Andean Explorer train from Cusco to Puno  

Cusco to Puno train. Courtesy


Taking the train in Peru...

Peru has several train services of interest to visitors, including the famous train to Machu Picchu where a confusing array of trains run by several different operators compete to take you to the Inca ruin from various different starting stations in or outside Cusco - this page will explain the options.

There are in fact two separate networks in Peru, the southern network which includes Cusco to Machu Picchu & Cusco to Puno on Lake Titicaca and the northern network which links Lima with Huancayo.

small bullet point  Cusco to Machu Picchu for the Inca ruins.

small bullet point  Cusco to Puno & Lake Titicaca

small bullet point  Lima to Huancayao & Huancavelica

large bullet pointUseful country information

Train operators: (Cusco to Machu Picchu, Cusco to Puno (Lake Titicaca) (alternative trains to Machu Picchu) (Lima-Huancayo).

Time zone:

GMT-5 (there is no daylight saving time in Peru).

Dialling code:




1 = 4.50 Nuevos Soles, $1 = 3.30.     Currency converter

Tourist information:   Tripadvisor Peru page



Hotel search for Peru



Cheapest flights to Peru


UK citizens do not need a visa for Peru for tourist visits of up to 90 days.

Page last updated:

2 January 2022

large bullet pointTrains to Machu Picchu

  The ruined Inca citadel at Machu Picchu  

Take the train to Machu Picchu...  Regular train slink Cusco and Ollantaytambo with the famous Inca city of Machu Picchu...  Photo courtesy  of Tim Roberts


From Cusco to the Inca ruins...

Cusco is the base city for visiting the famous Inca ruins at Machu Picchu and it's where most visitors stay.  You can hike all the way up the Sacred Valley on foot along the Inca Trail, but most tourists take a train from Cusco to Machu Picchu on the historic 3' gauge Santa Ana Railway.

There are 4 possible train boarding points, namely (1) Cusco San Pedro station located in Cusco itself, (2) Poroy which is 13 km (8 miles) outside Cusco, (3) Urubamba which is 53 km (33 miles) from Cusco and (4) Ollantaytambo which is in the Sacred Valley itself, 89 km (56 miles) from Cusco.

There are two competing train companies, PeruRail is the bigger one, Inca Rail the smaller one.  Both operate a range of different trains & classes to suit different budgets.  This page will guide you through the options for an unforgettable visit to Machu Picchu.

Option 1, Cusco to Machu Picchu on the local...

This is not in fact an option at all unless you're a Peruvian national.  The local is a subsidised daily service for Peruvians, leaving from Cusco's San Pedro station in downtown Cusco.  Local trains also run 3 times a day between Machu Picchu and Hydroelectric station (for the Machu Picchu hydroelectric power station), 40 minutes beyond Machu Picchu.  For the record, here are the times of the Local:

Option 2, Cusco to Machu Picchu by tourist train...

Listen up, this is my top tip.  From 2009 until 2019, the only train to Machu Picchu leaving from Cusco's original city centre San Pedro Station was the Local for Peruvian nationals (option 1 above), which tourists can't use.  All other trains left from Poroy, an inconvenient 20-minute 13 km (8 mile) bus or taxi ride outside Cusco.  This meant missing out on the scenic part of the railway between Cusco & Poroy where the train climbs a mountainside using five switchbacks, known locally as El Zig-Zag.  I'm delighted to report that in May 2019 Inca Rail resumed running from Cusco San Pedro station, and a couple or PeruRail trains have also now been extended to start/finish at Cusco San Pedro.

So my top tip, choose a departure from Cusco San Pedro Station, so you can leave conveniently from downtown Cusco and enjoy the whole historic original railway experience from downtown Cusco to Machu Picchu, including the scenic switchbacks, avoiding an 8-mile bus or taxi ride.

True, the train takes an hour from Cusco to Poroy, a bus or taxi takes 20 minutes, but as you'd have to allow for a safe margin between taxi & train at Poroy there's hardly any real time lost taking the train all the way, and you're here for the experience after all.  If you get any photos of San Pedro station, the Inca Rail trains or the scenery, please get in touch!

