Experience the best luxury trains in South America in one trip - The Great South American Luxury Train Experience
Take a luxury train experience in Ecuador from Quito to Guayaquil. This journey starts in Quito, in the Northern Andes, from where you will travel towards Otavalo. Marvel at the snowcapped Cayambe volcano, the highest peak located directly on the equator. Here the landscape changes constantly, from fertile green valley to yellow dry forest, as you continue to Otavalo and its textile market. In Otavalo, a restored steam engine will await you at the train station. While onboard the train, encounter many wonders at each stop: skilled Quiteña woodcarvers, rich Ecuadorian Gastronomy, and local traditions of weavers, musicians and healers. Then as you descend 3,600 meters from the heights of the Andes to the shore of the Pacific Ocean, you will travel along the famous “Avenue of Volcanoes”. This fertile valley, trapped between the natural walls built by volcanoes, is home to a veritable treasure trove of biodiversity.
Pristine landscapes, endemic species of wildlife and flora, indigenous cultures, as well as archaeological and historical remains are scattered everywhere in this area, guarded by magnificent volcanoes. You may stop for a nature walk near El Boliche, where the Cotopaxi Volcano looms in the distance. The train will then slowly climb across purple-tinged quinoa fields towards Urbina station, the highest point on this route. Here, protected by the majestic and powerful Chimborazo volcano, you may have a chance to meet Baltazar Ushca, the last “ice merchant” and guardian of this ancient trade. As you continue south, you will pass through Guamote and possibly visit the indigenous market, before continuing on to the mythical “Nariz del Diablo” pass. This is a vertiginous descent of 450 meters that signals the transition from the Andes to the tropical lowlands. Here the landscape changes as you leave the narrow gorge of the Chan Chan River and its cloud forest and ride into the wide tropical plains. You will pass rice, banana, cocoa, pineapple, and sugar cane plantations as the steam engine whistles its way towards the Pacific Coast and the end of your trip.
Please Note: All itineraries are approximate and subject to change based on availability and conditions at the destination.
Meet the group at Swissotel at 6:30 AM. Departing from Quito we drive north on a 2 hours bus ride across rose plantations and impressive mountains to the valley of Otavalo in the Imbabura Province. Otavalo is home of traditional cultures skilled craftspeople and the world-renowned Otavalo market.
We arrive at San Roque Train station where we will embark a panoramic convoy on a journey full of hidden wonders, musicians, painters, weavers and the skilful woodcarvers who keep the renowned Quito School of Art style alive. Delve yourself into this amazing world of colours and textures while we explore the northern routes of the Ecuadorian railway.
After our train trip we will visit Hacienda la Compania, located close to the equatorial line, this XVIII century hacienda will amaze you with its export-class rose plantation and exquisite Andean cuisine.
We will return to Quito and spend the night in this world heritage city.+
We board our Tren Crucero convoy at Quito’s Chimbacalle station and begin our journey south along the Avenue of Volcanoes. If the weather permits, you can spot up to twenty volcanoes from the train – most extinct or dormant for centuries, some active and full of life.
Here, the Andes range splits into two ranges that run in parallel. The fertile valley in-between these stone, volcanic walls hosts a treasure trove of biodiversity and a hive of agricultural activity. Our first stop is an Andean hacienda where we are treated to a rodeo demonstration performed by skilled local horseman – known as chagras. There’s also a chance to learn about rural life and meet the farm’s animals, such as fluffy llamas.
Upon arrival to Ambato Train Station the devils will take over the train. A picturesque and ancestral tradition the “Diablada Pillareña” parade will add a touch of joy and music to this beautiful day.
In the afternoon, the tracks of the Trans-Andean train will take us to the inhospitable Urbina train station. During our trip we can observe the change in vegetation and landscapes as we slowly climb up to the chilly Andean highlands to Urbina, the highest point in our itinerary at 11,800 feet above sea level. Here, in the shadow of the Chimborazo Volcano, the closest point on the planet to the sun, we meet Balthazar Ushca, the last ice-merchant in the Andes, and learn the story of his ancestral trade.
Later on we will drive to our destination a typical Andean Hacienda in the hearth of the Andes were we will spend the night and be delighted by the delicious gastronomy of our hosts.
