One of the Highest Train Routes in the World
The Andean Explorer train was one of the highlights of our recent travels in Peru. This 1920’s Pullman train travels along one of the highest train routes in the world. Voted as one of the top 25 trains in the world by the Society of International Railway Travelers. This trip passes through some of the most breathtaking landscapes and typical Peruvian cities on the way from Puno (Lake Titicaca) to Cusco.
When we arrived at the station, we were greeted by the On Board Service Supervisor himself. In case you are worried, he spoke fluent English and Spanish. A waiter offered us coffee or tea served on fine china while Andean music played in the background.
When it was time to board the train, our personal attendant ushered us to our seats in a beautiful paneled wall car. Our steward introduced himself and made sure to show us where the electrical outlet was and described the gourmet lunch we would enjoy. He took our hot beverage order and quickly returned with it so that we could savor it as we settled into our home for the next ten and a half hours. Our comfortable plush armchair style seats with lumbar pillows faced our private table with a white linen tablecloth, flower arrangement, and a small table lamp. A spacious restroom accompanied each car.
In the rear of the train, there is a partial open-air observatory car, where we were able to take in the majestic views while enjoying Peruvian highland music. Words cannot describe some of the Andean landscapes we passed. Just in front of the observation car, there was a full-service bar car. Have a cocktail while enjoying the beautiful scenery outside.
Departing on the Andean Explorer
As the train departed the station, it ran along the bank of Lake Titicaca which is the highest navigable lake in the world. As the day progressed, we crossed through deep valleys and high mountains that included some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. When we approached cities on the route, the on board Andean music was interrupted to give us a description of the type of city we were passing through. One of the reasons to visit Peru is to take in the breathtaking landscapes.
The first city we reached was Juliaca. Known as the “knitting city” Juliaca is a major center for sweater and handicraft production. It is also home to the biggest market in the area which is located literally on top of the train tracks. This market is amazing! As the Andean Explorer crossed through Juliaca, in mere seconds the stalls were removed from the tracks. The vendors, at times, were inches away from the train. As we looked out the window, our eyes took in the beautiful colors of the handicrafts, herbs, and foods in their stalls. And as soon as the train passed, vendors quickly replace their umbrella stalls and items for sale back on the tracks.
Traveling on the Andean Explored felt like being in a five-star hotel. First came a delectable 3-course lunch with wine. The meal began with artisanal bread, followed by a salad and then a choice of two entrees. A decadent dessert completed the meal.
To make the time pass quickly, Peru Rail provides some entertainment. First up on our train was a class on how to make Pisco Sours, the typical Peruvian cocktail. Before the start of the class, they gave everyone a different Peruvian drink made with Pisco. Then the bartender provided us with detailed instructions on how to make the classic Peruvian drink, Pisco Sour. After the instructions, a selected passenger came up and made a drink themselves.
Later in the day, they had a three piece band and a female Peruvian dancer perform for us. They played both pop music and classic Andean songs. A fashion show was the last event of the day. They featured high-end alpaca and vinca clothing made only for sale on Peru Rail. They modeled both ladies and gentlemen’s clothing. Too bad I have an animal hair allergy!
We reached the highest elevation of this trip, 14,213 feet just before we arrived in the town of La Raya. The trained stopped for about 15 minutes in La Raya, and we were able to get off the train to stretch our legs. The weather was blustery, but none the less, the locals came out to sell their crafts. I even got a picture with a local and her alpaca.
We returned to the train, and they served us afternoon tea which included delectable sandwiches, and mini cakes. The tea was a homemade Andean herbal tea.
As we neared Cusco, the sun was beginning to set. We decided to ride the rest of the trip in the observation car. We stood at the back in the open-air section. Every so often we passed small children, and they eagerly waved saying “hola”. When we replied hola their faces lit up. It was a marvelous way to see people going about their daily lives as we watched the tracks fade into the darkness. The supervisor then came back to let us know that we were pulling into the station in 10 minutes. The 10 ½ hour train ride went by so fast. I think mostly because the entire trip was so engaging.
If you are planning to vacation in Peru, I highly recommend a visit to Cusco and Puno. And the best way to get between the two cities is on the Andean Explorer. Have you ever ridden the Andean Explorer? We would love to hear about your experience; please share.
UPDATE: Since our trip on the Andean Explorer, the train has been upgraded to include sleeper cards and the trip is now a 2 night one with some great stops.
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