Touring Ecuador by Train
Linking the capital city of Quito to the key port of Guayaquil, the Southern Railway, was undoubtedly Ecuador’s most costly and time-consuming national enterprise.
Construction began in 1872, but major links were not completed until 1965.
After decades of toil and sacrifice, the railway survived in its full form for less than ten years—before succumbing to natural, political, and fiscal tumult.
Ecuador’s Southern Railway
Although the Southern Railway never achieved its economic promise, remaining sections have achieved cult status, appreciated for their scenic wonders, cultural texture, and engineering peculiarities.
The operating entity, Tren Ecuador, showcases numerous meticulously-restored historic stations and coaches.
Two services levels are now available on most routes:
- Standard—colonial-style coaches and lateral seating
- Excursion Premium / Plus—large windows, air conditioning, and face-to-face table seating
Of course, locals are still likely to ride nonchalantly on carriage roofs.
Popular railway routes include the following, with new routes scheduled to open in coming years:
Quito – Machachi
Departing from the Chimbacalle train station, day-trippers from Quito can visit the cool mountain valley of Machachi (10,134 FASL) for volcano hiking, horseback riding, and tours of rose plantations.
The 25-mile journey takes just under two hours.
The departure time is approximately 8:15AM and the service operates from Thursday to Sunday.
Quito – Boliche
Continuing the journey 12 miles past Machachi, the track climbs to 11,637 FASL at Boliche, the northern gateway to the Avenue of the Volcanoes.
The Cotopaxi and Rumiñahui volcanoes dominate this region’s landscape. Hiking, horseback, and mountain bike tours can all be arranged on their slopes.
Hikers can also explore the paramo grasslands and high forests of the Pasochoa Reserve. Most of our clients who visit this area stay two or three nights in comfortable haciendas.
The journey from Quito to Boliche takes 2.5 hours on average. Departures are usually at 8:15AM and service operates from Thursday to Sunday.
Quito – Latacunga
The plateau town of Latacunga, 61 miles south of Quito by rail, lies to the south of Cotopaxi, near the emerald-green Lake Quilotoa and the traditional markets of Pujili (Wednesdays and Sundays) and Saquisilí (Thursdays).
The journey from Quito takes approximately four hours. Departures are usually at 8:15AM, with service operating from Thursday to Sunday.
The Devil’s Nose
This preposterous 7.5-mile route from Alausí to Sibambe is perhaps the steepest, zig-zaggiest section of adhesion railway ever created.
Descending over 1,700 feet down the sheer face of a mountain known as El Nariz del Diablo, the track makes a switchback journey at an average gradient of 1 in 22—that is, one vertical foot for every 22 horizontal feet.
Travel time is approximately one hour, and views are exhilarating.
The service usually operates Tuesday to Sunday, with departures at 8:00AM, 11:00AM, and 3:00PM.
LANDED arranges personalized travel in Ecuador and throughout South America. We organize luxury accommodation, private transportation, and tours with expert guides. Speak with a travel planner today at 801.582.2100. We’ll take care of the details.
“It is almost axiomatic that the worst trains take you through magical places.”
Could not have been more pleased. This was the trip of a lifetime for our family. Thank you!
GO WITH LANDED
If you’re planning to travel, go with LANDED. You won’t be disappointed.
The whole rhythm of the trip was perfect, and leaving one place for the next worked perfectly. This trip definitely made me want to experience other great spots in South America.
TRIP OF A LIFETIME
The locations were amazing. Your on-the-ground team was fantastic–knowledgeable and accommodating. Beautifully organized.
The best guide I’ve ever had anywhere in the world. Top notch talent.
You were a great help in planning–ensuring that I was staying at the right places and enjoying the type of activities we love–and the follow up was incredible.
YOU GOT TO KNOW US
Exactly the bonding and sharing experience we’d hoped for. The rhythm, variety, and tone was spot on. With effective listening skills, you built a good picture of what we wanted–more complicated than “just” luxury. The result was a great trip, one made just for us.
Excellent attention to detail. You listened carefully, asked the right questions, and customized with just the right balance. Superb guides. We felt relaxed and pampered all the way. You’ll plan our next trip.
Not a single thing on the itinerary that we would change. The guides were knowledgeable, friendly, and prompt. The hotels were beautiful, the food delicious and the pace of the activities was perfect for us.
In short, our trip was amazing. Thanks so much for your constant assistance and thorough planning.
The planning, service and execution of the trip was flawless – thank you!
LANDED was helpful and knowledgeable, making our trip a memorable one. I will use your services in the future as I continue to explore Central & South America.
A VERY WELL ORGANIZED DREAM
Your patience with my questions and concerns during the planning stage was remarkable.
You actually got to know us, which made it possible to know just what we like. You promised the best trip ever and you kept your promise.
Your recommendations were well thought out. We thoroughly enjoyed our honeymoon. Thank you!
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE
LANDED is the ultimate. You helped us make the most out of a week’s time.
DIDN’T MISS A THING
We zip-lined, rafted, sailed, and surfed. The contacts were professional and courteous. We don’t want to be back at work. Thank you for all of the work you did to set up this trip.