Ride in Royal Style to Machu Picchu

BY T.J. OLWIG — Fall 2018

 

ointing to a cluster of gear-strapped backpackers atop a rocky crest, our server Agustin announces, “This is where the Inca Trail begins.” My four fellow passengers and I swap waves with the cheery bunch from across the Urubamba River. Our terminus is mutual — the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru — but as the hikers fade from view, the difference in our mode of transit feels as wide as the Sacred Valley we split.

In March, Inca Rail, one of the leading train services to Machu Picchu, renovated and upgraded its three existing trains and added a fourth one. In doing so, it also rebranded itself as the “Machu Picchu Trains by Inca Rail.” I’m aboard its Private Machu Picchu Train, the only private charter service to Peru’s famed ruins. My carriage, which can accommodate a group of eight, impresses with its meticulous design, open bar, and Peruvian vocalist and guitarist for added ambience. A grueling, multiday journey by foot this is not. An ultraluxe ride through plush, mountainous terrain it most definitely is.

Inca RailWe’ve departed from the Ollantaytambo Station, about 50 miles northwest of Cusco, for the 90-minute ride. I’m expecting a mix of high-end service and exotic flavors of Andean cuisine — and I’m not disappointed. Upon boarding, I’m greeted with a citronella-scented cold towel and Peruvian “welcome drink” — the classic pisco sour — impeccably served with the train’s first movement. Moments later, the pop of Champagne echoes through our coach as Agustin unveils the tasting menu. An amuse-bouche of Andean cheese atop quinoa tabbouleh arrives first, followed by strips of trout ceviche in a yellow chili cream. With each plate, Agustin offers regional wines. I opt for fresh pineapple spearmint juice to go with my grilled-vegetable carpaccio entree.

“The adventure [to Machu Picchu] starts on the train,” Maritza Montero of Inca Rail tells me. An adventure, this is, indeed — hiking boots not required.

Details: $5,500 one-way for eight; $9,000 round trip. incarail.com

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