An Odyssey in Ecuador featuring Tren Crucero

  • Tren Crucero

  • 11-day Independent Tour


    The Tour

    Want adventure and drama? Tren Crucero is for you. When IRT visited Ecuador in the spring of 2017, we fell in love with the food, the people, the accommodations and the trains.  The scenery — mountains, volcanoes, rain forests and coastal areas — is some of the most spectacular in the world. Stand on the spacious outdoor deck of the Tren Crucero and prepare to be amazed at every turn. To read more about it, please read our blog post.

    This tour features some amazing new offerings in Ecuador: chief among them is the Tren Crucero Gold, a 4-night adventure from the mountainous landscape of the Andes to the coastal plains, including a journey along the famed “Devil’s Nose.” In the Gold program, with availability for only 10 passengers, you stay at the finest haciendas along the route. It’s no wonder this new train program, with its upgraded offerings, has earned The Society of IRT’s prestigious World’s Top 25 Trains status, announced in June 2017.

    The new Gold program includes the fabulous Plaza Grande in Quito, the Hosteria La Andaluza in Riobamba, the Hacienda La Danesa in Bucay and the Hotel del Parque, Guayaquil. Availability is very limited – just for 10 guests — so book early! Also, the order of our tour may change, due to availability.

    Your tour begins in Quito, Ecuador’s colonial capital. You then travel to the Andes rain forest for a two night, three-day stay at the fabulous Mashpi Lodge, a must-do for anyone who loves nature and the outdoors. Finally, watch the beautiful scenery unfold as you travel aboard the Tren Crucero to Guayaquil with overnights at the great hotels that are part of the package. You will especially love the new Hotel del Parque, which blew us away!

    Also, you can extend your journey with a Galapagos cruise that includes all transfers, flights, meals and a stay at an eco-lodge on the islands.

    Great new video shared by Tren Crucero.

    Get Email Updates On This & Other Tours

    The Itinerary

    Please note: This trip can be done in reverse, beginning in Guayaquil and ending in Quito.  Activities and accommodations are subject to availability.

    Day 1 – Quito
    Transfer included from airport to Casa Gangontena Hotel for a two-night stay in a Luxury Room. En route your driver will provide a short briefing about Quito and the country in general. Quito is colonial and artistic, with many museums, monasteries and churches with golden altars. This fabulous Virtuoso hotel will make you feel right at home.

    Day 2 – Quito (B/L)
    This morning, head out for a walking tour of the Old Town, the largest and best-restored historical center in the Americas.  A lunch of Ecuadorian specialties prepared by the hotel’s talented chefs then awaits you.  In the afternoon, visit the excellent Casa del Alabado Archaeological Museum, with pieces dating back some 5,000 years.

    Day 3 – Quito / Mashpi Lodge (B/L/D)
    Set out today for Mashpi Lodge, located three hours by car from Quito in the evergreen wilds of the Andes’ western slope. Stop at the “Middle of the World” monument, Pululahua Crater. Here, taste delicious Ecuadorian appetizers and fresh-brewed coffee before the descent into Mashpi Reserve, a nature sanctuary located in the spectacular Chocó, one of the most celebrated bioregions in the world. This afternoon, arrive at the Hummingbird Station, a magical place where you’ll see dozens of hummers. When we were there, we saw 11 species.

    Return to the lodge to enjoy a delicious dinner and an evening lecture about the local ecology or current research projects. Overnight at Mashpi Lodge (2 nights).

    Day 4 – Mashpi Lodge (B/L/D)
    This morning, head to the Sky Bike and Observation Tower, which oversees the nearby protected forest 30 meters (100 feet) above the ground. Walk back to the lodge along one of the many trails with waterfalls to explore and enjoy lunch. This afternoon, head to Life Centre along the “Howler Monkey’s trail.” For those interested in learning more about the Ecuadorian cloud forest, there is a lecture that sums up the different scientific research projects that take place at Mashpi. Enjoy a remarkable view of the forest — just as the birds and butterflies do — thanks to the Dragonfly canopy ride. Dinner at Mashpi Lodge.

