* Since we did this trip in 2015 this train (owned by Peru Rail) has been upgraded in 2017. There’s a lot of information on Wikipedia…search for Belmond Andean Explorer. The line has now been extended to Arequipa (known as “the Rome of South America”).
Therefore, it is possible to now use the train system all the way through to Arequipa (a post very soon), including an overnight leg on the train; however, my guess is that the price may have gone up considerably? Also, by leaving the train in Puno, and either driving yourself, or organising a road trip like we did (mostly mini bus transportation &/or tour which ended about a week later in Arequipa), it’s more likely that you’ll get more bang for your buck – a term we picked up from Americans during our travels! It just takes a bit of planning…which Tony enjoys almost as much as the journey itself!
We loved the slower road trip from Puno to Arequipa but more about that in my next blog post.
Back to the Cuzco to Puno leg by train…the train departed Cuzco at 8 am
The next two photos give an idea of the quality of the train (before it was upgraded in 2017!) plus the range of ages on the trip – which we always prefer. Tony is still very fit (and I’m better than I was!) and I like interacting with people from all backgrounds and ages – not just elderly Australians. Apologies to any elderly Aussies I may have offended as I know I’m no spring chicken anymore😉
Of course, being luxury it is expensive (probably more so now) and there weren’t many children on board (some might say a good thing?); however, everything is included including entertainment. Be prepared for very touristy entertainment but lots of fun (and eating/drinking) over the full day…
The day started with morning tea, then not long after Pisco Sours were on offer during a women’s fashion show. I suppose they hoped the alcohol encouraged the women to purchase more! However, the rail company had more persuasive strategies up their sleeve (see photo below) if the fashion show didn’t increase their profits!…perhaps I’m being a bit cynical, but generally I’m resistance to pushy selling as we have enough stuff and we’re more into adventure before dementia now😉 Actually “pushy” is really the wrong word as there was very little compared to what we encountered in Turkey – a post for another day!
I ended up buying the pink one...handy when I’m out and about in what can sometimes be chilly nights during Canberra winters – if sunny, the days are generally still lovely (something many other Australians are unaware of) with a very common comment “too cold in Canberra!” It’s actually nice and warm today (9 Feb) after a heatwave a week or so ago.
The train stopped here not only for the clothing market (photo above) but also to take in the views of the snowy mountains. The views along this rail line were mostly like this (with fewer snowy mountains in most places)…the better views were when we toured around on the mini bus after our stay in Puno. However, here are a few scenes from the train…
As we got closer to the city of Puno, of course the landscape gradually changed from rural to urban…
The entertainment continued; a long lunch; pisco sour demos; more drinks…
One of the bands was called “OYE Como Va Guajiza”…we liked the music so we bought their CD – no pushy selling and hope that they received most of the money rather than Peru Rail!
It was a very relaxing day, plus it was good to have the social side as well, as Tony and I had been travelling independently through South America for over a month by that stage…Chile🇨🇱; Argentina 🇦🇷; Brazil 🇧🇷.
The urban landscapes as we drew closer to the busy city of Puno (photos below); like most larger cities the outer areas showed more evidence of hardship. However, we didn’t see the plastic pollution (mostly water bottles) like there was along the rail line to Machu Picchu – perhaps due to lazy tourists? Hoping, 3+ years down the track that things have improved both along this line and the one to MP??…if not, think about complaining to Peru Rail even as part of an online review. I also wondered why there wasn’t some sort of self serve water station on the train rather than water bottles (photo above) – hope the new trains have that.
The alcoholic drinks slowed down by mid afternoon and a nice afternoon tea was served. We arrived at Puno railway station at 6.30 pm...everything went so smoothly compared to our rail journey across Canada in the Rocky Mountaineer (so many long delays and a post for another day).
We had organised a pickup by the hotel and a driver was there waiting for the short trip to our hotel Tierra Viva, near the centre of Puno where we stayed for two nights including a day tour the next day to Uros – the famous floating islands (rather touristy but interesting) as well as Taquile where we had a shared lunch at a farm. A few photos…
After morning tea we were then taken via boat to Taquile…a few more photos of this picturesque location…
In Taquile there was a steep walk up a hill but there was mostly quite a solid path to the farm at the top; we then had a shared lunch with about 8 others who were on the day tour with us. We enjoyed the day (again a mix of ages/backgrounds) and the lunch was very pleasant/tasty. A few more photos from that afternoon…
USUAL FOOD FOCUS:
On our first night in Puno after the train trip, we just had something very light near the hotel. There was a reasonable enough choice in central Puno but definitely not a foodie destination like Lima, Arequipa or even Cuzco. That didn’t bother us – after all the food on the train, I just had another bowl of vegetable and quinoa soup!
Tony may have had pasta or tapas style…there’s a big European influence in South America of course, particularly Spanish (a Spanish recipe will be typed up soon below, one from our travels there…see past blog posts if interested) eg. The wonderful Sans Sebastian near the border of France.
The next night we had a casual dinner at Ekekos…Tony had alpaca skewers 🦙…a bit too much meat for my liking and not many light vegetable choices. Compared to dining out in Cuzco, it’s cheap, but it’s not really possible to compare as the quality we had was so much lower at Ekekos. However, it was OK and we didn’t go to bed hungry!
NOTE TO SELF…a Pintxos recipe from Sans Sebastian, Spain 🇪🇸 (Pintxos is known as Tapas outside of Basque Spain).
I’ve just bought Lonely Planet’s latest book Ultimate Eatlist…The World’s Top 500 Food Experiences…ranked. They put Pintxos in Sans Sebastian at No 1 on the list. If you go to the right bar or restaurant that’s certainly the case, but some are tourist traps + crowded/costly and unpleasant especially in summer.
So if going, like anywhere, it’s worth doing your homework and even Lonely Planet suggestions (just like our tips on restaurants we enjoyed) can change from season to season so only provide a rough guide. I often look at the photos on Trip Advisor + put “price” into a search…fellow travellers’ photos & info is often far more helpful, and we usually come away at least reasonably satisfied. Not as many hit and miss dining experiences as a decade or so ago.
Until next time…Adios!