Argentina’s Train to the Clouds: One of the Highest Railways in the World
Imagine yourself in South America—riding the legendary “Train to the Clouds” all the way across Argentina’s highest peaks! Now, look out the window and marvel at the breathtaking landscapes of the Andes mountains as you immerse yourself into the past!
If this pulse-pounding scene sounds like your kind of adventure, keep on reading to discover everything you need to know about one of the highest railways in the world.
We will talk about its original purpose and history, interesting facts, and important information about the logistics in order for you to enjoy the whole Argentinian train experience to the fullest!
What Is the Argentinian Train to the Clouds?
There is something about legendary trains that captivates the imagination of travelers around the world. The Trans-Siberian, the Orient Express, and yes, the Train to the Clouds! Just the name of it foreshadows an amazing experience—now imagine yourself on the actual route, crossing high bridges, and going through dark tunnels across the mountains…
As its name suggests, the Argentinian Tren a las Nubes, or “Train to the Clouds,” is one of the world’s highest railways. It ascends up to 4,220 meters or 13,842 feet!
The train takes passengers from the city of Salta in northern Argentina, all the way to La Puna—a prolongation of the Bolivian highlands. On its route, the train takes you across the Andes mountains, and through a series of valleys and mining towns.
The Train to the Clouds covers 434 kilometers or 269 miles in a scenic trip like few in the world. It goes over 29 bridges, and passes through 21 tunnels. It also takes you through 13 viaducts, one of which is the famous Polvorilla viaduct—located at the highest point on the route, and considered “one of the greatest engineering works of the last century in Argentina.”
Purpose and Origin
The railway planning process for the train in the region started back in the late 19th century, but it wasn’t until 1921 that they began construction. The original purpose of the train was to connect the northern regions of Chile and Argentina across the Andes serving the borax mines of the region, and transporting goods from the coast of Chile to Argentina.
American engineer Richard Maury was responsible for the design of the route—which was completed in 1948. The commercial impact of the route never reached the expected heights and by 1972 Ferrocarriles Argentinos (Argentinian Railways) opened the route for tourists converting it into a heritage railway.
Among the most interesting historical facts about the Train to the Clouds, we find how it got its name. The catchy Tren a las Nubes or “Train to the Clouds” was an original idea of a group of students who filmed the steam coming out of a locomotive as it mixed with the clouds nearby(route Salta-Antofagasta). The footage made its way to a documentary project whose title was precisely Tren a las Nubes, produced by the Clarín newspaper. Years later, Ferrocarriles Argentinos would adopt the name for its new tourist line.
The Train to the Clouds has gone through a series of bumps along its history. In 1991, by order of Carlos Menem’s presidency, a private operator became the representative of the train—until 2005, when the train stopped at 3,500 m and passengers had to be evacuated by helicopters.
A new concession was given to a different operator, but in 2014 the train derailed at 4,000 m with 400 passengers having to be evacuated once again. Soon after this incident, the government of Salta decided to renationalise the route and operate the service itself.
Experience the Argentinian Train to the Clouds
If you want to experience the Argentinian Train to the Clouds, explore the northern region of Argentina, experience its share of Andes mountains, and witness its spectacular landscapes, you only need two things: to practice your Spanish and book a flight to Argentina!
Here, we can help out with both of them. Let’s get to it!
First, let us focus on how to get there.
How to Get There
Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, is one of the most interconnected cities in South America. Most large American airlines offer a direct route, so you shouldn’t have any problem finding tickets to get to Buenos Aires.
In any case, here is a link to the airports in Argentina.
Once in Buenos Aires, there are up to 8 different ways to get to Salta. The fastest one is through a domestic flight. You may also get there by train, by bus, or by driving a rental car for 900+ km—which would make up for an awesome road trip experience!
How to Buy Tickets
When you arrive in Salta, you’re going to find out that there are different ways to take the Train to the Clouds depending on where you want to start your trip and if you want to do the “train only” option or a mixed “bus and train” one.
Viator offers a thorough explanation of these options and provides visitors with good online resources to plan their trip before arriving there. Alternatively, you can also buy your tickets on the official Tren a las Nubes website. Or you can simply explore Salta and get your tickets directly at its train station.
Tickets for the Train to the Clouds in Argentina cost around $64 USD for single adult tourists. This price is for the route specified on the map. Do keep in mind that prices can vary depending on the exchange rate, route selected, and season of the year you choose to travel.
Things to Know Before You Go
There are a few things you need to know before hopping on the Train to the Clouds. First, the train only works on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, so make your plans accordingly.
Secondly, this is one of the highest railways in the world, which means you’re going to experience high altitude conditions and should be appropriately prepared. The air feels thinner and oxygen is limited, so bringing pills for altitude sickness or drinking the local coca leaves tea is a good idea.
Third, don’t forget your camera, as the landscapes you’re going to see there are hard to find anywhere else in the world. Also, make sure to bring a warm sweater or jacket, as you can experience both hot and cold weather depending on the season of the year, time of day, and altitude on the railway.
Finally, getting travel insurance before embarking on these once-in-a-lifetime experiences is always a great idea.
Travel to Latin America and Practice Your Spanish
Or you can also do it the other way around and practice your Spanish with us before booking your flight to Latin America! What are you waiting for to hop on the Train to the Clouds in Argentina?
Whichever way you choose to do it, remember that also learning about the culture you visit is just as important as learning the language. You will soon discover that Argentinian culture is one of the richest and most fascinating in South America.
Sign up for a free class to practice your Spanish language skills before your trip to Latin America!. Join the HSA community today and become one of our more than 24,000 students enrolled per month! Our certified native teachers from Guatemala have over 10 years of teaching experience and will adapt to your schedule availability. Besides, HSA also offers individual Spanish packages tailored just for you!
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