An introduction....

 

Ecuador’s railway system is slowly being revitalised after being left in a state of disrepair in the 1990’s. The tracks, stations and trains have been modernised and it is now possible to travel between Guayaquil and Quitto on a four day touristic excursion train on selected days per month. The northbound rail journey itinerary is as follows: 

  • Day 1: Duran to Bucay

  • Day 2: Bucay to Riobamba

  • Day 3: Riobamba to Quito

  • Day 4: Otavalo to Ibarra

During the journey, nights are spent in hotels and the total almost 'all inclusive' fare is US$1650 per person based on two people travelling together. For more information visit Tren Ecuador's website. 

 

For those without deep pockets, shorter sections such as Alausi to Sibambe, Ibarra to Salinas and Quito to El Boliche are covered more frequently and are much cheaper.

By train between Duran (Guayaquil) and Alausi....

 

There are several options for catching a train from Duran on the Pacific coast towards the Andes, but not all the rail journeys reach the town of Alausi. The options include: 

  • Duran to Alausi

    • Cost: One-way fare US$69, Return fare US$121

    • Departures Departs from Duran at 08:00 every other Saturday, returning from Alausi at 07:00 every other Sunday 

    • Journey Time: Approximately 9 hours each way
       

  • Duran to San Antonio (Tren del Cacao)

    • Cost: Return fare US$112 including a visit to Hacienda La Danaesa, a property that was established in 1870 and also a chance to learn how to prepare artisans chocolate with cocoa harvested from the best plantations in the world. Additional activities of horse riding, tubing and cycling can be arranged for a cost. 

    • Departures: Every Friday at 08:00, and every other Saturday and Sunday at 08:00, returning to Duran at 17:50

    • Journey Time: Approximately 2 hours 50 minutes each way
       

  • Duran to Yaguachi, San Rafael and Naranjito (Tren de la Dulzura Plus)

    • Cost: Return fare US$53 including a visit to Mundo San Rafael Hacienda and a talk on chocolate and cacao

    • Departures: Every other Saturday and Sunday at 08:00, returning to Duran at 17:50
       

  • Duran to Bucay (Tren de la Dulzura)

    • Cost: ​Return fare US$30

    • Departures: Every Friday at 08:00, and every other Saturday and Sunday at 08:00, returning to Duran at 17:50

Photo: by Tren Ecuador

Photo: by Tren Ecuador

Photo: by Tren Ecuador

Photo: by Tren Ecuador

Photo: by Tren Ecuador

  • Tickets: Return fare 32 US$

  • Departures: Tuesday to Sunday at 08:30 and 11:00 from Alausi station

  • Duration: 2.5 hours

 

 

By train between Alausi and Sibambe (Devil's Nose)....

 

The most impressive section of the railway network is known as the Devil’s Nose (Nariz del Diablo in Spanish). This 12 kilometre section of track connects Alausi and Sibambe stations dropping some 500 meters in elevation over the route. The Devil’s Nose crossing is made possible by using switchbacks: the train travels ahead past a junction and then reverses down the next section before continuing forwards again. Although time consuming, it was the only way to get trains down the mountain with such an enormous drop in vertical height over such a short horizontal distance. It is an impression piece of engineering and the journey is definitely a hair-raising experience.

 

To get to Alausi independently catch a bus from Quito (5 hours) or from Riobambe (2 hours) or combine the Devils's Nose experience with a one-way train journey from or to Duran (Guayaquil).

 

Journal: Read about my travel experience from Alausi to Sibambe on 2nd July 2008.

Photo: by Tren Ecuador

 

 

By train between Alausi and Riobamba....

 

Apart from the four day excursion train from Duran to Quito (and vice versa), this short section the Ecuador rail network does not currently have any day trip options available. The journey by bus takes around 2 hours. 

 

 

By train between Riobamba and Urbina....

 

From Riobamba it is possible to continue towards Quito by train (motor truck). The Tren del Hielo I starts its journey in Riobamba, a typical Andean city located in the Ecuadrian central Andes. On a clear day it is possible to see Capac Urcu volcano with its five peak crowned summit and Chimborazo - Ecuador's highest peak and the closest point to the sun from the center of the earth. 

