With limited time, we had to forego hiking the Inca trail to get to Machu Picchu. The alternative? Taking the train down the Urubamba river valley.
The ride from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes, at the base of the mountain crowned by the ruined Inca citadel, has got to be one of the most scenic train trips anywhere. You start at a frosty 12,000 feet, dropping almost 6,000 feet by the time you arrive at the end of the line a few hours later, chugging past terraced farms and mountain fortresses.
Bromeliads and orchids along this tributary of the Amazon let you know: you have arrived in the jungle. Perched above, at about 8000 feet, is Machu Picchu.