Train Vacations through the Rich Culture and Geography of Ecuador
Guided rail travel in Ecuador connect some of the most culturally, historically and geographically prominent regions of the country, from the towering, snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano to the lively coastal city of Guayaquil. From its completion in 1908, the railway has had a tremendous impact in not only uniting the communities of the different Andean regions in the country but also in joining the mountain communities with those on the coast, facilitating both the trade of products and ideas. Today, a multitude of guided rail travels help tourists discover these social networks, and we have included just a few options below. Learn about the specific customs, timeless traditions and rich history of the Andean and coastal regions of Ecuador, and enjoy the incredible flavors of local cuisine and stunning beauty of these two fascinatingly distinct regions aboard the Ecuadorian famously awarded Tren Crucero.
A Capital Nestled between the Mountains
Several train tours depart from the country’s capital city of Quito. Standing on an Andean plateau in the shadow of the Pichincha volcano at 2,818 meters (9,450 feet) in altitude, Quito is a stunning city in and of itself. Quito was one of the first locations in the world to be chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage site, as it is home to one of the largest and most well-preserved colonial centers in South America. Traces of the European and indigenous civilizations that passed through this city can be seen in the artwork and architecture of the many monasteries and churches that decorate Quito.
Just a short train ride from Quito is the world-renowned Cotopaxi volcano, the sparkling snowy peak of which can be seen from the capital city on a clear day. Cotopaxi is one of the world’s highest peak and is also second-most symmetrical after Mt. Fuji in Japan. Visitors will arrive at El Boliche, where they can enjoy breathtaking views of the active volcano and surrounding park. Cotopaxi has profoundly influenced the geography and culture of the surrounding region, which can clearly be seen through the beautiful legends written in its honor.
The Cultures of Otavalo
The Ecuadorian railway also carries travelers over the Andes to Otavalo and its famous Otavalo Market, perhaps the most prosperous indigenous town in Latin America. Otavalo has gained international fame largely thanks to its lively market square. Tourists can get a taste of the local culture and handicrafts as they explore the hundreds of stalls that have made this town famous. Otavaleños are known for their ability to make brightly colored textiles, paintings, woodwork, leather goods, and jewelry, among other things.
The Devil’s Nose
The train ride down towards Ecuador’s coastal region is the most crucial section of the railway line itself and, at the time of its construction, was considered to be the most treacherous and challenging railway in the world. The creation of the Devil’s Nose route, a previously intolerable descent was a significant advance for the people of Ecuador, and even today it provides a thrilling journey between two worlds for tourists in Ecuador. As you zigzag your way down the mountainside, the stunning biological and cultural diversity between the two regions is laid clearly out before you.
The Ecuadorian railway connects many of Ecuador’s most prominent cities and cultures, but perhaps the most fantastic aspect of the railway is that it shows visitors the areas in between the small towns settled within the mountains, the mighty volcanoes towering over the landscape and the transitions between the diverse cultures of this beautiful country. This is the Ecuador that is hidden from most tourists, but that lies at the heart of understanding this beautiful country.