Which train to choose?  Inca Rail offer several types of train.  The 08:28 has Voyager Class & First Class carriages. The 05:00 & 08:43 have 360 Class.  To compare classes, see  One-way fares in USD:  Voyager Class $78, 360 Class $110, First Class $230.  Check times & prices & buy tickets at  PeruRail's Vistadome is the one they have extended to start at Cusco San Pedro, so that is the one I'd choose if going with PeruRail.  You can compare Inca Rail & PeruRail prices all on one ticket booking website at

Option 3:  Poroy to Machu Picchu by tourist train...

Most PeruRail tourist trains leave from Poroy, a local halt 13 km (8 miles) west of Cusco, and Inca Rail trains stop there too.  PeruRail's trains stopped using Cusco central station in April 2009, but two trains (their Vistadome services) resumed starting from Cusco San Pedro in mid-2019.

PeruRail is part of Belmond, the people who run the Venice Simplon Orient Express.  PeruRail took over operation of this network from the Peruvian railway company ENAFER in 1999.  However, competitor Inca Rail now runs an increasing number of trains,

How do you get to Poroy?  You'll need to take a bus or taxi from downtown Cusco to Poroy.  A 3-seat taxi from Cusco to Poroy costs around 20-30 soles (4-6 or $6-$9) per taxi, and takes around 20 minutes.  There's a local bus for 6 soles per person.

In the off-season January to April PeruRail now operate a 'bimodal' service by bus from Cusco to Pachar station to pick up the train there, the trains don't start at Poroy during this period.  So even more bus, even less train...

What if the trains from Cusco or Poroy are fully-booked?  Going all the way from Cusco San Pedro to Machu Picchu is the best option, with Poroy to Machu Picchu second-best.  But if you can't get a seat on one of the Inca Rail trains or PeruRail Vistadome trains that start in Cusco San Pedro or (next best) the other PeruRail trains starting in Poroy, don't worry.  There are a couple of trains from Urubamba to Machu Picchu (see option 3 below) and plenty of shuttle trains between Ollantaytambo & Machu Picchu, see option 4 below.  It just means a longer bus or taxi journey from Cusco until you can board the train.

Which train to choose?  How much does it cost?  I'd choose Inca Rail or PeruRail's Vistadome service as these run from downtown Cusco.  But if you choose PeruRail, they run four different trains, aimed at different budgets:

 Cusco ► Machu Picchu


Inca Rail





Inca Rail

Inca Rail

 Train or class:





Hiram Bingham



 Cusco San Pedro station (downtown Cusco) depart:








 Cusco city centre depart by taxi or bus:


by taxi



by taxi



 Poroy (13 km west of Cusco) depart:








 Ollantaytambo arrive/depart:








 Machu Picchu arrive:








 Machu Picchu ► Cusco



Inca Rail




Inca Rail

 Train or class:





Hiram Bingham


 Machu Picchu depart:







 Ollantaytambo arrive/depart:







 Poroy (13km west of Cusco) arrive:







 Cusco city centre arrive by b us or taxi:

by taxi




by taxi


 Cusco San Pedro Station (downtown Cusco) arrive:







IMPORTANT:  Inca Rail trains to/from Cusco San Pedro & Poroy will not operate from January to April.

Poroy to Machu Picchu is 86 km (54 miles). Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu is 38 km (24 miles).  Poroy is 3486 metres above sea level, Ollantaytambo 2600m, Machu Picchu 2350m.

Option 3:  Urubamba to Machu Picchu by train...

Urubamba is 53 km (33 miles) from Cusco, and the next best option to joining a train at Poroy.  Only PeruRail operate from Urubamba.

Option 4:  Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu by shuttle train...

If you can't get a ticket for one of the PeruRail trains starting direct from Cusco or Poroy or Urubamba, don't worry, there are many shuttle trains from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu, some run by PeruRail and others by Inca Rail.  Ollantaytambo is 89 km (56 miles) from Cusco, 1 hour 40 minutes by taxi, so a longer bus or taxi ride, shorter train ride.

First, buy your entry tickets to Machu Picchu Inca ruins at

Then buy train tickets from Cusco to Machu Picchu at

Where is the station at Machu Picchu?  How do you get to the Inca ruins?

