All about the new Train to the Clouds
- Published: Tuesday, 21 June 2016 15:30
It is beyond all question that the Train to the Clouds is one of the most famous tours in Argentina. An adventure on rails that surprises the visitors with the colours, textures and emotions this part of Salta province has to offer.
The tour has been running for decades now and made the region famous for having one of the five highest trains in the world. It is one of the most impressive engineering projects of the 20th century and a great example of men conquering the land to connect Salta with the isolated high altitude desert known as Puna.
Let’s learn more about this tour which will start running again in July, a great alternative to enjoy during this winter break.
The authorities of the General Belgrano railways decided to create this touristic project in November, 1971. After that first trip with politicians and journalists only, the Train to the Clouds has become a world-famous attraction.
The first official touristic trip took place in 1972 and continued until 1990 when the national railways were privatized. From 1991 up to 2014, the Train to the Clouds was managed by local capitals before the governor Juan Manuel Urtubey recovered it under the SFTSE society and started providing a service under international quality and safety standards.
For years, the train suffered many technical difficulties and didn’t allow to fully enjoy the experience; the train engine failed, the tracks were not in optimal conditions or simply the weather conditions were not good. Sometimes the hillside would collapse and block the rails, not allowing the train to continue its journey or return to Salta. This is why the Train to the Clouds does not work during the summer, which is rain season in the Argentine North.
For the 2016 season, the train will start providing a new kind of service. It may not be ideal or what most people expect of it but, unless millions of dollars are invested, it is the best solution under these conditions.
Since July 9th and celebrating 200 years of Argentina’s independence, instead of starting in Salta by train, the tour will only cover a small section of the railroad offering two options:
1) BUS + TRAIN + BUS
This option includes a bus transfer from Salta, visiting Campo Quijano and Gobernador Solá up to El Alfarcito, where a typical breakfast with local products is served. This is where the Alfarcito Foundation operates, helping 25 local communities and running a tourism-orientated mountain school where over 154 children attend.
The trip continues through the Quebrada de las Cuevas and the Muñano plain before arriving in San Antonio de los Cobres. Once there, the group is taken to the train station to catch the Train to the Clouds and cross La Polvorilla viaduct. At above 4200 meters above sea level, this is a one hour ride before crossing the impressive bridge, one of the most important engineering projects of the 20th century in the area. After 30 minutes in the place, where the visitors can enjoy a crafts market surrounded by amazing mountains, the train returns to San Antonio de los Cobres to catch the bus in order to return to Salta
During the way back, there is one last stop in Santa Rosa de Tastil, an important area of the Qhapaq Ñan (the old Inca trail) and administrative centre of the Quebrada del Toro. A very nice museum dedicated to the pre Inca ruins found here can be visited, as long with the usual crafts market, ideal to get a last minute souvenir. After this last stop the bus returns to Salta.
2) TRAIN ONLY
The tour begins at the San Antonio de los Cobres train station and only covers the one hour ride to cross La Polvorilla viaduct and return to the town.
We hope this touristic icon goes back to what it was and, in the meantime, can be enjoyed by everyone who arrives in Salta every year.