Capture views from the rails on a train journey through Chihuahua, Mexico. (Photo: Alamy)
Some of Latin America and the Caribbean’s most breathtaking views can be enjoyed from within a train car. It’s time to traverse monumental canyons and historic landscapes, and skirt the vibrant coastlines to the tune of live music and with a few drinks in hand. Hit the tracks for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
The Copper Canyon Railroad
Chihuahua and Topolobampo, Mexico
Pacific Chihuahua is the only passenger train that still operates in Mexico. Fondly referred to as Chepe, the 15-hour trip, which covers more than 404 miles, starts in the capital city of Chihuahua an ends in the port of Topolobampo, Sinaloa. Despite not being the most modern or fastest train in the world, the Chepe has managed to sell out and garner an exceptional reputation. And the reason is quite simple: It offers amazing scenic views.
The Chepe crosses the Sierra Tarahumara and its famous Copper Canyon, a system that goes deeper and higher than the Grand Canyon by far. Before ending your trip, be sure to enjoy Chepe’s nine stops, some recognized for their cultural wealth, others for their culinary delights and yet others for their views of the canyons.
Cuauhtemoc is known as the city of three cultures, because of the intermingling of the Raramuris, Mestizos and Mennonites, who live between apple orchards and dairy farms reputed to be the best in the country.
From Creel, an old village of lumberjacks, you can explore the cascades and lakes of the mountain range; and in Divisadero, a station where there are only a few hotels and traditional restaurants, you can witness the best views of the hills of Urique, Tararecua and of the Copper Canyon. The train offers roundtrip first-class tours daily and economy tours three times a week.
Tequila on Trails
Where: Guadalajara, Mexico
The most iconic images of Mexico, those that include mariachi, tequila and sombreros, originate in the state of Jalisco. The most popular drink in the country — along with the traditions associated with it — is the reason to hop aboard the Tequila Express.
Between tastings and mariachi songs, tours through the so-called Tequila Trail depart for the agave landscapes characteristic of the region and the hacienda-style distilleries where the national spirit is produced. This train, used exclusively for these sightseeing tours, has been running since 1997.
The trip, which includes three tequila tastings, takes off in Guadalajara and heads to the San José del Refugio distillery in Amatitán, where passengers can tour the fields of agave, learn about the jima process (when the plant’s leaves are cut) and observe the distillation process of the most famous of Mexican spirits first-hand.
The tours, which are offered exclusively on weekends, take nine hours and begin and end in Guadalajara.
The Luxurious Railroad to Machu Picchu
Where: Machu Picchu, Peru
There are only two ways to get to Machu Picchu: on foot, following the Inca Trail or by train, with the route that connects Poroy (a small town near Cusco) with Aguascalientes (the town in the foothills of the mountain). For those who prefer to save a three-night trek and at least 24 hours of walking, the trip by train is ideal. PeruRail, the only company that operates the railway route Cusco-Machu Picchu, offers itineraries on different trains, ranging from transportation only to scenic tours with gourmet dinner included.
The Vistadome is one of its luxury trains — perfect for enjoying the landscapes of the road and discovering Machu Picchu on your own.
The full journey from Poroy to Aguascalientes takes approximately three and a half hours. The wagons are designed as dining cars, and part of the service on board includes an Andean breakfast and afternoon tea. But what makes the Vistadome special isn’t the food.
Wagons feature large panoramic windows that allow you to enjoy spectacular river and mountain views of the Valle Sagrado (Sacred Valley).
The Vistadome offers the trip service twice in the morning to Machu Picchu, and twice in the afternoon back to Cusco.
The intermediate stop, in the inca town of Ollantaytambo, is the perfect excuse to explore the cobbled streets, cafés and handicrafts shops from one of the most picturesque places in the valley.