If you don’t fancy hiking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu for several days and unless you want to take 4 mini-buses with crying babies and local produce, a small train overall taking about 10 hours, you better take the direct train to Aguas Calientes from Cusco. Unfortunately this process has been made overly complicated and quite expensive, due to it being the main route to see Machu Picchu, the jewel of the Inca Empire and the most important Peruvian tourism site in the country.
In order to decipher everything surrounding these direct trains, here is a guide to help you make a more informed decision about your excursion to Machu Picchu:
1. Train Stations
Cusco is not served directly by a train from Aguas Calientes. Due to the altitude difference (Cusco at 3,400masl and Aguas Calientes at 2,000masl) the trains won’t go straight to Cusco; the time it would take to do this would add hours onto any journey.
Therefore, on a train from Aguas Calientes you reach Ollantaytambo, where 90% of trains stop, or Poroy, around 20 minutes away from Cusco city. Of course, a train all the way to Poroy is much more comfortable, with less hassle, but there is only a limited time schedule and they are often more expensive.
Trains take approximately 90 minutes to reach Ollantaytambo from Aguas Calientes, or 3½ hours to Poroy. At both stations, a minibus or taxi will get you back to Cusco.
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