Some people trek to the Lost City of the Incas. For everyone else, there is a comfortable train to Machu Picchu. The Inca citadel is in an isolated cloud forest of Peru where the Andes merge with the Amazon Rainforest. Transportation there is understandably limited. Consequently, driving a car or taking a bus from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the gateway town to Machu Picchu, are not options.
Table of Contents:
Trains and Services
PeruRail Vs. Inca Rail
Train or Trek?
Machu Picchu by Train
One of the most scenic train rides in the world is between the colonial city of Cusco and the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. PeruRail and Inca Rail operate this route and transport hundreds of travelers to the historic attraction every day.
Departing from stations in Cusco, trains en route to Machu Pichu go through a narrow gorge before dropping down to the Sacred Valley. Passengers board in Ollantaytambo and continue following the Urubamba River to the Machu Picchu Station in Aguas Calientes. The scenery during this part of the journey changes dramatically. The foothills of the Andes transform into the lush cloud forest.
The last stop for Macchu Picchu trains is Aguas Calientes. Then, to arrive at the UNESCO Historic Sanctuary, travelers need to take a twenty-five-minute bus ride up the mountain. The bus stop in town is only five minutes away on foot.
Train Route Map and Times
Trains to and from Machu Picchu run daily. Our team arranges roundtrip train tickets as part of any custom vacation package. Outbound tickets can be purchased from one station and then return to a different one.
|Departing from:||Train Station:||Time to Machu Picchu Station:|
|Cusco||San Pedro Station||4.5 hours|
|Cusco||Poroy Station||3.5 hours|
|Sacred Valley||Urubamba Station||2.5 hours|
|Sacred Valley||Ollantaytambo Station||1.5 hours|
Bimodal Service (Bus + Train)
The railway between Cusco and Ollantaytambo closes during the rainy season, from around January until April, due to the risk of landslides that can block the route. During these months, PeruRail and Inca Rail offer bimodal service to Machu Picchu. This combination of bus and train transport only applies to passengers departing from or arriving in Cusco. Trains run year-round between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes.
Our Travel Advisors often arrange a private transfer for our travelers to take them to the Sacred Valley during bimodal service months. Our driver picks them up from their hotel in Cusco and drives them to Ollantaytambo where they catch their train to Machu Picchu.
PeruRail Bimodal Service
- PeruRail Expedition and PeruRail Vistadome trains: First, passengers board a bus at the Wanchaq Station in Cusco and drive to the station in Ollantaytambo. Then, the second part of the trip is by train to Aguas Calientes.
- Hiram Bingham: Bimodal service for this luxury train also starts at the Wanchaq Station. But instead, passengers ride in a private bus to the Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado in Urubamba. Then, they depart on the train from the hotel’s train station to Aguas Calientes.
Inca Rail Bimodal Service
Inca Rail bimodal service begins with a bus ride from Cusco to Ollantaytambo. First, passengers board the bus at a designated office on Avenida El Sol 843 in Cusco’s historic center near Coricancha. Upon arrival in Ollantaytambo, an Inca Rail representative guides passengers a short distance to the local train station. The last part of the trip to Machu Picchu is by train.
Read about the train options and service details offered by PeruRail and Inca Rail.
Trains depart to Machu Picchu from stations in Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Arrive at least thirty minutes before departure to have time for check-in and board the train.
Cusco Train Stations
Poroy is a twenty-minute drive from downtown Cusco. The San Pedo Station is within walking distance of the main plaza, but our Travel Advisors often recommend the Poroy Station. Travel time to Machu Picchu from Poroy is one hour less than departing from San Pedro.
San Pedro Station
Train service in Cusco expanded in 2019 to include San Pedro. The station is across from Mercado San Pedro or San Pedro Market.
Passengers begin their bimodal transport to Machu Picchu with PeruRail at the Wanchaq Station. This station is at the end of Avenida El Sol and a five-minute drive from the main plaza. Wanchaq is also where the PeruRail Titicaca Train to Lake Titicaca departs a few times a week.
