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Vistadome Cusco to Aguas Calientes

After leaving Cusco, the luxury Vistadome train climbs quickly out of the imperial city along a series of zig-zagging sections of track, which carry it away from Cusco's historic centre. The train soon reaches El Arco, and is met by the magnificent sight of undulating green uplands unfolding towards the horizon, where they meet on a clear day with the snow capped Vilcabamba Mountains to the northwest.

To the left, just below the horizon, the huge agricultural spaces of Jaquijahuana can be seen, close to the village of Zurite. Sadly, these great expanses are all that remain today of what was once a major Inca city, lost during the initial years after the Spanish Conquest. The train then passes through Huarocondo, where the great plain narrows noticeably as the track enters a deep gorge carved by the rushing Pomatales River, down which the railway also takes its course, until it meets the Urubamba River at Pachar. The railway now follows the river into the Urubamba Gorge. The river here tumbles down between the high walls of teeming vegetation that mark the beginning of the cloud forest beyond Chillca.

As the train begins the last stage of its journey towards Machu Picchu, the 15th century temple complex known as The Fortress can be seen to the right above the earthwork ramp, once used to drag its monolithic blocks up from the valley floor. Emerging from a short tunnel, a series of beautiful agricultural terraces marks the ruins of Qente. In this fertile area fed by a nearby waterfall, giant hummingbirds are a common sight, especially in the early morning, and bright flowers bloom all year round.

A little further on the Inca grain silos of Choquesuysuy may be glimpsed above the river, on the opposite bank to the hydroelectric dam. The train then arrives at Aguas Calientes, just two kilometers from Machu Picchu. Surrounded by the high, green mountains that cradle the famous lost city as well as a myriad of other Inca remains, this small town, which is well-known for its thermal baths, has blossomed into a popular overnight destination for travellers to Machu Picchu, for whom it offers a wide range of reasonably-priced places both to eat and to stay.

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