The towns and villages you discover, the people you meet, the wildlife you observe, the birds you hear, the memories you gather will take care of that.
Your journey begins in Quito and continues over twisty Andean roads to Imbabura and on into the Mindo Cloud Forest. Then comes Tren Crucero and a series of train trips to magical places like Otavalo, Ibarra, Ambato, Urbina, Riobamba, Colta and Bucay.
And you’ll see unforgettable countryside, erupting volcanoes, coastal cocoa plantations and even the superbly engineered Devil’s Nose.
London – Madrid – Quito
Fly out of London early in the morning to meet your connecting flight in Madrid. You’ll arrive in Quito early evening and be taken to your hotel – a remodelled mansion – in the centre of historic Quito. This area dates back to 1480 when Incas first visited the region and still features quaint cobbled streets, galleries and cafés popular with artists and intellectuals.
Stay: One night in a standard room at La Casona de la Ronda.
Today you’ll be heading for the hills. To be precise, you’ll be driven along winding Andean roads to the fertile province of Imabura where you’ll drop in on a busy craft market at Otavalo, lunch in Ibarra and tour its historic centre before arriving at your hotel.
The next day you’ll take a guided tour of Ibarra – known as the White City – with its colonial buildings, elegant squares and horse-drawn carriages. You’ll also to be able to embark on a two hour railway trip to the coast, through some breath-taking scenery. Your tour will then take you high into the mountains to El Angel Reserve to see a huge collection of exotic plants, a rich forest and beautiful lakes.
Stay: Two nights in double room at Hacienda Piman.
Before jumping on a train back to Quito it’s worth taking a rail tour down to Salinas de Ibarra and Mascarillas where the local salt museum gives you an insight into one of the region’s oldest industries. And a nearby restaurant serves a range of regional specialities – with or without salt! The train to Quito arrives back in town in the early evening.
Stay: One night in a luxury room at Casa Gangotena.
Mindo Cloud Forest
After Quito a new experience awaits. 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 in the heart of the cloud forest, over 950 metres above sea level, and you’ll be able to follow wildlife trails through a pristine 2,970-acre 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.
After a leisurely morning spent in the hotel spa, or in the reserve, you take the transfer shuttle back to Quito, in time to make the most of the city’s nightlife. Stay: One night in a superior room at Casa Gangotena.
Not only is Tren Crucero a superbly restored vintage train, it will transport you in some style across different ages and periods of Ecuadorian history – calling in at a variety of destinations, ranging from volcanoes and snow-capped mountains to scenic valleys and the sun-bathed coast. And along the way you’ll stay in some of the region’s most luxurious hotels.
On Day 1 you ride towards Otavalo through landscapes that change from fertile valleys to dry yellow forests. 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.
Day 2 takes you to Urbina via Ambato, visiting a rose plantation and seeing the mighty erupting Tungurahua Volcano, before arriving at the highest station in the country. Urbina is over 3,600 metres above sea level.
Day 3’s train journey takes you from Riobamba to Colta and on to Guamote and Alausi. You’ll be served a first class lunch aboard Tren Crucero before stopping at the infamous Devil’s Nose to appreciate an incredible feat of railway engineering from a spectacular viewpoint. You then chug off to Bucay where you’ll stop for the night.
On Day 4 you travel from Bucay to Duran visiting a cocoa plantation for a chocolate tasting before changing from diesel to steam powered locomotives at Yaguachi and steaming along the coast, past rice fields, on your way back to Guayaquil.
Stay: Overnight in luxury hotels situated in the major destinations.
Your railway extravaganza ends when you’re dropped off at your hotel, beside the historic lighthouse on Santa Ana Hill. You’ll enjoy stunning views over the Guayas River and you’ll be perfectly positioned to enjoy the attractions of the Las Penas neighbourhood and the Simon Bolivar Convention Centre.
Stay: One night in a superior room at the Wyndham Hotel.
Guayaquil – Madrid – London
The next morning you have time to take a tour of the picturesque port and the city – including the Centennial Park, the Moorish Clock Tower, the Plaza of the Administration and Bolivar Park – before transferring to Guayaquil Airport for your overnight flight to Madrid. Your connecting flight from Madrid will land you in London at teatime.