  • Cost: Return fare US$27

  • Departures: Saturday and Sunday at 08:00 from Riobamba, return at 14:30

Photo: by Tren Ecuador

 

By train between Urbina and Ambato....

 

The railway continues between Urbina and Ambato, however the Tren del Hielo II (motor truck) is designed to be caught from Ambato in the morning for a round trip to Urbina making a reverse journey more complicated, if not impossible. It may however be possible to combine this journey and the journey between Riobamba and Urbina on a Saturday. Contact Tren Ecuador to enquire. 

  • Cost: Return fare US$22

  • Departures: Every Friday and Saturday at 08:00 from Ambato, returning at 17:00

 

 

By train between Ambato and El Boliche....

 

From Ambato, a motor truck train travels to El Boliche every Sunday. The rail journey, named Tren de los Volcanes II takes you from the valley of Ambato, nestled between the arms of the eastern and western Andes to the slopes of Cotopaxi volcano. 

Journal: Read about my bike ride down the side of Cotopaxi  volcano on XXX.

 

 

By train between El Boliche and Quito....

 

The Tren de los Volcanes departs from Quito, Chimbacalle station thrice weekly southbound towards the "Avenue of the Volcanoes". On the journey to El Boliche, the train passes by Pichincha, Atacazo, Pasochoa, Viudita and Ruminahui volcanoes. In El Boliche, at the foothills of Cotopaxi volcano, an easy trek is included to discover the flora and fauna of the region and a visit to "Granja La Estacion", a beautifully kept farm home of native and exotic animals. 

  • Cost: Return fare US$41-53

  • Departures: Every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Holiday at 08:00 from Quito, returning at 17:30

Photo: by Tren Ecuador

 

 

By bus between Quito and Otavalo....

 

Local buses take around 2 hours. 

  • Cost: Return fare US$22

  • Departures: Every Sunday at 08:30 from Ambato, returning at 17:40

 

 

By train between Otavalo and Salinas....

 

In the Northern Andes of Ecuador, near the Colombian border, Tren de la Libertad I and II use the section of railway between Otavalo and Salinas. The route from Otavalo, home to Ecuador's largest indigenous market to Salinas, a city full of Afro-Ecuadorian history and culture passes over serveral hand dug tunnels and across numerous tall bridges spanning steep canyons. Tren de la Libertad II travels the full length of the route whereas Tren de la Libertad I travels half the route from Ibarra to Salinas (it may well be the same train). 

  • Otavalo to Salinas (Tren de la Libertad II)

    • Cost: Return fare US$53

    • Departures: Every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Holiday at 08:00 from Otavalo, returning at 17:55

  • Ibarra to Salinas (Tren de la Libertad I)

    • Cost: Return fare US$30

    • Departures: Every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Holiday at 11:25 from Ibarra, returning at 16:40

Photo: by Tren Ecuador

Photo: by Tren Ecuador

 

A home made itinerary for travelling Ecuador by train....

 

If you have plenty of time, travelling parts of Ecuador by train is easy, however if you have only 1-2 weeks it becomes more complex as all the train journeys orientate around the weekends. The expensive option is to opt for the four day excursion train from the Andes to the Pacific costing US$1650 for an almost 'all inclusive' price or it is possible to capture most of the journeys in a two week window, with a cost of around US$275 (train tickets only)...

  • Wednesday to Thursday: Quito

  • Friday: Otavalo to Salinas US$53

  • Saturday: Quito to El Boliche US$41-53

  • Sunday: Ambato to El Boliche US$22

  • Monday to Thursday: Banos / Jungle tour from Puyo

  • Friday: Ambato to Urbina US$22

  • Saturday: Riobamba to Urbina US$27

  • Sunday: Alausi to Duran (Guayaquil) US$69

  • Monday to Thursday: Galapagos tour

Travel information last updated on 10th March 2017. For more information visit Tren Ecuador.

Ecuador

Discover the World by train