Day 1 – SUNDAY: Guayaquil to Bucay; Cacao Plantation and Cloud Forest Experience
Cities covered : Duran , Yaguachi , Bucay
Tren Crucero departs from the Eloy Alfaro train station in Duran (located just 9km from Guayaquil International Airport), pulled by a magnificently restored steam locomotive. We then travel through typical coastal plantations laden with bananas, sugarcane, mango, and pineapple and rice en-route to our first stop at Yaguachi, where we switch to a diesel electric locomotive and head for Bucay train station.
The train stops near a Cacao plantation where we go for a live presentation how Ecuadorian chocolates are produced from source to end. After lunch we go by coach to El Limonarto visit the Shuar community. The Shuars migrated here some 70 years ago, travelling from the Amazon basin to the coast and they will share with us their ancestral customs and traditions.
Overnight and dinner is at the D´ Franco Lodge Hotel on the outskirts of Bucay.
Day 2 – MONDAY: The Adventure of Traveling on Devil’s Nose; Feel the Weather Change
Cities covered : Bucay , Sibambe , Alausí , Guamote , Colta , Riobamba
After breakfast, we return to Bucay train station which is the starting point for our ascent up into the mountains and where we will witness the climatic transition between the lowlands of the coast and the highlands of the Andes. We make a short stop at Sibambe view point to observe The Devil’s Nose, a major engineering achievement that was called by its constructors, as the most difficult railway project in the world. The train then performs a zigzag maneuver in order to climb 200 meters of altitude whilst traveling 3 kilometers of rail.
We then continue our train journey to the beautiful town of Guamote, where we take lunch at the train station. Afterwards, we will visit IntiSisa, a nonprofit foundation that provides education and tourism workshops for the local community.
In the afternoon, we return to the train and travel across stunning Andean landscapes to Colta, where we switch back to the steam locomotive that will pull us up to Riobamba. We visit Balbanera church, the first landmark that Christianity made upon its arrival to these lands almost 500 years ago, before continuing our journey to Riobamba on board the train.
Overnight and dinner is taken at either the Abraspungo Hacienda Hotel or the Andaluza Hacienda Hotel.
Day 3 – TUESDAY: Riobamba to Latacunga; Visit to a Rose Plantation and a Chance to Meet the Last Ice Merchant
Cities covered : Riobamba , Urbina , Ambato , Latacunga
After breakfast, we go by coach to Riobamba train station where we re-board Tren Crucero and head for Urbina train station, located 11,840 feet, or 3609 meters, above the sea level. Urbina is the highest train station in the country and it is here that we meet the last ice-trader who will share with us his daily journey to the slopes of Chimborazo Volcano to collect centuries old ice. (If it is a clear day, we will also be able to enjoy breathtaking views of Chimborazo volcano).
Next, we continue on board TrenCrucero to Ambato for lunch at the Roka Plaza Hotel, an ancient colonial house. If weather conditions permit, we will have – from a safe distance – an impressive view of the Tungurahua volcano, which is still active and which occasionally offers nature´s most impressive event, a volcanic eruption.
After lunch, we head out by train to Cunchibamba, where we visit a huge rose plantation and learn about the world famous Ecuadorian roses and see how they are grown and exported across the globe.
Back on the train, we then head to Latacunga where our coaches will take us to our next hotel. Overnight and dinner is provided at either the La Cienega, Hato Verde or Rumipamba de las Rosas, both of which are fine examples of the traditional haciendas of this region.
Day 4 – WEDNESDAY: Cotopaxi Volcano visit and arrival to Quito
Cities covered : Cotopaxi , Quito
After breakfast, we travel by coach across the Pan-American Highway to Cotopaxi National Park where we will witness typical Andean volcanic landscapes and walk round Limpiopungo, a glacial lagoon. Cotopaxi National Park is an important shelter for a variety of Andean flora and fauna as Caracara, Andean Gull, Andean Dear, Andean Wolf, and Condor and it is overlooked by the impressive snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano rising 5,897 meters above sea level.
Our journey continues to San Agustin de Callo Hacienda for lunch featuring Ecuadorian nouvelle cuisine. The ruins of the hacienda are a fine example of Inca architecture, as it once stood as an Inca Palace before Ecuador’s Colonial period.
After exploring the hacienda, we will continue to the Cotopaxi train station to board a traditional excursion train that will take us all the way to Chimbacalle station in Quito, Ecuador’s capital city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Upon arrival in Quito, passengers will be transferred by coach to all the main hotels in the city, including the Hilton Colón, Casa Gangontena, and Swiss Hotel.
Day 5 – THURSDAY: Quito City Tour and Middle of the World
Cities covered : Quito
The day begins with a delicious breakfast. Then, we will enjoy a sightseeing tour, which begins with a phenomenal view of the Orellana path and Guapulo Sanctuary (XVII Century). Afterwards, we will walk around Old Town, visiting the Independence Square which is surrounded by many important historical buildings. Next, visit the Cathedral (XVI Century), the Presidential Palace, El Sagrario Church (XVII Century), and La Compañia de Jesus (XVII Century), which is one of the most beautiful baroque churches in South America. We will also be sure not to miss the Church and Monastery of San Francisco, built a few months after the arrival of the Spaniards (XVI Century).
