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Luxury Trains of The Americas

Nick Nomi

Senior Contributor

From the mist-shrouded ruins of Machu Picchu to the ice-capped mountains of the Canadian Rockies via Ecuador’s peak-studded Avenue of Volcanoes, these are the most inspiring, most wonderfully beautiful luxury train journeys to take on your next trip to the Americas.

A Classic Reinvented In Peru

The blue and white carriages of the Andean Explorer run elegantly along the rails of one of the world’s highest railways. Through the windows, the rugged landscape of Peru offers vistas filled with mountains, lakes and some of South America’s most memorable architecture. Inside, the car is spacious, luxurious, and like little else in the world. But in place of the classic carriages that one might see in Europe — in Peru, the designs are a little more contemporary. Less vintage. More modern perhaps but still exceptional. A symptom of Belmond’s wondrous attention to detail, because aboard the Andean Explorer, the interiors have been fine-tuned to enhance the enchanting, verdant landscapes of the Andes. Instead of the shiny dark-coloured woods of the Venice Simplon, wooden panels aboard the Andean Explorer are coloured minimal ivory, enhanced by linen-covered walls and colourful inserts and as a result, everything from the spa carriage to the bar feels intensely tranquil. Accommodation is lavish, with bunk bed cabins, twin cabins and stunning double suites to choose from — all with private en-suites — and finished to the highest of standards. The two dining cars are extraordinary with their large restaurant sized-tables, leather furnishings and polished macramé dividers that offer a surprising degree of intimacy, while the lounge car is finished in a calming earthy palette — with a large open deck on the back — and is brought to life by a pianist and expertly crafted cocktails in the evenings.

The Andean Explorer runs a small collection of routes through the Peruvian Altiplano, Lake Titicaca and the Sumbay Caves, but the slowly ascending route between Arequipa and Cusco (the route can be booked Cusco to Arequipa if one prefers) is the most thrilling — and at 2 nights it’s the longest route currently available. The journey begins in the enchanting city of Arequipa and winds its way through an enigmatic landscape of mountains and lakes, the highlight of which is Lake Titicaca where the train stops for an entire night for romantic dinner views and a morning tour of the lake. And it ends after ascending approximately 1004 metres high into the Andes to Cusco — the ancient capital of the Inca Empire. 

Explore the Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rockies are one of the world’s grandest, most awe-inspiring landscapes and the Rocky Mountaineer train is by far the most romantic and luxurious way to experience it. The train excels when it comes to modern conveniences with two-level domed carriages and outdoor viewing platforms for uninterrupted views of those magnificent Canadian landscapes, as well as elegant dining cars with locally sourced produce served by a friendly and highly attentive team of dedicated hosts. For those unsure as to whether sleeping aboard a train is for them, then the Rocky Mountaineer (along with Tren Crucero) is perhaps the perfect option, as the train acts more like a tour train, stopping off at various destinations along the route as travellers depart to local hotels (select Goldleaf + Room Upgrade for the best room options) to spend a day or two exploring the local area.

The train travels various itineraries, with short 2 day routes taking in Kamloops and Whistler and longer Golden Circle routes that begin and end in Vancouver after 12 days of exploring Lake Louise, Jasper, Quesnel and more. 

A Train Cruise In Ecuador

Tren Ecuador runs a series of stunning train tours — Tren Crucero (Cruise Train) — through the Andes and along some of the world’s most spectacular railways. The tours offer numerous possibilities ranging from one to four nights, but each utilising hotels dotted along the route rather than sleeper carriages. And there’s an occasional bus transfer where there is no train available. And while the carriages don’t quite offer the show-stopping opulence of Peru’s Andean Explorer, the experience is enhanced by Tren Ecuador’s fabulous restored steam locomotives, the chic bar and restaurant carriages finished with striking wooden floors and a fabulous open-air terrace, as well as a menu of “ancestral cuisine” created with locally sourced ingredients and paired with local wines — all perfect for immersing oneself into the stunning Ecuadorian landscapes.

Of the available routes, the Guayaquil to Quito route (Train to the Clouds) is most alluring. The journey takes travellers from the colourful seaside city of Guayaquil and journeys through a highly cinematic, mountainous terrain that takes in the Avenue of Volcanoes, Cotopaxi National Park, various coffee, banana and sugar plantations and the Devil’s Nose railway — a 12KM stretch of track that ascends more than 500 metres into the mountains.

An Elevated Journey To Machu Picchu

Seeing the mist-shrouded ruins of Machu Picchu, lush with vegetation and surrounded by stunning mountain vistas is a dreamlike, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Impossible to improve upon… or so I once thought. In fact, there are numerous journey-enhancing ways to reach Machu Picchu — and no less than two luxury train journeys to indulge in. Those travelling in larger groups should look to Incarail’s “The Private” — a private parlour car attached to the regular tourist train that has its own bar, lounge, and an open balcony, alongside two butlers and a chef, who serve up an impressive international tasting menu, thoughtfully enhanced by local wines, as the train makes the 90-minute journey from Ollantaytambo station to Machu Picchu.

A second option is Belmond’s typically fantastic Hiram Bingham train (named after the American explorer who rediscovered Machu Picchu) that journeys once a day along a 57-mile route that begins in scenic Peroy (a district of Cusco). The train then cuts a breathtaking route through the mesmerising Sacred Valley of the Incas — hurtling besides gushing rivers, steep valleys and mountains like Nevado Veronica — all accentuated by the occasional Inca ruin and red-roofed farmhouses just beyond the windows. The carriages evoke a familiar feeling of old-fashioned elegance — more similar to the British Pullman than Belmond’s Andean Explorer. Think of a stylish, vintage aesthetic and elegant atmosphere: each carriage finished with buffed woods, brass fittings and colourful plush fabrics. To elevate the experience ever further, afternoon tea is served at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge — the only hotel with the enviable distinction of being perched on the very edge of Machu Picchu.

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