For many, travelling by train when on holiday is a romantic, relaxing experience completely different from the hectic trains and tubes of the “Western” world. South America has a fair share of very memorable train journeys, appealing to train buffs in addition to regular travellers. Some of the scenery is truely spectacular.The Grand Canyon is dwarfed my Mexico’s Copper Canyon, through which one can travel by train on a spectacular 3 day railway journey. The Tamarahura people ,who are descendants of the ancient Aztecs, still live in this desert region, and sell their crafts to passing visitors on the Copper Canyon train journey. The train journey is between Los Mochis and Chihuahua, and takes a total of 3 nights.
Copper Canyon, Mexico
Ecuador’s Nariz del Diablo (Devils Nose) train journey is equally memorable, and somewhat shorter in duration (one day). The trains wind their way down a near impossibly steep cliff known as the Devils nose, as so many people died during it’s construction. This train journey is certainly one of Ecuador’s travel highlights. It’s possible to travel much further than just the Devils Nose in Ecuador, in fact much of the “Avenue of the volcanoes” can be travelled by train. Seeing the local way of life is interesting - many farms and houses come right up to the railway tracks. Metropolitan Touring operates the Chiva Express for those interested in such a train journey. In 2007, two tourists were decapitated on the Chiva Express by an overhanging cable - if you travel on the roof, watch your head!
Peru also has it’s share of great train journeys. Many tourists choose to travel from Puno (Lake Titicaca) to Cuzco by train, which takes some 10 hours. To travel to Machu Picchu, one must also travel by train, of which there is the standard backpacker train, the more upmarket vistadome train, and the luxury Hiram Bingham train which is operated by Orient Express.
These are probaly the most memorable great train journeys in South America. There’s much more in addition though. The cloud train in northern Argentina (Tren de las Nubes) runs from Salta to Puna. One can also travel by train from Santa Cruz in Bolivia to Corumba in Brazil - known as the death train, this is an overnight jungle crossing. In Brazil, there’s also the Serra Verde Express which travels through Brazil’s atlantic rainforest between Curitiba, Morrettes and Paranagua.