by Carlos Melia
Hi there everyone.!!!! I am back and with lots of new tips and information. I haven’t been lazy, I have been traveling extensively across Europe – France, Sweden, Finland, Russia and then all the way down to Peru in South America, exploring and gathering lots of facts to be shared with you all. “¨”¨
Many haute experiences around the globe, always following my two main travel goals, which are, (a) experiential travel and (b) when I travel I spend my days as a adventurer and my nights as a Queen.
This time I came to one of my all time top items on my personal travel bucket list, Machu Picchu. I could not believe that after being in Peru and Lima over a dozen times, I have never taken the time to visit one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
I flew from New York City to Lima (7hs) and then a brief connection to board my flight to Cusco (1hs) on board of the leading South American airlines LAN Airlines.
Hiram Bingham luxury train by Orient-Express
My trip began in Lima, continued to Cusco, both destinations are for another post, and from there, onboard the spectacular and exclusive Hiram Bingham luxury train by Orient-Express I headed off in style all the way to Machu Picchu. “¨”¨
(video) Carlos Melia at Porhoy Station
I know there are many ways to follow the Inca’s path from Cusco to Machu Picchu, but only one to do it in style, surrounded by an exclusive and sophisticated atmosphere, in comfortable cars and with breathtaking views of the Sacred Valley and the Urubamba River in Peru.
This is my third Orient-Express train around the world and still I do not stop to be amazed and surprised by them.”¨”¨The Hiram Bingham is named after the explorer who discovered the fascinating remains of the Inca citadel, Machu Picchu on July 23rd 1911.
The carriages are painted a distinctive blue and gold and the interiors are luxurious, warm and inviting with elegant decoration in the style of the 1920′s Pullman trains. As passengers step on board they are surrounded by a world of polished wood, gleaming cutlery and glittering crystal.
A journey of four hours each way. Departing from the train station of Poroy, approximately 25 minutes away from the city of Cusco. From there you will ride on the train with no stops, all the way to Ollantaytambo which will be your first and only stop along the way, before reaching Aguas Calientes, the final station.”¨”¨
Check IN is very smooth and quick, filled with joy, local Peruvian performers and music, giving you a warm welcome, as only South Americans know how to do it. Champagne and Mimosas at the Orient-Express Lounge while other are being checked IN and accompanied to their respective tables at the dining cars.”¨”¨
Tables are either four or two seaters, and do not worry, if you are traveling on your own, you will be matched with another solo traveler. Or if you prefer and it the train is not sold out, you will even be able to have your own private table, subject to availability. All drinks are included both alcoholic and non-alcoholic and YES this includes lots of Champagne and Pisco Sours. They will only charge you extra for premium drinks.”¨
During the first two hours, it is all about the excitement of being onboard of one of the most traditional trains in the world, following the path of the Incas along the Urubamba River. “¨”¨Champagne and Pisco Sours flowed all along the train, showing the perfect balance between the local Peruvian experience with the signature of true European style.
The train is composed of two dining cars, an observation bar car and a kitchen car, and can carry up to 84 passengers. Everyone walks up and down the formation, enjoying appetisers, brunch, live music and a gourmet dinner on board, as the train travels through spectacular and ever-changing scenery. A guide is available to accompany passengers. “¨”¨
Once you reach Ollantaytambo, and the train does a brief stop to pick up passengers there, then lunch is served. I mean, I do not know you, but for me there is nothing more sexy and enjoyable than having lunch onboard of a train, looking the scenery go by. “¨”¨Such a shame I was alone this time, not being able to share this moments with my partner, as we did on our 4 days Orient-Express Train from Bangkok to Singapore .
Enjoy the stunning views and live music at the Observatory Car, until arrival to your final destination, Aguas Calientes. You will arriver around 12,30PM. From there the off train Orient-Express services begin. “¨”¨On private buses you will be taken on a 25 minutes ride through the mountains to the citadella of Machu Picchu.
(Photo Album) Hiram Bingham Luxury Train by Orient Express
From there you may opt to follow the Orient-Express multilingual tours, go on your own, or as I did, have your own tour guide to maximize your time in Machu Picchu. The meeting point will always be the only hotel right next to the citadella, the Sanctuary Lodge by Orient Express. “¨”¨
Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu
Two of the main vestiges of the Inca Empire, located twenty five minutes away from the town of Aguas Calientes by approximately four hours away from Cusco. I came to Machu Picchu with lots of expectations, and to be honest not with much knowledge, and I must say that all expectations were fully surpassed by its beauty, mysticism and advance knowledge of architecture, hydraulics and astronomy of the Incas at that time. “¨”¨
Machu Picchu, is without a doubt, one of the most photographed icons of the Inca Empire. Located at over 2400 meters above sea level, in the region of the Sacred Valley, close to the waters of the Urubamba River. This Pre-Columbian site, is believed was design and created by the first registered Inca Pachacuti.
