You will admire the beautiful landscapes of the highlands of Ecuador, the mountains and volcanoes with its lakes and lagoons like Cuicocha Lake. To top it off, you’ll stay at authentic and charming “Haciendas” throughout. Surely this is the best way to see the real Ecuador!
Our journey begins in the morning with a 2 hour bus ride north across rose plantations and charming mountains that seem to be patched up in different colors by the many plantations along the way. Our destination will be the valley of Otavalo in the Imbabura Province. Otavalo is home of ancient cultures, skilled craftspeople and the world-renowned Otavalo market. We arrive at San Roque Train station where we will embark a panoramic convoy on a journey full of hidden wonders, musicians, painters, weavers and the skillful woodcarvers who keep the complicated Quito School of Art style alive. Delve yourself into this amazing world of colors and textures while we explore the northern routes of the Ecuadorian railway.
After our train trip we will visit “Hacienda La Compañía”, located close to the equatorial line, this XVIII century hacienda will amaze you with its export-class rose plantation and exquisite Andean cuisine. After lunch, we will return to Quito.
Overnight at Swissotel.
PACKING SUGGESTIONS: Warm clothing, rainwear, comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat or cap.
We board our Tren Crucero convoy at Quito’s Chimbacalle station and begin our journey south along the Avenue of Volcanoes. If the weather permits, you can spot up to twenty volcanoes from the train – most extinct or dormant for centuries, some active and full of life.
Here, the Andes range splits into two ranges that run in parallel. The fertile valley in- between these stone, volcanic walls hosts a treasure trove of biodiversity and a hive of agricultural activity. Our first stop is an Andean hacienda where we are treated to a rodeo demonstration performed by skilled local horseman – known as chagras. There’s also a chance to learn about rural life and meet the farm’s animals, such as fluffy llamas especially when we pay a visit to the only royal Inca construction in this area of Ecuador, the Hacienda San Agustín del Callo will amaze us whit its ancient charm.
We´ll board the convoy again towards Ambato Train Station and the devils will take over the train. A picturesque and ancestral tradition the “Diablada Pillareña” parade will add a touch of joy and music to this beautiful day.
In the afternoon, the tracks of the Trans-Andean train will take us to the inhospitable Urbina train station.
During our trip we can observe the change in vegetation and landscapes as we slowly climb up to the chilly Andean highlands to Urbina, the highest point in our itinerary at 11,800 feet above sea level. Here, in the shadow of the Chimborazo Volcano, the closest point on the planet to the sun, we meet Balthazar Ushca, the last ice-merchant in the Andes, and learn the story of his ancestral trade. Later on we will drive to our destination a typical Andean Hacienda in the hearth of the Andes where we will spend the night and be delighted by the delicious gastronomy of our hosts.
Overnight at Hacienda La Andaluza.
PACKING SUGGESTIONS: dress in layers, warm clothes, comfortable shoes, sun block, sunglasses, cap
Setting off early from Urbina, but this time we will meet the “Black Monster” steam engine, we chug our way through the heart of the Central Andes, amid colorful quinoa fields flecked in purples, yellows and reds, alternating with endemic species of flora and wildlife, indigenous settlements and the remains of ancient cultures. At Colta, the train will make a complex maneuver to switch locomotives; we will leave the “Black Monster” to be pulled by an electric diesel locomotive and continue south. (Colta saw the birth of this charming nation when Spanish conquerors made its first settlement at its shores.) At Guamote market, one of the last truly indigenous markets in the Andes, there’s time to wander, admire and barter for goods. We will have lunch before we take a transfer by bus to the mythical Devil’s Nose pass: a vertiginous train ride descent of 450 metres which includes zig zags carved into the mountainside. At Alausi train station we will board a carefully restored convoy. Beautiful XX century wagons will take you on this vertiginous descend to the Sibambe valley a unique and wonderful experience on board one of the most difficult trains of the world. Returning to Alausi we will board our bus on a mesmerizing trip from the imposing Andes to the peaceful coastal plains. A dramatic change in weather and vegetation will mark the transition between these regions. After this four hour ride we will arrive to our hotels where we can rest and reflect upon the titanic labor undertaken by the Harman brothers to overcome the colossal Andean mountain range.
Overnight at Hostería d´Franco.
PACKING SUGGESTIONS: dress in layers, warm clothes, comfortable shoes, sun block, sunglasses, cap, insect repellent (for the Devil`s Nose).
A pleasant one hour bus ride takes us from the Andean slopes to the tropical planes that burst in colors with rice, sugar cane, pineapple, banana and cacao plantations. We will visit a local hacienda where we will learn about the cocoa bean and we will be part of the chocolate making process. Ecuadorian cocoa beans are considered to be the best of the world and you would have the opportunity to taste them while we visit the hacienda. After tasting the delicious flavors of the food from the coast of Ecuador, a short bus transfer takes us to Naranjito where our cruise train will be waiting to take us to our next destination, Yaguachi. At Yacguachi we will switch engines and board a convoy pulled by a carefully restored steam locomotive. The roaring engine, steam whistles and steel wheels over the railways will take us back in time to the early XIX century and the adventurous experience that is the Tren Crucero. The magical train ride continues to Duran, the ending part of the railway.
Transfer to hotel Oro Verde.
PACKING SUGGESTIONS: light clothes, comfortable shoes, sun block, sunglasses, cap, insect repellent
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