Train Tours of Peru

In 1868, then President Balta of Peru boasted of the potential of the "iron fingers" of a railway system to "if attached to the hand of Lima would instantly squeeze out all the wealth of the Andes". Arguably, the Peruvian railroad system did just that, even if it didn't translate into significant economic development. From this system, only a handful of breathtaking stretches remain for tourists who plan carefully to enjoy a one-of-a-kind Andean experience.

Cusco-Sacred Valley-Macchu Picchu

Watch the terraces of the Andean highlands slowly turn into the "ceja de selva" or "brow of the rainforest" on the classic train journey from Cusco to Macchu Picchu. From Cusco, the train passes the Pomatales Gorge toward the roaring Urubamba River and makes a zig-zagging descent into the Sacred Valley just before the terraces and archaeological sites at Ollantaytambo. After Ollantaytambo, passengers can see the snowcapped Mount Verónica, several villages and the archaeological sites of Wiñaywayna and Choquesuysuy. This popular route requires advanced reservations as the train is the only alternative to Macchu Picchu from Cusco without a strenuous three- to five-day hike on the Inca Trail.



Depart from Cusco or Ollantaytambo roughly halfway between Cusco and Macchu Picchu for a more flexible departure schedule in one of four ticket classes. The Hiram Bingham Deluxe Train class is only available from Cusco to Macchu Picchu and includes richly designed train interiors; panoramic windows; tea at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge; on board brunch and dinner; transportation to and from the park entrance and guided tour. The Vistadome and Expedition Trains both offer panoramic windows though Vistadome service includes leather seats, stylish snacks and live entertainment. The Backpacker Trains offers simple but comfortable seating between Ollantaytambo and Macchu Picchu. As of August 2010, prices range widely from $32 to $568 and require at least seven days reservation when purchased online.



Peru Rail

Cusco Reservations Office

Av. Pachacutec

Cusco, Peru

011-51-84-581-414

perurail.com

Cusco-Puno on the Andean Explorer

Travelers on the Cusco-Puno train journey enjoy panoramic vistas of the fertile valleys of Cusco, Urubamba River valley and llamas and vicuñas grazing on Puno's grasslands. The train stops to explore pre-Incan ruins and 17th-century churches and villages. The 10-hour journey departs Cusco's Wanchaq station three or four mornings a week depending on the season and costs $220, as of August 2010.



Peru Rail

Cusco Reservations Office

Av. Pachacutec

Cusco, Peru

011-51-84-581-414

perurail.com

Lima to Huancayo via the Central Railway

Less tailored to tourists than the Cusco centered routes operated by Peru Rail, the Central Railway between Lima and Huancayo only operates passenger service once or twice a month. The 11-hour journey winds through the natural scenery of the Valle de del Mantaro, passing ruins of the pre-Incan settlements Tunanmarca and Huajlasmarca, through 58 bridges and 69 tunnels. Trains leave Desamparados Train Station behind the Palacio de Gobierno in Lima's city center (Jirón Ancash 201). Round-trip tickets cost 178 soles or 324 soles depending on ticket class (about $63 or $115 in late 2010 at an exchange rate of 2.80 soles to one U.S. dollar) and can be purchased through the Ferrocarril Central (Central Railway) website or Teleticket at Wong and Metro supermarkets in Lima.



Ferrocarril Central

Av. José Gálvez Barrenechea 566, 5th floor

San Isidro, Lima, Peru

011-51-1-226-6363

ferrocarrilcentral.com.pe