On the right track

From train journeys through Latin America to a hotel chain that now welcomes guests with dogs, travel editor Winsor Dobbin has the latest travel news.

Latin America is a continent of stunning contrasts; from the snow-capped Andes, wild jungles, exotic wildlife and ancient civilisations, to glamorous beaches and chic bars. The region is also home to some of the best train trips on the planet, providing a perfect way to enjoy the scenery from the comfort of a rail carriage.

Australia’s longest-running travel specialist for Latin America, Contours Travel (with whom I had an outstanding trip to Peru), has released a list of the top seven train trips in Latin America.

1. Copper Canyon, Mexico
Mexico only has one passenger train but what it lacks in company it certainly makes up for in quality. Known as ‘El Chepe’ by locals, the Copper Canyon Railway takes passengers from the desert to the Pacific Coast in north-west Mexico, passing sheer canyon walls, waterfalls and plains along the way. The railway stretches over 650km from Chihuahua to Los Mochis on the coast via 36 bridges and 87 tunnels and has been running for over 50 years.

2. Panama Canal Railway, Panama

Linking the city of Colon on the Atlantic Coast and Panama City on the Pacific, the Panama Canal Railway offers spectacular views of one the world’s less-travelled tourism destinations. The glass-domed train is perfect for travellers wishing to relive the heyday of luxury train travel.

3. Tren Crucero, Ecuador
This luxury, vintage train has just four carriages – two dining cars and two lounge cars – ensuring passengers have an intimate experience as they journey from Ecuador’s capital, Quito, through the Andes over mountains and past volcanoes before arriving in the bustling coastal city of Guayaquil.

4. Tren a Las Nubes, Argentina
Regularly ranked among the world’s top rail adventures, the ‘Train to the Clouds,’ which reaches heights of 4200 metres, connects north-west Argentina with the Chilean border in the Andes mountain range. The journey is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. Perhaps the most impressive part of the journey is passing over the spectacular Viaducto la Polvorilla.

5. End of the World Train, Argentina
Considered the southernmost operating railway in the world, the ‘End of the World’ train ride takes travellers from Ushuaia to the Tierra del Fuego National Park. The heritage railway follows the historic convict train route through stunning landscapes, from Patagonian lakes to snow-capped peaks.

6. Machu Picchu, Peru
One of the most beautiful rail routes in the world, this trip takes passengers from Cuzco to the base of the world-famous Machu Picchu Incan ruins in the Peruvian Andes. The route follows the river along a narrow valley, passing small communities, farms, snow-capped mountains and lush forest. Carriages range from the Explorer – perfect for those on a budget – to the Hiram Bingham Deluxe – one of the most luxurious carriages in the world.

7. Belmond Andean Explorer, Peru
Launched in May 2017, the Belmond Andean Explorer is a luxurious train journey filled with breathtaking views of the Andes mountain ranges. Among the highest train trips on earth, the Belmond Andean Explorer reaches heights of 4300 metres.The luxury sleeper train takes pampered passengers from Cusco – the ancient capital of the Inca Empire – through the Andean plains to beautiful Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America.

Contours Travel offers hosted group tours and tailor-made itineraries for independent travellers throughout Latin America. To book or make enquiries call Contours Travel on 1300 135 391 or visit www.contourstravel.com.au

Pawesome news for animal lovers

A leading hotel chain has launched a new initiative that will allow dogs to accompany guests in their hotel rooms. Ovolo is introducing dog-friendly rooms to all its properties across Hong Kong and Australia.

This new offer will provide pet-friendly rooms in every hotel for an additional cost of $AU80 per night. Each room will be decked out with a plush dog bed, a no-mess eating and drinking mat and separate food and water bowls. Dogs that sign up for the V.I.Pooch’ plan can also enjoy a designer ‘Doggy Bag’ containing woof-worthy dog toys, healthy dog snacks and handy poop bags to bring along on walks, hikes and adventures all around town.

Up to two furry friends are permitted per room, giving dog-owners the opportunity to travel to top destinations in Hong Kong and Australia, staying in the cosiest of spaces with their best friends.

“Dog-friendly rooms across Ovolo? Why not?,” says Girish Jhunjhnuwala, founder & CEO of Ovolo Hotels Group.

“Most hotels decline to welcome prized pooches to their properties, particularly in Hong Kong, but we’re not most hotels. We’re thrilled to offer this unique perk to extend our ethos of effortless living.

“Trips are more fun with your best friend, so why put your V.I.Pooch in a kennel? Your furry friend can snuggle into their own bed and dig in to a special doggie bag curated just for them.”

For more information and to book, visit: www.ovolohotels.com

Another luxury property offering dogs a comfortable stay is Launceston’s new Stillwater SEVEN, where room 7 comes complete with dog bed and water bowl.