Nicolas de Camaret/www.creativecommons.org
Ecuador is an unexplored destination with unparalleled beauty. Tucked away in a corner of South America, it is a country that abounds with cultural diversity and natural landmarks. Vibrant and alive, the influences of its Spanish and indigenous heritage are ever-present in its small villages and historic cities.
Equally as enchanting is its landscape: an exotic blend of tropical coastlines, Amazonian jungles and grassy lowlands, accompanied by tall, mountainous areas of Andean splendour.
A Davey/www.creativecommons.orgOnce an arduous environment for travellers to explore, it’s now easy to experience the heart of Ecuador by rail, as a private train service, known as the Tren Crucero – or 'Cruise Train' – has been newly developed by Ferrocarriles Del Ecuador. It offers passengers a four-day, three-day inclusive trip, covering the 446 beautiful kilometres between Quito and Guayaquil.
The Tren Crucero features fully restored 1900s’ steam locomotives that pull four elegantly designed carriages. The railway line it travels along is known as the most difficult in the world, so it has recently undergone a $250 million renovation project.
Whether ending at or commencing from Quito, a journey on board the Tren Crucero is a luxurious sightseeing experience. Stopping at the quaint towns along the line, there are plenty of opportunities to see local attractions and points of interest. The highlights are Cotopaxi National Park, an authentic indigenous market in Guamote, and a visit to the rose plantation near Ambato.
While on board, there are many sights to look out for, including Cotopaxi Volcano, Mount Chimborazo, the Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose) and numerous fields planted with cacao, rice and bananas.
Dallas Krentzel/www.creativecommons.orgTaking the Tren Crucero is the simple and no-fuss way to see Ecuador. There are no hotels to search for, nor are there any meals to pay for. All the accommodation and meals are conveniently pre-arranged with reputable businesses, and they are included in the cost of the package. As there are no sleeping cars on the train, overnight stays are scheduled at comfortable hotels in Latacunga, Riobamba and Huigra.
On the Tren Crucero you can take the opportunity to immerse yourself in a landscape that is wild, remote and rocky, yet blessed with friendly locals and rich ethnic culture. When you visit Ecuador, it’s definitely worth taking a ‘cruise’ with the Tren Crucero.