Highlands to Lowlands: Ecuador’s Classic Rail Journey

The imposing presence of the Andes Mountains makes South America home to some of the most exhilarating and spectacular train journeys anywhere in the world.

In Ecuador, the rail journey from the Andes to the Lowlands travels from the country’s capital, Quito, to the coastal city of Guayaquil, or in the reverse direction – from the coast to the Andes. It offers an amazing experience across several unique ecosystems and regions of Ecuador.

The city of Quito
The city of Quito
View of Santa Anna Hill, Guayaquil
View of Santa Anna Hill, Guayaquil

Onboard, you will pass through Cotopaxi National Park, an important home for many Andean creatures such as deer, wolves, endemic bears, and gulls. You might even spot an Andean Condor, the world’s largest flying bird.

The onward journey takes you past the volcanoes and glaciers of this spectacular country. Depending on your direction, you’ll either ascend or descend the Devil’s Nose, a 12-kilometer stretch of track that spans over half a kilometer in height via a series of switchbacks. As it’s a major highlight of the train journey, a short stop to photograph the switchbacks will allow passengers to really absorb this engineering masterpiece. The engineers that built it referred to this section of track as one of the most difficult to build and navigate in the world!

Tren Crucero Devils Nose Switchback, Ecuador
Tren Crucero at Devil’s Nose

Continue to enjoy the journey to the coast, as you witness tropical sugar, rice, and banana plantations.

Another highlight of the journey is the train itself. The Tren Crucero features four fully restored carriages – true treasures of historical design, all pulled by steam and diesel locomotives. With room for only 54 passengers, the trip is very personal. With nights spent at 4-star haciendas along the way, and several stops made to explore unique villages and sites, this train journey through Ecuador makes for an immersive Ecuadorian experience.

Tren Crucero interior
Tren Crucero interior
Hosteria Abraspungo at night
Hosteria Abraspungo at night

Highlighting the beauty of the Ecuadorian highlands as well of the lush coastal region, the 4-Day Quito to Guayaquil train journey makes a perfect pre or post Galapagos excursion, or works well as a connector from Quito to Guayaquil, or vice versa, to meet your flight to or from the Galapagos Islands.

Ecuador's friendly locals
Ecuador’s friendly locals
Share with friends and family
Don Forster
Don Forster

General Manager, Central & South America -
Born in Australia and raised in Canada and Papua New Guinea, Don took his first solo trip to Bali – aged just 13. Since then, Don’s travels have taken him to every continent. He’s been a backpacker in Asia, Europe and Egypt, an overland adventurer in East and Southern Africa, and an overland driver in South and Central America. He is especially fond of Peru, Patagonia and Namibia, though his longest adventure to date has been a London to Kathmandu run via the Middle East.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Get the latest travel trends & hear about the best deals on vacations around the world.

If you’re a Globetrotter, these are the newsletters for you!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x