Train-tracking through Ecuador
from $1735per person
Take the award-wining Tren Crucero to discover the diverse ecosystems between Quito and Guayaquil, crossing tropical plantations, mountains and historic haciendas.
Between 1861 and 1908, Ecuador took on the construction of what was later acknowledged as “the most difficult train track ever built”, from the temperate Andes Mountains down to the tropical Pacific Coast. Over four thousand workers participated in this engineering feat that to this day is considered unrivaled, connecting remotely beautiful villages with the outside world. Today, the newly restored track now carries South America’s award-winning luxury train known as “Tren Crucero” or cruise train, consisting of two colonial and republican-style themed passenger cars pulled by a selection of modern, electric-diesel and lovingly-restored antique steam locomotives. To ensure personalized service, this boutique train has a carrying capacity of just fifty passengers, complete with a bar, gift-shop car, two comfortable observation lounges and an open-air terrace.
Our deeply passionate guides and bartenders will surely satisfy your curiosity about our land and culture throughout the trip. Some meals will be served on the train, while others will be offered at the various visitation sites, as well as on-board snacks, freshly-made juices, coffee, tea, soft and alcoholic drinks. Overnights are at the best countryside hotels and haciendas, not only for a good night’s sleep, but also for an even deeper emersion into Ecuador’s natural and cultural uniqueness. To attest to this, not only has the train become a special attraction for foreign travelers, but also for affluent Ecuadorians that are rediscovering their country’s lesser-known wonders!
To make all of this possible, top-notch local tour operators have joined forces to create and ensure a high standard of social and environmental responsibility, with a deep commitment to local communities, its people being one of the centerpieces of this adventure. They will take you on hikes in the rainforest, roam through splendid open-air markets and introduce you to the lifestyles of their indigenous communities dressed in a rainbow of colors.
Thanks to the climatic diversity, as you literally go up and down the countryside, your taste buds will be heightened with a realm of ingredients found along the route that go into the most deliciously prepared culinary dishes. From checker-board agricultural fields in the temperate Andes to expansive tropical plantations in the warmer lowlands, you will see (and perhaps for the first time) not only natives growing potatoes, but also the world-famous red and yellow quinoa crops coloring the landscapes amongst herds of alpacas, plus chirimoya, zapote, pitajaya and cacao pods, the latter from where Ecuador’s emblematic dark chocolate is made from.
Option One: Train-Tracking Down the Andes · Quito – Guayaquil
From Quito head to the northern highlands of Otavalo to train-track through their amicable communities, famous for handcrafts, and go back in time at a colonial hacienda that today produces world-class roses. Then it’s south, lined by volcanoes on both sides, some snow-capped, to the most exciting stretch of the journey, down the zigzagging “Devil’s Nose”, as your train then pivots southwest to even lusher tropics with countless streams rushing towards their final destination and yours: the Pacific lowlands, accented by a diversity of plantations. In short, it’s over 500 kilometers (300 miles) on rail track and a 3,600-meter (12,000-foot) drop to the Gulf of Guayaquil – literally, a natural and cultural cross-section of the country!
January 08, 22 / February 05, 19 / March 05, 19 / April 16 / May 28 / June 11 / July 02 / August 20 / September 17 / October 01, 29 / November 12 / December 10.
DAY 1. QUITO / OTAVALO / IBARRA / QUITO
Departing from Swissotel in Quito at 06h30, a 90-minute drive takes you to Otavalo. Now you’re ready to be pulled by a restored steam engine to Ibarra. Highlights include handcraft villages, native musicians, a rose farm, a mouth-watering lunch and many more surprises. Overnight in Quito. (Lunch)
DAY 2. QUITO / URBINA / RIOBAMBA
Departing Quito from Swissotel at 06h30, you drive to the Chimbacalle train station to begin your southbound rail adventure, stopping at the foothills of mighty cone-shaped Cotopaxi, a 19,460-foot (5,897-meter) active volcano. Checkerboard fields become more profuse as we rise to the highest point in our trip at almost 12,000 feet (3,650 meters) above sea level, where we learn about the traditional “ice-men of Chimborazo”. Landscapes forever changing, we finally arrive to Riobamba to spend the night. (Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner)
DAY 3. RIOBAMBA / THE DEVIL’S NOSE / BUCAY
Our trusty steam engine moves on to Colta Lagoon, scene of the first Spanish settlement in Ecuador, bordered by fields of quinoa, wheat and other local staples, as well as native houses that blend into the environment. A great highlight is the weekly Indian market at the village of Guamote, without a doubt a photographer’s haven. Next is the town of Alausí and the 450-meter (1,500-foot) descent down the “Devil’s Nose” via three incredible switchbacks, to the lowlands of Sibambe and beyond. En route, an exuberant cloud forest announces our close approach to the tropics, bordering the rushing waters of the Chanchán canyon and our final arrival to the town of Bucay for overnight. (Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner)
DAY 4. BUCAY / GUAYAQUIL
Now in tropical plantation territory, you will see a multitude of farms growing sugar cane, pineapples, coffee, bananas, rice and, most importantly, one of Ecuador’s emblematic favorites: cacao beans, for its world-renowned chocolate at a local farm. Here you can test your taste buds, from an array of milk chocolate to dark chocolate formulas. Another highpoint is a Montubio cultural exhibition. Waving natives in the quaint towns of Naranjito and Yaguachi will eventually welcome your steam-engine hero to Durán, the last train station, before finally driving to the seaport city of Guayaquil for overnight. (Breakfast / Lunch)
Note: Breakfast included next morning.
