1st Class Train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu
We were quite excited for our train ride up to Aguas Calientes riding in Inca Rail’s 1st Class car. We had researched it quite a bit on their website to see what kinds of things to look for, so we knew we were in for a treat. Here are the characteristics, as shown on the Inca Rail website:
We were the first ones at the train station waiting for this Inca Rail journey, but we did see hundreds of people coming and going on Peru Rail trains. When our train arrived it was a little confusing finding out where we were supposed to go because our ticket showed a certain letter for the car we were in, but that letter wasn’t being displayed on any car we saw. Finally, someone switched out the incorrect letter and the one we were searching for was found. We were first in line to board.
It was really nice and cool getting onto the car first and seeing the rows of empty seats. It was also nice to see that not every table had place settings, which meant that we weren’t looking at a full car on this journey.
Overall, it was a very pleasant experience with a helpful and attentive staff. Everyone was offered a Pisco Sour to start off their journey (which we kindly declined and we were then given a pineapple juice mixture) and then later on came the meal. The menu consisted of a starter, entree, and dessert. There was only one option for each, so I guess if there were any dietary restrictions you would have had to bring it up beforehand. We thought the starter was very good, the entree was decent, and the dessert was also decent. I loved the non-stop juices that kept coming my way!
My only critiques were that the characteristics shown on the website didn’t exactly line up with our actual experience. There was no Observatory-Lounge on our train. I’m not sure what “Subject to a private charter sale” means, but either way we didn’t get that experience in an “elegant, finely-decorated room with spacious armchairs". Also, we didn’t receive any tickets for the bus to the Citadel, which was a bit frustrating since they’re $24 (USD) a pop.
However, besides those niggling details, the train ride itself was pretty magical. It’s hard to enhance the beauty of the landscapes along the Urubamba River, but somehow a lot of pineapple juice and comfy seats really let me enjoy it even more.
360 Train from Machu Pichu to Cusco
Needless to say, it’s never as exciting going from a 1st-class product to anything below that standard. However, there was something about the 360 train I was excited about, which was the possibility of an Observatory Car on the train. Here are the characteristics for the 360 Train, as shown on the Inca Rail website:
This time around we weren’t lucky enough to have a full section of a car to ourselves where there was nobody sitting in the booth across from us. Actually, our car was almost entirely full. Still, we did manage to snag our own booth after seeing there was one empty by having a quick chat with one of the friendly members of the staff.
It’s quickly apparent that there’s just a little less of everything that was good on the 1st-Class on the 360. The seats are less padded. The tables aren’t as spacious. But, really, it’s not a big deal at all. Or any deal, actually. The windows are indeed bigger and wider, including the ones on the ceiling, which is how it should be when you’re on this magical journey in these ancient lands.
I’m not sure if this is always the case (maybe it depends on the time), but we were served beverages (tea, coffee, or water) and a meal (chicken sandwich & a chocolate). It’s definitely more than you’d get on this short of a journey were it by plane, which I was grateful for.
The big delight, however, of the 360 was that it did indeed have an outdoor carriage. It may not be quite what you’d expect, but I think it did the trick. The carriage attached to our train was devoid of anything at all except the helpful security guard standing in the corner. There was no bar or furniture of any kind. There were, though, large, open windows that you could enjoy looking through. It was prohibited to put anything outside the window, including parts of your body or a camera, for instance. I could definitely see why, too, because, at times, the land itself was quite close to the train and I could foresee something disastrous happening were that rule not in place.
Overall, the ride was enjoyable and the outdoor carriage was real. I’m not sure what the InTrain entertainment system is because I don’t recall there being any music or movies.
Our Final Thoughts
I think we had a pretty great time on Inca Rail’s trains. We both like trains and the experiences were genuinely nice. I do think some items on their characteristics pages should be updated, changed, or clarified on their website, but at the end of the day it wasn’t a big thing. We like trains and we liked our journeys with Inca Rail.