Coming from the UK, we’re only too aware that train journeys can be so much more than a means to get from point A to point B.
Train journeys can be an amazing way to check out the natural beauty of the places you’re visiting – even when the train is moving at incredible speeds!
For this reason, despite flying in to Puno (via Juliaca), we decided to take the train back to Cusco.
The train journey, aboard the Andean Explorer takes 10 hours – a point which, on paper, would leave many wondering why anyone would want to take the train to Cusco, but this isn’t your average train journey.
For starters, the Andean Explorer is more of a luxurious train journey than you average train ride (a fact that is very much reflected in the price – it costs more than the flights and is arguably the most expensive way to train to and from Puno) and then there’s the fact that the entire way, in addition to getting to see amazing part of Peru that you’d miss otherwise, you get spoilt with cocktails, wine, delicious food, snacks and a fair bit of entertainment. It’s actually quite the experience in and of itself.
We kicked off at the train station in Puno (pretty much in the city centre) – whizzing past the surrounding countryside and the occasional farmer waving in the distance (… or shaking his stick at his sheep? It’s hard to tell from that distance… 😀 )…
…before slowing down when we got to Juliaca.
The markets here have extended right onto the train tracks; hence the slowing down, with the locals saying hello and waving at you as you pass through the city.
Soon enough you hit the open roads – at which point, it’s time for a morning cocktail! (Don’t judge. 🙂 It’s not like we had many other plans for the day! 😉 )
The scenery as you go past the Peruvian countryside is absolutely stunning and definitely one that’ll have you whipping your camera out!
Before long though, it’s time for lunch (and wine 😉 )…
We started off with smoked salmon and cream cheese blinis, swiftly followed by beef bourginon and a chocolate cake for dessert…
…all the while visually feasting on the increasingly moody landscape as we climbed higher and higher in altitude (the highest we’d been in Peru so far – a record which we would break the very next day at Peru’s Rainbow mountains).
After a while (and a few more glasses of wine), we stopped at a market – an ample opportunity for some last-minute souvenir shopping…
…and perhaps to find that one llama in Peru that’s totally decided to copy your look in a photo! (I kid you not – I had no idea we were both ‘pouting’ till hours later when I was looking through my photos. 😀 )
After wandering around for a little while, we hopped back onto the train and started to descend in altitude – a fact evidenced by the return of the sun as we went to the base of the mountains…
The best part about this journey is that unlike most other, shorter train journey, you can really relax here – there’s no panic to have to keep an eye out for all the sights (if there is, you’d be hard-pressed to keep that up for 10 hours) and so you can just kick back and watch as Peru’s beautiful countryside rolls out in front of you.
You’re not on the train late enough for dinner (you start fairly early in the day and arrive in Cusco just before dinner time) so instead, you have a light snack, teas, coffees, wines and pisco sours for those interested before eventually arriving in Cusco.
The place we stayed the longest, and definitely our base in Cusco was Antigua Casona San Blas, the folks here are so incredible – they made sure we were totally taken care of and definitely went above and before – like when we arrived in Cusco at 5/6am in the morning how they gave us breakfast even though we weren’t supposed to, how they organized the cheapest taxis and drivers for us when we wanted to see the sights around Cusco, they even helped us get to the train stations without being charged the exhorbitant rates that the drivers had been asking us for.
Best of all – they helped take care of all our luggage every time we went away!
This was definitely our base (huge kudos to Georgia and Lloyd for finding this place – plus, it wasn’t expensive when we booked so they definitely way above and beyond what we’d expected) however, on this night back – we totally forgot that the hotel was fully booked and as a result, we’d booked somewhere else in the city.
We showed up, regaling our receptionist/host with tales of how amazing our trip had been so far, sat down by the fireplace with teas and coffees (all on the house), before realizing after like 15 minutes that we were totally meant to be staying somewhere else! *face palm*
With that, we finished off our teas and coffees, said a proper farewell to the people we’d met during our stay here and hopped in a taxi to Hotel El Mercado – our new home for the next couple of days in Cusco.
This night though, we decided to have dinner as early as possible, also hitting the stores to stock up on chocolates, bottles of water, other snacks and a few things newbie hikers think they need but never really do. Tomorrow – at like 2am, we would be leaving Cusco (just during the day) to head off in search of Peru’s amazing Rainbow Mountains!
So excited to show you what that was like in the next post! 😉