[Blog entry written for NananTravel]
Luxury trains redefine excellence and adventure
There’s a soft knock on the door of your cabin. You’re gently pulled out of your smiling dreamland into the morning sunlight. You roll over on your plush mattress, the thick cotton sheets wrapping softly around your rested body, and lift your cheek off the fluffy pillows.
“Come in,” you whisper loudly.
A smiling attendant slides your door open, carrying a tray with a steaming coffee plunger, two coffee cups and an assortment of baked goodies. The sharp, sweet smell of the freshly roasted coffee delights your senses as you welcome the new day. Outside the landscape is flashing by in bright greens and blues and yellows. You get excited about the new places you’re going to discover today as you pour yourself and your lover/spouse/partner/friend a welcome cup of morning brew.
Where are you?
The answer is simple. You’re on a railway track either somewhere in South America or Southern Africa. And you’re being swept from one tourist highlight to the next in old world glamour and new world luxury and convenience. You’re hurtling through vistas that are brand new to you and every cell in your body is jumping up and down at the sheer indulgence of the experience.
It doesn’t matter which continent you’re on; whether the next stop is Victoria Falls or Lake Titicaca, Cape Town or Cusco, if it’s luxury trains that get you grooving, there are a number of great ways to do it.
The Belmond Andean Explorer in Peru
The Belmond Andean Explorer in Peru is South America’s first luxury train that combines genuine getaways with sleeping accommodations at night. It travels along one of the highest train routes in the world. The service launched in May 2017 and the reviews we’re receiving are exceptional!
They have one to three-day journeys and tickets start at a cost of between $450 and $1,225 per person depending on which route you want to do. The routes include places like Lake Titicana, Arequipa City, Cusco and Puno. On each train, you have a choice of four types of cabins—Deluxe Double; Junior Double; Twin; and Bunk Bed Cabins.
In addition to your plush accommodation, you can relax and unwind in the lounge, dining and observation cars. Where else do you want to be enjoying your Pisco Sour than sitting on the rear observation deck with the wind in your hair and hundreds of kilometres of Andean landscape rushing by around you?
A little more about the areas you’ll be visiting: Cusco is the place everyone visits in order to go to Machu Picchu. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Peru and the world!
Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, is also very beautiful. It is located near a couple of volcanoes, with Misti being the most reknowned because of its perfect shape. The city has lots to offer and the cuisine of the area is very traditional and absolutely delicious!
Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world and right between Peru and Bolivia, can be visited from the city of Puno. Here you can also see ancient pre-Incan ruins as well as the islands (Urus and Taquile being the most popular). If you want to stay longer and explore further lands, from Puno you can cross to Bolivia and visit La Paz and go on to Salar de Uyuni, the salt plains. While you’re there, why not pop over into the northern parts of Chile and visit the Atacama Desert and even the valley of volcanos? All very beautiful!
Rovos Rail and the Blue Train in Southern Africa
When seeing Southern Africa by rail, you are spoilt for choice.
Rovos Rail was launched in 1989 and has a world-renowned reputation for five-star service, excellent food and only the best wines the region has to offer. Luxury doesn’t come in a better package.
Rovos has three types of cabins: Pullman, Deluxe and Royal Suites and categorise their many itineraries into “Short Journeys” and “Long Journeys”. You (and your budget) get to decide whether to commit to the Cape Town to Dar es Salaam trip (15 days starting at $12,450 per person sharing) or shorter but equally popular routes like Cape Town to Pretoria (3 days starting from approximately $1,455 per person sharing). Why not hire the entire train for you and your party? We can liaise with Rovos to do this for you. Now there’s a once-in-a-lifetime travel memory waiting to be made.
The Blue Train is another one of South Africa’s internationally popular luxury train experiences. It started all the way back in the 1920s as a luxury steam train and brings all that charm with it into the 21st century.
The Blue Train’s primary itinerary is the 3-day trip from Cape Town to Pretoria, or vice- versa. It also does a route from Pretoria to Hoedspruit, which is right at the Kruger National Park and is ideal if you want to continue your travel adventure with a safari in this world-famous national park.
There are two types of suites on the train—The Luxury and the De Luxe—and their prices are a touch more economical than Rovos Rail. Also, like Rovos, The Blue Train is available for corporate and private rental.
A little bit more about the areas you’ll be visiting: Cape Town’s reputation precedes it and we’ll need more than a few blog entries to share all of the amazing things to do there. Definitely plan to spend some time in the winelands outside the city and also to climb Lions Head (much more manageable than it looks).
Pretoria is the state capital of South Africa and you can visit the Union Buildings, which house the office of the President.
Victoria Falls are considered the largest waterfalls in the world. When there, consider the Boma restaurant. Its an amazing food and tribal experience that includes being given a “chitenges” (traditional robe) and ceremonial hand-washing. You can even have a reading of bones and tribal artefacts by the resident “sangoma” (traditional healer) if you’d like to know what your future holds.
Want something more economical yet equally as fun?
High-end luxury may not be your thing, but train travel is? In Peru, the Vistadome train takes you from Cusco to Machu Picchu in about three hours and is a fantastic experience of traditional food, music and dance.
In South Africa, you can take an overnight train ride from Johannesburg to Cape Town or Durban or Port Elizabeth aboard the Shosholoza Meyl train.
Both these experiences are great ways not only to get to an exciting destination, but also to see the countryside from up-close without all of the hassle of driving through it yourself.