Belmond, a company responsible for several of the world’s greatest train journeys, offers an unforgettable rail excursion to Machu Picchu. It had been many years since I’d first stepped aboard the Hiram Bingham, and I was curious to see if the experience was still worthwhile. After a light breakfast at our hotel in Cusco, we transferred by car about 20 minutes to the train station at Poroy, arriving by 8:30 a.m. to check in. Welcome drinks of sparkling wine, pisco and orange juice occupied us until it was time to board, a process accompanied by live music and traditional dancers.
Initially ensconced in comfortable seats facing a well-set linen-draped table, we confirmed our lack of dietary restrictions with our waiter before heading back to the bar car. Like the rest of the train, which debuted in 2003, this had an art deco décor hearkening back to the golden age of rail travel. By 9:30, it was packed, and by 10, a party was in full swing (tickets include open bar). It was delightfully incongruous, watching the Sacred Valley glide past from within a formal wood-paneled bar, with passengers dancing and singing along to tunes played by a two-man band!
As the train passed beneath rugged cliffs, we sat down to a delicious lunch of a corn tartlet topped with creamy goat cheese and smoked trout, beef skewers with Peruvian potatoes and grilled corn, and followed it with banana-passion-fruit mousse set in lemongrass-scented mango gazpacho.