All Machu Picchu tours necessarily require that you get to Aguas Calientes (also known as Machupicchu Town), a small pedestrian-only tourist town at the base of the mountain of the Machu Picchu archeological site.
Interesting tidbit – there are only 2 ways to get to Aguas Calientes:
- Hiking to Aguas Calientes along a portion of the Inca Trail that the Incas used to walk in the olden days
- Riding a PeruRail or Inca Rail train (the only 2 train companies in the area)
Both PeruRail and Inca Rail offer similar prices and schedules (ranging from around 5am to 9pm), all of which you can view online:
If you’re already in Peru, you can also visit one of their offices in Lima or Cusco.
Train tickets can sell out and can increase in price the closer you get to the date of departure, so we always recommend buying your train tickets early.
Trains leave from either Cusco (with a stopover in Ollantaytambo) or Ollantaytambo. Note that the “Cusco” train station is actually in Poroy, around half an hour from the Plaza de Armas of Cusco or the historic center of the city. That means, you’ll need alternative transport to the train station (whether you take it from Cusco/Poroy or Ollantaytambo), which is normally included in your Machu Picchu tour. From Ollantaytambo, the train ride is only 1.5 hours to Aguas Calientes (see Step 3 of How to Get to Machu Picchu).
One reason to choose to depart from Ollantaytambo is that you can take advantage of the trip from Cusco to Ollantaytambo for a tour of the sites in the Sacred Valley along the way. That’s why, our Sacred Valley-Machu Picchu Tour is our most popular tour.
Since travelers normally only take the train to Aguas Calientes to visit Machu Picchu and then head back to Cusco on the same day or the next day, you’ll have limited luggage allowance. In fact, you shouldn’t even bring luggage. Plan to bring a daypack with anything you need for a 1-day or overnight stay (depending on how your Machu Picchu trip is planned out), and leave the rest of your luggage at your hotel in Cusco or Ollantaytambo (depending on where you’re staying). Bringing anything larger than a carry-on will cost extra.
The train ride itself from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes is an enjoyable and super scenic experience, and a charming addition to your Machu Picchu travel itinerary.