Train to the Clouds

The Train to the Clouds (Tren de las Nubes) is one of the three highest railways in the world. It departs from the city of Salta (at 3,894 f.a.s.l.) and ends its journey at La Polvorilla viaduct (at 13,850 f.a.s.l.). On its way, it crosses a road that takes to the clouds, with enough time to enjoy very different and changing landscapes: from the green hills of the Lerma Valley –where the city of Salta is located- to the desolated Puna’s immensity. An unforgettable cultural and landscaping  experience that was originally thought to connect Salta with Chile through the Andean Range. In the 20’s, the American engineer Richard Maury, who was in charge of the project, designed a singular system supported by bridges, tunnels, viaducts, spirals and zigzags. The zigzags allow the train to climb up driving back and forth parallel to the slope of the mountain.

On board, the train provides all necessary services for a really pleasant experience, travelers leave early in the morning from the City of Salta, crossing Valle de Lerma and  Quebrada del Toro, heading towards the immense territory of the Puna. The train makes two stops, both almost at the end of the journey. No doubts, the first one is the most impressive: La Polvorilla Viaduct, where the Puna’s immensity and Eng. Maury’s railway construction emerge with all their magnitudes. The train arrives to La Polvorilla with the locomotive pushing all the wagons from behind (shortly before getting to the Viaduct, the locomotive is detached and taken to the end of the wagons to facilitate the return). This Viaduct reaches 207 ft above the ground, with a curve 735 ft long. At the end of the ascent, passengers may get off the train, feel the clean and cold air on their faces, walk slowly to get their bodies used to the altitude and take spectacular photos that witness their arrival to the clouds. The second stop is at San Antonio de los Cobres, an old village that invites to learn about the life style and many of the region’s cultural expressions: traditional dances and music, handcrafts and fabrics made of llama, vicuña and alpaca wool. After this point, the journey continues in bus, back to the City of Salta.

The train covers a distance of 128 miles, at 21 miles per hour. Besides its dining car, it offers physician services, audio, video and bilingual guide services. The departure is very early in the morning and the bus gets back to the city at 9 pm; crossing Quebrada del Toro, with a stop at the beautiful village of Santa Rosa de Tastil, where travelers may visit the local museum: Museo de Sitio.

IMPORTANT: It is recommended to book tickets with anticipation due to the high demand. The train does not operate in summer due to the rains. Do not forget to take winter clothes, have a light dinner and rest properly the day before in order to be able to enjoy one of Salta’s most incredible tourist experiences.

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