6 days from £1110pp plus international flights.
Set to become a modern 'classic railway journey' this is a superb way to see Ecuador.
Tren Ecuador is a new experience in Ecuador and makes an excellent addition on any holiday in this country. It's a really fantastic way to see some of the stunning and varied landscapes. The railway line that runs from Quito through the Avenue of the Volcanoes and then down to the coast at Guayaquil has been fully restored and a 4 coach stylish luxury train now runs along this route. This is Tren Ecuador. The route also includes the famous section known as The Devil's Nose, an exhilarating series of dramatic switchbacks descending 1476 feet. As a multi-day luxury train journey using both diesel and steam engines, it is a first in South America and will become a modern classic of great railway journeys.
The scenery as you pass through the Andes and down to the coastal plains is absolutely spectacular, changing from vistas of snow-capped volcanic peaks and rugged mountain valleys through seven distinct climatic zones through to tropical forests and the lush agricultural lands around Guayaquil. But this journey is not just about sitting on a train and enjoying the scenery - far from it. The train stops along the way and you spend a lot of your time visiting some fascinating places, meeting local people and staying in traditional haciendas at night.
You'll see snow-capped volcanoes, watch skilled craftsmen and women at work, learn about the local culture, visit a traditional market, tour a rose plantation, see a display of horsemanship by traditional Andean cowboys and enjoy traditional cuisine. While on board the train you'll be throughly pampered, and can enjoy panoramic views from the observation cars and open terrace, socialise in the bar, graze on tasty snacks and buy souvenirs in the gift shop.
NOTE: The journey from Quito to Guayaquil is called 'Train of Wonders'. This trip can be taken in reverse, ie Guayaquil to Quito, 'Train to the Clouds'. Please ask us about this.
You are met on arrival at Quito airport and transferred to Swissotel. The remainder of the day has been kept free to allow you to recover from your journey and enjoy the hotel's impressive facilities. These include a spa, gym and no fewer than 5 restaurants. It's also close to the shops and sites of the old town should you wish to do some independent exploring.
It's an early start, leaving your Quito hotel at 06:30 for the 90 minute drive to Otavalo. This is the start of your first train adventure, as you board a beautifully restored steam train to explore the region. The steam train is offered subject to availability. You travel at a measured pace allowing you to enjoy the scenery. There are stops at San Roque where you can watch traditional textile weaving and hear local musicians, Andrade Marin to tour a textile museum, and at San Antonio for a demonstration of skilled woodcarving. You have lunch at Hacienda la Compania, a chance to sample some traditional Andean fare, and then visit an impressive rose plantation at Cayambe, before returning to Swissotel in Quito. Breakfast, lunch
You rise early again today for the transfer to Chimbacalle station where your train awaits. As it glides out of the station you anticipate the journey to come. Your route leads south through the famous Avenue of the Volcanoes. If you're blessed with clear weather you should see up to 20 volcanic peaks from the comfort of your seat. The ride continues through changing scenery as the train climbs through the Andean highlands to Urbina. At 11,800 feet above sea level this is the highest point on the trip. You might want to head to the observation car with its picture windows to make the most of the views. En-route there's a stop at Hacienda La Alegria where you are treated to a display of horsemanship by the Chagras, Andean cowboys. Lunch is served back on board the train. In Urbina you have a tour of Artisans Square before meeting Baltazar Ushca, the last ice merchant of Chimborazo, who has been harvesting the mountain's glacial ice for over 50 years. Return to the train for the last leg of today's journey, arriving in Riobamba where you have dinner and spend the night. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
The journey continues further south, with the first part of the trip by steam engine, if available. In Guamote you alight to visit the traditional indegenous market which attracts traders and buyers from many miles around. Lunch is eaten either on the train or in the station at Guamote. Now it's time for the one of the main highlights, the Nariz del Diablo, or Devil's Nose pass. The track descends 1476 feet on a series of switchbacks to the coastal plains. The journey continues through the Chanchan river gorge and cloudforest before arriving in the town of Bucay where you spend the night. Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Leaving Bucay you observe the changing landscape, as the tropical forest gives way to cultivated land with rice paddies and plamtations of cocoa, pineapple banana and sugarcane. Sit back and enjoy the views from the comfort of the train. This is surely the best way to travel! There are stops to allow you to indulge is a cocoa and chocolate tasting at a hacienda, and to learn about the culture of local Montubio people. The last part of your train journey from Yaguachi to Duran is by steam train, a suitably theatrical end to a wonderful trip. From the station at Duran you are transferred to Hotel Oro Verde in Guayaquil where you spend the night. Breakfast, lunch
This morning, having breakfasted, you are taken you to the airport in Guayquil for your onward or home-bound flight. Breakfast.
Guide price from (pp sharing): £1110 (ex. international flights)
2 nights Swissotel on Quito; 1 night in either the Hilton (airport), Oro Verde or Wyndahm in Guayaquil; 2 nights in accommodation included in the train itinerary (in Riobamba and Bucay); all accommodation based on twin-share; meals as specified in the itinerary; snacks and soft drinks on board the train; excursions as per the itinerary; transport by bus or van for excursions and to and from accommodation; arrival transfer in Quito; departure transfer in Guayaquil
International flights and taxes; meals not specified; alcoholic drinks on board; single supplement for accommodation; tips; visa; travel insurance.
Getting there: The 6-day trip starts in Quito and ends in Guayaquil. It can also be done in reverse. A rough guide to flights in and out of Ecuador from £900 per person.
How this holiday helps
As winner of the Responsible Travel Awards 2016, this is not only a superb luxury, cross-country adventure, but it also benefits a lot of people along the route.
5/5 from 77 reviews
Find the best time to visit Ecuador
Time: GMT -5 hours
Flight time: There is an international airport at Quito and at Guayaquil. KLM and Iberia have routes via Europe to both cities. The flying time is about 14 hours. It is also possible to fly via America.
Language: Spanish is Ecuador's official language.
Visas: Not required for British travellers. Other nationalities should obtain advice from their embassy.
Health: There are no compulsory vaccinations, except yellow fever if visiting the rainforest. Malaria prophylactics are also recommended in the rainforest.