silvia
Silvia Pisci
BELMOND HIRAM BINGHAM
26th July 2016

Named after the explorer who brought back to light the world famous Inca citadel, Belmond Hiram Bingham is the ultimate way to travel in style to Machu Picchu. A unique journey through the Sacred Valley that will leave you with memories to treasure for a lifetime.

Service
At Poroy train station, going through the formalities took no more than a minute. After showing my ticket and passport, I was welcomed by the train Staff with a glass of champagne and escorted to my coach and seat. While waiting for all the guests to be checked in, a traditional show and live music were performed on the platform (nothing unmissable, but thoroughly enjoyable - as in fact I've found myself dancing and singing with the performers...maybe the glass of champagne at 8.30 had something to do with it??).

Service is precise and personal, and everything is organized so that dining, entertainment and tour explanations alternate fluently throughout the journey. Passengers are provided with informative leaflets, and a local guide shares interesting insights as the train drives through the Sacred Valley.

No queues whatsoever once at Machu Picchu, and experienced guides to walk you through the citadel are also things I really appreciated, especially knowing how crowded and messy the site can get.
Facilities
The train is elegantly appointed to evoke the style of 1920s Pullman carriages, featuring highly polished woods and brass, and sumptuous armchairs.
There are two main coaches (for up to 84 guests), with tables for 2 or 4 arranged on the two sides of the aisle. The single tables are more intimate but a bit small for a couple. If you’re lucky, depending on the train occupancy you can get one of the bigger tables just for you (they accommodate up to 4 pax).

Unfortunately the panoramic cabin wasn’t accessible due to renovations. The view outside was extremely enjoyable from the big windows, though I’m sure the panoramic coach would have made a difference.

All the entertainment happens in the bar coach, where guests enjoy live music, snacks and drinks.

To the facilities of the train itself must be added the dedicated Belmond Lounge in Agua Calientes and Belmond Sanctuary Lodge (the only hotel directly located on Machu Picchu), where passengers can enjoy a rich buffet of refreshments and drinks after the visit to Macchu Picchu.
Journey
Right after departure we were welcomed onboard by a very pleasant and knowledgeable local guide, who provided us with interesting information about local culture, traditions and nature as the train slowly entered the Sacred Valley. In the meantime, elegant waiters passed through the tables to take the orders for lunch.

We were then invited to the bar coach, where a local band started playing a vast repertoire of Peruvian and international songs while we were offered drinks and snacks. The atmosphere was lively and cheerful – I engaged in conversations with several guests, then had a “private” pisco sour lesson at the bar (loved it!).
On the way back from Machu Picchu the bar coach was quite crowded (I suppose also because the panoramic car wasn’t available). People danced and sang, and it was impressive to watch the waiters walking through the coach with their trays full of drinks and canapès without losing their balance, nor their smile.

A gourmet lunch was then served in the main coaches. They present it as "brunch" actually, but it's in fact a proper 3-course meal. The menu is fixed, still I could get a vegetarian alternative. Everything I had was delicious and beautifully presented: fresh local ingredients, traditional recipes, and a good glass of wine to pair them with.

The journey from Cusco (Poroy station) takes about 3 hours, while it’s about half the time for passengers getting on the train in Ollantaytambo.

The train got to Agua Calientes around 1pm – from there, we reached Machu Picchu citadel by bus and started our guided tour (in small groups of about 5 people each) around 2pm. This is the best time to visit the site in my opinion, since there are much less people than in the morning.

At the end of the tour we enjoyed a rich buffet of refreshments at Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, waiting for all other groups to end the tour before we headed back to Aguas Calientes train station.

The journey back to Poroy started around 6pm (there were many more passengers than in the morning!). Again, live music and entertainment at the bar coach was followed by a sumptuous dinner.
The train got to Poroy station around 9.30 pm, and from there it took me another 20 minutes approximately to reach Cusco by taxi.
Perceived Value
The round trip to/from Cusco on Belmond Hiram Bingham is definitely not for every pocket: prices vary from USD795 per person in high season (April - November) to USD755 in low season.
The one-way trip is much more convenient, and it still allows to feel the magic of the experience. Prices for each way are almost identical (USD475 Poroy to Machu Picchu or USD462 Machu Picchu to Poroy), so the choice really depends on whether you prefer to enjoy the panoramic views (morning journey) or indulge in a romantic dinner after a long day in the inca site. The value is great if you consider that prices include meals, drinks and guided visit to Machu Picchu.
Verdict
The journey to Machu Picchu couldn't get more stylish than this. Belmond's ability to combine breathtaking natural surroundings, cultural experiences and old-time elegance reaches here one of the highest peaks of its worldwide portfolio of luxury train journeys.