Sleeper luxury trains in Peru

Trains in Peru

Amazing Railway Journeys

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Machu Picchu Trains

Due to its location on top of a mountain, Machu Picchu is inaccessible by road, and while it is possible to hike to the site via the Inca Trail or an alternative trek, most tourists choose to arrive by train. The train station is actually located in the town of Aguas Calientes, at the bottom of the mountain, from there it is just 20 minutes by shuttle bus to Machu Picchu.

The two companies that serve the route are Peru Rail and Inca Rail. Both of which offer a range of train services, linking Aguas Calientes to various stations in the Sacred Valley and to the station of Poroy for the city of Cusco. Trains depart daily throughout the year and cater to every budget, from the ‘backpacker’ Expedition train to the 5-star luxury Hiram Bingham train.

Peru Rail

PeruRail are the original train operator in Peru and have been running trains from Cusco to Machu Picchu for over 40 years. They offer three classes of train on this route, and we work with all three - in fact, the Vistadome is our standard option - but for many people the question boils down to: should I choose the Expedition or the Vistadome? Read on to find out our recommendations:

PeruRail Expedition train compared

Expedition Train

The Expedition train (formerly known as the 'Backpacker') is PeruRail's entry-level service, but it's nothing to be sniffed at. Since the carriages were upgraded in 2013, the seats are comfortable, the windows are larger and you also get overhead windows so you can enjoy even more of the scenery.

There are several Expedition trains a day between Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu, but only one service goes all the way through from Cusco to Machu Picchu and back again. This usually leaves Cusco at 06:40, getting into Machu Picchu at 09:40; on the way back it leaves Machu Picchu at 15:20 and gets in at 19:05. However, it's easy to arrange transfers from Ollantaytambo to Cusco and in fact the road journey on this section is actually slgihtly quicker than the train!

PeruRail Vistadome train review

Vistadome Train

Before the Expedition carriages were upgraded, comparing the Vistadome and the Expedition was easy: the Vistadome was simply much more comfortable. These days, however, if you look at a simple bullet point list, it's not easy to see what the extra £20 for the Vistadome gets you. Once on board, however, it's much more clear.

The big, big difference is quite literally in what you can see: the windows on the Vistadome essentially cover the entire side of the carriage and much of the roof. And when the scenery outside is this good, that's a big bonus. The seats also are more comfortable, and a much wider range of food is available. On the return journey you also get a fashion and dancing show: opinions vary as to whether this is a good thing or not...

There are usually two daily departures running all the way from Cusco to Machu Picchu and back, leaving Cusco at 07:35 and 08:25, and coming back at 16:43 and 17:23 - again, there are additional services just between Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu.

Belmond Hiram Bingham luxury train to Machu Picchu

Belmond Hiram Bingham

And finally, we also have the Hiram Bingham. There's no doubt that this luxury train is the way to arrive at Machu Picchu. With its 1930s Pullman-style carriages, including a gorgeous bar car and a dedicated, open-backed observation carriage, the comfort levels on the Hiram Bingham eclipse anything else available on this route.

The downside? Well, there really isn't one, apart from the price... At getting on for £400 each way, it's more than four times the cost of the Vistadome, and for a four-hour journey it's a lot to justify. Admittedly you get a proper lunch, free drinks all the way, and high tea at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge at Machu Picchu, but even so...

Inca Rail

The new(ish) kid on the block, Inca Rail has been running trains to Machu Picchu since 2013, and has provided much-needed competition on the route. Their entry-level class (known as Executive) compares well to PeruRail's Expedition class, and they also have First Class carriages which are similar to the Vistadome. Inca Rail don't have separate First Class trains in the way that PeruRail operates the Vistadome, however - more like British trains, they just have separate carriages on the same service.

Inca Rail Executive carriages

Executive Class

Inca Rail's Executive class is pretty similar to the Expedition class on Peru Rail. Again, you have reasonably comfortable seats, all with a table, and you get a free drink and snack. The windows are the same size as the Expedition, but you don't get the roof panels. Because the two trains are basically similar prices, we would probably go for the Expedition but would have no hesitation in using the Inca Rail Executive class either.

There are several services a day between Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu, but only one which runs right the way through from Cusco. This departs at 05:55 and gets you into Machu Picchu at 08:48 - all the Inca Rail services have a slightly shorter journey time than the Peru Rail alternatives.

Inca Rail First Class carriages

First Class

While the Executive and the Expedition are pretty similar, Inca Rail's First Class option offers something a little different to the Vistadome, in that you actually get a full at-seat lunch service as well as little bonuses like a welcome cocktail. It's just a little more expensive than the Vistadome (by around £10 or so) but if you'd like to arrive at Machu Picchu having had lunch and ready to explore, than it's well worth considering.

The only slight downside is that the First Class carriages only operate on the 11:15 departure between Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu - no problem if you stayed overnight in the Sacred Valley beforehand, but if you're coming from (or going back to) Cusco then we'll need to arrange the extra transportation for you.

Central Train to Huancayo from Lima

Huancayo Central Train Service

Until very recently, when the new Chinese line to Lhasa took the title, the railway from Lima to Huancayo was the highest passenger railway journey in the world, reaching a mammoth 4782 metres above sea level. The line passes through no fewer than 69 tunnels and crosses 58 bridges and is one of the most impressive feats of railway engineering anywhere in the world.

