Trains have a distinctive charm—yes, even your regular Amtrak trains. But today, we’ll be delving into three shinier and glossier journeys serving less of a practical purpose and more of an experiential one.
These train routes traverse the scenic Peruvian landscapes and boast awe-inducing views both outside and inside the carriages. What’s more, publications like CondeNast Traveler and Architectural Digest have listed two of these among the best in the world. Let’s dive into the best luxury trains in Peru, all of which conveniently depart from Cusco —so no need to change the itinerary.
This two-night, three-day train route has snatched one of the spots at CondeNast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards for the last couple of years. Yet it doesn’t voyage through the verdant landscapes encircling Machu Picchu. Instead, it serpentines along the ethereal Andean plateaus and white-blanketed peaks of the Cordillera.
If you’ve been on a Belmond Train before, then you know what to expect: Decor reminiscent of the early twentieth century. Art deco, Art Nouveau, and a dash of Beaux-Arts congregate in the interiors. The suites (with well-appointed private bathrooms, shower and all), the two dining cars, the bar cars, and the observatory deck all are relished in muted hues, warm leathers, and artisanal woodwork.
The journey commences in Cusco, from the quaint nineteen-hundred Wanchaq Train Station, towards Lake Titicaca, the largest in South America. The sapphire waters of Titicaca are, without hesitation, the view to be carved more deeply into your brains— and The Andean Explorer deliberately stops at its serene banks before sunrise to indulge the passengers on board. The boundless-looking lake has bewitched humanity since ancient times. Even the first Incas are said to have emerged from these waters.
Our advice: Take this train after your stay in Cusco to let your body acclimate to the elevation—which on this trip can get up to 3900 meters (12 800 feet). You don’t want altitude sickness diverging you from all of the fun.
When we say this is a short trip, we mean it. The ride on board lasts around three hours. And it departs, too, from the Wanchaq Train Station in Cusco to later descend into the lush Amazon mountains encircling Machu Picchu. The beauty of the trip resides in the sudden and apparent contrast between the landscapes of the erstwhile Inca capital and the ones near the famed ancient citadel. The steppes and arid mountains turn into green-blanketed steep slopes in the blink of an eye.
As for the happenings within this train to Machu Picchu, we can assert that gastronomy shows up and shows out! Here, fine dining takes the best recipes from Peruvian cuisine —which since the 2010s has been climbing into the global culinary ether— to gift our taste buds with newer and delicious flavors. Coral-fleshed fish, exotic Amazonian fruits, giant Sacred Valley corn, and pink salt from the alluring Inca salt mines (Maras, if you’re interested in further googling) meet over the table.
Pisco sour —the flagship Peruvian drink, made with Pisco (a sort of brandy), whipped eggs, cinnamon, lime, and sugar— is ever-flowing. Full disclosure: These foamy drinks might seem, at first, like refreshing tamed sips, but take more than three, and you’ll be feeling fuzzy. And if you’re planning on visiting the stair-filled citadel that very day, then you might be asking for a scratch or two.
The interiors of the Pullman-style cars gather inspiration from the early twentieth century. Gleaming wood, fine patterned fabrics, antique fittings, and golden orbs embellish this luxury train. This is the best way to get to Machu Picchu by train, no questions about it. And to corroborate, CondeNast Traveler readers have laureled this route as the twelfth best train in the world.
Perhaps we’re being too kind by inserting “budget” onto the title, but it certainly is less expensive than the startling Belmond ones. Still, there is nothing to disdain about the carriages of this train —and only praise for the environs over which the rails serpentine through.
The views, as per the other routes, are incomparable. There is something magical about the never-ending cords of mountains straddling the railway. And the observation car seizes on it all: Picturesque Andean landscapes with snow-capped peaks in the background.
These railways run from Cusco —from, once more, Wanchaq Station— to Puno, a historic town at the banks of Lake Titicaca. Puno acts as an exploration hub for the surroundings: the Uros Island inhabited by indigenous communities, the tranquil blue lake, and the ruins left behind by the Incas and their predecessors, the Tiwanaku civilization.
With a three-course meal —again, with the best of Peruvian cuisine— on the dining carriage, Pisco sours endlessly out of the bar, three-sixty sublime views, and traditional dances and music; this trip will enamor you. Definitely a steal for what you get.
And there you have it, the three must take trains in Peru. If you’re looking for these and other dashing experiences for your next trip to Peru, look no further than Terra Explorer. Contact our team of luxury travel experts to design that dreamed vacation.
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