Sacred Valley Train Stations
There are many schedules for trains going and returning from Ollantaytambo. Our Machu Picchu Tours are often customized with an overnight in Ollantaytambo after an exciting day of Sacred Valley exploration. This itinerary option allows our travelers to take a morning train and arrive in Aguas Calientes with plenty of the day ahead to tour the Inca citadel.
There are far fewer departures in Urubamba than other stations. Additionally, the luxury Sacred Valley hotels, Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado and Tambo del Inka, have private stations for their guests. Trains from Urubamba usually stop in Ollantaytambo to pick up more passengers before continuing to Machu Picchu.
Aguas Calientes Train Station
Machu Picchu Station
Every train passenger going to Machu Picchu disembarks in Aguas Calientes.
As part of a custom itinerary, our representative greets you at the station in town. They will take you on foot to your Machu Picchu hotel for check-in or to the nearby bus stop to catch a shuttle to the famous ruins. Read about transportation around Aguas Calientes.
Trains and Service Details
PeruRail and Inca Rail offer luxury to budget trains. Browse the options below to find a service that matches your preferences. Then, contact us to organize a train journey and Machu Picchu experience as part of a custom itinerary.
PeruRail operates the majority of trains to Machu Picchu.
luxury train | middle-class train | economic train | local train
Belmond Hiram Bingham Train
The Hiram Bingham is a luxurious train with polished wood and plush seating. Eat a gourmet meal in the elegant dining car. Meanwhile, unlimited cocktails, beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages are in the bar car. The train also has a separate observation car with glass windows for admiring the passing Andean scenery.
Roundtrip Hiram Bingham tickets offer the most all-inclusive experience package with Machu Picchu entry tickets, a guided tour, bus fare to/from Aguas Calientes, and afternoon tea at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge. Specific train services depend on a one-way or round-trip ticket(s) between Cusco and Machu Picchu.
The luxury train runs one round trip to Machu Picchu a day. However, the train does not operate on the last Sunday of every month.
The Vistadome is a middle-class train. This PeruRail top seller is the only train class with large panoramic windows. During each trip, passengers are served snacks and refreshments and can listen to informative audio about passing Andean highlights. Seats are made of artificial leather and have plenty of legroom. For those taking the Vistadome back from Machu Picchu, the onboard staff performs a fun Andean-inspired fashion show.
Vistadome has daily morning and afternoon departures from both stations in Cusco, Ollantaytambo, and Urubamba to Machu Picchu. The Vistadome is the only PeruRail train that offers service from the San Pedro Station in Cusco.
The Expedition Train is the economic option for tourists. Service is simple, and light snacks and beverages are available for purchase. Air conditioning and heating ensure a comfortable temperature, and luggage is stored securely in the racks placed above the seats.
PeruRail’s Expedition train offers service from Cusco, Urubamba, and Ollantaytambo. Similar to Vistadome, the Expedition operates several daily morning and afternoon departures.
PeruRail offers Local Train service to community residents at a special non-commercial rate. Many locals depend on the railway for business and social activities. The Local Train is not an option for most tourists. Passengers must have a national identity called a Documento Nacional de Identidad.
Inca Rail Trains
Inca Rail also offers multiple services.
charter train car | first-class train | middle-class train | economic train
The Private Machu Picchu Train is an exclusive car for a small group. Passengers receive a welcome glass of champagne, an open bar, and a three-course gourmet meal. The train car features contemporary decor with classic Andean accents. Settle into a plush armchair and soak in the beautiful scenery.
The Private Train runs daily between Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu.
The First-Class Train offers a premier experience. Passengers dine on a gourmet meal, can order beverages from the open bar, and enjoy live music during the ride. The train interior features plush leather seats and ample legroom. Also, there is an observatory lounge with an outdoor balcony.
Service for the First-Class Train is between Cusco stations and Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu.
The panoramic windows of this middle-class train are tall and wide, offering passengers spectacular views. Meanwhile, ambient music plays, and passengers get a boxed meal and non-alcoholic beverages. The 360° Train is the only Inca Rail option offering WiFi and an entertainment system onboard.
The train operates between stations in Cusco and Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu. Mulitple daily itineraries are available.
