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HOW TO GET TO MACHU PICCU BY TRAIN -
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Machu Picchu is accessible by either taking the train from Cusco, Urubamba, or Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, And, then a short ride on a bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. Or, you can to Machu Picchu on foot.
Roughly 80% of visitors take the train.
Here is a detailed step-by-step guide on how to get to Machu Picchu by train and then a short ride on a bus.
BUY YOUR ENTRANCE TICKETS TO MACHU PICCHU INCA RUINS FIRST
Since July 2011, visitor numbers to Machu Picchu have been limited to 2,500 per day.
With this being the case, the first step while planning your trip to Machu Picchu is to buy your entrance tickets to Machu Picchu Inca ruins. So before you book your flight, or hotel, or anything else, make sure that you have your entrance tickets to Machu Picchu Inca ruins!
The entrance tickets can be bought in advance through Ministerio de Cultura del Peru website.
As a matter of fact, buying the tickets through Ministerio de Cultura del Peru website is the most frustrating process I have ever experienced. I wrote a post How to Buy Machu Picchu Tickets – Step-By-Step Guide. Make sure to read it before you purchase the tickets, it will save you a lot of time!
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- There is no train station precisely in the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.
- The train will bring you to a small town called Aguas Calientes. Aguas Calientes is situated beneath Machu Picchu.
- Once you get to Aguas Calientes, you will take a short bus ride to Machu Picchu.
- If you do not want to take the bus, you can reach Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes on foot.
- In addition, you need to keep in mind, that if you are traveling to Machu Picchu from Cusco, then there is no train station in Cusco. However, there is Poroy Train Station which is located about than 20 minutes from Cusco.
CHOOSE THE TRAIN COMPANY
You have a choice of two train companies:
- PeruRail Railway Operator
- Inca Rail Railway Operator
By the way, both train operators share the same railroad track. The railroad track winds along the Urubamba River and offers pretty spectacular mountain views. So, whatever train you are going to go with, have your camera ready to catch some cool pictures.
PERURAIL RAILWAY OPERATOR
First of all, PeruRail runs four different trains everyday from Poray Train Station which is located 20 minutes from Cusco.
Second, PeruRail offers three classes of trains aimed at different budgets:
- PeruRail Expedition Train
- PeruRail VistadomeTrain
- Belmond Hiram Bingham Train
PERURAIL EXPEDITION TRAIN
PeruRail Expedition Train is the budget option, from around $77 each way per person (it could be less or a bit more depending at what time you decide to go).
It has comfortable seats with panoramic windows. If you go to PeruRail website and read the description of the rail-cars, it says that each seat has “panoramic windows located beside and above each seat’. However, it is not the case, some seats are next to the wall between the windows, and there are no panoramic views whatsoever.
By the way, the attendants serve tea and coffee, and some pastries. There is a buffet car, if you want to purchase a beverage or a snack.
PERURAIL VISTADOME TRAIN
Perurail Vistadome Train is the middle-of the-road option, costing around $90 each way per person (conversely, the price varies and depends on your departure time).
It includes a complimentary snack and non-alcoholic beverage served at your seat. Each seat has panoramic windows located beside and above each seat.
Moreover, on the return trips, the Vistadome offers an onboard fashion show, featuring the exclusive baby alpaca wool collection, all available for sale. In addition, there is a live entertainment.
BELMOND HIRAM BINGHAM TRAIN
Belmond Hiram Bingham Train is the super-deluxe option. Needless to say, it is also the most expensive option, from around $475 each way per person (by the way, the price varies depending on the departure time).
However, the ticket includes a gourmet meal, a selection of Peruvian wines, cocktails, live entertainment, bus connections and entrance to the Machu Picchu citadel, plus a guided tour.
If you decide to splurge and go with Belmond Hiram Bingham Train, then book your tickets as soon as possible. Surprisingly enough, despite of the high cost, it gets booked far in advance.
INCA RAIL RAILWAY OPERATOR
In comparison, Inca Rail offers only one train each day from Poroy Train Station and one class of train which is called: Executive. Prices vary a lot, depending on the departure time. The least expensive one that I found on their website was $55 each way per person.
WHICH TRAIN COMPANY SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?
Needless to say, my recommendation is to go with PeruRail. Last but not least, there are more departure times.
My top choice is the super deluxe Belmond Hiram Bingham train by PeruRail! It is a great experience!
However, if you are looking at the PeruRail Vistadome Train vs PeruRail Expedition Train, then, in my opinion, there is not much difference between the two. If you are willing to skip the snack, fashion show and live entertainment, and save some money, then most definitely go with PeruRail Expedition Train.The fashion show was nothing to write about, and the live entertainment was rather poor.
All in all, the staff is very friendly and accommodating. Equally important, the trains are clean and well-kept.
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DECIDE ON YOUR DEPARTURE STATION
In the first place, majority of the travelers to Machu Picchu start their journey from Cusco.
1. CUSCO TO MACHU PICCHU
If you are travelling from Cusco to Machu Picchu, then your departure station is Poroy Train Station.
Specifically, Poroy Train Station is located 13 km (8 miles) west of Cusco.
