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PeruRail diesel locomotive 487.jpg
PeruRail train at Aguas Calientes
Locale Peru
Predecessor Ferrocarril del Sur (ENAFER)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) (eastern)
3 ft (914 mm) (western)

PeruRail is a railway operator working tourist, freight, and charter services in southern Peru. It was founded in 1999 by peruvian entrepreneur Lorenzo Sousa and British company Sea Containers.

The main line between the port of Matarani, Arequipa (the capital of this region is Peru's second largest city), Cusco and Puno on Lake Titicaca was formerly known as the Ferrocarril del Sur (Peru Southern Railway), and was for a time owned and operated by the ENAFER state company. It is the third highest railway in the world after the Qinghai–Tibet Railway to Tibet and the FCCA line from Lima to Huancayo.

From Cusco, PeruRail provides passenger services on the 3 ft (914 mm) gauge Ferrocarril Santa Ana to Aguas Calientes, delivering tourists for Machu Picchu.

It operates in a 50/50 joint venture between Belmond and Peruvian Trains and Railways, owned by Lorenzo Sousa Debarbieri and son Renzo Sousa.[1] Lorenzo Sousa Debarbieri is the chairman of the board of directors of the company.

Route description[edit]

PeruRail's routes are divided into two sections; there are no tracks through Cusco.

The line between Cusco and Machu Picchu is a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge line, while all other the lines are 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge.

The Cusco to Machu Picchu route, Ferrocarril Santa Ana, boasts a series of five switchbacks called locally 'El Zig-Zag', which enable the train to climb up the steep incline out of Cusco, before it can begin its descent to the Sacred Valley of the Incas and then continue down to Machu Picchu. However, this section of the route is currently suspended, and all trains to Machu Picchu leave from Poroy, just outside Cusco, instead.

From Poroy, the narrow-gauge line goes northwest to Ollantaytambo, where the branch from Urubamba joins, then on to Machu Picchu station in Aguas Calientes. Tracks formerly continued into the jungle, but they were destroyed by recent flooding.

The Cusco-Puno tracks, formerly Ferrocarril del Sur, start at Matarani port, go through Arequipa and enter Puno Region, where the line splits in two at Juliaca. The eastern branch goes to Puno; the western branch runs into Cusco.

It is possible to reach Aguas Calientes (the railhead for Machu Picchu) by train; hiking along the train tracks is prohibited. Reaching Agua Calientes is also possible by taking a bus from Cuzco to Santa Maria, then a taxi to La Hydroelectrica, and finally walking for two hours to Agua Calientes. Taking train from Hydroelectrica to Agua Calientes is also possible. Helicopter services have been suspended indefinitely. In addition to the train, visitors can reach Machu Picchu via several inbound hiking trails, including the Classic Trail (four-day trek) from Cusco, but there is no hiking back the other way on the Inca Trail.

Passenger routes[edit]

Cusco to Machu Picchu
Railbus Officials in Aguas Calientes.
Railcar of Perurail clearing the track ahead of a regular passenger train from Cusco to Puno.

As of July 2011, there are five passenger routes:

  • Poroy – Machu Picchu
  • Poroy – Machu Picchu (Hiram Bingham)
  • Ollantaytambo – Machu Picchu
  • Urubamba – Machu Picchu
  • Cusco – Puno

Most trains to Machu Picchu operate from Ollantaytambo; there are three times per day to/from Poroy and one to/from Urubamba.[2]

The following passenger routes are no longer operated:

  • ArequipaJuliaca
  • Cusco – Arequipa (via Juliaca)
  • Cusco – Machu Picchu


On the route from Cusco to Machu Picchu, PeruRail transports the vast majority of visitors and provides several different services.[3]

The Belmond Hiram Bingham Pullman, named after Machu Picchu's American discoverer, Hiram Bingham, is the most expensive service. It departs from Poroy at 9 a.m., later than other departures. Meals, guides, bus service and entrance to the ruins are included.

PeruRail Vistadome car interior

Other services include the Vistadome, provided by refurbished 1965-vintage German Ferrostaal railcars, with at-seat refreshments and large side and overhead windows allowing views of the mountainous terrain, and Expedition trains, which offer basic service in upholstered seats at a lower price. Snacks are sold and space is provided for backpacks, particularly for Inca Trail hikers.

Although not advertised, PeruRail also offers local trains equipped with wooden seats and that are available only to Peruvian nationals for a fraction of the price charged to tourists.

First-class service is also offered on the Andean Explorer train from Cusco to Puno in refurbished coaches that include dining cars and an open-air observation bar car.

From May 2017 a new luxury sleeper train, Belmond Andean Explorer, will operate four new journeys including a two-night, three-day journey between Cusco, Puno and Arequipa.

The interiors of the first-class cars on the Cusco to Lake Titicaca trains were designed by James Park & Associates, the same company who designed the elegant first-class cabins for Singapore Airlines. The actual work, however, was done in Cusco by Cusquenian workers. After the refurbishment was completed, a traditional Andean ceremony, 'Pago a la Tierra' (payment to Mother Earth), was organised to 'bless' the train. A local shaman presided over the ceremony, which involved many traditional rites.

In February 2016, 21 carriages formerly used on the Great South Pacific Express in Australia were purchased.[4]

Cuzco-Lake Titicaca[edit]

PeruRail train from Cuzco to Lake Titicaca stops at La Raya pass

At its highest point, La Raya Pass (14°28′59″S 70°59′20″W / 14.48306°S 70.98889°W / -14.48306; -70.98889 (La Raya)), the altitude is 4,313 m (14,150 ft). The train makes a stop in La Raya pass where there is an exquisite view over all the plains to the snowcapped mountains, and a beautiful old chapel, standing all alone in the middle of the Andean plateau.


PeruRail runs daily freight services between the port of Matarani, the city of Arequipa, and the Andean cities of Juliaca, Puno, and Cuzco. Under PeruRail's administration the tonnage transported increased from 460,000 tons during 1999, 573,000 tons in 2000 to 639,000 tons during 2001.

The main products transported by PeruRail are copper concentrates, fuel, wheat (for Peruvian and Bolivian consumption), coal, cement, soya flour from Bolivia, coffee, beer and non-alcoholic beverages.

Peru Rail transports copper concentrates for the most important mines in Peru, Las Bambas, Cerro Verde and other important mining clients.


The car float Manco Capac operates across Lake Titicaca between PeruRail's railhead at Puno and the port of Guaqui in Bolivia. PeruRail also owns the former ferry SS Ollanta, which was launched on Lake Titicaca in 1931. Ollanta is now refurbished for tourist cruises and PeruRail has leased her out for charter work.

See also[edit]



  • Whetham, Robert D. (2008). Railways of Peru. Volume 2 – The Central and Southern Lines. Bristol: Trackside Publications. ISBN 978-1-900095-37-2. 
  • Daniel Thomas (June–July 2002). "Cuzco to Machu Picchu". Latin Tracks. 9: 16–22. 
  • "Tracks to the Incas". Narrow Gauge World. 98: 34–6. October 2014. 

External links[edit]