Trains leave Lima's historic Desamparados station at 7am, arriving in Huancayo at 7pm that evening. There are two classes of coach on the train, Classic and Tourist, but for the small extra amount we definitely recommend the Pullman-style comfort of the Tourist coaches.

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The service only offers fixed departures, usually at the rate of two per month, but we can easily plan your holiday to fit in with these departure dates. At the moment there are planned departures for 2017 as follows:

  • April: 13th and 28th
  • May: 25th
  • June: 16th and 29th
  • July: 28th
  • August: 10th and 27th
  • September: 14th
  • October: 5th and 29th
  • November: 23rd

The dates above are for the journey from Lima to Huancayo. Once there, you can either take the return train journey, which generally leaves from Huancayo 3 days later, or you can head back down to Lima by coach. This is a much quicker option, taking only 7 hours compared to the 12 by train. Alternatively you can also fly back to Lima from the city of Jauja, 45km to the north of Huancayo.

Contact us about the train to Huancayo
Cabins on the Andean Explorer

Andean Explorer: Luxury Sleeper Train

Launching in May 2017, the 5-star Belmond Andean Explorer train will run a range of sleeper services across the Peruvian Altiplano. The two and three day journeys will cover Cusco, Lake Titicaca, and Arequipa, with various stops and optional visits to Colca Canyon along the way. Disappointingly from our point of view, the existing daytime services previously running under the Andean Explorer name will be completely cancelled from May onwards.

Each luxury cabin has an ensuite shower room and picture window, so you can enjoy the views from the comfort of your private room. There is also a lounge carriage with baby grand piano and bar, an open-deck observation car, as well as dining rooms where you can enjoy a traditional Peruvian menu designed by one of Belmond’s top chefs.

There will be four different itineraries to choose from: Peruvian Highlands; Andean Plains and Islands of Discovery; Spirit of the Water; and Spirit of the Andes. Each will depart once a week year-round, excluding the month of February when all services on the route will temporarily stop.

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Peruvian Highlands:
Cusco - Lake Titicaca - Arequipa

Three days, two nights: departing Thursdays

Thursday

  • 11:00 Departure from Cusco
  • 12:30 Lunch on board
  • 14:00 Visit to Raqchi archaeological site
  • 15:30 Tea Time
  • 16:45 Sunset at La Raya, the highest pass on the route at over 4,300 metres
  • 18:30 Cocktails
  • 19:00 Dinner on board
  • 22:15 Arrival at Lake Titicaca and overnight

Friday

  • 06:00 Sunrise at Lake Titicaca and breakfast on board
  • 08:00 Visit to Uros Island and Taquile Island
  • 12:30 Lunch at Collata Beach
  • 15:30 Return to train
  • 16:00 Tea Time
  • 17:00 Departure to Arequipa
  • 18:30 Cocktails
  • 19:00 Dinner on board and overnight

Saturday

  • 06:00 Breakfast on board
  • 08:00 Visit to Saracocha
  • 09:55 Visit to Sumbay Caves
  • 11:30 Optional Colca Canyon extension
  • 12:30 Lunch on board
  • 15:30 Arrival in Arequipa and city tour
  • 16:00 Transfer to airport or hotel

Andean Plains and Islands of Discovery:
Arequipa-Lake Titicaca-Cusco

Three days, two nights: departing Saturdays

Saturday

  • 20:00 Departure from Arequipa
  • 20:15 Cocktail
  • 20:30 Dinner on board and overnight

Sunday

  • 06:00 Sunrise at Lake Titicaca and breakfast on board
  • 08:00 Visit to Uros Islands and Taquile Island
  • 12:30 Lunch at Collata Beach
  • 15:30 Return to train
  • 16:00 Tea Time
  • 17:00 Departure to Cusco
  • 18:30 Cocktails
  • 19:00 Dinner on board and overnight

Monday

  • 06:00 Breakfast on board
  • 09:00 Visit to Raqchi archaeological site
  • 13:00 Arrival in Cusco

Spirit of the Water: Cusco-Lake Titicaca

One day, one night: departing Tuesdays

Tuesday

  • 11:00 Departure from Cusco
  • 12:30 Lunch on board
  • 14:00 Visit to Raqchi archaeological site
  • 15:30 Tea Time
  • 16:45 Sunset at La Raya, the highest pass on the route at over 4,300 metres
  • 18:30 Cocktails
  • 19:00 Dinner on board
  • 22:15 Arrival at Lake Titicaca and overnight

Wednesday

  • 06:00 Sunset at Lake Titicaca and breakfast on board
  • 08:00 Optional Visit to Uros Islands and Taquile Island
  • 12:30 Lunch at Collata Beach
  • 15:30 Transfer to airport or hotel

Spirit of the Andes: Lake Titicaca-Cusco

One day, one night: departing Wednesdays

Wednesday

  • 12:00 Departure from Puno
  • 12:30 Lunch on board
  • 17:10 Visit to La Raya archaeological site
  • 19:00 Dinner on board and overnight

Thursday

  • 06:00 Breakfast on board
  • 08:00 07:30 Arrival in Cusco
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