Belmond Andean Explorer
Panoramic Views & Impeccable Service on a Journey Through the Andes
After setting off mid-day, the Belmond Andean Explorer cruised past villages, moody mountain peaks and raging rivers to a height of 4,300 meters in the Andes mountains. It was easy to feel at one with the elements while traveling on South America’s first luxury sleeper train on a journey to discover the Spirit of the Andes.
One of three routes on offer, this particular journey of a little less than a day started in the Peruvian town of Puno on the banks of Lake Titicaca, and wound its way through the highlands to the ancient Incan capital of Cusco.
The luxury train hit the tracks in 2017, and its interiors, from the dining cars, to the piano lounge and observation deck, were designed by London-based interiors firm, Muza Lab.
The designers paid careful attention to detail, incorporating whimsical items like vintage suitcases and local craftwork, such as Peruvian textiles while leaving some of the original train’s details, such as intricate brass door handles and towel racks, harkening back to the golden age of train travel.
Yet the designers took great care to ditch the paisley and dark velvet ala Murder on the Orient Express and give the interiors a decidedly contemporary feel with timber walls painted in muted shades of linen. I appreciated the local touches: the train’s observation car was stylishly decorated with colorful pillows in hand-woven alpaca wool, and floral arrangements of flowers native to the region, for example.
While the nine suite cabins felt spacious at 13 square meters, the petite size of the 7.4-meter twin bed cabins meters did not detract from the luxurious experience. Each room had a bathroom, a comfortable leather couch decorated with black and white textile pillows woven with Peru’s unique methods.
The professional staff, which had their hands full providing first-class comfort to the train’s 70 guests, folded the sofa into a bed for a comfortable night’s sleep as dusk settled, and left behind a small hand-painted ceramic bull – a figure typical from the region – as keepsake from the journey.
At such high altitude, one is practically inside the rapidly changing weather.
By 4 pm, rain was falling over the golden fields like a veil, while lighting illuminated dark mountainside. I had been standing on the observation deck snapping photos and was beyond chilly, yet found it difficult to pull myself away from being engulfed in the elements. Eventually, I forced myself into the observation car to observe from the window and warm up with a manzanilla tea.
Night had begun to fall as the train stopped at 4,300 meters during the passage through the La Raya mountain range. The moody weather had shifted yet again; it was snowing as we entered a small chapel. Candles provided just enough light to glimpse at a golden altar. Then we were back on the train for a mug of warm almond milk with rum before dinner in the dining cars.
The service was impeccable, particularly during mealtimes. In a dining car decorated with artwork by local artists, staff served three courses, including thoughtful dishes such as duck ravioli with sweet potatoes, nuts and kaniwa, a local grain only found in the region. I also appreciated the activities offered throughout the journey, such as a bartending class on how to make the local cocktail of choice, a pisco sour, or a cooking class on how to prepare a Peruvian salad with one of the train’s chefs.
When the train rolled into the lush green landscapes around Cusco, my heart sank with the realization that the trip was coming to an end. This was the kind of once-in-a-lifetime journey I wouldn’t mind taking again.
BELMOND ANDEAN EXPLORER
Specific journey: Puno – Cusco, 1 night
Images courtesy: Belmond Andean Explorer
Words: Sarah Hucal
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