Today we have something a little bit different for our new reader-written feature – ‘My Favourite Hotel’: the Andean Explorer, a luxury overnight train ride in Peru!
We are running this feature to help provide some positivity and inspiration to Head for Points over the coming weeks, and unless there is major news breaking, we hope to run one article per day. There will be a deliberate mix of European and worldwide properties, super luxury and mid market, branded and independent. You can find all of our ‘My Favourite Hotel’ reviews here.
Reader YC asked if the Belmond Andean Explorer from Cusco to Arequipa in Peru could count as his favourite hotel. I loved the idea, so here is YC’s review:
What is the Belmond Andean Explorer?
The Belmond Andean Explorer is a relatively new luxury train that has been operating in the Andean highlands of Peru since 2017. It connects the three cities of Cusco, Puno (Lake Titicaca) and Arequipa and journeys are bookable as one or two nights trips. If you have been watching ‘Race Across The World’ Series 2 on BBC2 then these places will be familiar to you.
[Rob’s edit: I strongly recommend ‘Race Across The World’, both Series 1 and Series 2, if you have never seen it.)
All journeys either start or end in Cusco. This is very convenient as it is the base to explore Machu Picchu, and Cusco itself should also not be missed.
There are three types of rooms on board the Andean Explorer – bunk bed, twin and double rooms.
It is worth highlighting that all of these towns are at a relatively high altitude, and the train goes even higher to over 4300m at its peak. As a result, altitude sickness can be an issue (unfortunately the free flow of alcohol doesn’t cure this) but there is a 24 hour nurse available who can provide oxygen if required.
The price of the train journey is fully inclusive of food, drinks as well as day trips. The only cash you need on board is for tips and if you want to buy souvenirs at one of the several stops.
As expected the rooms on the Andean Explorer were small. Just 3.1m sq to be precise! However, our room was super cosy and the bed very comfortable. The shower was a bit cramped but totally workable. The water pressure was good and there was plenty of hot water.
The only slight issue was that you were asked to throw any used toilet paper into a small bin to avoid plumbing issues – the bins were changed a number of times during the day though.
As the rooms were small, we had to put everything we would need for the journey into a small bag and the rest of our luggage went into the baggage carriage.
The train had a dining room, a piano bar, a spa and, right at the back, an observation deck with another bar. The piano bar had a live musician at various times throughout the day and the observation deck was a great place for taking pictures or to enjoy the scenery.
There was wi-fi available on the train, although this was spotty at times.
The journey and my highlights
I had booked the train ride from Cusco to Arequipa in a double room. Rather than discussing the journey itself (itineraries can be found online), some of my the highlights were:
- Stargazing – The train stopped in the middle of the night when the sky was clear and there were no distracting lights from any cities. This was one of the best viewings I’ve ever had.
- Lake Titicaca – Should be on everyone’s list if visiting Peru. It was really interesting to visit the Uros people and learn about how they live on floating islands made out of reeds.
- Spa treatment on a train – My partner tried a spa treatment that she really enjoyed. She commented that a massage on a moving train was strangely extra soothing.
- Late nights – One evening the guests kept the bar and music going late into the night
Food and drink
The food in general was good, although not outstanding. A variety of red and white wine was served with meals and I’m sure any spirits could also be ordered on demand.
All meals were served in the dining room with tables either seating two or four people. This meant that on some of your meals you were paired up with other guests. I didn’t mind this setup as it allowed for socialising and getting to know other travellers.
If the company was not to your taste, you could always retire to your room after the meal.
There was a wide variety of people on board including families, honeymooners, groups of friends and some social media influencers (of course …..)
Throughout the day, you could get an endless supply of drinks at the bar and I had more than my fair share of pisco sours and chilchanos.
There was no official dress code on board but some guests did dress up in the evenings. You were definitely not out of place if you wore a shirt or polo.
Booking the Andean Explorer
I had booked a package deal for two for around £2750. This included the 2-night train journey and a night at the Belmond Las Casitas (Colca Canyon) at the end of the trip.
To put the price in perspective, a one-way journey on the Hiram Bingham to Machu Picchu costs $550 per person for a 3 hour journey and the Orient Express from London to Venice costs £1750 per person for a 1-night trip. While I have not been on either of these luxury trains, having looked at pictures and reviews the Andean Explorer appears to be relatively good value and superior (although it’s still a very tidy sum)!
How was the Belmond Andean Explorer?
Overall, this is a journey that is worth adding to your bucket list. It takes you to places you actually want to visit, the food is as good as can be given the circumstances, the vibe is not formal and the rooms & carriages are modern and very comfortable. It is a bit expensive but when comparing to other luxury train adventures or other luxury bucket list items like a safari or visiting Antarctica, the costs seem somewhat reasonable.
I should give a shout out to the crew who were amazing with no request out of the way and who managed to address everyone by name. One guest had accidentally dropped their phone while on the observation deck and the train ended up reversing, with a whole team searching for the missing phone until they found it!
The Belmond Andean Explorer website is here if you want to find out more.
We have a special deal if you book!
Emyr Thomas, our luxury hotel booking partner, is a member of Belmond’s Bellini Club. Any bookings made through him come with additional benefits:
- VIP welcome treats with a local twist
- Flexible on board credit for your clients of up to US$100 per person per journey
- Complimentary upgrade based on availability at time of check-in
- For bookings of over US$5,000, you receive a US$500 Belmond gift voucher (this needs to be redeemed against a future stay booked by Emyr)
(Want to earn more hotel points? Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)