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Great Railway Journey – Andes to Pacific Coast & Ecuador’s Avenue of Volcanoes

After more than 5 years of work and millions of dollars spent on repair, Ecuador once again has a railway line which runs from the north of the country, through the Avenue of Volcanoes and all the way to the Pacific coast city of Guayaquil. The northernmost section of it, running from Otavalo to the capital Quito, is operated by a beautifully restored steam engine. Here you can hope to see Ecuador's third- highest mountain, the snow-capped Cayambe Volcano (altitude 4,690 metres / 15,387 ft).

Volcanoes are a feature throughout the Andes sections of this journey. Cotopaxi, at 5,897m (19,347 ft), is Ecuador's second highest peak and one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. Chimborazo goes one higher reaching 6,263m (20,548 ft). Due to the fact that the Earth bulges at the Equator, the peak of Chimborazo is the highest point from the centre of the Earth. Its peak is 1.811km further from the centre of the Earth than the summit of Everest! You will be able to get a taste of Chimborazo volcano by enjoying ice cream made from its glacier ice and local fruits, such as soursop, guava, bananas, blackberries and mango.

Tungurahua is not as high as these volcanoes, but it is currently the most active. If cloud cover permits, Tungurahua sometimes emits clouds of ash. If it does, don't worry - you will be a safe distance away.

Craggy mountains are a feature of some of this journey, but more often you will be travelling through alto plano or 'high plain' out of which Ecuador's volcanoes emerge high and dramatic from these more modest altitudes. The scenery in these areas is one of vast open plains where alpaca, llama and sheep graze, or quinoa and roses and grown. Here you will see mestizo and Quechua farmers, some dressed in traditional colourful Andean clothing. You will have several opportunities along your journey to step out of the train and see these wares and produce at close hand. These will include markets and towns at Otavalo, Calpi and Riobamba.

Perhaps the most dramatic section of track is at Alausí and the Devil's Nose (Nariz del Diablo). Here the altitude changes so fast that the train has to zig zag up the mountainside. The highest point of your journey is Urbina where you will reach 3,609 metres (11,840 ft). From these great heights, you will eventually descend through montane and cloud forest zones, all the way down to the intensively farmed lowland Tropics amongst stands of banana, rice paddies, mango trees, sugar cane plantations and cocoa. Ecuador's cocoa is legendary, so the opportunity will not be missed to give you the opportunity to taste some freshly made chocolate.

Your taste buds will be further treated with all meals provided, some of which will be taken onboard and others at the accommodation you will stay in each night. You can choose to take this journey from north to south, starting in the Andes and ending up at Guayaquil on the coast. Alternatively, you can travel uphill starting in the low Tropics and ending in the High Andes. From north to south your accommodation begins at the well-established Swissotel in Quito; and then a traditional hacienda hotel in Ecuador's Central Andes; and then a simple family run rural hotel on the town of Bucay.

This train is a wonderful mini-cruise type experience. An alternative to this journey is to take one of Aqua-Firma's privately guided overland journeys through the Andes, where we can take you further off the beaten track and tailor your itinerary to suit your interests and energy levels.



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