Much of the railway system that was hastily erected to facilitate the nineteenth century gold rush in Brazil now stands either abandoned or is used only for commercial purposes. These days Brazilians prefer to drive or fly the long distances between major towns and cities, however, there are some sections of the network in which passenger services and scenic railways continue to thrive. These usually lead travellers on scenic journeys through lush vegetation and verdant mountains and offer a rare glimpse of the wild and largely undisturbed interior of a country so heavily populated on the coast.
There are several railways to choose from, mainly spread across the south of the country and of varying lengths. The most famous is the Serra Verde Express, which cuts through mountain scenery between the southern cities of Curitiba and Morretes. The Vitória-Minas Railway is the only daily service in Brazil that links two state capitals; Vitória in Espírito Santo and Belo Horizonte in the historic state of Minas Gerais. The Pantanal Express, as the name suggests, carries passengers through the magnificent scenery and varied birdlife of the world's biggest wetlands and the Wine Tour combines a luxury train ride with a visit to a fabulous Brazilian vineyard.
Browse our selection of four unforgettable Brazilian rail experiences below.
Trains of Brazil - Insights - Serra Verde Express
The Serra Verde Express was selected as one of the “10 most spectacular rail journeys that you’ve never heard of” by The Guardian newspaper and ridden by Michael Palin in his 2013 adventures around Brazil. These two endorsements only add to the glowing reputation this railway has gained in recent times, the star attraction of Brazil’s rail network.
The three hour journey carries passengers in supreme luxury between two very different, but equally interesting cities. The starting point is the metropolis of Curitiba, home to dazzling modern architecture, large green parks and the Oscar Niemeyer Museum - the architect behind Brasilia. At the other end of the line is the small and scenic city of Morretes, famed for its historic buildings and churches, tropical trees, locally-made crafts and excellent restaurants service typical cuisine.
In between lies a conveyor-belt of magnificent mountainous scenery, spectacular bridges and viaducts, remote waterfalls and lush Atlantic rainforest, all appreciated through the train’s large panoramic windows.
A highlight of our Serra Verde tour is the chance to visit the amazing Bavarian town of Blumenau. Surrounded by hills and forest, it has preserved the traditions and architecture of the Germans who settled here in the 19th century.
Serra Verde Express Itinerary
Day 1 On arrival in Curitiba, transfer to your hotel for two nights. Afternoon tour of the city with open spaces and modern architecture and including the botanic gardens, museum of Niemeyer and the Opera de Arame.
Day 2 Full day tour by train to the Serra Verde, Mountain Range of Paraná in the luxury Litorina train to the coastal towns of Morretes and Antonina. On arrival in Morretes we have a tour of the city and the narrow streets of Antonina, with its rich cultural and religious traditions. Scenic return to Curitiba by coach.
Day 3 Guided transport to the city of Blumenau, founded in 1850 by German settlers and surrounded by hills and forests. We visit the city with its typical German architecture and traditional preserved. In the afternoon continue to Florianopolis and overnight.
Day 4 Short tour of Florianopolis centre and transfer to the airport.
Get in touch with our experts to discuss how you can experience the Serra Verde Express for yourself
Trains of Brazil - Insights - Pantanal Express
There are several ways to explore the world’s biggest wetlands; on foot, on horse-back, in a canoe or in a 4x4, but you can also take the Pantanal Express and enjoy panoramic views of the breathtaking scenery before you even arrive. The train, operated by Serra Verde Express, carries passengers at a gentle pace the seven hours and 140 miles between the city of Campo Grande and Miranda, in the southern part of The Pantanal.
The journey affords the opportunity to appreciate the wetlands, waterfalls, steep gorges, abundant birdlife and the Aquidauana River out of the large windows, all from the comfort of the luxurious carriages. The train is air-conditioned and has an on-board restaurant.
Trains of Brazil - Insights - Vitoria-Minas Railway
The Vitória-Minas Railway is the only daily passenger train in Brazil linking two state capitals; Vitória in Espírito Santo and Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais, on a scenic 13 hour journey. The historic route, in operation since 1904, passes through beautiful landscapes, including huge lakes, sprawling rainforest and the gently rolling hills of the Brazilian countryside, as well as over some astounding viaducts and bridges.
It is also plays a vital role in the prosperity of modern day Brazil, carrying iron ore, extracted from the mines of Minas Gerais, and other products, all the way to the coast for exportation. In fact, 40% of Brazil’s produces passes through this route, meaning it is constantly maintained to high safety standards. The trains were fully refurbished in 2014 and are all air-conditioned, offering an on-board snack bar and restaurant.
Belo Horizonte is the gateway to the historic cities of Minas Gerais, the perfect place to continue your Brazil adventure.
Trains of Brazil - Insights - Wine Train
Operated by the Serra Verde Express, this one day tour takes you to the Araucária Winery 25 miles from Curitiba. Here you will be given a tour of this charming vineyard, get to know the winemaking process of the region and appreciate the extraordinary beauty of the surrounding scenery. There will of course also be the chance to sample the best of Araucária’s wines, followed by a specially prepared lunch.
Afterwards you will have the opportunity to follow a walking trail through the woods and along the river, leading to lakes and waterfalls.
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