A train ride offers a travel experience that is unlike any other vehicle - there are train rides so beautiful they’ve acquired worldwide fame, and even headlined a famous movie or two. But for every popular ride, there are a handful of hidden gems, beautiful journeys unknown to many outsiders (and they tend to be way more affordable too!)

The Curitiba-Morretes railway line in Paraná, Southern Brazil, is quite the gem: stretching and crossing the inspiring green mountains of the Serra do Mar, the Serra Verde express travels from capital Curitiba to the port cities of Morretes - historic, charming and delicious. An experience that not many have discovered, but is worth every minute!

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The Paraná railway

Paraná’s railway, which connects vibrant capital Curitiba to the coastal cities of Morretes and Paranaguá, was constructed in the late 1800s, where previously the only path connecting the different parts of the state being Graciosa road, a scenic, the steep stone road following the curves of the Serra do Mar, a path originally opened by local indigenous communities.

Like the Itaipu Dam, constructed a century later in the same state, the railway was a one-of-a-kind, ambitious engineering project, that didn’t come about without its costs. The terrain that cuts the state is mountainous, steep, swampy, and prone to floods and slides. Pathways to get to the materials to the site didn’t exist, everything was a challenge. Accidents and even deaths occurred.

Despite this, the railway was finished in record time, just under 5 years; At a time when slavery was still rampant in the country, the railway construction was expressly forbidden to use slave labor, and its project was developed by three black men: brothers Antonio, André and José Rebouças. The inaugural train ride from Paranaguá to Curitiba in 1885 was a success, carrying local and national authorities, including Brazil’s last Emperor, Dom Pedro II, and Princess Isabel.

A collaborative artwork

On a special occasion for the road’s 105th birthday, the Paranaense Museum called it “an artwork in all senses”: an engineering feat, an ambitious construction work, but also an artwork in collaboration between man and nature. The trains in the Paraná railway cross the heart of the state of Paraná, making their way through the Atlantic Forest, and the Serra do Mar mountains, winding around hills, atop rivers, across tunnels and bridges, and rickety mountainsides, above and beside stretches of green trees and flowers far until the eye can see.

Amidst this incomparably beautiful Serra do Mar, constructors sculpted new paths, new formations, new places to look at all the nature. Today, the Morretes express, in its 100 km of expansion, passes by 14 tunnels and 41 bridges.

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A few highlights include:

Roça Nova Tunnel is the longest tunnel in the entire railway at 457 meters. It was the last tunnel to be finished, and the highest point in the journey at 955 meters above sea level.

Véu de Noiva Waterfall is one of many spectacular waterfalls in the way to Morretes, and perhaps the most beautiful. Water cascades down a tall rock formation, spreading softly across the stones like a “bride’s veil”.

Devil’s Peak Tunnel and Devil’s Gorge are a part of the trip, the ultimate highlight for many, where the Express passes quickly right in the middle of two impressive mountains rising tall towards the sky; from the trains’ windows, passengers can see all the way down the gorge, in a thin, steep valley covered in forests.

The Carvalho Overpass is one of the structures that gave the Paraná railway the fame of engineering feat. Connecting two tunnels on top of five curved pillars, the overpass circles the outside of the mountain in a semicircle, giving off the impression that the train is suspended mid-air, high above the Atlantic Forest.

Morretes and Antonina: The final stop is the city of Morretes, a historic, coastal city surrounded by mountains. Morretes and the neighboring Antonina are beautiful, scenic, charming places with a lot to explore and spectacular local cuisine.

There’s nothing like a full barreado lunch after a long, breath-taking train ride - barreado being a traditional dish of slow-cooked meat in clay pots served with manioc flour, ride, fried fish, and banana - and one can’t forget to try Morretes’ famous banana ice cream and banana candy.

What to know about the Curitiba-Morretes ride

The train that takes tourists through the journey is the Serra Verde Express. They have four different categories of rides: economic, tourism, boutique and luxury, with decorations varying from functional, neoclassic, and art deco. The boutique category offers a special pet-friendly wagon, Boutique Bove, which features a secure balcony area, hygiene carpets, and beds for travelers of the furry variety!

All tourist packages have meals included, luxury packs counting with complimentary drinks and extra meals. Serra Verde offers packages with full-day activities, including van rides back to the destination, 4x4 tours of the Morretes rural area and nature, Morretes city tour, and traditional lunch.

  • Tickets: Tickets can be purchased on the website and range from 149 R$ upwards to 600 R$
  • Time: The trip takes around 4 hours by train

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