After I had the most amazing experience, traveling with the Belmond Royal Scotsman through Scotland over a year ago, I always wanted to travel more often by train. So after we heard about the Belmond Andean Explorer for the first time, it was my biggest wish to take the train ride through Peru. So this year, for my 30th birthday I made this wish come true!
There are different destinations where you can start and end your trip with the Belmond Andean Explorer. You can travel for two nights or for one night starting either in Cusco or in Arequipa. We had decided to take the route from Arequipa to Puno ending in Cusco. So in total we had two amazing nights on the train.
The beautiful Belmond Andean Explorer has capacity for 70 guests, so it is a bit longer than the Royal Scotsman, which had space for 35 guests. Each carriage at the Belmond Andean Explorer has a different name, like “Coca, Tara”, “Yareta” – which are names that are connected to Peruvian plants and spices. It is a very nice idea, but also it helps you to find your room easier, especially after a few Pisco Sours. There are two beautiful dining cars, where you can have your own private table or join other guests and mingle with them.
At the Piano Bar, they mix the best Pisco Sours and one can enjoy the live music by their pianist. However, my all-time favorite carriage is the Observatory Car with its outside platform. It’s not only absolutely beautiful designed, it also gives you the best overview.
So how does it start? In the evening we had to meet at the train station Baroque City Arequipa where the Belmond Group has a meeting point in the station. First I was a bit worried about waiting at a train station in the dark in Peru, however, the Belmond Group offers a beautiful room in the station, where they had Peruvian live music playing, which already set the perfect mood. While sitting and listening to the beautiful music, we got served delicious appetizers and drinks. While we were relaxing the crew checked us in and took care of our luggage. As a birthday present they upgraded me and my husband to one of their beautiful suites. I was so excited, since I already knew all about the interior and rooms of their train, so I knew what was awaiting us.
At exactly 8 pm we boarded the train. We were all invited to come to the Piano Bar to be welcomed by the crew and to be escorted to our rooms. With a champagne glass in my hand and a big smile on my face we went to our beautiful suite. After already knowing to not bring to much luggage on a train we unpacked quite quickly to then enjoy our first dinner, while driving from 2300 mts to 3800 mts. Some people needed oxygen masks while driving up the high altitude but I think as long as you move slowly and breath calmly and stay hydrated, it’s all good.
The first night we were not stopping, but driving through from Arequipa to Puno. We got the advice from one of the organizers to wake up at 4.30 am to watch the sunrise, while we were driving. So that’s what we did! In the early morning we went to the back of the train to the Observatory Car where the train has a beautiful outside platform with a small sitting area where you can enjoy the view. Best advice ever was to start my 30th birthday, sitting on the back of the train watching the sunrise over the stunning Peruvian landscape is an image I will never forget. Happy Birthday to me.
Enjoying the fluffiest pancakes for breakfast, we were slowly arriving in Puno at the famous Titicaca Lake. We all got ready to head up to the harbor to get on one of the boats to drive to the “Floating Islands”. Our Belmond tour guide who picked us up at the train was absolutely fantastic. He gave us a great introduction to the history of the Titicaca Lake and made us feel super comfortable asking as many questions as we could think about.
After a 30 minute boat ride we arrived at the Floating Islands. WOW! There are over 150 islands floating around the Titicaca Lake. The islands are entirely made out of straw based on floating mud blocks. It takes them almost one year to build one Island were not more then eight families can live on.
We arrived at one island, where we got an introduction of how the islands are build and how the people life on them. Afterwards we were divided into groups to visit the family homes where we were encouraged to try on the traditional dresses. I thought I could pull it off but after I have seen the photos of myself I realized only locals look good in the colorful dresses.
Afterwards we continued with the boat one hour towards the Taquile Island where a very delicious lunch awaited us in a local home. While eating we enjoyed a great view on the horizon with a view on Bolivia. Afterwards the locals performed a traditional dance for us with life music. I loved it! Then we had time to explore the island or just relax at the beach to enjoy the sun and the breeze from the Titicaca Lake.
When we arrived back in Puno on the main land, the team from the Belmond Andean Explorer already waited for us at the station with a delicious afternoon tea and cakes. When we were all back on board the train continued direction to Marangani where we stayed the night. While driving through the beautiful landscape of Peru and the sun was setting, we were enjoying one of my new favorite drinks Pisco Sour. It was a beautiful drive to end a perfect birthday.
We stopped the night to get a good night sleep and the next morning we woke up in a super cute town surrounded by Llamas and Sheeps. It was great! While breakfast we drove to Raqchi to visit one of the most famous Inca ruins beside the Machu Picchu. When we arrived the Belmond had organized two tour guides for English and Spanish. When we arrived with a bus at the Inca archeological site also known as Temple of Wiracocha. I was impressed by the beauty and size.
After a super interesting tour looking at the ruins of Raqchi we had time to do some shopping at the local market. There you could buy beautiful handmade rugs and many other nice things.
Back in the train we drove another 100 km towards Cusco. It was one of the most beautiful drives through the countryside of Peru. Passing rivers and farmers who were waving at us is a memory I will never forget. It was an absolute stunning drive to end our journey.
Photos by Belmond Andean Explorer and Helena Schoeller