Setting off early from Urbina, but this time aboard the “Black Monster” steam engine, we chug our way through the heart of the Central Andes, amid colourful quinoa fields flecked in purples, yellows and reds, alternating with endemic species of flora and wildlife, indigenous settlements and the remains of ancient cultures. At Colta, the train will make a complex manoeuvre to switch locomotives; we will leave the “Black Monster” to be pulled by a electric diesel locomotive and continue south. (Colta saw the birth of this charming nation when Spanish conquerors made its first settlement at its shores.)
At Guamote market, one of the last truly indigenous markets in the Andes, there’s time to wander, admire and barter for goods. We will have lunch before we take a transfer by bus to the mythical Devil’s Nose pass: a vertiginous train ride descent of 450 metres which includes zig zags carved into the mountainside. At Alausi train station we will board a carefully restored convoy. Beautiful XX century wagons will take you on this vertiginous descend to the Sibambe valley a unique and wonderful experience on board one of the most difficult trains of the world.
Returning to Alausi we will board our bus on a mesmerizing trip from the imposing Andes to the peaceful coastal plains. A dramatic change in weather and vegetation will mark the transition between these regions. After this four hours ride we will arrive to our hotels were we can rest and reflect upon the titanic labour undertaken by the Harman brothers to overcome the colossal Andean mountain range.
A pleasant one hour bus ride takes us from the Andean slopes to the tropical planes that burst in colours with rice, sugar cane, pineapple, banana and cacao plantations.
We arrive at a traditional hacienda, were we will take a tour around its fields to learn about the farming and harvesting of the Ecuadorian cocoa bean, a bean so exquisite that is considered to be the best in the world. We enjoy a fine dining experience amid the lush gardens before continuing onwards.
A bus transfer take us to Naranjito were our cruise train will be waiting to take us to our next destination, Yaguachi. At Yaguachi train station a restored steam engine awaits us, ready to whistle and thrum its way across the fields towards the Pacific Ocean and the end of our trip at Guayaquil’s Duran train station. Transfer to hotels.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel followed by a day of leisure to reflect upon your experience aboard the Tren Crucero. You may choose an optional day trip or city sightseeing tour.
Overnight is at selected hotel in Guayaquil.
The meeting point of the tour is at Swissotel in Quito. Please plan to arrive at 6:30AM on the day of departure at the reception of the hotel.
Please present your voucher, along with valid photo ID, to the representative. All necessary paperwork, as applicable, will be handed over to you at this time.
Embarkation and Disembarkation.
Tren Crucero and Ecuador:
Visa and Travel Documents
You can review this web site from the Ecuadorian Government to see the requirements for your nationality to enter the country. http://www.ecuador.org/nuevosite/serviciosconsulares_e.php
Ecuador does not require a yellow fever vaccine. Ecuador has no current malaria or yellow fever alert on any location.
Insurance (Personal and Otherwise):
Pre- and Post-Tour Hotel Accommodations
What is the weather like?
Peru’s climate can be divided into two seasons - wet and dry - though this can vary depending on the region. Temperature is mostly influenced by elevation: the higher you climb, the cooler it becomes.
Coastal areas - Lima, Ica, Nasca, Arequipa:
The coastal region of Peru is cool for its latitude and quite dry year-round. Temperatures are warmest during the summer months (December to March), with hot and humid days of around 29°C (84°F) and cool nights of just below 20°C (68°F). Winters (from April to November) are not too cold but extremely humid.
Highlands (Andes) - Cusco, Puno:
The highlands have a rainy season (November to April) and a dry season (May to October), when the days are clear and sunny but very cold at night especially at altitude. Dry season is therefore ideal for trekking and for mountaineering. Daytime temperatures will generally be between 16°C- 21°C (60°F and 70°F), although in the intense sunlight of midday it can feel warmer. Night time temperatures can fall as low as -7°C (20°F).
What clothing and other items are recommended to bring?
Please dress comfortably according to the local weather conditions. We recommend bringing sweatshirts, fleece jacket, raincoat, trousers, cargo shorts, t-shirts, hat, hiking shoes, sandals, swimsuit, toiletries, first-aid kit, insect repellent, aspirin, sun block and sunglasses.
What health precautions should I take before visiting Peru?
You should visit your personal physician for a check-up prior to taking your trip to Peru. The following are the recommended vaccinations for Peru: diphtheria, tetanus, polio, typhus, hepatitis A/B, rabies. P A yellow-fever vaccine is strongly recommended for trips to the Amazon (Puerto Maldonado or Iquitos). The vaccine is required for all travelers arriving from a yellow-fever-infected country in Africa or Latin America. The yellow-fever certificate is valid 10 days after vaccination and for a subsequent period of 10 years. Malaria is prevalent in northern parts of Peru and in Iquitos (Amazon). The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov) recommends taking anti-malarial drugs. Please refer to your doctor for the most up to date information about anti-malarial medication.