Option Two: Train-Tracking Up the Andes · Guayaquil – Quito
This is the same adventure as Option One, but in reverse, starting your 500-kilometer (300-mile) rail track journey from the Gulf of Guayaquil up the Andes – a 3,600-meter (12,000-foot) ascent, the easy way – literally, a natural and cultural cross-section of the country! A diversity of tropical plantations border the train-track as you head east and rise above the clouds, with countless streams rushing through deep canyons to reach the town of Sibambe and your amazing zigzagging ascent via the “Devil’s Nose”. Now northbound, your route is lined by volcanoes on both sides, some snow-capped, as you reach Quito. The final leg of the trip is the northern highlands of Otavalo to train-track through amicable communities, famous for handcrafts, and go back in time at a colonial hacienda that today produces world-class roses.
January 12, 26 / February 09, 23 / March 09, 23 / April 20 / June 01, 15 / July 06 / September 07, 21 / October 05 / November 02, 16 / December 14.
DAY 1. GUAYAQUIL / DURÁN / BUCAY
You start your adventure from the train station at Durán at 08h00 sharp through the quaint towns of Yaguachi and Naranjito, waving natives cheering your trusty steam engine on. Now in tropical plantation territory, you will see a multitude of farms growing sugar cane, pineapples, coffee, bananas, rice and, most importantly, one of Ecuador’s emblematic favorites: cacao beans, for its world-renowned chocolate at a local farm. Here you can test your taste buds, from an array of milk chocolate to dark chocolate formulas. Another highpoint is a Montubio cultural exhibition before arriving to Bucay for overnight (Lunch / Dinner)
DAY 2. BUCAY / THE DEVIL’S NOSE / RIOBAMBA
Our trusty steam engine borders the rushing waters of the Chanchán canyon from the exuberant cloud forest to the more temperature climate at Sibambe to take a 450-meter (1,500-foot) ascent up the “Devil´s Nose¨ via three incredible switchbacks to the town of Alausí. We visit Palacio Rea at an indigenous community as we now encounter fields of quinoa, wheat and other local staples, as well as the native houses that blend into the environment at the Colta Lagoon, scene of the first Spanish settlement in Ecuador. Without a doubt, this region is a photographer’s haven, as we finally end the day at Riobamba to spend the evening. (Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner)
DAY 3. RIOBAMBA / URBINA / QUITO
We continue our northbound route through profuse checkerboard fields to the highest point in our trip at almost 12,000 feet (3,650 meters) above sea level, where we learn about the traditional “ice-men of Chimborazo”. Then it’s onward to the foothills of mighty cone-shaped Cotopaxi, a 19,460-foot (5,897-meter) active volcano where expansive views of the Sierras are possible. This day’s adventure ends as we approach the Chimbacalle train station in Quito and transfer to our vehicle to reach the Swissotel to spend the night. (Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner)
DAY 4. QUITO / OTAVALO / IBARRA / QUITO
Departing from Swissotel in Quito at 06h30, a 90-minute drive takes you to Otavalo. Now you’re ready to be pulled again by your trusty steam engine to Ibarra. Highlights include handcraft villages, native musicians, a rose farm, a mouth-watering lunch and many more surprises. Finally, it’s back to the city for a late afternoon and overnight. (Breakfast / Lunch)
Note: Breakfast included next morning.
Since the climate changes as you descend the Andes, from temperate (14°C / 57°F) to warm (35°C / 95°F) and vice versa, we recommend clothing you can peel off or add on:
- A jacket or light wind-breaker for cold temperatures
- Light cotton long-sleeve shirts/blouses
- Long pants, cloth hat, comfortable walking shoes
- Sunscreen, small foldable umbrella
- Personal toiletries
- Any medicine you might be taking regularly
2019 Rates (per person in USD)
|Type of Accommodation||Prices|
|Standard (double accommodation)||$1,735|
|Standard Child (applicable from 2 years old to 11 years-11 months old)||$1,560|
*Passengers are recommended to purchase travel insurance.
- A 35% deposit is required within 10 days to confirm the booking.
- Balance payment is due 60 days before departure.
- If cancellation is made 60 days before departure, no penalty applies.
- If cancellation is made 59 days or less before departure, full payment applies.
- Rescheduling is possible without a penalty 30 days or more before departure.
- Name changes or endorsements are allowed subject to a USD 25 administrative fee.