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Train across the Northern Atacama Desert - Other Activity Tacna - Peru

Few ordinary, working-class trains run anymore in Peru. An even rarer ride is the international railroad, crossing from one country to another. But from Tacna to Arica, Chile, departs what is called the world鈥檚 shortest train line, measuring only 60 kilometers (36 mi). Its schedule fits the needs of the people on either side of the border.

In the pre-dawn hours, Peruvians queue up with overstuffed bags to labor on the other side of the border. Shortly after arriving in Arica, the autovag贸n departs, bringing Chileans to Tacna for shopping or dental appointments. In the afternoon, Chileans go home, sacks overflowing with new clothes and bright smiles. The train then returns to Peru, taking its riders home after another workday.

From Tacna, the train clacks and sways across the desert, low hills off to the east. The land changes with each passing kilometer. Occasionally a small settlement or a garden plot, an orchard floats in the beige sea of sand. In the midst of this mostly barren scape rises a low white obelisk signifying the Peru-Chile border, past which this sole car continues on its way, engine humming. The marker is not merely a division of countries, but also of development. Blacktop roads crisscross the desert, yards are parceled by thin-limbed trees, and a soccer field anticipates Saturday鈥檚 game.


Avenida Gregorio Albarrac铆n 412

Tacna, Peru

Other Activity, Transportation Info. Types:
Train ride

Getting There

Trains depart Tacna Monday-Saturday 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. From Arica, the autovag贸n leaves at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. See Border Crossing: Santa Rosa, Peru / Chacalluta, Chile for more information. Times change according to the season and the afternoon train may not run. Be sure to check at the station for current departure hours.

Travel Tips:

The trip takes 1.25 hours. An autovag贸n (called a ferrobus in other Latin American countries), is a railbus, or a one-car train with the locomotive built in. Immigration procedures are taken care of at both stations. It is probably not possible to do this as a day jaunt, due to immigration (you would have to have your passport stamped at both stations, which may affect your ability to return to the station of origin. Check with immigration and consulate officials).

Price Description:

Adults $4, children under 8 years old free.

Relative price: Budget

Travel Skills: None

You Need to Bring:

Take along your passport.

The Museo Ferroviario in Tacna, and the train museum at the old Arica-La Paz station in that Chilean city; a stroll down Paseo Bolognesi, which has an old steam engine parked on the west end.

Currencies accepted
Peruvian nuevo sol

Contact Information:
Phone: 247-126

By Lorraine Caputo

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21 Jun 2012

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