3 Amazing Ferrobus Journeys in South America

Ferrobuses are an exciting way to tavel in South America. These buses on rails travel on interesting railroads and serve villages that have no regular bus services, often in rural areas with little population or bad roads. You find these kinds of rail vehicles in Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Colombia.

Chile: Gondola Carril from Los Andes to Rio Blanco

The Gondola Carril is a national monument in Chile. It travels between “Los Andes” and “Rio Blanco” on the “Trasandino” narrow gauge railroad, which connected Los Andes in Chile with Mendoza in Argentina.

The emblematic Gondola Carril dates from the 1920s and is the only operating rail car of this kind in Chile. The journey starts in Los Andes, about 85km north of Santiago de Chile on the feet of the Andes. The railroad follows the picturesque Aconcagua Valley to Rio Blanco.

The journey is organized about once a month and includes lunch in Rio Blanco. The 27 passengers of the train first visit the old locomotive depot in Los Andes. During the trip, a local guide explains the history of the Trasandino train and the scenery. The tour includes lunch in a hotel near Rio Blanco before the train returns to Los Andes.

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Colombia: Ferrobus from Puerto Berrio to Barrancabermeja

Puerto Berrio on the shores of the Magdalena River was a railway junction where the Antioquia Railway from Medellin met with the Ferrocarril del Atlantico, which followed the River Magdalena to Santa Marta in the Caribbean. Today, the company FENOCO runs the railroad following the River Magdalena between El Dorado and Santa Marta.

The company Coopsercol Cia Ltda operates a daily Ferrobus traveling 125 km between Barrancabermeja and Puerto Berrio. The Ferrobus leaves Barrancabermeja in the morning and returns from  Puerto Berrio in the afternoon. The journey on the Ferrobus goes through many remote tropical villages in the River Magdalena plain. 

The journey on the Ferrobus is an adventure, be prepared to have hot and humid time in the Ferrobus. To make the trip pleasant, we charter a Ferrobus between Puerto Berrio and Barrancabermeja on our journey “Coffee, Rum, and Trains in Colombia and Panama.” Rainfalls are frequent, but fortunately, luggage is transported in a carriage apart so it won’t get wet. 

As far as I know, the Ferrobus runs daily, including Saturdays and Sundays. The timetable is not reliable, and the best is to check departure times the day before you plan to travel. When I used the Ferrobus a few months ago, we left Puerto Berrio at 1 PM and reached Barrancabermeja at around 5 PM. For information about the train journey, you can call the Railway Station in Barrancabermeja on this number (7) 611 0667. 


Bolivia: Ferrobus on the Arica – La Paz Railway between Viacha and Charaña

The Ferrobus from Viacha to Charaña is a journey to a very remote region of the Bolivian Altiplano. The Ferrobus leaves from Viacha (near El Alto) on Monday and Thursday at 8:30 AM, the Ferrobus travels 208km and reaches Charaña around 2:30 PM. The trip is mainly flat, and the closer you get to Charaña, the more scenic gets the landscape. As far as I know, accommodation is not available in the region of Charaña. Border crossing from Charaña to Visviri in Chile is not possible, it is not an official border, and there is nobody to stamp passports. You can organize this Ferrobus journey as a day trip from La Paz when you can arrange a private vehicle that bringing you back from Charaña to La Paz in the afternoon. Public buses are not reliable because the region is very sparsely populated. 

This Ferrobus journey is part of our trip, “Rail Adventures in the Andes.” For individual travelers, be early at the railway station to buy tickets. Sometimes it is possible to get tickets the day before at the railway station in Viacha.

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