    Day 5 – Mashpi Lodge / Quito (B/L)
    Bird lovers can head out for an early morning activity – a walk down the road seeking out mixed-species feeding flocks. After breakfast at the lodge, head to Copal Waterfall. This beautiful two-hour-long hike features a landscape of moss-covered trees, bromeliads and orchids at every corner. The trail ends at a spectacular waterfall over 50 m high. Return to the hotel by 11 a.m. for check out. Box lunch will be provided for the drive back to Quito.  Overnight in a beautiful room at Plaza Grande in Quito, another fabulous hotel. Highly recommend dining in the great restaurant at the hotel. We can make reservations for you.

    Day 6 – Quito / Tren Crucero (B/L/D)
    Transfer to the historic Chimbacalle train station in Quito and board the Tren Crucero. The train departs at 8 AM and heads toward El Boliche Recreational Area, where you’ll disembark to board transport to the wilds of Cotopaxi National Park. (subject to volcano activity.)

    Continue to nearby Hacienda San Agustín del Callo for a delicious lunch. In the afternoon, we travel to the train station in Lasso to take part in a traditional fiesta. Today’s accommodation and dinner is at La Ciénega, a colonial hacienda full of history and charm.

    Day 7 – Tren Crucero (B/L/D)
    After breakfast, travel by bus to Latacunga train station to board the train and continue the journey south.

    After lunch, continue on board the train to the Urbina station; located 11,840 feet above sea level, it is the highest train station in the country. Visit the Interpretation Centre to learn about the “Men of Ice” and enjoy the beauty of the landscape east of the slopes of Chimborazo, the highest volcano in Ecuador.  After this visit, travel by bus to the beautiful Hostería Abraspungo for dinner and overnight.

    Day 8 – Tren Crucero (B/L/D)
    Early morning departure from the hotel to travel to the Riobamba train station, where the train’s carriages are pulled by a wonderful steam locomotive. Continue to Colta to visit the Balbanera church. The train then proceeds to Guamote, for a visit of the city’s attractions and indigenous market, one of the largest and most important in the country. (The train group will likely be the only tourists.) Lunch will be at the train station.

    In the afternoon, board the train again at Alausí and continue down the famous Devil’s Nose section of track. Stop for a few minutes at the viewpoint to appreciate this important engineering work and to appreciate why the route is known as “the most difficult railway in the world.” Then continue by train to Bucay, appreciating the change in climate between the Sierra (highlands) and the Coast.  Accommodation and dinner at a beautiful hacienda.

    Day 9 – Tren Crucero / Guayaquil (B/L)
    After breakfast, take a short walk in the forest near to the hotel to appreciate some of the typical flora, fauna, and plantations of the Coast. Then visit a Shuar Indian community. After these visits, travel to Ranch San Rafael for lunch. In the afternoon, the train is once again pulled by a marvelous steam locomotive to Durán station. On the way, pass through typical coastal plantations of bananas, sugarcane and rice. On arrival in Guayaquil, transfer to the Hotel Del Parque, situated in a beautiful park, which offers a gorgeous setting and fabulous dining.  This is one of the most gorgeous hotels. You might not even want to leave!

    Day 10 – Guayaquil (B/L)
    Scenic tour of Guayaquil plus lunch. This large port city is definitely worth investigating, and your private scenic tour will include lunch. You will overnight again at the Hotel del Parque.

    Day 11 – Depart for home OR continue trip with Galapagos Extension
    Private transfer from hotel to Guayaquil airport for departure flight home, or continue on to Galapagos!


    Day 11: Guayaquil to Baltra for embarkation on La Pinta (B, L, D)
    Privately transfer from Hotel del Parque to the airport for your flight to Baltra, where your Galapagos adventure begins on Santa Cruz Island.

    Following your morning arrival at Baltra Airport, transfer to the Itabaca Channel, taking a small ferry across the channel to the north shore of Santa Cruz Island. Board a bus to the highlands, where you’ll learn about Santa Cruz’s unique ecosystems and biodiversity.

