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View from Vistadome train, Urubamba river

The third day of our Peru trip was thrilling. We were booked on the Vistadome train from Urubamba to Aguas Calientes, which is the launching place for Macchu Picchu buses. These trains are run by Perurail and offer three separate options for departure: Poroy in Cusco, and Urubamba and Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley.

We chose to start our journey at Urubamba since it was closer to our lodge than the Ollantaytambo station. The Urubamba station is unique in that it is located inside the Tambo del Inka hotel. We took a taxi that morning to the hotel gates and had to show our tickets before the staff at the gates would let us in. We then followed the signs to the station and were the first ones to get there.

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Our Vistadome train at the Urubamba station

Our tickets were booked online through Perurail and we were sent receipts of the e-payments and the actual tickets that we printed and carried with us. The process was rather simple. We booked the 6:50 am train to Aguas Calientes which would reach our destination around 9:25 am. And for the return journey, we booked the 13:37 service reaching Ollantaytambo station around 15:45. We carried a small hand luggage with us.

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Inside the Vistadome train

The train itself was very interesting with wide windows on the sides and above offering panoramic views. We were allotted two sets of two seats facing each other with a little table in between. Small snacks and drinks were served on the journey to Aguas Calientes. On the return trip the following day, we were entertained with a fashion show with traditional clothing made from Alpaca wool. Missy JJ was chosen to be one of the models along with some of the train staff members. She had a fun time modeling with them.

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View from the train, en route to Ollantaytambo station
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Peruvian local, Ollantaytambo station

The train, the service and the excellent scenery did not disappoint. We were thrilled to see verdant rolling countryside, rushing river waters and tall snow-capped mountains. The views were as exciting as the upcoming trip to Macchu Picchu.

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View from the Vistadome train
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View from the Vistadome train
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View from the Vistadome train

Aguas Calientes is a small town that acts as a base for Macchu Picchu visitors. Besides providing overnight accommodations for the tourists, it also boasts of thermal springs, as its name suggests. Now there is a lot of debate, based on whom you ask or what you read, as to whether the springs are worth a visit. Personally, we did not make the 15 minute or so walk from our hotel to the springs, as it rained often while we were there. But Chris, our lodge owner felt that we should have made the trip.

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Aguas Calientes main thoroughfare

Our hotel for the night was at the Ecopackers hotel. I liked that they were ecologically friendly, had easy access to the train station and of course, their prices. Once in Aguas Calientes, we also discovered their easy access to the bus station. We had one room with four bunk beds and a private bathroom. Breakfast was included in our price. Our room had a great view of the old train tracks and a look into the daily routine of the locals. And a fantastic view of the Putacusi mountains. As the rain progressed, we could see the fog roll in and obscure our view of the mountains.

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Aguas Calientes

The room was small and had just enough space for the four beds. This I did not mind. What I did not like was the musty smell that assailed our noses as we walked into the room and lasted the entire stay. Also, the drain in the shower did not work properly and we had to stand in swirling water as we showered. Not a clean feeling, but manageable for a night’s stay.

After depositing our luggage at the hotel, we walked the main thoroughfare of the town looking for suitable eateries. Most had little to no vegetarian options. It was then we came across a young lady named Silu who offered us her guide services for the next day. She asked for $100 and asked us to meet her outside the hotel at 5:15 am the following day. She insisted we take the first possible buses (starting at 5:30 am) out of Aguas Calientes to Macchu Picchu so we can enjoy some peace and quiet before the tourist buses reached. After a little debate we hired her, and decided to follow her recommendations.

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Putacusi mountain, Aguas Calientes

After a bit of searching, we came across Toto’s House which had a nice location on the banks of the Urubamba river. The staff was able to make some vegetarian dishes for us, simple though they were.

We returned to the room as the rains started and spent some time people-watching from our room. The street became very lively and active every time a train rolled into town. In the evening, we walked up the cobblestone streets of the little town and then returned to the main plaza. The streets were a bit slippery from the rain. We watched kids play in the plaza as dusk settled around us and ate dinner at the Cafe con Pisco in the plaza. Sonny JJ and Missy JJ really enjoyed the crepes here.

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Local train tracks, Aguas Calientes

As night settled in, we slowly walked back to the hotel and turned in early for the night. We had an important day of sightseeing ahead of us and a very early morning start.