Because of the difficult terrain in Peru, railways aren’t exactly an option. Traveling overland takes a lot of time but in many cases the inter-city buses are the only real options to travel.
In terms of train travel, there are only four passenger routes (running on three lines), operated by Peru Rail , which is a private company (subsidiary of Orient Express). All routes are very scenic and popular among travelers.
The most popular train route connects Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu (4h). In fact, there isn’t any other way to get from Cuso to Aguas Calientes unless you plan to hike the Inca Trail. The trains depart from Ollantaytambo Station in Cusco and stop at Aguas Calientes (at the base of Machu Picchu).
There are three types of trains operated by Peru Rail on this route:
- Backpacker (Expedition): the least expensive and the slowest; they book up months in advance so plan ahead. Cusco to Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes) costs US$59 one way.
- Vistadome: first class and fast service; Cusco to Machu Picchu costs US$75 one way.
- Hiram Bingham: luxury line; Cusco to Machu Picchu costs US$349 one way.
Peru Rail also operated the Machu Picchu — Urubamba route. Urubamda is the largest town in the Sacred Valley of the Incas and is located just an hour from Cusco.
Another popular route is Cusco to Puno or the Titicaca Route. It’s probably the most scenic in the country but also excruciating slow (10 h). It offers only one class (the Andean Explorer) and runs on Mon, Wed and Sat between November and March. The price per person is US$220 one way.
There is another spectacular route which runs at high altitude and is called the Ferrocarril Central Andino . It connects Lima to Huancayo in the Central highlands. Unfortunately the rout is not very reliable to plan ahead. It was shut down some years ago but not it’s working again. The trains operate on the route between April and November. The adult single fare is 195 Soles / US$72.53 on Clasico and 350 Soles / US$130 on Turistico. Trains depart from Desamparados Station in Lima , which is located next to the Government Palace.