Acquired two years ago by the Carlyle Group, Inca Rail in Peru has rebranded as Machu Picchu Trains by Inca Rail and significantly upgraded its product offering.
With a $10 million investment from Carlyle, the company has refurbished its cars, enhanced the onboard experience, ratcheted up the amenities, added a 360-degree panoramic-view observation deck with an outdoor terrace, and offers a private charter service.
“The idea is now to deliver the customers more experience,” said Maritza Montero, director of sales and marketing for Inca Rail. “It’s all about the experience because all the travelers who go to Machu Picchu are really excited about seeing the ruins at the Citadel, so we want to take them in a different way to experience this wonderful trip. We researched for the last year to find new ways to fulfill the needs of the customers and what we can do to make this journey more awesome.”
The company expanded its first-class offering from 30 seats to 60 seats, adding a second 30-seat car, and adding an observatory lounge car between the two cars.
“The observatory lounge is fantastic,” said Montero, “because after lunch, we invite the customers to experience some live music, drinks and enjoy the trip in a different way.”
Montero said the 360-degree observatory lounge is unique in the market, “not only because we have more panoramic windows, but it is the only train with an open terrace. It’s wonderful because since we want to deliver as full an experience as possible, this is the way the customer can experience the journey with the five senses, to see, to smell, to hear and to feel more of the journey. There are no windows so you can take pictures.”
As to the fifth sense, taste, Inca Rail also has that covered. “We have the flavors because all the food is from the Andes,” said Montero, “so they can taste the food products of the Sacred Valley."
Inca Rail also upgraded the technology on the train to accommodate the needs of today’s wired travelers.
“It’s also the first train that offers state-of-the-art technology,” said Montero, “with a USB port for ISP to charge phones and iPads if you want to take pictures and don’t have batteries.
“It’s also the only train that has an entertainment system that lets passengers follow the trip with their phones. They can see where the train is going. There are many things to see along the way. They can hear the narration in different languages and find out what is outside, the Incan ruins or the Urubamba River. There is also music and video from the Andes. So, it’s a unique train.”
New class of service
The company now offers four classes of service: private, first class, 360 Degree and the standard Voyager service.
“For the top luxury class, we offer a private service on a chartered basis,” said Montero. “It’s unique in market. You can charter the whole car and it’s at your disposal. You travel with a chef, staff and butler service. It includes upscale dining with a five-course meal, whisky, live music, a lounge and a bar. It’s for one to 10 people. It could be couples, families or friends. You charter the service and it’s completely private, the only private charter in the market.”
The train's dining car.
Passengers can catch the train from Cuzco or Ollantaytambo. From Cuzco, the train leaves from Poroy Station, about a 20-minute drive from downtown Cuzco. The trip to Machu Picchu is about three hours.
From Ollantaytambo, passengers catch the train near the site itself and the trip takes about an hour and a half.
The final leg
The train drops passengers off at the Machu Pichu Pueblo Hotel, formerly known as Aguas Caliente, at the foot of the final climb to the Citadel. The final leg of the trip is taken by bus. With its new, upgraded service, Inca Rail is including a private bus for the final climb.
The Peruvian government implemented some restrictions, last July, to help prevent degradation of the Machu Picchu site from nearly 4,000 people walking over it every day. Under the new rules, there are two shifts for visitation: in the morning between 6 a.m. and noon, or from noon to 5:30 p.m. In addition, the authorities mandated that visitors have to be accompanied by a licensed tour guide so they know where to walk without damaging the site.
“This bus is a half-hour ride,” said Montero. “We do this because, since the government implemented two shifts, the lines are really heavy. So, we don’t want the experience to be completed until the customers are at the ruins.”
The train features an outdoor balcony.