A virtual tour and travel guide of Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail in Peru. Travel resources for the traveler.
Train to Machu Picchu
The train to Machu Picchu could be what you've been dreaming of, if you've been seduced by tales of the Lost City of the Incas. Many travelers that Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire, is the gateway to Machu Picchu, but beyond hiking the Inca Trail, they aren't sure of the practical elements of a trip there. The train covers the 50 miles between the two destinations easily; it's perfect if you can't or don't want to hike. PeruRail offers affordable and efficient service to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Machu Picchu is surrounded by lush jungle and the Andes Mountains, making the train ride one of the most beautiful on the planet.
Before you can think about Machu Picchu train tours, it is wise to get acclimated to the elevation. Many visitors spend two or three days exploring the history and sites of Cusco before taking the train ride to Machu Picchu. This allows the body to adjust to new elevation and will help you avoid altitude sickness. Some visitors skip this step, but may be sorry later, if for the little time they spend at Machu Picchu they aren't feeling well. The train to Machu Picchu doesn't go all the way to the archaeological site, but to a town called Aguas Calientes, about four miles away from the ruins. Here there are hotels and restaurants and you can comfortably stay the night before embarking to Machu Picchu early in the morning.
The most important piece of information about Machu Picchu train tours is that there is limited availability. During the peak months of May through September, train tickets will be sold out well in advance. Despite reading this over and over again, some visitors still make the mistake of not booking their train tickets until they reach Cusco. This often results in disappointment as there are only so many seats on so many trains and they are sold far in advance. If you're planning a trip to Machu Picchu, one of the first things you should do is investigate the availability of tickets with PeruRail.
A further complication with the train to Machu Picchu is that PeruRail is the only company offering the service. This means that there is no competition to keep prices low. Prices are still affordable by western standards, typically ranging from $48 to $71 each way, depending on the type of train you use. The good news is that PeruRail has modernized their website, and making reservations online (and paying with a Visa card) is now possible. This makes booking a reservation in advance as simple as a few clicks of the mouse.
With the lost city of the Incas being such a popular destination, you would think there would be frequent train service connecting Cusco with Aguas Calientes. However, the number of Machu Picchu train tours is still only two per day. Perhaps as a result of the low number of trains-and because so many visitors want to see Machu Picchu at sunrise-the popularity of hotels in Aguas Calientes has soared. Another option beyond the train is to join a bus tour that will go directly from Cusco to Machu Picchu. This is a simple option and puts all the work in someone else's hands. However, the train ride is simply breathtaking and worth a little extra planning.