A train from Lima to Cusco would be a marvelous thing.
You can just imagine it: A modern train station connected to the Lima Metropolitano, with comfortable trains taking passengers from the coastal capital up over the Andes, following the route of the existing Lima to Huancayo line, one of the highest train routes in the world. Then dipping down through the mountains, perhaps following the Lima to Cusco road that runs via Ayacucho and Abancay, before forging further eastwards onto Cusco and connecting with the track to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu.
It would be a marvelous thing indeed. But, sadly, no such thing exists.
Having spent the last few years knee deep in Peru-related search terms and web statistics, I know that a fair amount of people look online for information about trains from Lima to Cusco. And for people who’ve never been to Peru before, that’s a perfectly reasonable query, like searching for info about trains from London to Edinburgh.
Peru, however, is fairly devoid of trains, which may seem strange for people used to hopping around Europe, Japan or the USA (Amtrak, anyone?) using a rail pass. There are some train lines in Peru, but they are few and far between.
The good news for hardcore rail buffs, railway enthusiasts, trainspotters, anoraks, foamers, or whatever you guys are called today, is that you can certainly fit some train action into your trip from Lima to Cusco, or at least once you get to Cusco.
If you wait until you arrive in Cusco, then you can hop on one of the PeruRail trains to Aguas Calientes on your way to Machu Picchu. It’s a nice ride, and a quick fix for train withdrawal.
If you don’t mind taking a massive detour, then you could travel by bus from Lima to Puno (or fly to nearby Juliaca) and then take the train from Puno to Cusco. It’s not cheap, but it’s supposed to be a stunning journey.
And if you’re feeling adventurous, try this: Take the Ferrocarril Central Andino from Lima to Huancayo, from where you can travel by bus (or buses, more likely) to Cusco via Ayacucho, Andahuaylas and Abancay. Remember, the emphasis here is on adventure. Oh, and the Ferrocarril Central Andino train only leaves once a month at certain times of the year – and the journey lasts about 14 hours – so you’ll need a bit of advanced planning.
So there you have it: No direct trains from Lima to Cusco, but a few options to help keep your train-based urges at bay while traveling in Peru.