SA’s First Luxury Sleeper Train Is Spectacular
The Belmond Andean Explorer promises big skies, exotic architecture and Peru’s incredible landscapes
Luxury train journeys have long held a certain fascination, if not cachet, among well-heeled travellers. The very idea summons images of tuxedos, evening dresses and, if you’re an Agatha Christie fan, a tantalising murder or two. It’s appropriate then that in early May, Belmond, the owners of the legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, are launching South America’s first luxury sleeper train, The Belmond Andean Explorer.
Comprising 20 carriages—11 with cabins, two bars, two restaurants, a spa, two staff, a kitchen and a power carriage—the diesel-fuelled train is an exercise in fantasist locomotion. Its interiors by London-based The Gallery HBA, an off-shoot of hotel interiors specialists Hirsch Bedner Associates, are subtle takes on the textures and colours of Peru’s hand-woven fabrics. The double en-suite cabins, in particular, are lined in hues of cool grey, with deep blue cushions and curtain trims, and creamy tufted bedheads.
Belmond, one of the first hoteliers to spot a modern market for luxury tourism in Peru when it opened the Belmond Palacio Nazarenas and Belmond Hotel Monasterio, saw another opportunity for sleeper trains. “Thinking about this market, we saw that there was no offer of a sleeper train connecting the most important tourist destinations in the south of Peru: Cuzco, Puno and Arequipa,” says Belmond Peru’s managing director Laurent Carrasset. “After a lot of research, we concluded that there was indeed a market for this product. There is no other train in South America that offers the services we do.”
Carrasset is hardly overselling his case. From the baroque architecture of Arequipa and the big sky country of the high plains grazed by South American camelids to Lake Titicaca, the birthplace of the Incas, the Belmond Andean Explorer takes in some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes.
And it’s all delivered by an 18-strong staff in quiet luxury, whether in the local menus built around seasonal Peruvian ingredients, a pre-lunch cocktail sipped on the open deck of the Observation carriage watching the world literally go by, or hummed tunes at the baby grand piano in the Lounge carriage. Meanwhile, strategic stops along the route incorporate excursions to small markets, walks on the highlands and languid boat-rides.
All of which makes one wonder what else could be in store for the rest of South America if Belmond could be persuaded to increase its offerings. For now, Carrasset demurs. “There are no plans to expand the range of tours. The first luxury sleeper train in South America that combines the train experience with accommodations and interesting tours, the Belmond Andean Explorer already offers a variety of unforgettable journeys.”
Guests fly into Lima and then transfer to Cusco where they can depart immediately or stay overnight at a Belmond property. Four tours are offered:
- Peruvian Highlands: Cuzco – Lake Titicaca – Arequipa (2 nights, 3 days): from US$1,436 per person
Departs from Cuzco, the capital of the ancient Inca Empire, and crosses the Andean Plain towards Puno and the legendary Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable body of water. An extension is available to the natural wonders of the Colca Canyon, one of the world’s deepest and home of the Andean Condor.
- Andean Plains and Islands of Discovery: Arequipa – Lake Titicaca – Cuzco (2 nights, 2 days): US$1,283 per person
Travels overnight from Arequipa towards Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, through valleys and mountains.
- Spirit of the Water: Cuzco – Puno (1 night, 1 day): US$554 per person
An overnight escape from Cuzco, crossing the peaks and high plains of the Andes to Lake Titicaca.
- Spirit of the Andes: Puno – Cuzco (1 night, 1 day): US$462 per person
This trip across the high Andes Plains is regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful rail routes.
By Daven Wu