This budget train offers a comfortable ride to Machu Picchu at an affordable price. It’s a no-frills ride. But, the modern train has comfortable seats, and the scenery is stunning. A light meal or snack is served during some schedules.
The Voyager Train departs from stations in Cusco and Ollantaytambo. Morning, afternoon, and evening departures to Machu Picchu are available.
PeruRail Versus Inca Rail
The service details unique to PeruRail and Inca Rail are listed below. In short, both companies are great options. Quality service and comfortable amenities are offered aboard all trains to Machu Picchu.
PeruRail Service Details
- The highest number of daily departures are offered by PeruRail. More scheduling options offer more flexibility with itinerary planning.
- PeruRail offers service from Urubamba. However, Inca Rail does not.
- A lesser-known, budget option to get to Aguas Calientes is to travel by bus from Cusco to Santa Teresa and take a 20-minute train ride from the Hydroelectric Station. Only PeruRail offers service from this station.
- For interested travelers, PeruRail operates other train routes in Peru. The Titicaca Train is a day trip from Cusco to Lake Titicaca. Also, the Andean Explorer is a luxurious, multi-day train experience between Arequipa, Cusco, and Lake Titicaca.
Inca Rail Service Details
- Inca Rail is the only company that offers charter service to Machu Picchu. The Private offers an all-inclusive meal, beverage, and entertainment service.
- Passengers on Inca Rail can carry more luggage weight. Inca Rail permits 17 lbs (7kg). In contrast, PeruRail only allows 11 pounds (5 kg) per carry-on. Read about Machu Picchu luggage restrictions on the train.
Train Luggage Policy
Storage aboard Machu Picchu trains is limited. As a result, PeruRail and Inca Rail need to limit one carry-on luggage per passenger.
Many travelers need to downsize their belongings to comply with the luggage weight restrictions of each company. Fortunately, many hotels offer complimentary luggage storage for guests. Travelers can safely keep extra items at their hotel in Cusco and Sacred Valley and then collect them after visiting Machu Picchu.
PeruRail Luggage Policy: Each passenger can carry-on a bag or backpack with a maximum weight limit of 11 pounds (5 kg). The luggage cannot exceed 62 inches (157 cm) in height, length, and width.
Inca Rail Luggage Policy: Each passenger can carry-on one piece of luggage with a maximum weight limit of 17 pounds (8 kg). The bag cannot be more than 46 inches (118 cm) in height, length, and width.
Trains Versus Treks
The majority of travelers opt for the train for comfort, convenience, and limited time. An adventurous trek is the only alternative to Machu Picchu.
|OPTIONS:||PeruRail or Inca Rail||Inca Trail, Salkantay, Lares, and Choquequirao|
|TIME:||1.5 to 4.5 hours (one-way)||2 days or 4 days plus|
|DEPARTURE:||Cusco or Sacred Valley||Trailheads in the Sacred Valley|
|SERVICE||Luxury to budget||Group or private|
|TRIP BOOKING||Reserve tickets as part of a custom Machu Picchu tour package.||Add a trekking package to your custom vacation to Machu Picchu.|
Discover more about the highlights of trekking to Machu Picchu. Check out our guide to Machu Picchu treks and hikes and our Inca Trail travel guide.
When to Visit
The dry season is when Machu Picchu weather is most desirable for touring, but crowded conditions are more likely. The off-season from December to March is during the rainy season. Read about the best time to visit Machu Picchu.
COVID-19 Safety Protocols
Passengers need to sign a COVID-19 symptomatology form that states they are symptom-free before boarding. During the entire ride, passengers and train employees must wear a mask, use a face shield, and practice social distancing. Several trains also operate are a reduced seating capacity. For now, the food and beverage service are suspended aboard.
Train tickets to Machu Picchu regularly sell out during the peak dry season in June, July, and August. Therefore, it’s smart to have your transport reservations along with hotel accommodation and tours booked as far in advance as possible.
Contact us for more advice about the train service to Machu Picchu. Our team will plan a customized package to Peru just for you.
Britt is a California native who now calls Peru home. She is a traveler with a passion for all things outdoors, scuba diving, and capturing memories with her camera.