Culture

Rail and Natural Wonders of Ecuador

20 to 29 February
Ecuador

Escape the British winter.

If you have ever thought of visiting this wonderful South American country, then now is the time to act. The last two years have seen many improvements to the infrastructure of the country with the new airport, motorways and most importantly, from our perspective, the complete restoration of the major railways. In one journey you are able to travel from the Pacific coast through the jungle up into the Andes Mountains and on to Quito, the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage city. In the past it was possible only to do small parts of the railway piecemeal, including the famous Devil’s Nose. The government took back ownership of the railway a few years ago and has now fully and wonderfully restored almost the whole line. Two short sections were unavailable at the time of writing but one of these should be restored in time for our visit. Each station has been refurbished and luxury trains purchased from Spain on which you embark on a three day adventure. Overnight accommodation is provided mainly in quality Haciendas, each with their own colonial history.

Steam is used on short parts of the journey. The food on board and in the accommodation on route is to a high standard, reflecting the aim of the operators to deliver a really quality experience. At many of the station’s artisan markets have been established which enable passengers to purchase authentic local crafts.

As well as this delightful railway experience our tour will spend time in the capital city, Quito, exploring both the historic city centre and the Andes region to the north of the city. We will spend a further day on another historic railway line, the restoration of which was only completed in recent years.  

If you are travelling this far then you might want to include one of our add-ons. Choose from the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle, either staying in a safari lodge or on a riverboat, or, what for many will prove to be an absolute highlight of visiting Ecuador, going to the unique and famous Galapagos Islands for a seven night cruise.

Highlights

  • See the Andean Mountains
  • Visit the Devil’s nose
  • Unique steam train travel
  • Experience local culture and history
  • UNESCO World Heritage City of Quito

From: Heathrow, Bristol, Norwich, Birmingham, Manchester, Humberside, Edinburgh

Steam is used on short parts of the journey. The food on board and in the accommodation on route is to a high standard, reflecting the aim of the operators to deliver a really quality experience. At many of the stations artisan markets have been established which enable passengers to purchase authentic local crafts.

As well as this delightful railway experience our tour will spend time in the capital city, Quito, exploring both the historic city centre and the Andes region to the north of the city. We will spend a further day on another historic railway line, the restoration of which was only completed in recent years.  

If you are travelling this far then you might want to include one of our add-ons. Choose from the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle, either staying in a safari lodge or on a riverboat, or, what for many will prove to be an absolute highlight of visiting Ecuador, going to the unique and famous Galapagos Islands for a seven night cruise.

Itinerary

Day 1 Thursday 20 February (L) Our scheduled flight options are either via Madrid or Amsterdam with the advantage of arriving the same day in the coastal city of Guayaquil. Accommodation in a four-star city centre hotel.

Day 2 Friday 21 February (B, L) A full day to explore the historic city of Guayaquil, the largest in Ecuador and its commercial hub. In the morning there will be city tour taking in the key historic buildings and the promenade fronting the sea where there will be an opportunity to view the only restored surviving historic coach from the railway. Lunch will be taken in a typical local restaurant before an afternoon visit to an authentic Panama hat factory – these famous hats are indeed Ecuadorian not Panamanian. Accommodation in four-star hotel city centre.

 

Day 3 Saturday 22 February (B, L, D) An early morning departure from our hotel to the railway station located a few kilometres from the city. We have the opportunity of viewing the locomotive as it prepares for our journey before a steam departure from the terminal. Today is spent traversing the coastal plain with its intense agricultural activity, where many different crops will be seen. There will be a visit from the train to a typical large historic farming operation where we will have the opportunity to see many agricultural activities and dine outside Our day’s journey concludes at the foothills of the Andean mountains with an opportunity for a nature walk before an included evening meal. Accommodation in a local tourist standard hotel – best available.

Day 4 Sunday 23 February (B, L, D) The train ascends through the jungle climbing up into the Andean foothills. Accommodation in historic Hacienda hotel. Our journey takes us through the spectacular high Andes, including the sensational climb up the famous Devil’s Nose. We will make stops at several historic Andean towns with opportunities for guided tours and shopping for local arts and crafts. Accommodation in a historic Hacienda hotel.

