If you are a train fanatic, or simply wish to enjoy a relaxing ride through the highest mountains in the Western Hemisphere, you may want to consider travel by train from the Peruvian capital of Lima to the mountain city of Huancayo.
Several times each year between the months of May and November, the Central Andean Railroad operates a small passenger train along the highest train tracks in the Western Hemisphere, offering this scenic tour to tourists from all over the world.
Engineering buffs will marvel at the tunnels, bridges, and switchbacks that make it possible to travel from Lima, at sea level, to a maximum altitude of 14,694 feet, onward to Huancayo, at just under 10k, in a journey of just over 12 hours.
Tickets are offered in two classes, classic and tourist-class, which offers comfortable seats and access to a lounge car at the end of the train, open to the crisp Andean air on three sides. Tourist class tickets are about $95/person for one way, or $130 for round-trip.
Since arrival at the train station in Huancayo will likely be after dark, it’s best to arrange lodging in advance. Since we had purchased an all-inclusive package through Lucho Hurtado of Incas del Peru, he met us at the station, took us to our hotel, Casa da Abuela (Grandma’s house), and later welcomed us to his restaurant, La Cabana. Both establishments were modestly priced with a very Peruvian feel.
The next day, Lucho guided us on a historical tour of the city and surrounding area. We toured plazas and ruins of various ages, and also enjoyed a museum and small chapels. Incas del Peru also offers artisan tours, where visitors can see the creation of such goods as carved gourds, alpaca wool textiles, and colonial style silver. Those seeking to immerse themselves in the culture can take courses over several days to learn the basics of the art. Adventure travelers can take a journey into the high jungle that lasts several days.
No discussion of a Peruvian city is complete without a mention of the local food – Huancayo is famous for its Pachamanca, a term used for a deep steaming pit. Meat and vegetables are placed directly onto red-hot rocks, just inches over glowing coals. After some water and a cover of burlap, twenty minutes later there is food for 50 – seasoned perfectly in conjunction with a cold bottle of Cusqueña, a Peruvian beer.
We enjoyed our travel by train to Huancayo, but decided to take the bus back to Lima, as we were short on time. It was well worth the days we took to see this beautiful mountain city and its people.