Distance: 78 kilometers (48.47 miles)
Cotopaxi National Park, lunch in a traditional hacienda, indigenous party
If you start your trip from Quito (province of Pichincha) –you can also start from Guayaquil– the first surprise that awaits is the patrimonial beauty of Chimbacalle Station, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ecuadorian capital. Passing through the picturesque town of Machachi, the train arrives at Boliche Station, located inside Cotopaxi National Park, where, after a short ride on comfortable and modern buses, travelers can take a short walk around ice-cold Limpiopungo Lake and its impressive landscapes.
The journey continues on to the traditional hacienda of San Agustin del Callo, with Inca architectural remains, allowing you to discover Andean agriculture. The first day of the trip ends in Lasso (province of Cotopaxi) with a dance presented by the local community, dinner and lodging in one of the hotels in the area.
Cotopaxi National Park
Gets its name from one of the most iconic volcanoes in the country. Reaching 5,897 m (19,347 ft.), a large variety of Andean wildlife species live around the volcano: white-collared eagles, moor foxes, spectacled bears and birds. At the hacienda San Agustin de Callo you can taste delicious Ecuadorian dishes.
A patrimonial building with more than 100 years of history and one of the touristic gems in the city of Quito. Its fully renovated infrastructure includes multipurpose rooms, the Train Coffee shop and an interesting museum.
The Train Museum, located in what used to be an abandoned storage space of the train company, displays old passenger boarding books, an old carriage, tools used to fix locomotives, and historic pictures of the route.
Distance: 139 kilometers (86.37 miles)
Visit the Flower Plantation and the Interpretation Center of the hieleros (ice workers) of Chimborazo
After breakfast, the Cruise Train continues its journey to a Flower Plantation that allows you to learn about production of the internationally renowned Ecuadorian roses. The second destination is a heritage hotel in the city of Ambato (province of Tungurahua), where tourists can enjoy a delicious meal before heading on to the station of Urbina, located at 3,640 meters (11,942 ft.) above sea level.
This place offers a spectacular view of the Andes Mountains and has an interpretation center where you can meet the last human that extracts ice from the highest volcano in the country: Chimborazo (6,268 meters above sea level – 20,564 ft.) At the end of the day, travelers are taken to Riobamba (province of Chimborazo) for lodging and to enjoy a meal at one of the hacienda-hotels of the area.
The Chimborazo’s Ice workers
were indigenous people that usually climbed more than 5,000 meters (16,404 ft) to extract big ice blocks from the volcano to sell down in the markets. It was a very dangerous, tiring work, not well paid and usually done with the help of a mule and rudimentary tools.
Ecuador is internationally renowned as one of the best producers of roses. Some of the 450 varieties grown in the country are well-known worldwide or their beauty and the size of the stem, which can reach up to two meters.
Hacienda-hotels in Ecuador
The country offers many traditional haciendas that focus their services on tourism. These are mostly located in the agricultural and ranching areas throughout the Andes and along the Coast, and they allow you to learn about the rural culture of these regions.
Distance: 115 kilometers (71.46 miles)
Visit the oldest church in the country, Guamote market, Nariz del Diablo
The third day starts with a tour through the beautiful Andean landscapes before reaching Colta station. During a short stop in this area it is possible to visit the Balbanera church, the first Catholic church in the country, where the murals are proof of approximately 500 years of history and are testament of the first settlements of Catholicism on American soil. Following the Cruise Train route, the next destination is the indigenous community of Guamote (province of Chimborazo), home to the Andean market where ancient traditions are still upheld and where tourists can witness commercial trade of products, similar to what occurred prior to the arrival of the Spanish.
In the afternoon the train stops at the station of Alausi before starting one of the most anticipated events of the day: an adventurous trip along the rails that leads to the mythical Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose), a winding track through the Andes Mountains, reason why the Ecuadorian Railway is known as the “most difficult train in the world”. The day ends with the arrival at the picturesque town of Huigra, located on the cusp of the Andes and the Pacific Coast of Ecuador, and a meal and lodging at the Eterna Primavera Hostel.
At Colta, tourists can attend an exposition of handicrafts made from tagua (a raw material from this region). At Guamote market, some souvenirs are sold, among which the ornaments and accessories of indigenous attire usually attract the attention of the visitors. From Sibambe you can take pictures of the peculiar geographic formation known as Nariz del Diablo.
LA NARIZ DEL DIABLO
Landscape, adventure and history combined
Located between kilometers 131 and 138 (between miles 81.4 and 85.75)
The altitude is 1,900 meters above sea level (6,233 ft.)
Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose) is an enormous pending rock in the Andes and the Ecuadorian Cruise Train traverses its surrounding hills. Due to the difficulty of traveling this winding track, along a stretch of the route the train has to advance before going backwards on its path to descend around 100 m (328 ft.). This is a trip along the edge of the mountain, offering some spectacular views of the mountain range and an unforgettable adventure for tourists.
Located in the parish of Pistishi (province of Chimborazo), Nariz del Diablo owes its name to the peculiar form reminiscent of a human nose, and the difficulty it presented when building the railway along this part of the Andes, more than a century ago.
It is located between kilometers 131 and 138 (between miles 81.4 and 85.75), at an altitude of 1,900 meters above sea level (6,233 ft.). The temperature varies between 0°C and 16°C (0°F – 60.8°F), so it is recommended to bring warm clothing. The journey includes entrance to the Condor Puñun Museum, as well as a guide.
Lakes of Ozogoche
On the outskirts of the canton of Alausi are the famous Lakes of Ozogoche, part of Sangay National Park, where thousands of migrating birds come each year to dive into the water and die for unknown reasons.
Along the route through the Ecuadorian Andes, a variety of moors can be seen, located at altitudes above 3,000 meters above sea level (9,842 ft.). These areas are known for low temperatures, their ability to accumulate water, and the presence of Espeletia.
ALBERTA CAPUTTI (ARGENTINA)
We took the first train in the morning from Alausi headed to Nariz del Diablo. The service, the maintenance, the state of the carriages, the personnel on board, everything is excellent.
Distance: 117 kilometers (72.7 miles)
Visit the Shuar community, climate zone transition between the Andes and the Pacific Coast
In the morning, passengers are taken in one of the most comfortable and modern buses included on the journey to the Huigra Station (province of Chimborazo), where the Cruise Train awaits. The Chanchan River can be seen at the beginning of the trip. On this part of the tour, travelers witness the transition between the landscapes and climate of the Andes and those of the Pacific Coast.
Upon arrival at Bucay Station (province of Guayas), the adventure continues with a short hike through a cloud forest, where they can enjoy the lush vegetation, in addition to a visit to the Shuar community of El Limonar, where tourists discover the ancient practices of this culture, their habits, ways of life, and enjoy the beautiful dances, handicrafts and the food.
After a lunch at Hacienda San Rafael and a walk through the enchanting coffee and cocoa plantations, the train heads for Yaguachi Station, crossing through banana, sugarcane and rice fields, before arriving at the final stop, Duran Station, where travelers are then taken by bus to the modern city of Guayaquil.
On the last part of the journey, between the stations of Yaguachi and Duran, as well as the most important parts of the trip, classic steam locomotives are used. Due to their classic and historic design, these vehicles are considered to be true national heritage and have been carefully restored and equipped to offer the best confort and safety.
The millenary Shuar community
Shuar’s Territory is located mainly in the Amazon and a small population on the Pacific Coast. Clothing: Their distinctive clothig is a crown made of toucan and other exotic birds’ feathers
The Shuar community living along the Limones River moved to this sector of the Pacific Coast from their traditional lands in the Ecuadorian Amazon approximately 70 years ago, but they have succeeded in maintaining their culture, traditions and language. One of the most delicious dishes, enjoyed by the tourists, the traditional maito, consisting of fish or chicken rolled in a bijao leaf (a local plant) and roasted on an open fire. It is usually accompanied with bananas or yucca.
The Shuar are one of the largest indigenous nations of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Some of the most remarkable attributes of their attire include a colorful crown made from feathers of toucans and other local birds, as well as the complex and animal-inspired shapes and paintings they wear on their faces. The men go about bare-chested while wearing a type of skirt with vertical lines called itip, which they color in red, black, white and purple with the aid of natural pigments.
The canton of Bucay
Located in the province of Guayas, the canton of Bucay is known for its natural wealth and adventure activities: rappelling, climbing and hiking, as well as haciendas where visitors can take hikes and horseback riding tours.
Guayaquil and surrounding areas
Guayaquil offers a wide and exclusive variety of tourism infrastructure: hotels, restaurants, nightlife, etc. The city also has cultural venues, such as theaters and museums, and is located only kilometers away from beaches, such as Salinas.
GISELLE MEDIAVILL (SPAIN)
I loved this journey, to see the countryside and capture images that leave you in awe, on top of all the cultural visits.