It’s 380 km by train from Puno on Lake Titicaca over the Andean Plateau to Cusco, the ancient Inca capital in the Sacred Valley. The Andean Explorer takes ten hours for the journey but the train is luxurious, hospitality and on board entertainment excellent and the scenery is breathtaking.
The train leaves Puno at 8am and winds its way past the reed beds and simmering waters of Titicaca. The road to Cusco runs parallel to the track past Juliaca, a bustling market town 42 km. from Puno. The train climbs up to the Antiplano through countess pastures dotted with sheep and alpaca and remote settlements where peasants in colourful costumes work in the fields. Smoke rises from campfires and women wash clothes in fast flowing streams. Snow covered mountaintops are bathed in bright sunlight.
Pisco sour is served in the vistadome and musicians in traditional costumes play local instruments. A pretty young woman in a colourful costume dances. Wine is poured and a gourmet lunch is served. A fashion show follows and the train arrives at La Raya, cold and desolate, the highest point on the Puno/Cusco line at 4313 metres above sea level. It makes a short stop and local women sell woolen cloths and toys and a little rust coloured church stands on a hilltop. Inside, there are wooden benches and the altar is decorated with fresh flowers. It is 202 km. from Puno and Vilcanota, the sacred river of the Incas, originate here.
Video: Traditional music & dancing on the train
The decent from the high Andean plateau starts at La Raya and Bellinis are served with afternoon tea. At Sicuani, the site of the mighty Wiracocha temple of the Incas, the track crosses the Vilcanota River and runs along its east bank. It gains power and soon becomes a raging torrent. At Pikillacta, the track leaves the river for the final run towards Cusco. The train snakes through the urban sprawl of the city and as dusk falls, arrives at the Huanchac station.
It’s been a Great Railway Journey.