Going on a cruise always comes with certain expectations: meeting new friends at the bar, going on exciting excursions for the day, and making new friends. However, Ecuador’s ecotourism company, Tropic Journeys in Nature, have added a whole new layer of excitement to cruise travel with Tren Crucero, train cruises through beautiful Ecuador.
This isn’t your average train ride with uncomfortable, cramped seating and glimpses of the landscape as you fly by. The Ecuadorian train ride has been designed with luxury and sightseeing in mind, transporting travelers through a country dotted with volcanoes, mountainous terrain, and breathtaking flora.
The Tren Crucero’s journey begins in Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Andes crowned by majestic Cotopaxi Volcano, and ends in Guayaquil on the Pacific. Traversing 450 kilometers along the Avenue of Volcanoes, an early 20th Century steam-engine locomotive pulls passengers to heights of 3,600 meters and down to sea level.
While the idea of the train cruise is relatively new, the route travelers will take is not. As a matter of fact, Ecuadorians have traveled on the same line for over a century. The original Guayaquil and Quito Railways Company was created in 1897 with an expenditure of $12 million to link the two cities. As the track advanced, so did the telegraph. Posts along the route are the only remains of the telegraph used to send messages in Morse code.
According to Jasci Carvalho, director of Tropic Journeys in Nature, the idea of uniting Quito, which is housed in the Andes, with the coastal city of Guayaquil came to President Eloy Alfaro.
“It was a huge, crazy challenge because of the difficulties made by a very dramatic landscape,” he said. “The venture lasted for a few years, but when roads and modern construction started to appear, the train and railway part of our cultural heritage was lost.”
After decades of neglect, in 2008 Ecuador’s National Institute of Cultural Heritage officially declared the Railway Network in Ecuador as property belonging to the state’s cultural heritage and work began to begin restoring portions of the rail network. On April 30, 2013, Tren Crucero made its maiden voyage between Latacunga and Durán.
Now travelers can enjoy various aspects of Ecuador’s beauty, with Tren Crucero’s guests traveling southward to explore a rose plantation and learn the history of Ecuadorian roses, a major contributor to the country’s gross domestic product, and then dining in an ancient colonial house in Ambato.
“Ecuador is known for having the most beautiful roses in the world, and travelers can now see how they grow,” said Carvalho.
Conditions permitting, the train will stop to allow travelers to view the very active Ttungurahua volcano that is currently spewing ash and gas daily, followed by a presentation by an ice trader who will explain how he digs ice from a glacier on the Chimborazo volcano.
And that’s all in day one.
The trip is filled with cultural aspects that couldn’t be enjoyed otherwise, including Guamote’s indigenous market, one of the last authentic markets in the Andes, with traders exchanging products as they did 4,000 years ago.
In between stops, the train will press on through geological formations in Alausi, dropping over 12 kilometers down Devil’s Nose. As the train progresses through Ecuador, passengers will sit in newly built carriages, each having a different motif and connection to Ecuadorian culture.
“Each seat is more like a lounge,” said Carvalho. “There is a bar, and even a carriage that is open so that passengers can stand, stretch their legs and see the environment outside while enjoying the weather. The train is like a hotel without the beds.”
Carvalho feels that a big draw is the novelty of seeing the vast changes in the country’s terrain.
“We drop from a high altitude, over 3,000 meters, to sea level,” he continued. “It’s quite amazing. The last day of the journey is interesting for train lovers because a steam train takes us along the coast to Guayaquil. The train is rebuilt in the traditional style, and is quite impressive. We cross many villages along the coast, with people stopping to wave as we pass. It’s a great way to finish a dramatic journey of change.”
But what many will find appealing, apart from the beautiful sights, is the fact that Tren Crucero has a joint venture with local entrepreneurs, who benefit from train operations.
“Travelers are now stopping in places where once nothing was going on, which is helping develop their capacities,” said Carvalho. “This is a big development. In the past, Ecuador has only been known for the Galapagos Islands, where there is always something going on. Now we have something on the mainland that is able to compete in terms of beauty and infrastructure to the island.”
For information and reservations contact Tropic Ecological Adventures LLC, go to Website: http://www.destinationecuador.com/, or call +593-02-2234-594 / (202) 657-5072 (US) / 593-2-222-5907 (EC) / 1(888)207-8615.