Later we will drive 15 km north of Quito, towards the Middle of the World where the equatorial line divides the northern and southern hemispheres. We will visit the main monument built in honor of the french scientific expedition that arrived in Ecuador in the XVIII century to determine the correct location of the equator line. Here you will have the opportunity to visit the Ethnographic Museum, located inside the Equator Monument, displaying the culture of Ecuador or visit the Inti Ñan Museum, a scientific, historical and cultural museum, located in the exact crossing of the Equator Line. Enjoy an overnight stay at the hotel of your choice in Quito.
Day 6 – FRIDAY: Optional Otavalo/ Freedom Train Excursion or Free Day
Cities covered : Otavalo , Quito
Today you decide!
You may choose to take the optional excursion to the city of Otavalo, approximately one hour outside of Quito, where you will find the largest indigenous market in Ecuador. If you decide to take this excursion, the day will begin with a ride on the fantastic Freedom Train which includes a visit to the salt museum in the city of Salinas, as well as an artistic performance of an Afro-Ecuadorian ethnic group. The small town of Salinas gets its name due to the salt mines that are located behind the mountains. After these wonderful experiences we will return to Otavalo to experience the market and give bartering a try with the local vendors! We will then return to Quito back to your chosen hotel.
If you decide you do not want the excursion, use today as a free day and explore Quito!
Day 7 – SATURDAY: Travel to the Galapagos Islands, with Excursions to El Manzanillo and Charles Darwin Station
Cities covered : Santa Cruz Island
We will start the day early with a flight to the Galapagos Islands! Upon arrival in Baltra we will take a shuttle through Santa Cruz Island, traveling to the highlands of the Islands classified by their lush green vegetation. We will stop in the highlands to visit Manzanillo Ranch, where we will be able to observe the famous giant tortoises in their natural habitat! After this experience we will head to Puerto Ayora for lunch and will continue on to the Charles Darwin Station, where we will visit the magnificent tortoise breeding center and learn about the conservation efforts underway at the station and throughout the Galapagos Islands. We will then enjoy dinner and a night in one of the best hotels on the islands, of your choice.
Day 8 – SUNDAY: Navigable Tour to Bartolome Island
Cities covered : Santa Cruz Island
After breakfast, we will travel to Baltra to start our first navigable tour, otherwise known as a yacht cruise tour, to Bartolome Island. The main attraction of this island is the incredibly unique landscape with lunar-like craters, impressive lava formations, and the famous Pinnacle Rock. Lunch will be enjoyed aboard the yacht. Before leaving Bartolome, we will have the opportunity to snorkel in one of the stunning coral beaches where we might even be able to see Galapagos penguins, sea turtles, sea lions, and beautiful multi-colored fish. We will return to the hotel in the afternoon, where you will enjoy free time and dinner at the hotel.
Day 9 – MONDAY: Navigable Tour to North Seymour Island
Cities covered : Santa Cruz Island
Today we will enjoy another navigable tour to North Seymour, a 1.9 km² island located north of Baltra. The main species found on this island are the land iguanas, the magnificent frigate bird with their distinct scarlet pouch, the famous blue-footed boobies with their one-of-a-kind courtship dance, and sea lions enjoying the surf. Today lunch will be enjoyed aboard the yacht. We will return to the hotel in the afternoon, where you will enjoy free time, dinner will be at the hotel.
Day 10 – TUESDAY: Visit to El Trapiche and Bella Vista Lava Tunnels Before Return Flight
Cities covered : Santa Cruz Island
After breakfast, we will drive approximately 45 minutes up to the highlands of Santa Cruz. The vegetation transforms and gets greener and greener as we go higher! Once we get to “El Trapiche”, the Spanish word for sugar mill, we will have the opportunity to experience the day-in-the-life of a local family and witness the production of their delicious sugar cane. The property is owned by a Galapageños family, and our father and son hosts will invite guests to turn the press, which is a basic tool used in their daily manufacturing. As the sugar cane plant goes through the press, a light-colored juice spills into a pot and it is then boiled. The juice will later transform into the brown sugar cubes that we are accustomed to seeing! We will then have the opportunity to taste a delicious local cocktail with our gracious hosts. The last part of our excursion will be a brief explanation about the production of the incipient Galapagos Coffee, a new variety that grows right on the islands. Before driving back to the lowlands of Santa Cruz we will make a stop at the Bella Vista Lava Tunnels, where you can admire the incredible geological formations of the magma activity once on the island, walk through the tunnels and enjoy a brief explanation of its history and formation. Afterwards, we will travel to the airport for a flight back to mainland Ecuador.
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