Your adventure begins in the port city of Guayaquil, before a succession of train rides whisk you away to magical places like Otavalo, Ibarra, Urbina, Riobamba, Colta and Bucay. Along the way you’ll take in picturesque countryside, quaint towns and villages, erupting volcanoes, coastal cocoa plantations and the superbly engineered Devil’s Nose.
You’ll journey over twisting Andean roads to the Mindo Cloud Forest, where you will be dazzled by the abundance of birdlife, flora and fauna that reside here. You’ll finish in Quito, whose exceptionally preserved colonial quarter has earned it a UNESCO World Heritage designation.
London – Madrid – Guayaquil
Fly out of London just before midday to meet your connecting flight in Madrid. You’ll arrive in Guayaquil in the evening and be taken to your hotel at the heart of the city beside the historic lighthouse on Santa Ana Hill. You’ll enjoy stunning views over the Guayas River and be perfectly positioned to explore the attractions of the Las Penas neighbourhood and Simon Bolivar Convention Centre.
Stay: One night in a double room at the Wyndham Hotel – bed & breakfast
Tren Crucero, Guayaquil – Quito
Now it’s time to board the Tren Crucero which will transport you in style across different ages and periods of Ecuadorian history. You’ll call in at a variety of destinations, taking in volcanoes, snow-capped mountains, scenic valleys and fertile plains. And along the way you’ll stay in some of the region’s most luxurious and characterful hotels.
On the first day you travel from Duran to Bucay. You’ll switch engines in Yaguachi before steaming along the coast past rice fields, sugar cane and banana plantations. You’ll stop for lunch in Naranjito, and learn about Ecuador’s world famous cocoa bean. After you will resume your journey towards Bucay and – weather permitting – get your first sight of the Andes in the distance.
Day two takes you from Bucay to Huigra and on to Alausi, Colta and Riobamba. As you travel along the canyon of river Chanchan you’ll witness the cloud forest make way for the sparse vegetation of the highlands, with the peaks of the Andes making a sensational backdrop. The highlight of today’s journey is the thrilling 450 metre climb up the infamous Devil’s Nose – an incredible feat of railway engineering. In Riobamba you’ll visit the Train Station Artisans’ Square before heading to your hotel for the night.
The following day takes you to Quito via Urbina and Boliche. Urbina is the highest point on your journey at over 3,600 metres above sea level. As you ride north along the Avenue of Volcanoes you will be astonished by the scenery on either side of you – especially on clear days when you will be able to see up to 20 volcanoes.
The final day takes you up to Otavalo in the Northern Andes. A steam train will puff its way from Otavalo Station to a chain of destinations where you’ll meet wood carvers, weavers, musicians and healers. After lunch you will return to Quito for the night.
Stay: Overnight in luxury hotels situated in the major destinations
Today you’ll be driven along winding Andean roads to the fertile province of Imbabura. You’ll drop in on a busy craft market at Otavalo, lunch in Ibarra and tour its historic centre before arriving at your hotel in Piman.
You’ll be close enough to explore the attractions of Ibarra – known as the White City – with its colonial buildings, elegant squares and horse-drawn carriages. You’ll also be able to embark on a two hour railway trip to the coast, through some beautiful scenery. On the seventh day you will set off for the mountains and the El Angel Reserve to see a huge collection of exotic plants, a rich forest and stunning lakes.
Stay: Two nights in a double room at Hacienda Piman – full board
Today you will be transferred back to Quito, where you’ll be staying in a remodelled mansion at the heart of the city’s colonial centre. This area dates back to the 15th century when Incas first visited the region, and features a remarkable collection of churches, plazas, monasteries and convents.
Stay: One night in a standard room at La Casona da La Ronda – bed & breakfast
Mindo Cloud Forest
A totally new experience now awaits you. Mindo Cloud Forest is an area of outstanding natural beauty with a wealth of flora and birdlife. You’ll be staying in a modern eco-lodge at the heart of the cloud forest, over 950 metres above sea level. You’ll be able to follow wildlife trails through a pristine 1,200-hectare nature reserve, bathe in rivers and waterfall pools, tour orchid gardens and ride a two kilometre aerial tramway. There are three bird display sites nearby that are regularly visited by cotinga, cock-of-the-rock and umbrella birds.
Stay: Two nights in a wayra room at Mashpi Lodge – including all meals and activities
On day 11 you will head back to Quito with its impressive churches, monasteries and mansions designed by colonial architects in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Stay: One night in a luxury room at the Casa Gangotena – bed & breakfast
Quito – London
There’s still time this morning for a guided tour of Quito’s UNESCO-listed Old Town – one of South America’s best preserved colonial quarters. You’ll take in the main sites of interest, including the Presidential Palace, the Monastery of San Francisco and the church of La Compañia de Jesús with its spectacular gilded interior. The tour ends at a lookout point with a great view of the city.
Later you will be transferred to the airport to board your overnight flight to Madrid. Your connecting flight from Madrid will land you in London in the afternoon.