Iconic luxury train journeys in Latin America

Luxury tourist trains resume as tourism recovers in region
Iconic luxury train journeys in Latin America

With its amazing landscapes and unparalleled diversity in natural beauty, Latin America is perhaps best discovered through train journeys, notably the tourist trains, several of which ply around the continent. After having remained suspended for over two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, most of the iconic trains have restarted plying and are attracting tourists again.
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After over 30 months of disruption due to the coronavirus pandemic, tourist train trips in Latin America have resumed and in a big way, allowing the millions of fans of train journeys to book their tickets and get to discover the continent and its unmatched landscapes and cultures in the slow travel mode.

From Mexico to Argentina, the rail tourism industry has staged a strong comeback, offering visitors tours in world heritage cities and fun experiences to enjoy as a couple or with the family. Here are four of the most popular ones right now.


Hiram Bingham Belmond Andean Explorer, Peru

Belmond Andean Explorer is a south America’s first luxury sleeper train (Photo : meeztheworld)

This luxury train belonging to the exclusive Belmond family, a company that operates luxury hotels, trains, and cruises around the world, makes an extraordinary tour of the Andes in Peru, from Cusco to Machu Picchu, the ancient lost city of the Incas.

Passengers are greeted with a welcome cocktail infused with Peruvian aguaymanto to enjoy while admiring a fabulous view of the highlands. They’ll also enjoy gourmet food and exceptional regional wines as the day passes and the sun shines on the horizon of the Sacred Valley, another amazing spot of this tour.

The menu on board consists of artisan dishes with the best of the renowned contemporary Peruvian cuisine as exclusive recipes based on the Sacred Valley corn, Angus American meat, and coffee from the cloud forest. Dinner includes Pumahuancas salt-crusted trout, confit duck in traditional Northern Peruvian sauce, and Kiwicha caviar. The menu is rich in local produce that changes with the season.

The cocktails served, exclusive of Hiram Bingham, are the brainchild of the expert mixologist Aaron Diaz and include the refreshing Picaflor Andino, made with Pisco and citrus flavors, in addition to the Belmont Swizzle with rum Cartavio Solera, coconut, and pineapple, as well as the Expresso Bingham, inspired by the classic Espresso Martini.


Chepe Express, Mexico

The Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico, also known as El Chepe (Photo : Chepe Express)

The Chepe Express makes an extensive tour of the incredible Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Ravines), located in northern Mexico. The journey lasts approximately nine hours and starts in Los Mochis, in the state of Sinaloa, until it reaches Creel, in the state of Chihuahua.

The trip features an amazing route that crosses tunnels and bridges from where passengers can admire the beauty of some of the most impressive mountains in Mexico. In addition, the service on board is of high quality including regional cuisine and an extensive drinks menu.

Chepe Express has three types of accommodation: First Class, Executive, and Tourist, plus a car bar, restaurant, and terrace, where riders can relax with a breathtaking view of the mountains. In addition to knowing the cities of Los Mochis and Creel, passengers have the opportunity to visit charming villages such as El Fuerte, Bahuichivo, and Divisadero, located near Sierra Tarahumara, inhabited by indigenous communities.


Tren a las Nubes, Argentina

Tren a Las Nubes is one of the highest altitude trains in the world (Photo : tripadvisor)

Chugging at more than 4500 m above the sea level, Argentina’s Tren a las Nubes is the third highest train in the world. The train begins its journey from the town of San Antonio de Los Cobres and reaches the Viaduct La Polvorilla—villages located in the province of Salta in the north of Argentina—in a journey of just over 435 km. On the journey, the train crosses 29 bridges, 21 tunnels, 13 viaducts and two spirals and zigzags each. Because of the design decision not to use a rack-and-pinion for traction, the route had to be designed to avoid a steep gradient. The zigzags allow the train to climb up driving back and forth parallel to the slope of the mountain.

The train departs from Salta every Saturday at 07:05, and returns around midnight, though most tourists simply do the 8-hour one-way trip and return by other means. The train is composed of a dining carriage, bar carriage, a first aid area and two passenger carriages with room for 170 people, though this is expected to increase to 400 over time. There are numerous stops along the way, some with markets selling artisan goods and locals offering regional cuisine.

The track goes through tour travels a fabulous path through the heights of the Andes, crossing canyons and great valleys. The route combines rail and road sections for passengers to take pictures at panoramic points. After leaving San Antonio de Los Cobres, the train makes a journey through some impressive engineering work made up of extraordinarily elevated bridges. At the end of the journey, passengers are transferred to the city of Salta on board a special bus service.

Those interested in the history and culture of these destinations have the opportunity to visit the Church of San Antonio de Padua, a sanctuary that, year after year, welcomes pilgrims from the surroundings who celebrate with traditional music and dances. Another attraction is the Andean Regional Museum of San Antonio de Los Cobres, where visitors can enjoy works donated by the villagers to publicise their ancient culture, customs, and history.


Turistren, Colombia

Tourist Train of the Savannah, in Bogotá, offers a tour on board classic train models (Photo: turistren)

In the city of Bogota begins the great adventure of the passengers of the Tourist Train of the Savannah who enjoy the experience of boarding locomotives restored to retain their classic style and that travel several km of urban and rural landscapes of the surroundings of Bogota.

After crossing the Colombian capital, the Turistren arrives in the town of Zipaquirá, which is surrounded by the beautiful Colombian savanna, in wagons where passengers enjoy the view in comfortable and large reclining seats. One of the main spots to visit is the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, considered one of the modern wonders of Colombia for having been carved in salt.

While the ride is not as spectacular as that of other trains in Latin America, the experience of traveling on restored locomotives is a lot of fun for domestic and foreign visitors. Turistren offers steam locomotive tours manufactured in 1921 and 1947 in the United States, as well as three others made by General Electric with diesel engines and old Swedish-made light trains that have been fully rehabilitated.



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