The Belmond Andean Explorer is the type of train you see in Bond films like Spectre and Casino Royale. The Andean Explorer operates in Peru, travelling between Cusco, Puno and Arequipa. As we were in Puno, checking out Lake Titicaca, I took this as my sign to experience the prestige and luxury of the Andean Explorer firsthand.
Did it live up to expectations? More than ever! Here are five reasons why:
1. The Observation Cart with an outdoor deck
Let’s just say it this way, the mountainous landscape and breathtaking views of Peru were even better as you stood outside, on the deck of a moving train, admiring them. The open deck allowed us to be immersed in the surrounding environment and feel a connection with nature and the scene around us—wind blowing through our hair, an almost 360-degree view and scenery ranging from open fields with llamas grazing to massive mountains with rivers flowing down them to crowded rural villages with bustling marketplaces. It’s crazy how walking a few steps inside and looking out through glass changed things and dulled the excitement of the moment.
2. Our bunk bed cabin (small but luxurious)
Our room was beautifully decorated with a leather sofa, a wall-side table, cupboards and an ensuite bathroom with a shower. The ornate and traditional details of the room were impressive—even the light switches were intricately designed. Other small touches (that made a big difference) included: bathrobes, slippers and black Belmond-branded weekender bags (a gift to us). We had a button in our cabin to call room service. We buzzed for two Pisco sours. While we waited I convinced Arielle to reenact and film a Bond scene from Spectre—the Morocco “Desert Express” train scene—where Bond and Madeleine dine and drink dirty martinis (no fight scene took place after). (*Video coming soon*). Sitting on our leather couch, drinking the Peruvian version of dirty martinis, Pisco Sours (in the country where Pisco is made), watching the landscape go by and filming skits was a carefree moment that I’d like to relive!
3. The Journey’s Itinerary
Here’s a preview of the train’s itinerary:
From the moment we checked in to the moment we departed, everything was incredibly seamless and smooth. One highlight of the itinerary was the events leading up to dinner. Around 6pm the sun set and night came down around us. The trained snaked through the darkness of the mountains and stopped at La Raya pass, the highest spot between Cuzco and Lake Titicaca. We went outside and looked up at the stars. Interestingly, there was a church located on this pass. We walked inside and admired its ability to exist in such a remote and desolate place. We went back inside where we congregated in the Piano Bar cart for pre-dinner drinks. The onboard musician played the grand piano and we sipped signature cocktails as the train moved through the mountains. At that moment, there was a surreal juxtaposition between the orderly traditions of urban society—happening within the train—set against the untamed backdrop of remote and rugged nature. Cocktail hour was followed by dinner where we were served a first-class three-course meal paired with wine.
4. The premium design of the train
Let’s go through the train cars: Dining cart, Piano Bar cart, Spa & Massage cart, Sleeper Cars (where we slept) and the Observation cart. In each of these carriages, the interior design of the train was impeccable—luxurious, tasteful and up-to-date. The dining cart was a charming restaurant with white table clothes and leather chairs to match any fancy restaurant. The piano bar cart had a grand piano, a sleek bar, refined-looking sofas and armchairs and an overall polished aesthetic. The spa cart had relaxing rooms with massage tables. In the sleeper cars were Bunk Bed, Twin Bed and Suite cabins available. As mentioned, our bunk bed cabin was incredible (see point #2). The last car was the Observation cart with an indoor section equipped with another sleek bar and lounge area and the outdoor observation deck.
5. Passing through rural villages of Peru
When I imagined what the train ride across Peru would be like, I definitely envisioned spectacular landscapes. But I did not consider the countless rural town along the way. Training through these villages was a little unusual. In many cases, the train tracks went directly through the town (not around or beside). There were no platforms or barriers to distinguish the designated space for the train versus the space for other things. Markets would be set up directly on the train tracks and when the train approached, the villagers would take down their signs and market stalls and move their goods out of the way. From the Observation deck, we would watch these villagers put everything back.
We filmed a YouTube Short which shows a few hilarious and unusual things: (1) The market stalls being set up right beside the tracks and sometimes across them. (2) A market vendor selling fruit has just left his/her piles of fruit on the tracks because the train will just glide over them (remind me not to buy fruit from this vendor). (3) Vendors rushing to put back their awnings and umbrellas and resume their daily selling. (4) Traffic resuming including people, trucks, motorcycles and the iconic three-wheeled “mototaxis” of Peru. (5) I hate to say it, but there is some gross-looking road kill on those tracks.
Overall, the Belmond Andean Explorer was a train journey of a lifetime! Aspects of this journey—ranging from the seamless itinerary to the premium design to the breathtaking views—changed how I think about travel. I highly recommend the Andean Explorer to those visiting Peru.
Here are some resources if you want to check it out yourself:
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Phone: +51 1 625 4848
Trip Journeys (Nov 2022 Update):
Itinerary (Spirit of the Andes):