Do you love train rides? I do! When we learnt that the slots for the Inca Trail has been fully booked (There are only 500 slots and it has to be booked about 6 months in advance during high season), we considered doing an alternative trek to Machu Picchu. However, just a few weeks back, we decided we wanted to spend more time in Cusco and the Sacred Valley so a 5 day trek to Machu Picchu simply doesn’t fit our planned itinerary. We found the best solution – the Inca Rail train to Machu Picchu! I was really excited when we had finally decided to take the train. Aside from doing the Inca Trail, a classy train ride to Machu Picchu is definitely on my bucket list! Who wouldn’t want to visit Machu Picchu with style?
It was a few days before our one year travel anniversary and going by train with Inca Rail was the best decision we made for this trip to Machu Picchu. It gave us enough time to explore the rest of what Cusco has to offer, and it allowed us to conserve some energy for exploring the Machu Picchu site itself. The easy and comfortable pace of a train ride is a great idea if you’re only visiting Cusco for a few days.
The Small Town of Ollantaytambo
Our train to Machu Picchu started in Ollantaytambo, a small town in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. From Cusco, we took a collectivo/van (for 10 soles) to the town of Ollantaytambo. We passed by the towns of Chincheros and Urubamba, and took about two hours to reach our final destination.
Ollantaytambo is an interesting stop on the way to Machu Picchu. There are some remarkable sights to see in this area such as the Ollantaytambo ruins, a religious and military site where the Incas won over the Spaniards (admission with Boleto Turistico, 120 soles for various tourist attractions) and Pinkullyuna, a hill with Incan storehouses overlooking the town and facing the main ruins (admission is free). We spent a night in Ollantaytambo prior to taking the train to Machu Picchu to see these interesting attractions in this part of the Sacred Valley. The town itself is quite unique with its old streets and canals that date back to the Inca times.
The Inca Rail Train Experience
Train Class: Executive Class, Inca Train
Duration: Approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes
Route: Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu / Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo
Imagine a kid going into a candy store for the first time. I have always been an enthusiast of scenic train rides and the Inca Rail train was just perfect. We had comfortable seats with the most amazing view of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Along the way we enjoyed the stunning view of snow-capped mountains, a lazy river and the lush green valley. The train service was also great, we even had some snacks and drinks during the trip. It was a truly unforgettable experience. I couldn’t be more excited about visiting Machu Picchu after such a relaxing train ride.
The Tourist Town of Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo)
The train doesn’t goes all the way to the ruins of Machu Picchu. Even most treks end in Aguas Calientes (also called Machu Picchu Pueblo). From Aguas Calientes, you can walk uphill for 1.5 hours or take a 40 minute bus to Machu Picchu. After checking in at a hostel, we bought the bus tickets ($12 USD per way) for the next day to Machu Picchu. We also bought our Machu Picchu tickets (130 soles) from the Peru Tourism Office in Aguas Calientes since the office in Cusco was closed before our train trip.
The best way to see Machu Picchu is early in the morning, before it gets too crowded. We spent a night in Aguas Calientes, and left the hostel the next day at about 5:15am, there was already a long queue by then. We got on the fifth bus and arrived in Machu Picchu at about 6:15am.
The Wonder of the World, Machu Picchu
It was still a bit cloudy when we arrived at Machu Picchu. Even when it was wrapped by clouds, it was still beautiful. After a few hours, the sun finally made its appearance and we saw the majestic beauty of this wonder of the world. We had an amazing time exploring the site and because we came in early, we had the chance to see most parts with hardly any other people. It took us about 5 hours to see the whole site. Check out my post about Machu Picchu for the full story.
On the way down, we took the walking trail. It took us about an hour to get back to town. It was quite hard on the knees but it’s perfectly doable.
The Train Back to Ollantaytambo
We were so glad that we had a train back to Ollantaytambo. After half a day of sightseeing, it was great to be on a comfortable chair. If you choose to do a hike on the way to Machu Picchu, I highly recommend taking the train back to Ollantaytambo. This way you get to relax and experience the stunning views of the Sacred Valley.
Disclaimer: We were hosted by Inca Rail during our visit to Machu Picchu. Thoughts and opinions in this post are our own.
Address: Portal de Panes St. 105 Plaza de Armas Cusco, Peru
Contact No.: (5184) 58-1860
Have you been to Machu Picchu? How did you go? Would you like to visit Machu Picchu by train? Let us know.