If You Want to Eat and Drink Your Way to Machu Picchu, Board This First-Class Train
The road to the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu is paved with many things: good intentions, of course, but also weathered railroad tracks and narrow switchbacks. For travelers visiting Peru's most sacred site, train travel is the most popular way to make the long journey, but if you're looking for the most gastronomically savvy means of getting there (read: cocktails with a short-and-sweet tasting menu of local fare), you'll want to board a first-class Inca Rail train.
Aboard the luxury carriage, which runs between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes (the main station for Machu Picchu visitors), daytime passengers are greeted with obligatory pisco sours, perhaps the most widely known classic Peruvian cocktail. It’s worth noting that though Inca Rail offers a dinnertime service, we strongly advise you opt for the lunch route, so you can take in the views from the train’s massive windows and skylights (there’s also an entire observation car decked out with cozy armchairs, a bar and a balcony, along with the occasional live music performance).
Almost immediately following the train’s departure from Ollantaytambo, the valley’s lush green hills begin to surround and envelop the train, and before you know it, your pisco sour has magically disappeared and servers are dropping the first course: a sautéed organic vegetable carpaccio with Parmesan and Mediterranean vinaigrette. Local wines begin to flow freely alongside fresh pineapple juice with spearmint leaves and a duo of teas; there's a house-made iced lemon verbena and a grapefruit and lemon refresher.
The second course, a breaded fillet of trout with goldenberry sauce and Arequipa potato gratin, appears shortly thereafter; the dessert course, perhaps the most memorable, consists of cherimoya (a local pineapple-esque fruit) with a goldenberry coulis made with Grand Marnier. The wine and cold drink service continues until just before the hour-and-40-minute journey culminates; from there, your server offers you coffee or herbal tea. Opt for the coca tea, which is said to help prevent or alleviate symptoms of altitude sickness.
The beauty of Inca Rail’s first-class ride may be bested only by the recently launched 360-degree train, which you may want to book on the way back to Ollantaytambo following your Machu Picchu visit. But your trip with Inca Rail runs deeper than just the elevated culinary and viewing experiences for which the operator has become known. With concerted sustainability efforts like waste minimization, low-CO2 emission fuel usage and support of local charitable organizations, Inca Rail is an easy choice for Machu Picchu visitors.
Céline Bossart is a traveling wine and spirits writer with an affinity for cocktails on various modes of public or private transportation. Follow her adventures on Instagram here.
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