Ecuador by train holiday, culture and nature
Description of Ecuador by train holiday, culture and nature
This Ecuador by train holiday is not only one of the most exciting ways to discover this country but also one of the most modern; the spectacular Tren Ecuador national network having undergone a massive restoration in 2014 to world acclaim. The first two days of the holiday are spent in Quito, the country’s capital, located in the most dramatic position between two volcanic peaks.
From Quito, we head up into the Andean cloud forest around Mindo where we spend two days exploring from an eco lodge base. Then, after returning to Quito, we take our first train ride of the trip, known as the Slow Train Sierra which actually leaves from Otavalo, a bus ride away. This slow steam train takes you north to Ibarra passing some of the country’s most stunning volcanoes en route, including the conical, snow capped Cotopaxi.
This holiday continues across Ecuador with a mix of road and rail transport, one of the other dramatic journeys being the steam train from Riobamba to visit traditional mountain villages, and then on to the stunning Devil's Nose (Nariz del Diablo). This trip descends 800m using a series of switchbacks that take you down through the luscious, mountainous terrain. From high sierra to the lowlands at Bucay, this will be one of the most memorable 56km by rail you will ever take, for all the right reasons.
The railway part of the holiday ends at Naranjito station where we transfer by bus to the Pacific port city of Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador with a recently revamped promenade and some superb restaurants.
PlanetThe refurbished train lines in Ecuador have very little deleterious impact on the natural environment, so its success is to be welcomed and encouraged.
In the Mindo cloud forest you will stay at El Monte Sustainable Lodge which founded and administrates the Mindo Biological Station (MBS). The bio station is located in pristine forest covering mountains with elevations ranging from 1,400 - 2,600m. The bio station itself protects 6,500 hectares of land within the 19,200 hectare Mindo-Nambillo Protected Forest and it is their hope that research into the ecosystems will be an aid to conservation. The lodge welcomes nature-loving tourists, groups and researchers.
PeopleThe Ecuadorian government invested heavily in the refurbishment of the Tren Crucero, with the aim of opening up new regions to low impact tourism. The train makes several stops at little villages specialising in artisan crafts where you have the opportunity to make purchases providing much needed funds to the communities.
The group stays in old hacienda properties which offer the guests a chance to learn about the traditional farming culture and methods of rural Ecuador as well as sample a lot of the food they grow and source locally. One specific visit takes passengers to a Cacao plantation in the lowlands of Ecuador so that they can learn about the history of the crop and its effect on Ecuadorian culture.
We use local tour leaders and guides on this trip as it is a specialised journey with a specific interest. The guides and tour leaders are all locally trained and Ecuadorian.