Tambo Cañahuas railway station is about a two hours drive from Colca Canyon on a long and winding road reaching up to 4,800 metres. On arrival the cobblestone platform and remote location sets the tone before you board the 48 berth Belmond Andean Explorer.
The journey to Cusco takes place on the fourth highest rail track in the world, taking three days to travel 700 km through the Altiplano and the high Andes.
The 16 ivory and blue carriages have 24 cabins with en-suite shower rooms, 2 bars, 2 dining cars and gourmet kitchen. A spa carriage will be arriving in the not too distant future.
The train comes from Australia, where it was built in the early 1990s and was then shipped by the owners, the London- based Belmond previously known as Orient-Express, to Peru in 2016. It took three months and cost $700,000. It was then refurbished and launched as the Andean Explorer. Many original details remain such as the brass luggage racks and door handles, wood panelling and embossed ceilings. The décor has been updated and Peruvian influences of colour have been added.
The journey starts with pisco sours and piano music in the bar and there is also an observation car at the back for those who like to see the mechanics get started. You are then shown to your cabin, of which there are 4 grades, the most expensive having double beds, leather armchairs and porcelain in the shower rooms. Lower grades still have 2 beds although one turns into a sofa by day. The least expensive have bunk beds. As altitude can affect anyone, each cabin has an oxygen mask and cylinder but it is best to try and acclimatise for at least a day before embarkation.
The food on board was devised by one of Peru’s most famous chefs, Diego Munoz, and the table settings match such quality. The scenery is breathtaking and varied from alpaca terraces to snow capped tops and mountain villages with brightly dressed women and their bowler hats. While going through Juliaca you pass so close to the town you can almost touch the market produce as you go by.
Next you get to Puno where you pull in beside the shores of Lake Titicaca and this is where the border meets Bolivia and where both navies scour the waters looking for contraband. From there you set off on the last leg to the beautiful Incan capital, Cusco.
Tourism is growing fast in Peru and is now their third largest industry with over 3.7 million overseas visitors last year. Around 69,000 were from the UK, undoubtedly more due to the new direct flight to Lima. They hope to see these numbers keep on rising in the future and given all the wonderful things there are to see and do in Peru this seems entirely possible.
Two nights on the Andean Explorer from Arequipa to Cusco plus an excursion on Lake Titicaca starts from $4.465 per person. Have a look at Historic Haciendas for wonderful places to stay in Arequipa, Cusco and other places including Lima.
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