Peruvian Altiplano, height 4150 m. Time – 6.30 am. Leaning on the openwork railing and wrapped in a young alpaca wool shawl, you are standing with a cup of coffee on the observation platform of the most beautiful train in the world.
Around – the expanse of scorched plateau, sun-drenched hills and the expanse of the lake with tiny brown islands. The Belmond Andean Explorer, South America’s first luxury overnight train, will arrive at its terminus today. It’s probably too early to sum up, but the idea that this 3-day trip was the best in your life does not let you go.
In 2016, the train, formerly known as the “Great South Pacific Express”, was transported from Australia to Peru and completely renovated: the cabin configuration was changed, the capacity was almost halved, and the design was updated.
“Colors and textures in the design are inspired by Peruvian nature and culture – soft alpaca beige, gray traditional roofs, woven patterns and local crafts. I wanted to connect the interior with the surrounding area so that nothing would disturb the integrity of the journey,” says Inge Moore, train designer from the London-based design firm MUZA Lab.
The same goal – to create a holistic authentic experience – was pursued by renowned Peruvian chef Diego Muñez when he designed the menu on board the train. Traditional dishes of the Peruvian Andes in the author’s interpretation of Diego, prepared with fresh ingredients from local farmers, will not leave indifferent even the most demanding.
Tortellini with alpaca meat, tender duck breast with beetroot sauce, locuma ice cream (Peruvian fruit with a nutty flavor), poured with hot chocolate – your inner gourmet will definitely rejoice.
And the famous Peruvian pisco sour or the classic mojito prepared in the bar on board is sure to be the best you’ve ever tasted.
5* hotel on railway tracks
The blue-and-white handsome Belmond is nothing less than a real 5* hotel on railroad tracks.
On board are two restaurants, two bars, a chic observation deck in the tail and 24 cabins with a total capacity of 48 people. And it does not matter – 48 passengers on board or just 10 – there are always 50 crew members at the service of guests – this ratio is found only on the most prestigious cruise ships.
Each train cabin – from the simplest bunk bed with an area of 5.5 square meters. m to deluxe double bed from 13 sq.m. is a miniature hotel room with an exquisite design, a luxurious bathroom with a sink and shower, full beds, a wardrobe, a table, a lamp and even oxygen tanks in case of mountain sickness.
The “rooms” here are cleaned daily, towels and toiletries are changed, and the bed is beautifully spread out while you dine. And so that you don’t worry about anything at all – all dishes in the restaurant, all drinks in the bar, all excursions on the shore, all entrance fees – absolutely everything is included in the price.
It’s all about the details
You have arrived at the train station in Cusco. Smiling crew members greet you as the dearest guest, helpfully pick up your suitcase, offer you a refreshing cocktail and see you off to watch the performance of the dance ensemble.
So you come on board and a man in a suit, smiling sincerely, hands you a glass of good sparkling wine. You look around and notice how cohesive and beautiful everything around looks – from the textiles on the pillows and window framing to the perfectly ironed jacket of the bartender behind the bar. And when the train moves off, beautiful music turns on and the crew members remaining on the platform wave to you, you finally come to the conclusion that it’s all about the details.
Every small nice little thing – whether it’s welcome desserts on the table in your cabin, or blankets and hot coffee on a cold morning on Lake Titicaca, or a luxurious leather travel bag as a gift from Belmond – will be an additional plus to the indisputable five with a plus.
Immersion in Peru
If you think you can get bored while drinking a pisco sour on the observation deck, you are very wrong: you will do anything but not get bored.
For example, explore the archaeological complex of the ancient Incas in Rakchi; meet the sunset with a view of the snow-capped mountains at the La Raya pass; sail across Lake Titicaca on a traditional straw boat; walk around the floating man-made islands with its inhabitants from the Uro people; meet the natives of Takili Island; participate in the ritual of worshiping coca leaves; find the llama among the rock paintings in the primeval cave.
And even on board while on the move, you will never be bored. You are more likely to lose track of time watching the ever-changing landscapes outside your window, looking out for vicunas and guanacos running past and admiring the colorful images of Peruvian villages.
The Belmond Andean Explorer is the epitome of a “dream trip”, elegant, thoughtful and tasteful. And leaving a very pleasant aftertaste.