Extraordinary food, costumes, archeological ruins, history, diversity—it’s easy for first-time travelers to Peru to wonder what took us so long to get here. At times though—for example when you are surrounded by colorfully clad women holding baby llamas in their arms and suggesting you give them a few Soles for a pet and picture—you too might feel that Peru’s tourism explosion is putting it on the fast track to become a Disneyland-like nation. But then you’ll venture on to Puno’s market and note that women really do dress that way and rest easy.
If you are that type of culturally-oriented traveler, as most readers of Picture this Post are, know that Peru Rail is NOT targeting you for their luxury Vistadome Machu Picchu Train.
Low Season Discounts on Peru Rail
Someone going to Peru in the low season has the option to shop around and make relatively last minute plans for how to visit Machu Picchu. A visit to the Peru Rail office in Cuzco the day before your planned departure may give the opportunity to shop for deals. A few of the trains on the schedule may be discounted.
Being assured that the trains “NEVER ARE LATE” (something not quite true- read Machu Picchu News Report — What, or Who, caused the Rock Slide on the Tracks??) and noting that the earliest train of the day that would allow max time to climb Machu Picchu during the morning entrance purchased, we booked the less expensive Peru Rail train with a pricier Vistadome train return all the way back to Cuzco area.
Vistadome Costs More to See More--- Sorta
Per its name, Vistadome trains boast a see-through ceiling that allows for maximum viewing of the gorgeous landscape you see en route to Machu Picchu. This is spectacular scenery and the glass ceiling does allow for awesome views. That said, as these early a.m. train pictures show, the views on the less expensive trains are scarcely compromised.
Peru Rail Trains to Machu Picchu Options
Taking a late afternoon Vistadome Train from Machu Picchu in the low season affords you that max view for an hour or so before the sun sets. What Peru Rail also does on their luxury Vistadome Train is provide you, a captive audience member, a bit of a clown and fashion show diversion, perhaps a unique entertainment genre. After soft drinks and a quinoa pizza, one of the wait staff dons a mask and colorful costume to then dance down the aisles, grabbing women on aisle seats to improvise a partner dance to his beat. This is supposed to be a "typical Andean Saqcra dance from Paucartambo, in honor of Our Lady of Carmel".
Then, the steward and stewardesses don alpaca fashions. On our trip our male model was particularly charming in an awkward Clark Kent kinda way, telegraphing how foreign fashion is to his person while we realize that the very pretty stewardess, now without her glasses, is probably no stranger to fashion show runways. It’s dark, it takes up time, and then the wait staff returns giving you a chance to purchase these seemingly overpriced but comely sweaters, ponchos, etc.
Is this Peruvian culture? Well, now it is. And,if you re-tune your cultural interests to run more millimeters deep than miles deep, it’s a good time.
This writer recommends: 1) Definitely take the train from Ollantaytambo, planning a day or two just in Ollantaytambo to get oriented to Inca architecture before you head to Machu Picchu; 2) Skip the Vistadome train, unless it is discounted less than the usually cheaper Peru Rail options; 3) Don’t worry about having enough time to climb Machu Picchu after the train – any train – arrives. Our train was four hours late, there were on again and off again light rains throughout our Machu Picchu tour, but we still had ample time to cover nearly every corner of the larger mountain; 4) fitness level and calendar permitting, do the four-day hike of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, so the question of train see-through dome or not is irrelevant.
Click here for more Low Season Travel: Peru Tour stories
Read our full Machu Picchu Review review here.
Click here to read more Picture this Post Travel Stories by Amy Munice with Photography by Peter Kachergis