The station referred to as 'Machu Picchu' is in fact located in the local town of Aguas Calientes, approximately 8 km (5 miles) from the ruined Inca city of Machu Picchu.  A bus link runs every 30 minutes from the station to the ruins costing US$24 return, payable in either US$ or local Peruvian currency.  To find out more about the Inca ruins, see or

What's the journey like?

The PeruRail Vistadome and Inca Rail trains leave from Cusco's main San Pedro station on the Avenida Sol and spend half an hour climbing a series of Switchbacks or zig-zags up the mountainside to gain height, reaching the local halt at Poroy an hour after leaving Cusco.  Most other PeruRail trains start from Poroy (including the Hiram Bingham, which has always started here) and so miss this interesting section.  After Poroy the train descends into the Sacred Valley and the Andean foothills, along the Urubamba river.  You'll pass colourful villages and herds of llamas.  Cusco to Machu Picchu is 107 km (67 miles), Poroy to Machu Picchu is 86km (54 miles).  The best views are on the left hand side of the train going up to Machu Picchu and on the right hand side returning, as the train follows the river and this is the side which the river is on, with the odd Inca ruin or terrace visible as the train runs along the Sacred Valley.  PeruRail won't assign seats on a particular side, but you can easily move over if there are empty seats after departure.

Inca Rail 360 train arrived at Cusco San Pedro

The Inca Rail 360 train arrived back at Cusco San Pedro station in downtown Cusco.  Courtesy of Adrian Gogay.

On the train to Machu Picchu, beyond Ollantaytambo

On the train to Machu Picchu...  This is a PeruRail shuttle train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu. Courtesy of Tim Roberts

The train from Cusco to Machu Picchu in Peru   The tourist train to Machu Picchu in Peru

The Expedition train from Cusco to Machu Picchu running alongside the Urubamba River... Photo courtesy of Dennis Nichol


The Expedition train from Cusco approaches Machu Picchu.  Courtesy of 's'.

What are the trains like?

The PeruRail Expedition train...

This is PeruRail's cheapest option and perfectly comfortable, although it leaves from Poroy not Cusco so you have to pay extra for 8 miles from Cusco to Poroy by bus or taxi.  Food & drink can be bought on board, but it's not complimentary as on the Vistadome.  The Man in Seat 61 says "I'd pay a bit more for the Vistadome, so you can leave from downtown Cusco with complimentary tea, coffee & snacks."

PeruRail Expedition train

The Expedition train entering Aquas Calientes.  Photo courtesy of Adrian Gogay...

The PeruRail Vistadome train...

This is the mid-range option, a good choice as it leaves from San Pedro station on downtown Cusco.  The price includes complimentary snacks & non-alcoholic drinks served at your seat.  As you can see, there are roof windows for better viewing the peaks...

The Vistadome train to Machu Picchu at Aguas Calientes station   Inside the Vistadome train

The Vistadome train at Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu).  Photo courtesy of  Nicola Herbert


Inside the Vistadome train.  Photo courtesy of

Belmond's deluxe Hiram Bingham train...

This is the luxury option, the most expensive of the trains to Machu Picchu and one in a category all by itself.  This luxurious train ride includes a gourmet brunch on the outward trip and dinner on the way back, a selection of Peruvian wine, cocktails, entertainment, bus connections, Machu Picchu entrance fee and a guided tour.

The Hirham Bingham train to Machu Picchu   Hirham Bingham dining car

The Hiram Bingham, showing the open-air observation car at the rear. Photo courtesy of


Hiram Bingham restaurant. Photo

Dinner on the Hirham Bingham train   The train to Machu Picchu alongside the Urubamba River

An elegant dinner is served on the way back. Photo courtesy of


The Hiram Bingham train on its way to Machu Picchu. Photo courtesy of

The local...

Not an option unless you are a Peruvian citizen.  A daily subsidised train for locals between Cusco & Aquas Calientes.

Local train

A local train at Aquas Calientes local platform, although this may well be one of the local trains to the nearby hydroelectric plant rather than the local to Cusco.  Courtesy of Adrian Gogay.

large bullet pointCusco to Puno, Lake Titicaca

Better than the train to Machu Picchu?

PeruRail also run two excellent trains between Cusco & Puno on Lake Titicaca, a scenic 385 km. 

