andean explorer: train journey from cusco to puno

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When it comes to getting around within a country, our favourite mode of transport would be train: there is just so much leg room and freedom to move around while also having the opportunity to stare out of the windows at the passing scenery. Reading and playing card games are also easy possibilities to pass the time.

That is how we got to Puno from Cusco when we were in Peru. We went on the Andean Explorer which took about 12 hours. The seating carriages were also the dining carriage and the configuration was 4-seater tables and 2-seater tables. There was lunch and afternoon tea served. Towards the rear of the train was the lounge carriage with a bar and entertainment was provided throughout the journey.

The seating / dining carriage
The seating / dining carriage
Le (Mrs Wise Monkey) selected to join the dancing
Le (Mrs Wise Monkey) selected to join the dancing
Musicians and dancer
Musicians and dancer

The last carriage was an observation carriage with expansive viewing windows and no glass at the very back, perfect for photographing the ever-changing scenery. The train passes through so many different glorious backdrops and vegetation; through mountainous areas, farms, and in one section, right over a market set up on the tracks. The train journey was an experience we will never forget and were so glad to have experienced!

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The altitude for Cusco is approximately 3400 metres above sea level while Puno is about 3900 metres above sea level. On the train, the highest point that it stops at is La Raya which is almost 4400 metres above sea level. It certainly did feel harder to breathe as we walked around the markets at La Raya station.

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At higher altitude, there is a decreased oxygen pressure – it is not related to someone’s fitness ability. A few pointers/tips that we found useful to avoid altitude sickness:

  • Take it slow – over exertion is probably the easiest way to succumb to altitude sickness.
  • Coca leaves and coca tea –  what the locals use to help with this. Its quite readily available so enquire about it.
  • Make sure that several hours after arriving at high altitudes, to relax. We spent the rest of the afternoon lying in bed and watching TV. There is always the temptation to hit the ground running and head out straight away to explore but it wasn’t worth the risk. This goes hand in hand with avoiding over-exertion. Allow the body to acclimatise.
  • One last tip from a friend who had been to Peru : don’t let our head go below our heart e.g. if we were to pick something up from the ground, we were best to bend out knees and lower our entire body, keeping our head and neck straight as opposed to bending over as we normally would and letting our head drop forward  and then quickly standing up again. We took this tip and all others on board  because we were not risking altitude sickness and risking it spoiling our time in Peru.

31 thoughts on “andean explorer: train journey from cusco to puno

    swtravelAzerbaijan said:
    April 1, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    Great post! I had spent almost 4 months in Peru a few years ago and absolutely loved it. I still dream about ceviche de mariscos… Definitely one of the most beautiful countries I’ve visited.Thanks for reminding me about it 🙂 Also, brilliant tips about the altittude sickness – I had spent most of my time in Huancayo, high in the Andes and followed similar advice from my host family. Didn’t have any problems at all.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      April 1, 2014 at 10:43 pm

      Thank you so much for reading and your lovely words! 🙂 Glad to hear you liked the post!
      Peru is INCREDIBLE, right?! We loved it. You were very fortunate to be able to spend so much time in Peru. 🙂
      And YES – ceviche was so delicious – wish we could find somewhere in Australia that make it as good!

    Lipgloss and a Backpack said:
    March 30, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    That’s gorgeous! I am only going to have three weeks in Peru this July and was planning to just take the fastest transport between cities, but now I’m definitely going to slow down and make time for a train ride!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      March 30, 2014 at 4:07 pm

      You will love Peru and have a wonderful time! The people, the history, the culture – it’s just amazing!! Thanks so much for visiting and glad we inspired you 🙂

    […] on the back of the Andean Explorer as we pass through the towns of […]

    Y. Prior said:
    March 2, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    great pictures and awesome tips on altitude info!

    gretel24p said:
    March 1, 2014 at 5:01 am

    Amazing pictures. It looks like you guys had a great time. I would love to visit Peru.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      March 1, 2014 at 7:00 am

      Thank you! Peru is such a fabulous country – we hope you do get to visit there one day! The people are so lovely and the country is soaked in history and gorgeous scenery. We loved it there. said:
    March 1, 2014 at 2:36 am

