Train to the Clouds
At 4200 meters above sea level, the most amazing train in the world truly reaches the clouds. Because of the cloudiness surrounding its bridges and tracks, it is adequately called Tren a las Nubes; the Train to the Clouds. This is one of the highest railways in the world and crosses enormous mountains that form the Andes surrounded by breathtaking landscapes.
The train departs from Salta station and leaves the Lerma valley before entering the Quebrada del Toro to reach the high altitude desert known as Puna.
History of the Train
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.
According to journalist and writer Luis Borelli, the name “Train to the Clouds” comes from a 60s film crew who travelled through these tracks between Salta and Socompa before the touristic boom. When they reached the viaduct called La Polvorilla, the engine released vapour and, because of the low temperature, it didn’t vanish immediately thus creating a cloud-like presence on the sides of the train.
The film was given to a journalist working for Clarín, one of Argentina’s biggest newspapers, who wrote the script for the documentary. When he saw the steam release, he immediately named the documentary “Train to the Clouds”. The Argentine Railway Company used this same name for the (back then) only railway touristic enterprise: a 217 kilometer segment of the C14 branch.
As of 2016, there are two ways of taking this tour:
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.
IMPORTANT: This option does NOT cover the transfer to and from San Antonio de los Cobres.
The tour starts at 07:05 am from Salta and arrives in San Antonio de los Cobres at 4pm, returning to Salta by bus.
Passengers should be at the station at 6:15 am with a valid ID and the tour voucher.
|Tramo||Destination Departure||Departure||Destination Arrival||Arrival||Stop Minutes||Modalidad||Obs.|
|3||Alfarcito||10:35||San Antonio de los Cobres||11:45||15||Bus||Transbord|
|4||San Antonio de los Cobres||12:00||V. La Polvorilla||13:00||30||Tren||Bandera|
|5||V. La Polvorilla||13:30||San Antonio de los Cobres||14:00||120||Tren||Free Lunch and Tours|
|6||San Antonio de los Cobres||16:15||Tastil||17:30||30||Bus||Museum and Bathrooms|
It is recommended to book your tickets in advance. The train does not leave during the summer because of the rain, we recommend to take our Puna/Salinas tour instead (includes a return via Salinas Grandes and Purmamarca).
Visitors should bring proper coats, have a light dinner the night before and have a nice sleep to enjoy one of the most amazing attractions in the region.