best. The train was comfortable and had large windows as well as windows on the roof of the train. We were served a light meal on our return trip. There was also a fashion show put on by the train attendants showing Peru Rail’s line of Alpaca clothing. The clothing was for sale after the fashion show. The prices were actually very good and than the prices were lower than we found on similar merchandise in Cusco. I figured the prices would be higher because they had a captive audience but this was not the case.
I really enjoyed taking the train and would recommend it to anyone who does not want to or have the time to hike. Whatever way you decide to get to there you will be rewarded by visiting the amazing Machu Picchu.
- Trains to Agua Callientes/Machu Picchu are run by both Peru Rail and Inca Rail.
- Tickets on the Vistadome train cost about $170 round trip from Cusco to Agua Callientes. Prices are a little lower for Expedition Class trains. Hiram Bingham class tickets are around $800 round trip.
- Trains from Cusco/Poroy take about four hours.
- Sit on the left side of the train when heading to Agua Callientes for the best views.