BELMOND HIRAM BINGHAM
LUXURY TRAIN TO MACHU PICCHU
Hiram Bingham was the founder of the hidden Machu Picchu constructed way back in the 15th Century with precision high in the Andes mountains. The Belmond train is in recognition of the explorer’s finding in 1911 and is one of the ways to reach the UNESCO listed ancient Inca Citadel. This journey would have to be one of the more indulgent of my travel experiences and was a perfect way to celebrate a belated birthday. Whether you choose not to trek the adventurous Inca trail, are on a short stay in Cusco, prefer luxury or want a seamless day to Machu Picchu, the Hiram Bingham train is unrivalled.
Service begins at the quaint Poroy Station approx 20 mins from Plaza de Armas Cusco. Welcome Sparkling wine is poured as the Peruvian music festivities begin in front of the classic blue train with Hiram Bingham emblazoned in gold. A gorgeous Peruvian baby peered around from behind it’s mother. The traditional manta allowed her to freely play music while the child was snuggled in close.
Carriages make you feel like you have stepped back in time with white linen covered tables presented with long stemmed Hiram Bingham wine glasses and a single red rose placed in the centre. From the moment you are seated, the poised Belmond staff took great pride in accommodating any request no matter how many.
On the way to Machu Picchu we were served Brunch that was much more than expected with three courses. The train travels along the Urubamba river and past sections of the Inca trail and camps in the Sacred Valley. Our carriage was closest to the Bar car to socialise with the other guests, select some fresh fruit or morning pastries or take in the air from the Observatory platform.
Upon arrival into Aguas Calientes the tour guides recommend you purchase a rain poncho to be prepared for the jungle climate. A short walk through the vibrant market stalls of trinkets and over the other side of a bridge our private buses were waiting for us to take the narrow drive up the mountain. On some parts of the gravel road it is only just wide enough for two buses side by side. Travelling higher and higher into the mountain jungle you start to get glimpses of the famed Huayna Picchu just before arriving to the entrance of the Citadel next to the luxe Belmond Sanctuary Lodge and bustle of people.
An intimate group of five of us were whisked through the gates after they sighted our Passport and inclusive Citadel ticket. We had a small wait inside the entrance so lined up after other travellers, keen to add a Machu Picchu stamp to the Passport pages as well. For two and a half hours our gorgeous tour guide Angela walked us around the treasured areas of the mysterious Citadel. Angela was also carrying an umbrella as she has been caught out a few times as it rains more often than not. Even if it is just a light shower.
The first moment is the most special and well earned. Even though at 7,970ft, a lower altitude than Cusco, some visitors needed to take a breath or two or three after each flight of cobblestoned stairs. The climb is worth every light breath taken as the sight that greets you is the beyond words Machu Picchu with Huayna Picchu rising in the distance. It is THE view a traveller to Peru hopes to see for themselves, a moment I had been waiting for.
Angela has incredible knowledge of the Citadel and many stories to share as she’s been visiting since she was eight years old. Even Angela notes the differences over the years to preserve this wonder. After the tour you can choose to spend extra time on your own wandering the Inca ruins or join the other guests in a private area at Belmond Sanctuary Lodge for Afternoon tea.
The Hiram Bingham journey doesn’t end at the top of the mountain though. You get to take in the same jungle views in case you missed them the first time as you wind down the gravel road. Waiting in a VIP Lounge at Aguas Calientes Station some cool towels are offered to freshen up before dinner.
Returning to the same carriage and seats the Pisco Sours started flowing. We saw grinning animated travellers swaying past us, back and forth to the Bar car to dance to the music that you could hear right through to our carriage. As the sun set into darkness the dim lighting of the carriage added to the timeless feel.
A decedent four course Andean dinner was served over the three and a half hour train ride returning to Poroy. Disembarking the Hiram Bingham feeling happily dazed that I finally placed my feet upon a desired historic destination, I was also impressed by the devoted staff who provided a seamless Belmond experience to make this one of the most dreamlike life time moments.
IN SUMMARY | What you need to know….
– TRAIN – A maximum of 84 guests
– BUS – Private bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu return
– BRUNCH – Hot beverages with mini Choc chip cookies and a three course Brunch – Selection of breads inc gluten free with butter and pesto & oil, Wayllabamba’s smoked trout, Grilled tenderloin beef, Sacred Valley’s Corn cheesecake and Petit fours
– AFTERNOON TEA – Hot beverages and Buffet of fruit, cookies, pastries and Iced tea drinks in Belmond Sanctuary Lodge
– DINNER – Amuse Bouche then four Andean inspired courses – Picked vegetables and fava bean salad, Leek and potato emulsion 3000 meters, Confit duck leg, 55% organic Cacao pineapple dessert and Petit fours
– BAR CAR – Social drinks, Sweet potato and Banana chip snacks, fresh local fruit or pastries in the morning on the Bar counter or dance to live Peruvian music
– PRICE TAG – Luxe
– SPECIAL THANKS TO – Angela our gorgeous Belmond Citadel Tour Guide
– SHE LOVED – The seamless experience to visit Machu Picchu in one day
– HE LOVED – The luxury Belmond experience
BOOK | Belmond Hiram Bingham and PeruRail
Poroy Station, Cusco Peru
TRANSFERS | Local Taxi approx 30.00 Sol each way
Taxi from Plaza de Armas Cusco to Poroy Station approx 20 mins
FLY | Qantas Premium Economy from Sydney (SYD) to Santiago (SCL) approx 13 hrs 40 mins and LAN from SCL to Lima (LIM) approx 3 hrs 55 mins and LIM to Cusco (CUZ) approx 1 hr 20 mins
Photos by Mel McLeod ©