The Most Unforgettable Train Journeys Through South America

Train from Cusco to Puno travelling alongside Lake Titicaca during sunset
Train from Cusco to Puno travelling alongside Lake Titicaca during sunset

As a region full of contrasts, South America has plenty to offer, and the best way to enjoy it all is on a scenic train ride. Every trip is a new marvel, from the green, cloud-covered Andes mountains to the wide, sun-baked plains of the Patagonian steppes. Travelers riding these trains see South America in all its natural glory up close as they rattle along old tracks.

You can also sip on local wine or a hot cup of mate during the ride. All this while you move past high peaks, extensive vineyards, and small, remote towns. Discover some of South America’s most scenic rides by rail that will make you the envy of your friends.

The Andean Explorer, Peru

The luxurious Andean Explorer transforms train travel into an art form. This train takes you through some of Peru’s most magnificent landscapes. It travels from the ancient city of Cusco to the soothing waters of Lake Titicaca and then to the busy town of Arequipa. There is an air of sophistication and ease about the trip itself. As the sun sets, it turns the Andes into an unbelievable mix of gold and purple. This creates the perfect setting for guests to enjoy a Pisco Sour or a gourmet supper.

The Tren Crucero, Ecuador

Next on our journey is the Tren Crucero in Ecuador, which takes you from the coastal plains of Guayaquil to the historic capital, Quito, bridging Ecuador’s coastal and Andean landscapes. As the train ascends, passengers witness a dramatic change in scenery. You will witness the beauty of tropical plantations and snow-capped mountains. Along the way, passengers can also explore local markets, learn about the traditions of the Andean people, and even visit a rose plantation. Plus, each carriage is painstakingly crafted to reflect Ecuadorian culture.

The Belmond Hiram Bingham, Peru

For those looking to follow in the footsteps of explorers, the Belmond Hiram Bingham offers a trip to the mystical Machu Picchu. Departing from Cusco, the train snakes through the Sacred Valley. It offers passengers panoramic views of the rugged landscape and the Urubamba River. The service on the Belmond Hiram Bingham is impeccable. Guests enjoy gourmet meals and live Peruvian music, which enhances the experience. Arriving at Machu Picchu after such a journey adds an extra layer of wonder to the already awe-inspiring site.

Tren a las Nubes, Argentina

The Tren a las Nubes, or “Train to the Clouds,” offers an engineering marvel as it makes its way through the Argentine Andes. Starting from Salta, this one-day round trip climbs to over 4,200 meters above sea level, making it one of the highest railways in the world. The experience is nothing short of breathtaking. The Tren a las Nubes crosses massive viaducts, zigzags through mountainous terrain, and tunnels through the clouds.

The Death Train, Bolivia

While Bolivia’s ominously named train might deter some, this ride offers an authentic slice of Bolivian life. The Death Train runs from Santa Cruz to the Brazilian border, passing through small towns, agricultural fields, and wild nature. It’s a bumpy ride, but it’s also a rare opportunity to see the heart of Bolivia, away from the typical tourist trails. The Death Train provides a memorable and unique experience for those with an adventurous spirit.