Famous for the snow-capped Andes, rugged canyons, wild jungles, exotic wildlife and ancient civilisations, Latin America is also home to some of the best train trips on the planet, providing a perfect way to see the beautiful scenery from the comfort of a rail carriage. Australia’s longest-running travel specialist for Latin America, Contours Travel, has released a list of the top seven train trips in Latin America.
1. Copper Canyon, Mexico
Mexico only has one passenger train but what it lacks in the company it certainly makes up for in quality. Known as ‘El Chepe’ by locals, the Copper Canyon Railway takes passengers from the desert to the Pacific Coast in north-west Mexico, passing sheer canyon walls, waterfalls and plains along the way. The railway stretches over 650km from Chihuahua to Los Mochis on the coast via 36 bridges and 87 tunnels and has been running for over 50 years.
2. Panama Canal Railway, Panama
Linking the city of Colon on the Atlantic Coast and Panama City on the Pacific, the Panama Canal Railway offers spectacular views of one the world’s less-travelled tourism destinations. The glass-domed train is perfect for travellers wishing to relive the heyday of luxury train travel on one of the world’s most renowned examples of engineering. The hour-long train ride offers stunning views of the history-changing and recently enlarged canal and vine-engulfed jungle abundant with wildlife.
3. Tren Crucero, Ecuador
This luxury and vintage train has just four carriages – two dining cars and two lounge cars – ensuring passengers have an intimate experience as they journey from Ecuador’s capital, Quito, through the Andes over snow-capped mountains and past volcanoes before arriving in the bustling coastal city of Guayaquil. The most memorable section of the route is a steep descent through wild mountain scenery known as the ‘Devil’s Nose’, which sees the track drop 500m in elevation over the course of only 12km. A unique way to experience Ecuador’s diverse natural beauty.
4. Tren a Las Nubes, Argentina
Regularly ranked among the world’s top rail adventures, the ‘Train to the Clouds,’ which reaches heights of 4200 metres, connects north-west Argentina with the Chilean border in the Andes mountain range. The peaceful journey is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. Perhaps the most impressive part of the journey is passing over the Viaducto La Polvorilla. The 64m-high, 232m-long viaduct is the most photographed part of the ‘Train to the Clouds’ as locals and tourists alike stick their bodies out the windows for a once-in-a-lifetime snapshot.
5. End of the World Train, Argentina
Considered the southernmost operating railway in the world, the ‘End of the World’ train ride takes travellers from Ushuaia to the Tierra del Fuego National Park. The heritage railway follows the historic convict train route through some of the world’s most stunning landscapes, from Patagonian lakes to snow-capped peaks. As guests admire the breathtaking views onboard, the commentary provides insight into the rich history of the railway and the region.
6. Machu Picchu, Peru
Considered one of the most beautiful rail routes in the world, this trip takes passengers from Cuzco to the base of the world-famous Machu Picchu Incan ruins in the Peruvian Andes. The route follows the river along a narrow valley, passing small communities, farms, snow-capped mountains and lush forest. Carriages range from the Explorer – perfect for those on a budget – to the Hiram Bingham Deluxe – one of the most luxurious carriages in the world.
7. Belmond Andean Explorer, Peru
Launched in May 2017, the Belmond Andean Explorer is a luxurious train journey filled with breathtaking views of the Andes mountain ranges. Among the highest train trips on Earth, the Belmond Andean Explorer reaches heights of 4300m or almost twice the height of Mt Kosciuszko. The luxury sleeper train takes pampered passengers from Cusco – the ancient capital of the Inca Empire – through the Andean plains to beautiful Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America and the highest in the world and also journeys to the vast Colca Canyon and the city of Arequipa, a World Heritage site.
Specialising in Latin America only and headed by Ted Dziadkiewicz, a well-travelled expert on the region, Contours Travel offers hosted group tours and tailor-made itineraries for independent travellers throughout Latin America. To book or make enquiries click here.