What precautions against mosquitoes do I need to take?
You will find mosquitoes and other stinging insects especially in the rainforest. A good protection not only prevents from itching but also from transmission of diseases such as Malaria or yellow fever. Wear light-colored clothing, long trousers and long-sleeved shirts; use mosquito repellents containing the compound DEET on exposed areas; avoid perfumes and aftershave. Use a mosquito net impregnated with mosquito repellent (permethrin). In case you have a very sensitive skin you could use an anti-allergic cream, for example ‘After bite’ or ‘Bite away’ that reduces the itchiness. Double-check that your lodge provides a mosquito net in your room.
Is the water safe to drink?
The standards for health and hygiene in the larger cities and tourist regions are relatively high. Nevertheless, travelers should drink only bottled water, which is widely available. Do not drink tap water, even in major hotels, and try to avoid drinks with ice. If you’re trekking in the mountains or visiting remote rural areas where bottled water is not available, boil water to purify it or use water-purification tablets. You are safer eating fruits that you can peel or salads and fruits washed with purified water, as well as foods that have been thoroughly cooked. Your best bet is to avoid food from street vendors.
What should I expect regarding altitude sickness?
For a healthy person traveling to the Andes, there is just a minimal risk of suffering from altitude sickness. You should take enough time to acclimatize after arrival, especially in Andean cities like Cusco 3,360m (11,023ft) or Puno 3,827m (12,556ft). We recommend avoiding physical efforts during the first few hours as well as alcohol. Try to eat light food and drink a lot of water. The local coca tea is recommended in case of altitude sickness. People with cardiovascular disease should not stay in an altitude over 2,000m. Altitude sickness can be counteracted by inhaling pure oxygen, and oxygen bottles can be purchased locally.
What is the official currency?
Peru's official currency is the Nuevo Sol, divided into 100 centavos. The US dollar is the second currency and many hotels, plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars across Peru accept US dollars for payment. Partly, the Euro is also accepted. Banks are no longer the place of choice in Peru for exchanging money: Lines are too long and rates are often lower than at ‘casas de cambio’ (exchange houses) or by using credit or debit card ATMs or ‘cambistas’ (money-changers), which are legal in Peru. Money-changers, often wearing colored jackets with "$" insignias and photo checks, can be found on the street. They offer current rates of exchange, but count your money carefully and make sure you have not received any counterfeit bills. We recommend bringing USD cash for the first few days.
How common are ATMs? Can I exchange traveler’s checks?
Peru is still very much a cash society. In small towns, it could be impossible to cash traveler’s checks or use credit cards. Automatic teller machines (ATMs) are the best way of getting cash in Peru; they are found in most towns and cities. ATMs with the Maestro sign allow customers to withdraw money with a credit or debit card. Visa and MasterCard ATM cards are the most widely accepted. American Express and Diners Club are less common. You can easily pay with credit card in most of the stores in tourist cities. Note that many banks assess a 1% to 3% ‘transaction fee’ on all charges you incur abroad. Traveler's checks can be changed in the largest banks. Generally speaking you'll pay a service charge ranging from 1% to 4%. Most stores don’t accept traveler’s checks.
Will there be internet access or phone accessibility?
It is relatively simple to make local and long-distance domestic and international calls from pay phones, which accept coins and phone cards ‘tarjetas telefónicas’. Many of these cards can be purchased at newspaper kiosks and street vendors. Most phone booths display country and city codes and contain instructions in English and Spanish. Peru’s country code is +51. Roaming agreements exist with some international mobile phone companies. Mobile phones can be rented in Lima and the main cities. Internet access in Peru is very cheap. The rates vary between USD 0.50 and USD 1.00 per hour. Also, you will be able to find Internet Cafes, where most of the times you will be able to access for free via wireless Internet.
What are the guidelines for tipping?
A tip in Peru, like in most of the countries in South America, is given to reward good service. Porters in hotels and airports expect USD 1.00 for 2 luggage pieces. A 5-10% tip is sufficient in most restaurants unless the service has been exceptional. There is no need to tip taxi drivers. Fares are negotiated before departure. It is customary to offer your tour guides and driver a token of appreciation at the tour’s end, if you feel pleased with their service.
