Ride the Train to the Clouds in Salta, Argentina
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Argentina News

Ride the Train to the Clouds in Salta, Argentina

3 min read

Aug 3, 2012


By Kaitlin McMichael

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Last updated on December 28th, 2020 at 03:44 pm

Train to the Clouds Argentina

Have you ever dreamed of riding an old-fashioned train through winding desert landscapes, harrowing tunnels and bridges, and beautiful scenery? The famous Train to the Clouds in Salta, Argentina, is a dream come true for those interested in a South America train tour! Get off the beaten track and travel to Argentina on the Train to the Clouds, a spectacular train ride through the Cordillera de Los Andes mountains, that will make for a ride you’re unlikely to forget.

History of the Train to the Clouds

train atop raised tracks - train to the clouds

The Train to the Clouds (Tren a las Nubes in Spanish) was originally constructed in the early 1900s. Goods were shipped from the coast of Chile through the Andes Mountains to northwestern Argentina through this route. An American engineer, Richard Maury, developed the route using ingenious technology. Instead of using brakes, the Train to the Clouds twists and turns through the mountains in order to control its speed.

Train to the Clouds Itinerary

Calchaquí Valley desert mountains

Today, the renovated train has become a tourist route that carries thousands of passengers along its vertiginous track. Departing at Salta early in the morning, travelers will take a van ride through the “Puna” or the altiplano Andes, and return around midnight.

In between, passengers enjoy views of tobacco farms, cattle fields, the Quebrada del Toro, altiplano, and small Andean villages. Two of the best lookouts are Campo Quijano and Viaducto El Toro.

Enjoy breakfast and snacks while you stop at several viewpoints to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Arriving in San Antonio de los Cobres, there will be time for lunch. Then, board the train for the main event: the famous ride over the Polvorilla Aqueduct. This is the highest point on the route, at 4,220 meters (13,850 feet).

While on the train, a local guide explains different aspects of the route’s history and its construction, from its engineer, Richard Maury. After stretching your legs and enjoying the views, return to the van and begin your journey back down the mountain. Depart from the clouds and breathtaking scenery to the sleeping colonial city of Salta once again.

Alternative Options for Travelers

There is also an alternative for those who wish to travel along the Train to the Clouds route a different way. It’s possible to follow the Train to the Clouds route by car, along with a zigzagging route in a 4×4 off-road vehicle. The advantage of this adventure based option is this tour also gets to visit the famous “salaries” (salt flats). These are not far from San Antonio de los Cobres. It is a perfect combination of the Puna and Salt Flats landscapes. Note that the train ride will not be included in this option.

Add on to Your Trip

white washed church in Salta region

If you are interested in traveling to Argentina to experience this fantastic Train to the Clouds Salta Argentina tour, then add on a day in Salta. Here, visit the museum, take a city tour, and visit the colorful Church of St Francis.

An extra day in Salta will also allow you to visit the North of the Province and Jujuy. This includes the famous “Seven Colors Mountain” in Tilcara. Or embark south, to the wine region of Cafayate. Here, sample some of the famous “Torrontes” wines that are typical of this part of Argentina.

Of course, you most likely will be flying into Buenos Aires, and there are plenty of activities for train and history buffs near Buenos Aires as well.  Find out more about how to maximize your Train to the Clouds tour.

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Last updated on December 28th, 2020 at 03:44 pm

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