Getting to Machu Picchu can be an adventure in and of itself, but with this guide, we can make traveling to Machu Picchu by train a lot easier.
There are a few different ways that you can get to Machu Picchu. Many choose to do the Inca Trail which is a four day hike that covers over 25 miles miles. However, if you have time restraints or you’re a little hesitant about the physical aspects of the hike, we would recommend taking the train.
We purchased our tickets through Peru Rail’s website about a month and a half ahead of time. It was a fairly easy process. “Rountrip” should be bubbled, under “Destination” you put Machu Picchu, under “Route” put Cusco, put your travel dates, and how many Adults/Children. The next screen will show you different times and train car options. We chose the Expedition car which was the cheapest, but ended up still being VERY nice. Prices also vary depending on what time you choose.
From the center of Cusco (which is most likely where you’ll be staying) the best way to get to the train station, which is actually in the small town of Poroy, is to take a taxi. Your hotel/hostel should be able to arrange a taxi pickup for you. If you need a recommendation for a great hostel in Cusco, click here. It will take about 30 minutes depending on traffic and average cost is about 30 soles ($10). As you’re driving to the train station, you are going to pass parts of the city that aren’t touristy and not well kept. It’s ok; it’s just like any other city!
The train station itself is very nice though. If you’ve already printed out your tickets online then you don’t need to go to the Ticketing Office and can go straight inside. To your left you’ll find comfy seats and a cafe that serves coffee and small treats like empanadas (yum!). To your right you’ll find rows of benches. Find a seat and relax because it fills up quickly!
Boarding was very much like boarding a plane and was very organized. We were very pleasantly surprised once we were inside and took our seats. We were grouped in fours with a table in between us, there were panoramic windows that let us have unobstructed views of the mountains, it was air conditioned, and there was Andean music playing softly in the background.
We left from Cusco and arrived in Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of the mountain, in about three and a half hours. We were provided with drinks and some snacks during the ride and of course the views along the way were pretty great. We saw small towns, farms, rivers, canyons, and lush mountains.
Once you’re in Aguas Calientes everything is within walking distance. There isn’t much to do either, so I would recommend dropping off your bags at your hotel/hostel, getting something to eat, and relaxing the rest of the day because you’re going to need your energy for the following day.
Also, if you still have to get your bus ticket to get to the top of the mountain you can do so in the center of town. The buses start operating at 5:30am. Everyone told us to get in to Machu Picchu as early as possible to avoid the crowds and the heat so we planned on being on the first bus. We got there at 4:45am thinking we were going to be first in line. Ha! Little did we know that people had been lining up since 4am! But it didn’t make a huge difference; they had plenty of buses ready. We ended up leaving at 5:45am on the 5th bus and were at the top of the mountain just after 6am.
There are pros and cons to getting to Machu Picchu so early. When we got there, the clouds and mist were so thick, you couldn’t see anything. I mean, nothing! But the good thing about that is that you can observe how magical it is to see the clouds lift. You just have to have patience. And the whole “It gets crowded” issue didn’t seem too bad. We were there til about 1pm and although the amount of people had significantly increased, at no point were we bumping elbows with anyone. At no point are you going to get that perfect shot with no one in it, so don’t stress about the crowds. If you want to sleep in and take a later bus, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. They run every 10 minutes.
We had decided beforehand to take the train back to Cusco the same afternoon that we explored Machu Picchu. Since we were done at the ruins at about 1pm, we took the bus back down into Aguas Calientes. The buses run continuously so you can head back into Aguas Calientes easily when you’re done exploring Machu Picchu. Once we were back in Aguas Calientes, we just relaxed in the lobby of our hostel until we had to walk over to the train station at 4:30pm.
Like I said, there really isn’t much to do in Aguas Calientes, so there’s no point in staying an extra night. Boarding went smoothly once again and this time we slept most of the 3.5 hours. Good thing the seats are so comfy!
So there you have it! How to get to Machu Picchu by train. I hope you find this guide useful! 🙂
Have you been to Machu Picchu? How did you get there? If you have anything to add, feel free to add it in a comment below! 🙂
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