Day 5 Monday 24 February (B, L, D) Today In the morning we head towards Jatari railway station, where the inhabitants of the community of La Moya will show us the life in the Andes, we will be able to interact with them and see one of the best examples of community organization for work, such as the millenary knowledge taught from past generations. The tour continues towards the Urbina station. Located just over 3,600 meters above sea level, we will get to know the “paramo” ecosystems of the slopes of Chimborazo. Baltazar Ushca, the last ice merchant of Chimborazo, will tell us his story and explain the reasons behind his dedication, despite the opposition and arrival of machines to the country. The train will get to Cotopaxi province but on the way, a group of devils will take the train by surprise when  the  Diablada de  Píllaro  (devil´s  parade from Píllaro) is celebrated on board, a parade full of colors, music and joy that reminds us of the spirit of the Andean communities and their understanding of the world, this parade was declared national heritage. The final stop of the day will be Latacunga station. Transfer by bus to the best accommodations in the area, at night we will enjoy dinner at the same hotel.

Day 6 Tuesday 25 February (B, L, D) Today is spent in the high Andes passing by some of the world’s most famous volcanoes including Cotopaxi, the world’s highest active volcano, before a descent into Quito, the capital of Ecuador. We dine in a historic lodge high in the Andes. The train stops at the highest station on the line where we will have a presentation on the tradition of taking ice from high up on the mountainsides down into the villages.

It is hoped that our arrival into Quito will be steam hauled which is not currently the normal practice. We will transfer by coach to our city centre accommodation.

Day 7 Wednesday 26 February (B, L, D) Today  we drive by bus to Otavalo to enjoy north of Quito. Our first stop will be at a 19thcentury cotton mill still containing all of the manufacturing equipment brought in from the UK. It is now a wonderful museum with a fascinating history. We explore the Imbabura province and visit the Otavalo Market and the Peguche indigenous community.  Accommodation in a historic country estate.

Day 8 Thursday 27 February (B, L, D) Today we have an excursion on the other main restored line in Ecuador.  Our journey continues higher up into the Andes to an area famous for its salt mines. African slaves were brought in to labour in these mines and it is their villages and culture that we will be exposed to during our lunchtime stop, with a cultural show before enjoying a lunch of traditional cuisine. We will return on the train, travelling the complete length of the line during which it is planned to have some steam running. Return to overnight accommodation in central Quito.

Day 9 Friday 28 February (B, L) This morning we will head north of the capital to visit the historic location of the line of the equator. As well as containing a monument this site has a number of interesting museums, but has now been found not to lie exactly on the equator, which is the location we next visit, where some very interesting science will be demonstrated to us. We journey further north visiting one of the famous artisan markets before arriving at our overnight accommodation set in a colonial garden. Accommodation in an historic country estate.

Day 10 Saturday 29 February (B, L) Time to explore this, the first UNESCO World Heritage City accompanied by an expert local guide. Our visit will take in the Grand Plaza, the colonial and government office buildings, cathedrals and churches as well as archaeological museums. Our meals today will be taken in exclusive restaurants located within the city centre. During the mid-afternoon we transfer to Quito international airport for our flights back to the UK via Amsterdam.

OR

As part of the booking process for the holiday you can choose one of several extensions to the tour to take full advantage of travelling to Ecuador. The unescorted tour will mean an early morning flight from Quito over to the Galapagos Isles – approximately 90 minutes – and a transfer on to our luxury cruise boat. Taking a seven-night itinerary enables you to visit the more remote islands with their more interesting geology and ecosystems. The exciting itinerary is packed with opportunities to see much of the varied wildlife and geology of this unique island chain. At the completion of our cruise our return flights to Europe depart from Guayaquil, avoiding the need to travel back to Quito.

A reasonable degree of fitness is required for this tour, although fortunately, whilst we do climb high in the Andes, all the accommodation is at lower levels although still high above sea level. If you have any doubts it is worth checking with your doctor prior to booking.

Place(s) available

Prices (per person)

  • From London Heathrow: £3,850
  • From Norwich: £3,850
  • From Birmingham: £3,850
  • From Manchester: £3,850
  • From Humberside: £3,940
  • From Edinburgh: £3,775
  • From Guayaquil to Quito: £2,975

Options

  • Single room supplement: £690

Deposit

  • £750 plus any flight costs
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