What should I know about taxis?
There are numerous taxi providers in Lima and other cities who offer reservations by telephone or hotel. These taxis are safer and drivers may understand some English. Street taxis are cheaper but not that safe. In any case, due to the fact there are no taximeters you should negotiate the price in advance.
Is bargaining common while shopping?
At stores and in open markets, bargaining (gentle, good-natured haggling over prices) is accepted and even expected. However, be careful of getting the haggling fever and trying to bargain beyond reason. Consider how important the one or two extra dollars are to you compared to how important they might be to the vendor. Bargaining is not common in restaurants.
What electric outlets are there?
All outlets are 220 volts, 60 cycles (except in Arequipa, which operates on 50 cycles) with two-prong outlets that accept both flat and round prongs. Some large hotels also have 110-volt outlets.
How much are airport taxes?
If the airport tax is not included you have to settle it after checking in at the airport. The amount depends on the place and kind of flight. It’s approximately USD 6.05 for domestic flights. You will be charged USD 30.25 for an international flight.
What safety issues do I need to be aware of?
Peru recognizes that tourism plays an important part in its developing economy and has taken great steps in the last few years to change its security record. The possibility of having a bad experience can be greatly reduced by taking a few simple precautions: - Copy all important documents (passport, air tickets) and carry only copies with you - Leave your valuables and important documents such as passport, international flight tickets, jewelry at the hotel, if possible in the safe. In case there is only one safe in the reception, obtain a receipt with each item listed. If necessary, carry important documents and cash in a belt under your clothes and do not leave items unattended. Be especially cautious in crowded places, especially at tourist hotspots such as Lima and Cusco; rural areas are widely safe. Remember that you are subject to the laws of Peru, and it is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with these laws before leaving. Drug trafficking is a serious crime, and the export of cultural or artistic items from the country is not permitted. Avoid walking alone in quiet areas or at night, travel in a group if possible and tell somebody where you go if you are alone. In case you get into trouble with authorities insist on seeing their identification. Check your change and check the banknotes and coins.
Capacity is 50 passengers, 1 Expedition Leader, 1 guide per every 15 guests, 1 bartender, 2 waitress, 1 operational manager and 3 operation assistants. Seats are pre-assigned.
Smoking is not allowed on board the train or at stations.
No, both languages are spoken due to standard. German, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese or Russian is available prior request and extra charge.
Yes, plenty distributed all across the train.
No internet is available on the train. Expedition leaders have a cell phone available 24/7 at +593 99 677 3894. On certain areas of the itinerary signal might be unavailable or very weak. In 90% of the itinerary 3G and 3.5G signal is available.
Soft/Non alcoholic beverages are unlimited and free of charge on board (hot or ice coffee, fruit juices, iced tea, coke, diet/zero coke, water, mineral water, infusions among others. We serve one AM snack and one PM snack. Snacks are based on local gastronomy.
They are not included. Cost ranges between US $10 to US $10 including taxes. Guests can open an account and settled it on the last day. Major credit card and US Dollars/Euros only are accepted on board. Travel checks are not accepted. US Dollar is Ecuador´s national currency. Euros are accepted with the daily rate exchange.
Alcoholic beverages or any other type of food not supplied by the train are not allowed on board. Itinerary is designed so they do not need to buy food/feel hungry while touring. The train has a boutique with a good selection of articles with the train branding. Lockers are free of charge and available any time on board for each guest.
Yes, there are two complete medic kits on board. Crew has first aid (including basic CPR) training every year, however they are not certified. They are capable to supply medical assistance while travelling. We do not supply or recommend any kind of medicine/drug on board due to allergies and train rules.
- Luggage is taken on the buses while travelling. Lockers are small and designed to store small carry-ons, however valuables are recommended to be taken with guests all the time since the train is cleaned on every station and at the end of the day.
Train stations are located in central areas of cities. Most of the cities we pass through are small populations and they are easy to access. The address for every station on the itinerary is:
Guests do have a meet and greet at Quito and Guayaquil for program starting. If a guest is joining on a different station, train staff will assist him/her.
99% we are on time. Delays do not exceed 20 minutes at the most. The Andes mountain range and certain areas of the Pacific coastare affected by rains and land slides on the rainy season (December to June) and this might affect the train operation. Itinerary is always subject to changes due to weather conditions and force majeure events.