Machu Picchu is a quechua word and means “Old Peak”. Here, at the citadella, you can find many relevant ruins, but some of the must see are the Intihuatana, Temple of the Sun, Sacred Rock, and the Room of the Three Windows.
(Photo Album) Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu
Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.”¨”¨
The Incas started building the “estate” around 1400, but abandoned it as an official site for the Inca rulers a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest.”¨”¨
Wayna Picchu, quechua for “New Peak”, is the tallest peak next to Machu Picchu, the one that usually frames any photo of the citadella. Unfortunately I was not able to come on top, because it only opens early in the morning and they allow a maximum of 400 people per day. the top of the mountain was the residence for the high priest and the local virgins. My train arrived to Aguas Calientes by 12noon and already was too late. This is one of the many reasons why I would recommend to stay overnight.
BTW the only hotel next to Machu Picchu, is the Sanctuary Lodge by Orient-Express, if not you will have to descend to Aguas Calientes, where you will find many many options. “¨”¨
Wayna Picchu is 2,720 meters above sea level. The Temple of the Moon, is nestled on the side of the mountain.”¨”¨
Do not forget to stamp your passport upon departure, other than the amazing photos and mental images you will keep forever in your mind, you can also show the world you have been there. “¨”¨
Entry to the Machu Picchu: Tickets to enter Machu Picchu can no longer be bought at the entrance to Machu Picchu itself. You must buy your ticket well in advance because the government has recently decided to limit the number of visitors to Machu Picchu to just 2500. Get your ticket @ www.machupicchu.gob.pe approximately Nuevos Soles 128 (USD 49).”¨”¨The bus from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu takes about 20 minutes and costs US$8 each way (US$16 return). The ride itself is spectacular as the narrow track winds its way up the mountainside.
You can always do this tour on your own, of course, but if you get an expert local guide, trust me that it a complete Haute Experience. I got Abel, by OUTAndes, who took me everywhere, and shared all his knowledge with me. Let me know and I can arrange this for you. And on top of all the perks, if you are traveling solo like me, you get your own guide to take as many photos of you as you want ha ha ha ….
Approximately at 4PM, all passengers of the Hiram Bingham gather at the tea room of the Sanctuary Lodge Hotel, to enjoy a lovely tea before heading back to Aguas Calientes and boarding the luxury train back to Cusco. So at 5PM we got on our buses and drove back to Aguas Calientes.”¨”¨”¨
A charming, hectic and happening town located at the Sacred Valley, bathed by the waters of the Urubamba River. Filled with bars, markets, inns and restaurants. It is the door to access the citadella following the ancient path of Inca Pachacuti and later the discovery by Hiram Bingham, to have your own spiritual close encounter with Machu Picchu.
The image of the Inca Pachacuti leads the central square of Aguas Calientes. The ninth Sapa Inca (1438–1471/1472) of the Kingdom of Cusco, which he transformed into the empire Tawantinsuyu.
You can see that during the last four years, Aguas Calientes has grown beyond its limits, but still remains true to its heritage. I was kind of bummed that I was not able to spend more time there or even overnight, but at least I had an hour to explore before boarding once again my Orient-Express train.
This time, on my way back, I only did half way on the train, since I got off at Ollantaytambo, for my next two days stay at the Urubamba Valley at the incredible Rio Sagrado Hotel, of course also by Orient-Express.
On the way back from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo (two hours) onboard the Hiram Bingham, I enjoyed a lovely four steps dinner, in a complete different atmosphere, since the sun was coming down, and the romantic tune was setting within the train.
By 7PM I was at the station of Ollantaytambo, and my guide was there waiting to take me to my next spectacular Orient-Express experience. “¨”¨
Machu Picchu and Hiram Bingham, a journey like no other, a once in a lifetime experience, a magical journey, never to be forgotten.”¨”¨
Carlos Melia is a Travel Expert, Blogger, Niche Marketing Consultant, Jetsetter, and Bon Vivant, who travels around the world discovering what’s new and cool in Luxury Travel and Hospitality. His reviews on hotels, restaurants, destinations, and attractions, based on his own experiences as an OUT Gay Traveler can be found at www.carlosmeliablog.com