Top Travel Tips for South America: Rail Journeys

There is a special something about travelling by train. And we are not talking of packed local trains or high speed commuter routes, we mean those iconic rail journeys that wend their way gracefully through spectacular scenery, perhaps cutting through impossibly mountainous terrain, small local towns, or alongside lush river valleys.

Time seems to slow down a little as breath-taking panoramas pass gradually by your window and you sit back and relax in luxury, enjoying sumptuous surroundings, exquisite service, and gourmet cuisine. Here is our guide to some of Latin America’s most beautiful rail journeys that you should certainly look at booking as part of your own bespoke holiday.

The Hiram Bingham, Peru: Travelling by train in Peru is one of the best ways to journey through the Andes. A wonderful trip is the laidback journey across the altiplano aboard the Andean Explorer between Cusco and Lake Titicaca, stopping at its highest point enroute at La Raya. Head to Machu Picchu from either Cusco or the lower altitudes of the Sacred Valley alongside the Urubamba River and if you are arranging a special celebration with family or friends, we would recommend the delightful Presidential service with Inca Rail, where you can book your own private deluxe carriage and enjoy exquisite food and service.

If you long for the elegance of that bygone era of rail travel, then step aboard one of the sumptuous Pullman carriages of the Belmond (formerly Orient Express) owned Hiram Bingham train along the same route. Enjoy fine dining on board as you journey towards the most impressive and astonishingly located of the Inca sites, the citadel of Machu Picchu.

The Chepe, Mexico: The Ferrocaril Chihuahua al Pacifico, known as the ‘Chepe’ for short, crosses through some of Mexico’s most dramatic scenery, taking you to the edge of jaw-dropping gorges and to the rim of the largest Canyon in the Americas. Although its full length runs from Los Mochis, almost on the Pacific Coast, to Chihuahua in the heart of the northern desert, its most scenic route runs from the pretty colonial town of El Fuerte to Creel as it crosses through the Tarahumara Sierra.

What makes it really special is that there are numerous stops along its route which enables you to design your own bespoke itinerary in the Copper Canyon region. Travel by train over dramatic bridges and ravines, then step off to explore this stunning canyon and its deep valleys with wonderful local guides either by 4WD or on foot, visiting local communities of Raramuri as the native Tarahumara Indians like to be known.

Tren Crucero, Ecuador: In June 2013, a multi-million dollar restoration project on Ecuador’s principle rail line was completed, finally linking again the full length of this route. The journey from Quito to Guayaquil was first constructed in the late 19th century and its re-opening brings much needed economic prosperity to isolated rural communities as well as offering one of the most spectacular journeys from the country’s breath-taking Andean highlands down to the tropical Pacific Coast at Guayaquil. Journey through the ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’, enjoying truly wonderful panoramas of Ecuador’s highest peaks, stopping off in local villages to visit indigenous markets and admiring the incredible engineering feat of the switchbacks of the Devil’s Nose route.

Step aboard your luxury carriage, each of the four coaches furnished in different style to reflect their Ecuadorian heritage, and stay at beautiful carefully selected historic haciendas and comfortable lodges each night. Arrive in Guayaquil and perhaps journey through cacao plantations to beautiful Machalilla Park for whale-watching in season or fly straight out to the Galapagos Islands, one of the world’s most incredible wildlife destinations.

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