If you only have a few weeks to travel to South America, the grand scale of the continent often leaves you with the choice of flying from destination to destination. The unfortunate reality of plane travel is that you get to know the inside of the airport rather than the beautiful countryside and less traveled places. Therefore, we invite you to slow the pace of your trip. Discover the 5 best tours for locomotive enthusiasts in South America.
#1. Tren Crucero – From Quito to Guayaquil
First on our list is Ecuador with a restored antique steam train which combines luxury and unique experiences. This train, The Tren Crucero, runs along the gorgeous landscapes between Quito (the Andean highlands) and Guayaquil (the Atlantic coast). You’ll see looming volcanos, small traditional villages, colorful markets, and spectacular rolling hills.
The train holds 50 passengers so you’ll enjoy world-class service on South America’s leading luxury train. Don’t expect to just sit around. Instead, you’ll get off the train several times a day for an excursion or to take photographs. You’ll immerse yourself in the history, cuisine, culture, and communities of Ecuador. All activities are with local guides who are passionate about their country. And don’t fret about small sleeping cabins. You’ll stay at boutique accommodations that offer the same level of customer service as the Tren Crucero. While many will claim that the Galapagos Islands are the gem of Ecuador, any train enthusiast is sure to find that this experience gives the islands a run for their money!
#2. Hiram Bingham – From Cuzco to Aguas Calientes
The Hiram Bingham is arguably the most famous train in South America. It will take you from Poroy Station (just outside Cuzco) and leave you in Aguas Calientes; which is a small town situated at the base of Machu Picchu. This luxury train was named after the American explorer who re-discovered the Incan citadel. It also boasts a 1920’s charm with wood paneled interiors and brass finishes. The Hiram Bingham winds through the Sacred Valley hills and along the Urubamba river. You’ll enjoy traditional Peruvian cuisine in the dining car and live music in the bar car. This 3-hour journey is an extra special highlight for anyone visiting Machu Picchu.
#3. Belmond Andean Explorer Train – From Cuzco to Puno
The first of its kind in South America – a luxury sleeper train – has recently come to Peru. This train now allows you to traverse the Peruvian Andes in comfort and style. Called the Belmond Andean Explorer Train, you can choose multiple journeys between Cuzco and Puno that last one or two nights.
Each day you’ll have an activity where you get off the train to explore fantastic sights that a flight or vehicle transfer will skip. Your sleeper cabin will include 1 or 2 beds, a private bathroom, and windows to enjoy the gorgeous scenery. Within the train, there’s a lounge bar car complete with a piano and dining cars where you’ll enjoy locally sourced meals. Additionally, there is a spa (available from June 30th, 2019 on) and a comfortable observation car that has large windows and an open deck. For anyone that wants a luxurious and unique way to see the main cities of Peru – Cuzco, Lima, and Arequipa, the Belmond Andean Explorer Train cannot be missed.
#4. La Trochita – From Esquel to El Maitén
The Old Patagonian Express train, lovingly nicknamed “La Trochita”, is a 1922 double headed steam train that runs in the south of Argentina. Given its name because of its narrow gauge of 75 cm, this is a must ride for any real train enthusiast. Boasting a unique historical and cultural charm, this is more of an experience than a luxury train. With simple seating, small windows, and wood burning stoves, this train slowly chugs through the Patagonian foothills. More frequent is the journey from Esquel to Nahuel Pan. It is a quick 45-minute journey in a vintage carriage that allows its passengers to listen to the sounds of an old steam train and enjoy the fresh air. Less frequent is the 9-hour journey between Esquel and El Maitén. These journeys are exclusive for the special locomotive enthusiast wanting to learn more about the railways and this fantastic machine.
#5. Serra Verde Express – Curitiba to Morretes
Perhaps containing the most interesting in terms of landscapes is the Serra Verde Express. The diesel and electric fueled train slowly travels through the Atlantic Rainforest in Southeast Brazil. Completed in 1885, this train once transported goods to the coast but now is a thrilling 3-hour journey through the treetops of the rainforest for train enthusiasts and tourists alike. The Serra Verde Express runs 380 miles between the cities of Curitiba and Morretes. You’ll pass through 13 tunnels and 30 bridges (one at 55 meters high) and see mountainous canyons and lush rainforest. The interior of the train is simple but comfortable with large windows that you can open. The Serra Verde Express is a definite hidden gem, we recommend this for anyone with a love for nature or trains!
Trains in South America can be a teacher of years past or a luxurious way to see the countryside and highlights. What type of locomotive enthusiast are you? We invite you to contact us today to plan your customized train trip through South America!