Day 1 .– Tuesday Quito – Otavalo – Ibarra – Quito
Departing from Quito we drive north on a 2 hours bus ride across rose plantations and impressive mountains to the valley of Otavalo in the Imbabura Province. Otavalo is home of traditional 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 renowned 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 Compania, located close to the equatorial line, this XVIII century hacienda will amaze you with its export-class rose plantation and exquisite Andean cuisine.
We will return to Quito and spend the night in this world heritage city.+
Day 2 .– Wednesday Quito – Ambato- Urbina-Riobamba
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.
Upon arrival to Ambato Train Station 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 were we will spend the night and be delighted by the delicious gastronomy of our hosts.
Day 3 .– Thursday Riobamba – The Devil’s Nose – Bucay
Setting off early from Urbina, but this time aboard 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 man oeuvre to switch locomotives; we will leave the “Black Monster” to be pulled by a 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 meters 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 hours ride we will arrive to our hotels were we can rest and reflect upon the titanic labour undertaken by the Harman brothers to overcome the colossal Andean mountain range.
Day 4 .– Friday Bucay – Naranjito- Yaguachi- Duran
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 arrive at a traditional hacienda, were we will take a tour around its fields to learn about the farming and harvesting of the Ecuadorian cocoa bean, a bean so exquisite that is considered to be the best in the world. We enjoy a fine dining experience amid the lush gardens before continuing onwards.
A bus transfer take us to Naranjito were our cruise train will be waiting to take us to our next destination, Yaguachi. At Yaguachi train station a restored steam engine awaits us, ready to whistle and thrum its way across the fields towards the Pacific Ocean and the end of our trip at Guayaquil’s Duran train station.
Transfer to hotels.