    This looks like such a fun and interesting trip. Gorgeous photos. Like you two, we love train travel and really enjoyed the train ride from Cusco to Machu Picchu. We stopped in Ollantaytambo and stayed at the great little hotel right there at the train station. It was so cool. ~Terri

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      March 1, 2014 at 6:56 am

      Thanks for reading and for your comment! We must’ve stayed at the same hotel in Ollantaytambo as we too were just by the station. Did it have an orange exterior and a garden with a telescope? We were so amazed when we caught the train in the morning that the porter took our bags to the station for us despite our insistence that it wasn’t necessary! The hospitality in Peru was simply amazing and the people were so wonderful!

    Ayla said:
    March 1, 2014 at 12:02 am

    That train journey looks like so much fun! I’ve never heard of one where you’re provided with entertainment and made to get up and dance! The tips for altitude sickness are also handy as we’ll be in Cusco in June before the Inca Trail so I’ll be making a note of them.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      March 1, 2014 at 6:50 am

      It was a great train journey! And with altitude sickness, especially with Inca Trail, make sure you do take it extremely slow to start 🙂 – How exciting that South America is creeping up – where else will you be going in that trip?

        Ayla said:
        March 2, 2014 at 12:52 am

        I’m prone to headaches so I will definitely be taking it slowly. Did you take the tablets you can get for it? Peru, Argentina and then Brazil (Rio) for the World Cup so hopefully we’ll be able to see you out there 🙂

          wisemonkeysabroad responded:
          March 2, 2014 at 7:38 am

          Sweet!! Sounds unreal 🙂 – no, we didn’t take any tablets. We brought the tablets with us but didn’t use any. We stuck to coca ….

    MiaMusings said:
    February 28, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    looks like a great journey! lovely pics.

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 28, 2014 at 10:54 pm

      Thank you so much! It was a fabulous train journey 🙂

    Linda Arthur Tejera said:
    February 28, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Wonderful photos and great advice! 🙂

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 28, 2014 at 11:43 am

      Thanks Linda for reading and your comment – hope you are well 🙂

    Know-All said:
    February 28, 2014 at 4:56 am

    breath-taking view…and the last advice i will always keep in mind! 🙂

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 28, 2014 at 6:20 am

      Thank you for stopping by! The views were incredible & hopefully you don’t get altitude sickness if you are ever in high altitudes 🙂

    ourworldheritagebe said:
    February 27, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    The scenery lookes absolutely gorgeous! And the train looked quite comfortable as well… If we ever get to Peru… must remember this 😉

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 27, 2014 at 7:53 pm

      Yes, the scenery was simply stunning. We couldn’t take enough photos – it was hard to limit for the post. And it was an added bonus that the train was very comfortable and service was great! We loved Peru – hope you do get a chance to visit one day!

    It Started in Asia said:
    February 27, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Looks like fun and totally agree that travelling on the train is a great way to see some countryside that you may have missed. And, it’s just easy!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 27, 2014 at 1:41 pm

      This train trip was very fun. And absolutely train travel is easy and you do get to see more countryside – the journey is usually smooth too!
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

    disappearingwoman said:
    February 27, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    What beautiful pictures! Looks like it was a gorgeous trip. I’ve only traveled by train once from Washington DC to Boston. It was for work and not nearly as exciting or scenic as your journey!

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 27, 2014 at 1:38 pm

      It was a spectacular journey! Long and tiresome by the end but still magnificent! Thanks so much for your comment 🙂

    rasklein said:
    February 27, 2014 at 11:17 am

    What a cool trip. I bet the band was great.


      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 27, 2014 at 12:10 pm

      Yes the band and music were very entertaining! The pan flute sound is just so soothing and melodious that we had to buy a CD of the Andean folk music!

    kayrpea61 said:
    February 27, 2014 at 7:59 am

    That sounds like a great journey for a train buff. Thank you for sharing 🙂

      wisemonkeysabroad responded:
      February 27, 2014 at 8:42 am

      Thank you for reading! Yes, the journey is perfect for trains buffs and non-train buffs alike 🙂
      We are not train buffs but we certainly loved this one!

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