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Monday 27 May 2019

On the right track: exploring Latin America by train

Latin America is a continent of stunning contrasts; from the snow-capped Andes, wild jungles, exotic wildlife and ancient civilisations, to glamorous beaches and chic bars. 

The region is also home to some of the best train trips on the planet, providing a perfect way to enjoy the scenery from the comfort of a rail carriage.

Australia’s longest-running travel specialist for Latin America, Contours Travel (with whom I had an outstanding trip to Peru), 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 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. 

3. Tren Crucero, Ecuador
This luxury, 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 mountains and past volcanoes before arriving in the bustling coastal city of Guayaquil.

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 journey is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. Perhaps the most impressive part of the journey is passing over the spectacular Viaducto la Polvorilla. 

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 stunning landscapes, from Patagonian lakes to snow-capped peaks. 

6. Machu Picchu, Peru
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 4300 metres.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. 

Contours Travel offers hosted group tours and tailor-made itineraries for independent travellers throughout Latin America. To book or make enquiries call Contours Travel on 1300 135 391 or visit


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