Okay, so you’ve arrived safely in Cusco, and, heeding my advice from the previous article, are now proceeding directly to the train to Machu Picchu.
“But where is the station and where I do I buy my ticket?” you ask.
The nearest station is a 20-minute cab ride away in Poroy. Add another 15 minutes if you plan to get a cab direct from the airport. Though public buses do run between Cusco and Poroy, most local travel experts advise against this option.
The answer to the second part of the question above is crucial, because you will need to secure your seats on the train well in advance, especially if you plan to visit Machu Picchu during peak season from July to August. The train is the preferred mode of transport for all but the toughest of trekkers, so seats go quickly.
There are two companies operating trains between Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu: PeruRail and Inca Rail, the latter of which does not service Poroy Station, so booking with PeruRail is your best bet. Inca Rail is a viable option only if your planned route takes you through Sacred Valley of the Incas to Ollantaytambo or Urubamba.
PeruRail offers three different classes from Cusco to Machu Picchu: Expedition, Vistadome, and the Belmond Hiram Bingham. Expedition is the preferred class for those traveling on a shoestring; Vistadome’s wraparound windows afford sweeping views of the valley below and the sky above – a necessary upgrade if you want the complete visual experience; and Belmond Hiram Bingham is the fabled luxury train.
Trains from Poroy take just over three hours to arrive at Aguas Calientes, the village below Machu Picchu. When you arrive you’ll need to take the bus up to the citadel – another 20 minutes, give or take a few. Hiking from Aguas Calientes to the citadel takes about an hour.
In all, you’ll need a little over four hours to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu, so book an early train, especially if you plan to see the entire complex in one day.