The Trip from Cusco to Aquas Calientes is Perfect for Getting to Machu Picchu
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The train is the way to travel to Machu Picchu. At least to Aquas Calientes, where you can spend the night well. From Cusco, you travel in three hours to this city in the rainforest. However, you can also board at other locations in the Sacred Valley. I have made the journey several times and these are my tips for the train journey to Machu Picchu.
The train is a good way to travel in Peru. The ride to Aquas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, gives you a good idea of the rugged environment. And this town is located at the foot of the world-famous ruins of Machu Picchu. There are several trains going daily from different railway companies. With various price ranges to choose from.
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Not everyone knows that there are two different companies that offer the train ride to Aquas Calientes. These are Peru Rail and Inca Rail, each offering their own services. In addition, there is the luxury railway company Belmond, which is part of Peru Rail. It offers unprecedented luxury trains with prices to match.
There are several types of trains to choose from. You can take the standard trains, but also the extremely luxurious Hiram Bingham train. It is named after Hiram Bingham, the (re)discoverer of Machu Picchu. The trains (logically) offer the same view, although the more luxurious trains have windows with a panoramic view. These are the main differences between the various trains
There are several types of trains to choose from. You can take the standard trains, but also the extremely luxurious Hiram Bingham train. It is named after Hiram Bingham, the (re)discoverer of Machu Picchu. The trains (logically) offer the same view, although the more luxurious trains have windows with a panoramic view. These are the main differences between the various trains. You can start in Cusco, but also in Ollantaytambo.
- Peru Rail's standard train has been running since 1999, making it the oldest.
- They offer various types of trips: Expedition, Vistadome, Sacred Valley and the luxurious Hiram Bingham.
- Peru Rail departs from 6 train stations: San Pedro (Cusco), Poroy (on the outskirts of Cusco), Urubamba (Sacred Valley), Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley), Hydroelectric (La Convention) and Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu).
- Inca Rail is a newer organisation
- They offer 4 types of trains to Machu Picchu: The Voyager, The 360º, The First Class and the more luxurious The Private train.
- Inca Rail departs from 4 stations: San Pedro (Cusco), Poroy (on the outskirts of Cusco), Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley) and Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu).
The Hiram Bingham train and The Private are among the most beautiful train journeys in the world. This is due to the combination of luxury (such as a gourmet meal) and the rugged landscape of the Andes mountains. These trains also have an observation carriage with extra glass.
Both Peru Rail and Inca Rail offer similar services. Although it is true that Peru Rail has more departures per day. The prices are also comparable, this applies to both the cheaper trips and the more expensive ones. For example, the prices of the Expedition and The Voyager are comparable. Other than that it doesn't matter much I noticed. I've been back and forth by train twice and have traveled with both.
You can reserve your seats on the train to Machu Picchu in advance. Something that can be done with most trains. If not, make sure you are one of the first to enter the train. It does make a difference which seat you have. Logically, a window seat is best. To Aquas Calientes it is best to sit on the left side of the train. Then you have a view of the river and several lesser-known Inca ruins. On the right you mainly look at the rainforest, which is remarkably dense. On the way back, the right side is better.
It is possible to make a return trip one day, but that means you’ll to visit the archaeological site in the middle of the day, the hottest and busiest time of day at Machu Picchu. It is better to visit Machu Picchu in the early morning, but you’ll have to arrive the day before and stay in Aquas Calientes. I spent two nights here, but one night is also sufficient. There are plenty of accommodations in all price ranges in the town.
It is best to do Machu Picchu in the early morning, so you should arrive the day before and spend the night in Aquas Calientes. After which you can return by train in the afternoon. There are plenty of accommodations in all price ranges in the town. Book in advance to avoid disappointment.
View the nicest accommodations for Aquas Calientes
Officially, Aquas Calientes is only accessible from Cusco by train as there is no road to this town. You can get close to the town by taxi bus, but then you need to walk the last miles along the rail tracks. This is a popular activity amongst backpackers as a train ticket to Aquas Calientes is relatively expensive. And of course, you can hike the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
You can take a train directly to Aquas Calientes (or to Cusco), but you can also make a stop at Ollantaytambo. This old Inca city in The Sacred Valley is also the starting point for the Inca Trail. You can do day tours from the village to different archaeological Inca sites.
To be honest, a train ticket to or from Machu Picchu is rather expensive. A single ticket cost over 50 dollars per person. A return ticket over 100 dollars. But it is a unique ride, which becomes magical with a little preparation.
13 travellers have this on their Bucket List
7 been here