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The Other Way to Machu Picchu

panorama machu picchuImage: Martin St-Amant

The land of the Inca, home to the magnificent condor, Peru has held traveller’s fascinations for centuries, and it’s no wonder considering the country contains some of the world’s most amazing sights – both natural and manmade.

The golden hues of the Atacama Desert rival the emerald green of the Amazonian rainforests which, in turn, contrast with the shimmering brilliance of the ice-clad Andes. When it comes to human achievements, the mysterious Nasca lines vie for attention with the ancient fortress of Kuelap. And yet, the brightest diamond – the veritable Kohinoor among tourist attractions – in this nation filled with kaleidoscopic curiosities is, without doubt, Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu Image: Pedro Szekely

The Inca trail that leads to Machu Picchu is perhaps the most spectacular trekking route, not just in Peru, but also in the Americas. Although a comparatively short distance at only 43 kilometres, it’s a pretty gruelling trek that starts in the village of Qorihuayrachina, meanders through a series of high altitude passes before dramatically culminating at the Gateway of the Sun – the entrance to Machu Picchu.

panoramic image machu picchuImage: Martin St-Amant

Although scenic, the Inca trail has become worn out over the years as hikers by the thousands undertake this adventure every year. Visitors to Machu Picchu looking to get to their destination without following the more trodden path (in this case, quite literally!) may want to consider the alternate route taken by Peru Rail.

Peru Rail is owned in part by the legendary Orient Express and offers two departures every day from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the town nearest to Machu Picchu. Their prices are on the steep side, but the glass-topped Vistadome carriages make it all worthwhile as the scenic route unfolds before your eyes.

peru railImage: Peru Rail

From Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu is only a short distance away; a comfortable bus ride will get you there in 20 minutes. The first group of these air-conditioned buses leaves at 5.15am and then at regular intervals of ten minutes until 4pm. From Machu Picchu, the last bus back to Aguas Calientes leaves at around 5.30pm.

vistadome peru railImage: Peru Rail

The fitter and more adventurous travellers would no doubt pass over the train journey in favour of the demanding hike on the Inca trail. However, those not up to this form of physical exertion or wishing to explore the other way to Machu Picchu will find the Vistadome journey offers its own rewards – at the very least you’ll be able to appreciate time at the top minus the exhaustion!

For more information regarding the train times, services, and prices, check out the Peru Rail website.

If these photos have given you itchy feet and inspiration, take a look at the before and after excavation images on Nat Geo Daily.


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