Peru – Machu Picchu, Sanctuary Lodge
March 15, 2008
(March 8). The best way to visit Machu Picchu is to take the Orient Express-owned “Hiram Bingham” train from Cusco to Aguas Caliente and then hop on their bus for the short but spectacular ascent to OE’s Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, right at the base of the site. This elegant train leaves Cusco at 9:00 a.m., and takes 3 ½ hours to wend its way up through increasingly lush vegetation and rushing rivers as you get to the rain forest.While on board, there is a three-course brunch served at your reserved table with the option of standing in the rear observation car if you want to stretch your legs and get a plain air view of the scenery (and free drinks-their Pisco Sours are superb).
The great advantage of taking the HB train is that you can take your first excursion to the site in late afternoon after the crowds have left and your second the next morning before they arrive. Once at Machu Picchu itself, your assigned guide leads the way through this thrilling site on a four-hour tour. In our opinion and experience, it is one of only two tourist destinations, the other being the Taj Mahal, that lives up to or exceeds the hype.
Returning to Cusco, we left the Vista Dome train (also run by OE and accordingly well-serviced and comfortable) at Ollantaytambo and then were driven 1 ½ hours through a fertile plateau where fields of potatoes, quinoa, fava beans, and wheat abound, reminiscent of parts of Italy.