In my opinion, the best way to get to Poroy Train Station is to take a taxi. My hotel arranged a taxi for me. It cost me 50 soles. However, if you book a taxi yourself, or catch a taxi from downtown Cusco, it will cost you much less, around 20-30 soles. The taxi ride takes about 20 minutes.
Furthermore, it is 86 km (54 miles) from Poroy Train Station to Aguas Calientes. The trip takes about 3 hours and 20 minutes.
2. URUBAMBA TO MACHU PICCHU
If you are travelling from Urubamba to Machu Picchu, then your departure station is Urubamba Train Station.
Urubamba is located 53 km (33 miles) from Cusco. Moreover, only PeruRail operates from Urubamba.
Perurail runs one Vistadome Train from Urubamba to Aguas Calientes. The departure time is at 6:50 am and arrival is at 9:25 am. The return train leaves Aguas Calientes at 3:48 pm and arrives at Urubamba at 6:48 pm. Check departure and arrival times at PeruRail.
Additinally, PeruRail runs a train called the Sacred Valley Train. It runs from Urubamba to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) at 10:30 am arriving at 1:34 pm. It leaves Aguas Calientes at 7:30 pm and arrives at Urubamba at 10:37 pm. This train ride includes a gourmet meal and complimentary soft drinks.
3. OLLANTAYTAMBO TO MACHU PICCHU
Ollantaytambo is 89 km (56 miles) from Cusco.
By the way, if you decide to explore Ollantaytambo first and then head on to Aguas Calientes, then you need to keep in mind that it takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes to reach Ollantaytambo from Cusco by taxi.
PeruRail runs quite a few trains from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. Furthermore, most of them are either PeruRail Vistadome Train or PeruRail Expedition Train. Check the times and fares and book online at PeruRail
In addition, Inca Rail has several trains throughout the day as well. Check the times and fares at Inca Rail. They offer three classes from Ollantaytambo: Machu Picchu Class (economy), Executive and First Class.
All in all, the journey time is about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
WHERE TO SIT ON THE TRAIN?
You will be able to catch he best views if you sit on the left hand side of the train going up to Machu Picchu and on the right hand side returning. The train follows the river and the river is on the left side going towards Machu Picchu.
Unfortunately, when you book your tickets, PeruRail will not let you choose your own seats. You will be assigned seats and hope that you are sitting on the left side going towards Machu Picchu. All in all, if there are any empty seats on the left side, then move over and enjoy the views.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Once you arrive to Aguas Calientes, you have two options of getting to Machu Picchu Inca ruins from Aguas Calientes:
- you can hike
- or, you can take a bus
Majority of the tourists skip the 90-minute up the hill hike and take the bus.
However, if you are interested in hiking to Machu Picchu Inca ruins from Aguas Calientes, then read my post.
Whether, you are heading straight to Machu Picchu after you arrive in Aguas Calientes, or you are spending the night in Aguas Calientes and heading to Machu Picchu in the morning, my recommendation is to buy the bus tickets as soon as you arrive in Aguas Calientes.
If you have a few hours to explore Aguas Calientes, then read my post.
BUY BUS TICKETS TO MACHU PICCHU AS SOON AS YOU ARRIVE TO AGUAS CALIENTES
It is a very good idea to buy the bus tickets to Machu Picchu as soon as you arrive in Aguas Calientes.
The bus ticket booth is located next to the train station.
Don’t worry! You will not miss the bus ticket booth. There will be a long line of people trying to buy tickets.
By the way, you can purchase a return ticket which costs $24 or one-way ticket which is $12.
Buses from Aguas Calientes run every 10-15 minutes starting at 5:30am.
If you are spending the night in Aguas Calientes and planning on being at sunrise at Machu Picchu, then keep in mind that the line to board the buses starts forming at about 4 am.
Needless to say, there were people trying to get the bus tickets in the morning. Unfortunately, they missed the most magical sight: Machu Picchu at sunrise!
The bus trip takes about 30 minutes up the switchback road (aka Hiram Bingham Highway) to the official tourist entrance to Machu Picchu.
The bus will drop you off in a small parking area in front of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge. There are bathrooms, a snack bar, and luggage storage room.
PLAN YOUR RETURN TRIP TO AGUAS CALIENTES ACCORDINGLY!
The lines for buses running from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes start forming in the early afternoon.
Notwithstanding, the wait time to board the returning bus can range from 30 to even more than 45 minutes. And, then do not forget that the ride back takes about 30 minutes.
So, roughly, you are looking at an hour to an hour and a half before you get back to Aguas Calientes.
Just plan accordingly so that you do not miss your train!
Intrepid Scout’s Pointers for Taking the Train to Machu Picchu
- First things first: make sure you book your tickets to Machu Picchu Inca ruins before you book your flight, hotel, etc. The number of visitors is limited and the tickets sell way in advance.
- Book your train tickets next. Train tickets sell fast! If you are a budget traveler, then book PeruRail Expedition Train.
- Buy your bus tickets to Machu Picchu Inca ruins as soon as you arrive in Aguas Calientes.
- Do not miss sunrise at Machu Picchu Inca ruins! It is a magical experience!
- Finally, to help you with your planning process of your trip to Peru, make sure to check out my post: 1-Week Peru Itinerary (+BONUS: 3-Day Extension Itinerary to Peruvian Amazon Rainforest.
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