Explore Brazil’s Hidden Canyons on the Tropical Train Ride of Your Life

Mountain canyon views from the Serra Verde Express | © Gina Agnew
Mountain canyon views from the Serra Verde Express | © Gina Agnew
Photo of Gina Agnew
8 February 2018

For a train ride with a difference, forget the Orient Express – instead, be rendered speechless by immense mountain foliage and glimmering ocean views as you journey on the Brazilian Serra Verde Express.

Once settled into the Serra Verde Express, you may never want to board any other train again. The journey consists of a three-hour adventure through the Atlantic Forest, immersing you in the humid vines and vegetation that reign the land. Peering out of the window leads your gaze to the grassy gorges that appear from behind the shrubbery at regular intervals, with colourful houses popping up along the way.

Despite the challenges of its complex assembly, the route and structure of the Serra Verde took only five years to complete once construction had begun in the 1880s. The 610km-long railway passes through 13 tunnels and across more than 30 bridges, including the Viaduto do Carvalho (the Carvalho Viaduct), which sits precariously upon numerous stacked pillars of sloping rock-edge.

The train was originally designed to transport grain to the port of Paranaguá, a coastal town located south of Curitiba. Since then, the Serra Verde has primarily been used by tourists, who can alight at any of the three stations along the way: the Pico do Marumbi State Park, the mountain village of Morretes and the port of Paranaguá.

Abandoned property | © Gina Agnew

Leaving daily at 8.15am from the small town of Curitiba, Paraná, this train ride is a thrilling experience right from the start. The gradual transformation from the gleaming skyscrapers of the city into the damp leaves of the forest provides a whole new perspective of southern Brazil, and the view of the viaduct perched behind the clouds gives the sense of an otherworldly voyage.

The route is well-integrated into its natural atmosphere, but worry not – the train moves slowly and discreetly, avoiding any disruption to the flora and the fauna. Once your trip has begun, the train’s guide will periodically announce which side of the carriage is currently providing the best views. Be prepared to be glued to the window in awe.

Atlantic adventure | © Dayna Wolton

There are a number of ticket options to tailor your journey, but a ‘standard ride’ includes a bilingual guide for a tour around the historical town of Morretes, where you’ll be captivated by the hand-crafted creations that embellish the narrow, cobbled streets while choosing a place to stop for lunch from among the charming riverside restaurants and buffets. The unique tranquillity of this mountain-enveloped village might even make you consider a new, serene lifestyle away from the modernity of the city.

If you choose not to buy a round-trip ticket, the final stop at Paranaguá offers an abundance of options for continuing your journey, either further down the south coast or across to one of Brazil’s coastal islands, such as the idyllic Ilha do Mel (Honey Island).

Morretes | © Guilherme Scholz Portela / Flickr

Sometimes, it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey. No matter which stop you make your last, the Serra Verde Express is the only train that will provide you with such unparalleled views. Todos a bordo!

Tickets for the Serra Verde Express start at 119 Real (£26/ US$37) for a standard tour. Tickets are available either by booking online or by visiting the Serra Verde Tourist Office at Curitiba coach station at least a couple of days in advance. Choose between economy, tourist and executive carriages, as well as between the package deals that allow you to combine the stop-off destinations that appeal most.

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