Yes they are available during the whole trip. Native guides are part of certain activities, however the train guides always accompany guests. Tipping is included on the program price.
Yes, they might stay on board, however guests might understand cleaning staff could interrupt them. Crew might not be available all the time.
Yes. For these cases, guests will specifically be escorted by the expedition leader to the hotel or nearby hospital/medical facility. For shorter trips, check in 45 minutes prior train arrival time.
We supply the best accommodation available on the area we overnight. Rooms can be twin, double, triple or single basis. All hotels/haciendas can accommodate 50 passengers.
Yes. Room sizes vary depending on the hotel/hacienda. Room areas vary from 20 to 40 square meters approximately.
Yes. We recommend guests to use their own portable device or cell phone with wifi capacity.
No. Haciendas/Hotels in most cases do not provide a tub. Every room has private bathrooms. Interconnected rooms are available only at Cienega Hacienda on day 1 for the Quito – Guayaquil or day 3 on the Guayaquil – Quito program.
Ecuador uses 110. Adapters are not common on Haciendas/hotels, we recommend guests to bring their own.
Yes. Alcohol is always extra and calculated by bottle or glass.
Yes, we can handle vegetarians, gluten or lactose free diets at no extra charge. Special request for Asian passengers is not available.
Lunch is served from 12h00 to 14h00 depending the day. Dinner is served from 19h00 and no later than 20h00. We supply 2 to 3 options for dinner and is served to each guest. Guests can be accommodated separately by request.
We used modern and A/C coaches during the itinerary. Guests will share buses. As we used one or two hotels in the area, most of the time we use 2 coaches of 30 to 45 seats and separate guests by hotels. However this is not warranted and we might do several bus stops to collect guests in different hotels. This will not exceed 2 stops.
No. Doctors are available upon request/emergency.
Tipping is included on the program price. 10% is suggested for lunch dinner (main course can be calculated on a US $20 to US $45 per person). Haciendas/hotels do have attendants all the time.
Entrance fees are included in the price. In case of professional cameras (reporters or filming purposes) an authorization/fee must be paid in advance (before arrival) to the National Tourism Agency. We must receive a notification while booking.
Yes, on every hacienda/hotel. Price range from US $4 to US $10 per pound/piece of clothing. It is not pricey.
Ecuador national currency is US Dollar. ATMs are available only at Ambato and Riobamba cities. We make a short stop at Alausi train station (before of after the Devil`s nose) in case guests require an extra ATM machine.
Local and/or international food both for lunch and dinner. Menu is designed to avoid repetitive dishes. Ecuadorian gastronomy offers an excellent variety of options for vegetarians including quinoa and other grains (specially maize).
Water is ok for locals but not recommended to visitors. Water is always available on board the train/bus. Hotels/Haciendas supply one free of charge bottle of water per guest.
Casual attire is recommended for the train and dinner. Good walking shoes and dress in layers is strongly suggested.
Ecuador is GMT -5. Same time as NY.
Visas may be required. Please check with the the nearest/local Ecuadorian embassy/consulate. Palace tours doesn't assist guests providing visa or consultancy.
Ecuador do not require yellow fever vaccine. Ecuador has no current malaria or yellow fever alert on any location.
For Christmas/New Year we charge an extra fee for dinner. We offer special activities on board such as concerts with live music. We can make cake/fruit basket/champagne arrangements if required in advance.
Train is not designed for handicap guests, however they are welcome to travel with certain limitations (which we will advice while booking – a release form must be signed by the guest). Guides are not certified in sign languages or other type of special assistance. Guests can bring their own staff as an extra cost (regular fare).
Triple rooms are available with one matrimonial bed and two twin beds. This might vary from hotel to hotel.
No, transfer from the hotel to the train station for the start of the trip is not included. We would be happy to help you set this up.
Yes, these are included but to ONLY the following hotels:
Quito- Casa Gangotena, Hilton Colon, Swissotel, JW Marriott
Guayaquil- Hilton, Oro Verde, Hampton Inn, Grand Hotel Guayaquil, Wyndham, Sonests
*Important Note: Starting in January 2017, tours will last an additional night for a total tour length of 4 nights/ 5 days. The fourth night will be spent at the Wyndham Hotel in Guayaquil. Due to this change, after disembarking the Tren Crucero, transfers to other hotels in Guayaquil will not be necessary or provided. Please do not schedule flights or other activities for Day 4.
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