Belmond Andean Explorer — newest thoroughbred in the Belmond stable — is every inch a champion.
The train and its services are beautiful. The staff is bright and eager to please.
And the wild, mountainous Andean landscape stuns with its soaring peaks, beautiful altiplano and volcanoes, occasionally snow-peaked and sometimes blowing smoke and ash. See our amazing IRT private journey using this train here.
Belmond Andean Explorer is South America’s first overnight luxury train.
The train has a fascinating history.
Built in Australia in the 1990s, it began service as the Great South Pacific Express luxury train running between Cairns and Brisbane, only to be shut down after four years, the victim of poor track and rough rides.
There it languished for 13 years.
Then, in 2016, it was shipped to Peru — complete with its baby grand piano, podium for train check-in, the boarding steps and even the tags for luggage.
In May, 2017, it emerged like a butterfly from its cocoon, transformed into a rolling work of art. It is gorgeously outfitted with bright local textiles on pillows, throws and ottomans and proudly displays local art.
But look closely. Throughout the train are remnants of its luxurious past in Australia: Art Deco brass fittings and lamps, hammered steel bathroom sinks in the powder rooms — even a faintly-etched heron logo in an interior window (see if you can find it!).
The Peruvian train is intimate — it accommodates a maximum of 48 guests in 24 all en-suite cabins.
It includes an open-air observation platform on the rear lounge car, two dining cars serving fresh, locally-sourced delicacies, another lounge car with grand piano and bar, and a full spa car with treatment rooms. Check out IRT’s visit on the Andean Explorer here.
Travelers should be aware that journey involves high altitudes. Check with your doctor before booking. Oxygen will be available in hotels, on the trains and in vehicles.
All of the Belmond Andean Explorer’s 24 cabins have private toilet, sink, and shower. There are four configurations.
The largest are the eight suite cabins, which measure 140 square feet each and feature a plush King bed and cozy seating area. Some have a long, expanded wardrobe for storage, while the private en-suite bathroom has shower, toilet, vanity and pedestal washbasin. Others have two chairs and a table, a compact wardrobe, and a smaller private en-suite bathroom with shower and toilet (but no vanity).
The eleven twin-bed cabins measure 80 square feet each. They have a long banquette and comfy seats, which stewards convert into two ground-level single beds for sleeping.
The five bunk-bed cabins are each 59 square feet each and feature a long banquette that transforms into upper and lower single berths.
IRT highly recommends booking a suite cabin. It’s great to have room to spread out.
Eleanor and Owen, Society of IRT owners, loved their suite cabin. It boasted a double bed with two windows on one side, plus a sliding window on the other, which allows a view out the other side of the train.
It also had incredible storage capacity. That includes overhead racks, a big closet, a chest of drawers, and 2 comfortable easy chairs. The en suite shower, sink, and toilet worked very well, too.
All cabins have 24/7 call buttons, air conditioning, 220-volt electrical outlets, oxygen tanks, complimentary tea and coffee, electrical adapters, and robes and slippers. On-board medical assistance also is available.
When it comes to dining — a big part of any luxury train — the Belmond Andean Explorer does not disappoint. Head of the culinary program is none other than Diego Muñoz, named by the New York Times as one of the world’s leading chefs.
On the last day of their 2017 trip — the train’s first 3-day itinerary — Society of IRT owners Eleanor & Owen Hardy joined their fellow train guests in applauding their chef, Julio Serrano. (He was “on loan” from Lima’s famed Astrid & Gaston, which Chef Muñoz once led.)
Chef Serrano produced one Peruvian specialty after another. Much of the food prep is done at the Belmond Hotel Monasterio, where Serrano once worked, and loaded on in Cusco.
The fare in the two restaurant cars is fresh, colorful and seasonal, incorporating locally sourced ingredients from the Peruvian Andes.
The lounge car includes a baby grand piano, comfortable seating and picture windows through which guests can gaze at the majestic vistas drifting past. The lounge also includes a full bar.
The rear observation car, meanwhile, is the place to unwind, meet new friends and enjoy the views while sipping Pisco Sours from the bar. The car includes an open-air deck — one of the IRT Society’s favorite extras — where travelers can breathe in the bracing Andean air.
Later this year, the train is scheduled to include a full spa car with treatment rooms, making it the third of our “World’s Top 25 Trains” with this luxe amenity. (The other two are India’s Deccan Odyssey and the Belmond Royal Scotsman.)
Peruvian Highlands: Cusco-Lake Titicaca-Arequipa City (2 nights, 3 days)
The longest trip departs from Cusco, capital of the ancient Inca Empire, across the Altiplano towards Puno and the reflective beauty of Lake Titicaca. Guests visit Sumbay Caves, where the Peruvian highlands’ first humans created their rock art, before reaching the volcanic ‘White City’ of Arequipa.
Andean Plains and Islands of Discovery: Arequipa City-Lake Titicaca-Cusco (2 nights, 2 days)
This trip departs as the sun sets on the baroque architecture of Arequipa. The train travels overnight towards Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. It continues through deep valleys and over high mountains, where South American camelids graze on the wide-open plains and through the ‘big sky’ country of the Peruvian Altiplano.
Spirit of the Water: Cusco-Puno (1 night, 1 day)
This journey is an overnight escape aboard the stylish carriages of Belmond Andean Explorer, departing from Cusco, crossing the giant peaks and wide-open spaces of the highest plains of the Andes and ending at Lake Titicaca, birthplace of the Incas.
Spirit of the Andes: Puno-Cusco (1 night, 1 day)
Guests on this trip travel along one of the world’s most beautiful rail journeys, across the highest plains of the Andes from Puno to Cusco.