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‘My Favourite Hotel’ review: the luxury Belmond Andean Explorer train in Peru

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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.

Belmond Andean Explorer review

My room

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.

Belmond Andean Explorer review

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

Belmond Andean Explorer review

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)!

Belmond Andean Explorer review

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)

You can contact Emyr for more information using the form on this page of Head for Points.

(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.)

Comments (40)

  • Sarah says:

    Love race across the world and hope to do some travelling in South America one day with my husband and teenage daughter, inspired by the series. Didn’t fancy so much the long bus journeys so good to know that there are luxury trains in places!

  • Nicholas Blair says:

    Tony Robinson was on this train in last week’s show. Channel 5 Friday nights I think

    • Andrew says:

      Saw that. Good journey, shame about the presenter. The chap who does “Abandonded Engineering” would have done a better job.

      Wasn’t there a standing joke that one day Victoria Wood, Michael Palin, Chris Tarrant and Michael Portillo would all turn up on the same train? Maybe it did happen for Comic Relief one year?

      Tony’s the new Victoria Wood. Just not as good.

      • Darren says:

        That would be a good top ten of travel presenters, you could add Julia Bradbury, Joanna Lumley, Simon Reeve, Anthony Bourdain etc. and not forgetting Jane Macdonald.

        I think Palin might be my favourite

        • Novice says:

          I don’t know why I just don’t like Julia bradbury and Tony Robinson going on about travel. It just feels forced.

          I reckon in that list Palin and Reeve are the best. McDonald is only good for Cruising.

  • Jordan D says:

    Nicholas beat me to the punch by saying that Tony Robinson took this recently – looked very enjoyable.

    I’ve actually taken (back in 2011) the ‘cheap’ option of the 10hrs Cusco to Puno journey with PeruRail, on a similarly appointed train – although there was only the dining car and lounge/observation car. Was an excellent way to spend the day and to take in some beautiful vistas, with fabulous company (was a group of 8 of us along with other passengers). Loved it and a high point of the trip. Was cheaper back then, but worth every penny.

  • Ron says:

    Love both series of Race across the world! I really want to take part for the next one, but not sure I can take that much time off! I was hoping they would go through Chile, but they didn’t due to unrest. Chile is one if my favourite counties. Definitely go back one day, it’s a bit sad that Latam is leaving OW! When we were there, all our flights was with Latam (LAN back then).

    • Novice says:

      I’ve been Argentina and Uruguay so far in SA. But most countries are on the list. Chile looks amazing but I wanted also to do Easter Island so it got pricey for the time of year I wanted to go so instead ended up in Mauritius that time.

      However when I resume touring I will probably be doing all bucket list stuff before I do other places. So Chile will be one of first places I’ll go.

      • guesswho2000 says:

        Ah don’t, I actually got Easter Island booked finally at the end of last year (for the end of this)…keeping everything crossed I can actually do it.

      • Ron says:

        We did Easter island when we went few years back, we were lucky to get two tickets in economy out and business back to SCL using Avios. I was glad we were in business, as it was a midnight flight back and head down to Patagonia the next day! Doubt we would do crazy itinerary like this now with two young children.

        Really want to visit north part of Chile when we go back!

  • AJA says:

    This is a fantastic review. It is the best of the series so far.The price is on the high side but then again for a one-off I think I could see myself justifying spending this.

    Another train journey well worth considering is the Blue Train in South Africa between Pretoria and Cape Town, a 1600km journey, prices are similar to this at R25,820 (approx £1,100) per person for a luxury double or slightly cheaper for a de luxe double. You can choose which direction you want to travel as there are two trains operating in each direction. It is one of the worlds most luxurious train journeys, effectively a 5 star hotel on rails. http://www.bluetrain.co.za/

    • Novice says:

      Apparently a lot of places it is stated the best train journey is from fort William to Mallaig in Scotland. I’ve never done it myself but would like to in future to see what’s the hype about.

      There are a lot of train journeys that look really good.

      • AndyGWP says:

        It’s certainly pleasant enough but I’ve had more memorable train journeys. It was a mingy winters day when I did the trip tho (ie. too mingy to go up a mountain!)

      • Andy says:

        It was on channel 5 last week. The entire journey, it goes on the viaduct that features in the Harry Potter films.

  • Richard says:

    The Andean Explorer had only just started running again in May 2017 when we went to Peru and were not able to book it so we took the much cheaper option of the tourist bus from Cusco to Puno which was actually very comfortable and took us through the amazing scenery of the high altiplano. There is a guide on board, lunch is included and there are several sightseeing stops along the way – amazing value for around $60pp. We stayed at the Hotel Libertado in Puno – the same one that they used on Race Across The World. Maybe not the most luxurious hotel we have ever stayed at but the views across Lake Titicaca from our room were nothing short of spectacular. Peru is a wonderful country to visit and I would love to return at some point. If you are thinking of going when we can travel again just be careful about the altitude – we planned it so that we went up in height gradually over several days and didn’t have any problems even at almost 5000mtrs but we were aware on our trip of several people who did.

    We have booked to travel on another luxury train – The Ghan from Darwin to Adelaide this November. Also expensive at over £3k for 2 but it now looks like we won’t be able to go this year and I am hoping I can rebook for next year.

    • Wally1976 says:

      I did The Ghan back in ’99 from Alice Springs to Adelaide in the cheap seats. Hours and hours of nothingness but gives you a real appreciation of the size and emptiness of Australia.

  • mark2 says:

    We went on the Rocky Mountaineer last year but spent the night in a medium quality Marriott in Kamloops rather than a luxury sleeper like that.

  • Oxonboy says:

    Great piece. More interesting than the usual fight reviews which are a bit samey

    I love long distance train travel. Already bagged several including the Indian Pacific across Australia (recommend), Palace on Wheels (Indian style luxury but great stops) as well as Californian Zephyr and Coast Starlight (not quite luxury but great scenery, Trans Canadian (preferred it to Rocky Mountaineer but expect at least a half delay in journey times). Recently back from New Zealand and did all the Great Journeys of New Zealand (no overnights and more like regular trains but brilliant scenery). Never really fancied Belmond’s Venice-Simpson Orient Express but might be tempted by the Eastern & Oriental express.