The Andean Explorer cruise train is relatively new, it started running in May 2017.  Before 2017 there was only a daytime train called the Andean Explorer - the name Andean Explorer now applies to the new luxury cruise train, the old daytime Andean Explorer is now renamed the Perurail Lake Titicaca train.  Bear that in mind when looking at reviews or info from past years on the internet!

 Cusco ► Puno & Arequipa


Perurail Titicaca Train

(formerly Andean Explorer)

Andean Explorer:

Spirit of the Water

Andean Explorer:

Peruvian Highlands

 Cusco Wanchaq station depart:

07:50 on Wed, 07:50 on Fri & Sun

11:00  Tuesdays

11:00  Thursdays

 Puno main station arrive:

17:30 on Wed, Fri, Sun (same day).



 Puno Estacion Muelle arrive & night on board:


22:15  Tuesdays

22:15  Thursdays

 Optional day on Lake Titicaca:


08:30  Wednesdays

08:30  Fridays

 Day ends at Puno Estacion Muelle station:


15:30  Wednesdays

15:30  Fridays

 Puno depart:



17:00  Fridays

 Arequipa arrive:



15:30 Saturdays

 Puno ► Cusco


Perurail Titicaca train

(formerly Andean Explorer)

Andean Explorer:

Spirit of the Andes

Andean Explorer:

Andean Plains & Islands

 Arequipa depart:



20:00  Saturdays

 Puno Estacion Muelle arrive:



??:??  Saturday

 Puno Estacion Muelle depart:


12:00  Wednesdays

17:00  Sunday

 Puno main station depart:

07:30  Mon, Thurs, Sat



 Cusipata arrive:


 20:08  Wednesdays


 Cusipata depart:


 05:30  Thursdays


 Cusco Wanchaq station arrive:

17:50  Same day

07:36  Thursdays

12:58  Monday

Cusco to Puno is 385 km (241 miles).

In Puno, the Perurail Titicaca train uses Puno's main station, search for plain Puno station on Google maps.  The Andean Explorer uses a different station near the waterfront called Estacion Muelle Puno, also called Lake Titicaca station, search for Perurail Lake Titicaca station or Estacion Muelle Puno on Google maps.


Perurail Lake Titicaca train:  $202 - $346 per person in a seat, including meals.

Andean Explorer 1-night trips:  From $840 for one person or $960 for two people including lunch, dinner, breakfast & private en suite sleeper.

Andean Explorer 2-night trips:  From $2,140 for one person or $2,450 for two people including lunch, dinner, breakfast & private en suite sleeper.

How to buy tickets...

See for times, fares & online booking or buy tickets at

Tours & vacations... 

Tailor Made Rail offers a tour of Peru, including Machu Picchu and the Andean Explorer, see here.

The PeruRail Lake Titicaca train...

These photos show the original pre-2017 Andean Explorer, which has now been renamed the Perurail Lake Titicaca Train.  Feedback have been great - travellers say it's better than the train to Machu Picchu.

Andean Explorer train from Cusco to Puno   Andean Explorer lounge car

The Andean Explorer train from Cusco to Puno at La Raya. Photos courtesy of


The bar-lounge in the Andean Explorer's tail-end observation car.

Inside the Andean Explorer from Cusco to Puno in Peru   The Andean Explorer train en route to Puno

The pullman-style interior of the Andean Explorer.  Photo courtesy of Dennis Nichol


The Andean Explorer at La Raya, showing the observation car with open-air viewing deck.  Courtesy of

Scenery along the Cusco to Puno train line

Scenery along the railway between Cusco and Puno, although this shot wasn't taken from the train.  Photo courtesy of Tim Roberts

The Andean Explorer from Cusco to Puno stopped at La Raya for a photo opportunity   Lunch on the train from Cusco to Puno

The Andean Explorer, stopped at La Raya for a photo opportunity. Photo courtesy of Dennis Nichol


Ready for an elegant lunch... Photo courtesy of

The Andean Explorer cruise train...

The Andean Explorer train   Andean Explorer bar car

The Andean Explorer.  Photos in this section courtesy of Adrian Gogay.


Lounge-bar car..

Andean Explorer double room   Andean Explorer observation car

Double room...


Observation car at the rear at Puno Muelle (Lake Titicaca).

Andean Explorer, view from the observation platform

Crossing Peru, the view from the observation platform...

large bullet pointLima to Huancayo & Huancavelica

Lima to Huancayo...

