Comparison of Trains to Machu Picchu
A Machu Picchu tour begins with one of the great train journeys of the world through the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Passengers are transferred to one of two train stations outside of Cusco for this impressive journey. The route follows the Urubamba River with views of mountains, farms, Inca ruins and tropical foliage along the route.
There are now several train services to Aguas Calientes / Machu Picchu which vary in a number of ways but as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Services range from simple to luxury and everything in between and priced accordingly. Services depart from Poroy or Ollantaytambo train stations.
Note: Most trains to Machu Picchu have a 5kg (11lbs) luggage limit. Therefore you should just take a daypack or small overnight bag to Machu Picchu whilst the rest of your luggage is stored at your hotel in Cusco or the Sacred Valley.
Operator – Peru Rail
The Expedition service is the most basic of the trains to Machu Picchu which departs from the Ollantaytambo train station five times a day. The journey takes approximately 90 minutes from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu. There is also one daily departure from Poroy. Seats are arranged in pairs facing each other with a table in between. There are racks above for your luggage. The train has panoramic windows, heating, and air-conditioning. Snacks and drinks are available onboard.
The Vistadome service departs from the Ollantaytambo train station five times a day and the journey takes a little over 90 minutes to Machu Picchu. There is also one daily departure from Poroy. Comfortable leather seats are arranged in pairs facing each other, with a table in between. The train has panoramic windows, heating, and air-conditioning. Snacks and hot and cold refreshments are included on the journey.
Hiram Bingham Luxury Train
The luxury Hiram Bingham train is an exclusive Orient Express service that departs from Poroy train station once a day. The journey time is about 3 ½ hours. The train has two dining cars and a bar/observation car with warm, comfortable and elegant interiors. Brunch is served on the outward journey and a gourmet dinner on the return journey. This is an expensive option but if you have the budget for it you will really enjoy the high level of service provided and leave the train quite merry!
The fact that this train takes longer to travel the route than the bus/train combo on offer is intentional – the longer, very comfy journey is part of the attraction of this service.
Operator – Inca Rail
The Voyager service is an Inca Trail train (the only other operator of trains to Machu Picchu) that departs from Ollantaytambo three-time a day, plus a bus service connecting to Cusco. Seats are arranged in pairs facing each other with a table in-between. Hot and cold drinks and snacks are offered on the journey. This is the most economical service that Inca Rail offers and is the direct competitor for the Peru Rail Expedition train.
You will see a theme developing when we tell you that this is the Inca Rail version of the Vistadome. Comfortable seats and very large windows and skylights give you a great view of the Sacred Valley as you trundle towards Machu Picchu. This has a better level of food and drinks service than the Voyager, plus it has an observation car open to the elements.
First Class Train
The First Class Inca Rail train is not quite the same level as the Hiram Bingham, but as a result, it has quite a bit lower price tag. This is a comfortable service though, as you can see. The dining and drinking experience is a higher quality, plus there is the observation car, lounge area, and bar to keep you in high spirits – as if you need any help there!
Where you will board?
Poroy train station is located approximately 25 minutes from Cusco en-route to the Sacred Valley. From Poroy the journey to Machu Picchu takes a little over three hours. Poroy is essentially now the Cusco train station as all trains, except the service for local people, stop here and do not continue up and down the hill into Cusco. This saves quite a lot of time as it avoids constant switchbacks.
Ollantaytambo train station is located in the middle of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, approximately a 90-minute drive from Cusco and is the closest station to Machu Picchu. From Ollantaytambo, the journey to Machu Picchu takes a little over 90 minutes. Ollantaytambo (and the wider Sacred Valley) is often used as an overnight stop allowing you to get up later (or arrive much earlier) for your Machu Picchu tour.
Ollantaytambo station is by far the most used by tourists as the transfer by bus from Cusco, then the train to Aguas Calientes is a lot faster than taking the train all the way from Poroy. If you are staying in the Sacred Valley then this station is just a short drive away of course.
Urubamba train station is located in the Sacred Valley approximately a 70-minute drive from Cusco. This station only has one service per day and it leaves from the platform actually within the Tambo del Inca, Libertador hotel.
Aguas Calientes & Machu Picchu
The train station in the small town Aguas Calientes is about a five-minute walk from where the buses depart to take you to the site of Machu Picchu. The spectacular journey up to the site takes around 25 minutes. Apart from the buses that operate between Aguas Calientes and the site, there is no other traffic in town and everything is within walking distance.
All of our packages include transfers to and from the train station, train tickets, return bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu, entrance to the Inca citadel and a guided tour of the site (unless you specify otherwise). Most services to Machu Picchu depart in the morning and return in the afternoon although there are some services at other times of day in both directions. Tickets are subject to availability at the time of booking.