When planning a trip to Machu Picchu, figuring out how to get there is likely at the top of your to-do list. Travelers must fly (or bus) to Cusco and then either take the train to Aguas Calientes, the town nearest to Machu Picchu, or hike the Inca Trail.
The train to Machu Picchu takes about 2 to 4 hours depending on what train station (in Cusco or the Sacred Valley) you depart from. For travelers with limited time, the train is the easiest and fastest option. On the other hand, the iconic Inca Trail is a multi-day trekking adventure through towering Andean peaks. (Learn more about the Inca Trail and alternative treks to Machu Picchu.)
For travelers taking the train, the natural beauty of the region is on-board entertainment. Between Cusco and Ollantaytambo the railway meanders through a narrow gorge flanked by steep mountains before dropping down into the Sacred Valley. The train tracks then mirror the path of the Urubamba River into lush, tropical terrain as they approach Machu Picchu.
(Photo: Peru for Less)
PeruRail and Inca Rail operate trains to Machu Picchu. Both companies offer various levels of service (from high-end luxury to more economic options) with different departure times for each train.
All aboard PeruRail
PeruRail is a Peruvian-British company, part of the Belmond Group, that operates the majority of railway service to and from Machu Picchu. There are three classes of service: Expedition, Vistadome, and the first class Hiram Bingham.
(Photo: Peru for Less)
Expedition Train: If you’re looking for the most economic option without sacrificing comfort, all aboard the Expedition. Carriages have comfortable cloth seating and basic snack service. There is slightly less legroom to be considered a “luxury” experience, but the panoramic side windows to take in the beautiful landscapes make up for it. Expedition service departs from two stations: Cusco (Poroy) and the Sacred Valley (Ollantaytambo).
Vistadome Train: The panoramic side and overhead windows are the focal point of this train! From the comfort of your seat, spectacular views of the Andean Mountains are the definition of a “sensory experience.” Carriages have leather seats and gourmet snacks are served along with a beverage. During the return journey from Machu Picchu, the train staff performs a fashion show wearing alpaca and other textile items while lively Andean music plays. All items shown during the fashion show are for sale. The Vistadome has three stations of departure to Machu Picchu: Cusco (Poroy), Sacred Valley (Ollantaytambo) and Sacred Valley (Urubamba).
Hiram Bingham: Named for the man who reintroduced Machu Picchu to the world more than 100 years ago, this luxury train offers signature service to the Inca citadel. Polished wood and plush seating decorate the interior of this exquisite train. The train has two dining cars, an observation and bar car, and a kitchen car. To Machu Picchu, brunch and entertainment are included onboard followed by tea time at the famous Sanctuary Lodge adjacent to the Inca citadel. The return trip features a gourmet Andean-inspired meal paired with wine and onboard entertainment.
PeruRail Schedule (getting to Machu Picchu & back)…
(Current train schedule: PeruRail website)
Click here to view the Sacred Valley (Ollantaytambo and Urubamba) schedule.
PeruRail offers bimodal transportation (a combination of car and train service) to Machu Picchu during the rainy season. This occurs because the section of track between Cusco and Ollantaytambo closes on account of higher risk of landslides. Dates for bimodal transportation vary each year.
All aboard the Inca Rail
(Photo: Peru for Less)
Unlike PeruRail, Inca Rail only offers rail service between Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu at this time. There are three different trains to pick from: the Machu Picchu Train, Inca Train, and the Inca Princess.
Machu Picchu Train: This train is great for travelers who want to minimize expenses. As Inca Rail’s most affordable option, it’s a no-frills ride, but beverage service is included and the seating is comfortable. This train runs daily all year round between Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu.
(Current Machu Picchu train schedule: Inca Rail website)
Inca Train: This train offers Executive Class and First Class options. Executive Class runs daily all year round and includes beverage service. First Class only runs in high season (April 1st and October 31st) and at Christmas and New Year between December 21st and 31st. On-board First Class includes a welcome cocktail and gourmet meal.
(Current Inca Train train schedule: Inca Rail website)
Inca Princess: This is Inca Rail’s most decadent train service (Presidential Class). Sip on a welcoming glass of champagne while enjoying top-notch service. Savor the flavors of Peru while eating a five-course meal and cruise to Machu Picchu in style.
(Current Inca Princess train schedule: Inca Rail website)
Get your ticket
Train tickets to Machu Picchu can sell out several days in advance during the high season (May to September). For this reason, travelers on a tight schedule should make their train reservations in advance and not wait to purchase them in Cusco.
For help booking your own Machu Picchu Tour, contact our team of travel experts.
Britt Fracolli writes for Peru For Less. She is a travel enthusiast on a mission to explore the length and width of South America and always plotting out her next adventure. Interested in a trip to Peru? Contact www.peruforless.com, the Peru travel experts.