Seeing Andean mountains, volcanoes, páramo, and coastal plains – all in one trip, is incredible. Even better is seeing all of those landscapes while travelling in style aboard a historically-inspired train, with just 50 other passengers. On your Ecuador vacation, before or after your Galapagos Islands tour, why not travel Ecuador by train, journeying through the Andean highlands, as you absorb Ecuadorian history and culture.
Ecuador’s recently revamped Tren Crucero (train cruise) line will take you from the charming capital city of Quito, in the Andes mountains, to the bustling coastal city of Guayaquil, with remarkable stops along the way. The spectacular voyage through the country’s varied biospheres can also be made in the opposite direction, from Guayaquil to Quito. An experience aboard the old-fashioned Tren Cucero, pulled by steam and diesel locomotives, is a journey different from any other.
4-Day Guayaquil to Quite Train Ride (or v.v.)
Building a train linking Quito with tropical Guayaquil was a dream of Ecuador’s earliest railroad builders, but the country’s mountainous terrain presented countless challenges. The epic route was established back in 1908, but has since suffered many extended closures over the years due to weather and rock falls. Steep climbs and breathtakingly sharp descents are hallmarks of the thrilling train route. Though small sections of the track have been delighting tourists for decades, the entire route has been open to train travel enthusiasts only since 2013. That year, it was recognized as the best tourism product outside Europe. It also took first place in Lonely Planet’s ranking of best train journeys.
While aboard Ecuador’s lovely Tren Crucero, expect panoramas galore – making a camera an absolute essential for this journey! Over the course of the 4-day voyage there are multiple stops so that you can get out and explore the best of Ecuador. As you get closer to the coast and its tropical climate you’ll feel the weather getting warmer. Enjoy the warmth of the Ecuadorian people at cultural stops along the way, and each evening rest your head at a historic hacienda, rustic lodge, or modern hotel.
‘Throat of Fire’ Volcanoes
Ecuador’s train journey passes by magnificent volcanoes – some of which are still active. When travelling through Cotopaxi National Park, you are in for a treat. Seeing the majestic cone of the Cotopaxi volcano, among the highest active volcanoes in the world, will undoubtedly be one of the day’s highlights, as will the wildlife of Cotopaxi National Park, including unique spectacle bears, white-tailed deer, and the páramo (moor) wolf. The Andean condor, with its impressive wingspan of up to three metres, also makes its home here. Not sure what an Andean condor looks like? Look no further than the coat of arms of Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, and Colombia. It’s the world’s largest bird and a true legend in South America.
Other volcanoes that you’ll see along the way are Tungurahua, an active volcano near the town of Banos, whose name means “Throat of Fire” in the Quechua language, and Chimborazo, an ice-capped, inactive volcano whose peak is the highest in Ecuador.
Roses & Chocolate
On your journey from Quito to the Ecuadorian coast, you’ll have a chance to learn about two of the country’s important export products – roses and cocoa. Day two of the Quito-Guayaquil itinerary will take you to gorgeous flower plantations in Cunchibamba or Ambato, where you’ll breathe in the scent of countless exquisite blooms that are exported around the world. A visit to an Ecuadorian cocoa plantation allows you to learn about the crop’s history in Ecuador, and taste the purest, most amazing chocolate straight from the source. Later, a descent into the tropical region of the country will take you through breathtaking banana, pineapple, mango, and sugarcane plantations.
The Devil’s Nose
The famed stretch of railway referred to as “El Nariz del Diablo” (the Devil’s Nose) is perhaps the most famous part of the Quito to Guayaquil journey. Considered a marvel of engineering, the train makes a descent of 200 metres in just three kilometres, to the excitement and delight of its passengers. Descending the steep mountainside via switchbacks allows the train to briefly travel backwards on the tracks, allowing for spectacular views.
These are just a few of the highlights of Ecuador’s Quito to Guayaquil cruise train. Tren Crucero is a perfect addition before or after a Galapagos cruise.
4-Day Guayaquil to Quite Train Ride (or v.v.)