The railway between Peru's capital Lima and Huancayo was once the highest railway in the world, until the Chinese built the line to Lhasa in Tibet.  The air-conditioned Tren de Sierra links Lima & Huancayo once or twice a month (outside the November-April rainy season, at least), with touristico (1st) class & clasico (2nd) class & bar car.  The Touristico fare is around 385 Soles ($125 or 80) and includes breakfast and complimentary tea, coffee, water and soft drinks.  Clasico fares start at 230 Soles ($75 or 50).  You can check departure dates & book tickets online at  In Lima, the train departs from Desamparados or Monserrate stations.  Bear in mind that the high altitude doesn't suit everyone!

Train from Lima to Huancayo, Peru   Tren de Sierra from Lima to Huancayo

The Tren de Sierra from Lima to Huancayo.  Photos courtesy of Lynne Quayle

On board the train from Lima to Huancayo   Huancayo station

The Tren de Sierra from Lima to Huancayo.  Photos courtesy of Lynne Quayle

Huancayo to Huancavelica...

Until some years ago, twice daily trains used to link Huancayo with Huancavelica.  The route then ceased for several years but it's reported that in 2015 this line is back in action. 

Traveller Thomas Gisler reports (September 2015): "The famous Huancayo - Huancavelica railway (the 'Macho Train') is back to service! It is scheduled three times a week, leaving Huancayo on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 06:30 and leaving Huancavelica on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 06:30. as well.  The duration of the trip is roughly six hours though it can easily last longer.  The journey can be done as a long day trip, taking local transport from Huancavelica back to Huancayo but an overnight stay in Huancavelica is much more convenient.

On the day of my visit there was a huge queue at the train station in Huancayo as early as 05.45.  There is no seat reservation or booking of tickets in advance in Huancayo, so be early at the train station to avoid disappointment!  Ticket prices are very cheap at 9 soles (less than $1) 2nd class and 13 soles in the buffet car, also referred to as "first class".  This is the last remaining 'non-tourist-train' in Peru, serving the locals and offering a unique train experience to the few tourists who make it there despite the lack of any information available online. The journey is very scenic as the train is following the valley and its river, passing through tiny little villages.  On arrival in Huancavelica it is possible to buy the ticket back to Huancayo for the following day, which is definitely a good idea.

Huancayo to Huancavelica train   Huancayo to Huancavelica train

The 2015 Huancayo to Huancavelica train.  Photos courtesy of Thomas Gisler.

large bullet pointVacations & tours

  Tailor Made Rail

Tour Peru by train...

large bullet pointRecommended guidebooks

To get the most out of your trip to Peru, you'll need a decent guidebook.  For the serious independent traveller this means either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide.  Both guides have everything you need - plenty of background historical and cultural information, plus practical information.

Buy Lonely Planet Peru online at

Buy Rough Guide to South America online at



large bullet pointHotels in Peru

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites: is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on,, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at

Other hotel sites worth trying... is the place to find independent travellers' reviews of all the main hotels.

Backpacker hostels...  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelworld offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in most cities at rock-bottom prices.

large bullet pointFlights...

Overland travel by train around South America is an essential part of the experience, so once there, don't cheat and fly, stay on the ground!  But if a long-haul flight is unavoidable to reach it in the first place, try  Virgin Atlantic who now fly from the UK to India, a good choice for both price and service.

Or use the Skyscanner search tool to compare flight prices & routes worldwide across 600 airlines...

skyscanner generic 728x90

large bullet pointTravel insurance & VPN...


Columbus direct travel insurance logo

Always take out travel insurance...

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least 1m or preferably 5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

UK flagIn the UK, reliable insurers include Columbus Direct.

UK flagIf you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see - 10% discount with code seat61.

UK flagYou can use to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

  US flag If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

A Curve card saves on foreign transaction fees...


Curve card

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then charge you a currency conversion fee.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, 500 per month at time of writing.  The balance goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.

How it works:  1. Download the app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to most European addresses including the UK.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself - I get some commission if you sign up to Curve, but I'm recommending it here because it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card - they'll give you 5 cashback through that link, too.


Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  VPNs & why you need one explained...

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions.  And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN.  VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy and I use it myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription, and I get a small commission to help support this site.


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