    Lunch is served at a local restaurant. After lunch, continue by bus to a reserve that is one of the best places in the archipelago to see giant tortoises. After, continue by bus to Puerto Ayora to board Yacht La Pinta and settle in to your upper deck luxury twin or double cabin.

    Day 12: Eden Islet / Santa Cruz / Sombrero Chino Islet (B, L, D)
    After breakfast, a panga ride takes you to Eden Islet, located off the coast of Santa Cruz, where you can observe blue footed boobies diving into the water, reef sharks, and frigates.

    There’s a chance to snorkel and, if weather conditions permit, to ride in the glass-bottom boat. The volcanic setting of this area is quite stunning due to its variety of volcanic debris, including cinder cones, tuff cones, and semi-eroded lava flows.

    In the afternoon, visit Sombrero Chino Islet. The tiny island of Sombrero Chino gets its name from its appearance, reminiscent of a Chinese hat. Explore the wildlife along its 400-meter long trail, which begins at a crescent-shaped white sandy beach. The cove offers excellent swimming and snorkeling opportunities amid white-tipped reef sharks and Galapagos penguins.

    Day 13: Bartolome / Santiago (B, L, D)
    This morning, enjoy one of the iconic sites of the archipelago — Bartolome Island — with its wooden walkway up to a panoramic viewpoint, golden beach, and great snorkeling opportunities. Enjoy a stimulating hike this morning up to the lookout, after which you can snorkel and enjoy a glass-bottom boat ride. In the afternoon, La Pinta heads to Sullivan Bay, a great introduction to the volcanic origins of the islands.

    Day 14: Genovesa (B, L, D)
    This morning, explore Genovesa in the far northeast of the archipelago, home to thousands of marine birds. Enjoy a walk around Darwin Bay this morning, followed by snorkeling and kayaking. In the afternoon, a thrilling hike up Prince Phillip’s Steps takes us to the nesting grounds of many colonies of Nazca boobies, frigate birds, storm petrels, and the elusive short-eared owl.

    Day 15: Finch Bay Hotel (B)
    This morning, privately transfer from La Pinta to Finch Bay Hotel in a suite for a two-night stay.

    Day 16: Finch Bay Hotel (B)
    Enjoy a day at leisure at Finch Bay Hotel.

    Day 17: Baltra Departure (B)
    Privately transfer from Finch Bay Hotel to Baltra Airport for your return flight to Guayaquil.


    Your Galapagos extension includes private transfers, air tickets, and Galapagos National Park fees, 4 nights on La Pinta Yacht, and 2 nights at Finch Bay Hotel.

    This itinerary is planned with great care, although, for operational reasons, it may be necessary to change the sequence of activities in the itinerary or the specified route, and though such cases are exceptional, in general the itinerary should be treated only as a basic guideline.

    2021 Dates:

    Contact us for 2021 dates and pricing.

    The Prices

    Our Process / How to Book Your Trip:

    This journey is especially time- and labor-intensive for our travel professionals.

    Because of the time involved, we charge a $250 “plan to go” fee per person (or $500 for solo travelers) after we have had a brief courtesy phone conference with you, during which we will answer any preliminary questions you have and collect the necessary information to begin planning your trip. Please provide us with a wide range of availability in travel dates.

    If your dates are not available, you will be refunded the “plan to go” fee.

    If you take this trip, you will be refunded the “plan to go” fee after you return, minus any professional fees required for changes/additions to this itinerary.

    Our “plan to go” fee ensures we are able to maintain an extremely high standard of service for all of our valued travelers!


    This journey climbs to high altitude: Urbina Station is the highest station in Ecuador and one of the highest in the world. Before taking this trip, please advise your doctor that it will take you 11,840 feet above sea level. Also please note that there are many early mornings on this program. The reason is a good one: the views from the train to the volcanoes and the rain forests and stupendous in the early morning. It can cloud over in the late afternoon. The staff on this train — from the engineers to the guides and waiters– is spectacular: friendly, professional, so knowledgeable – and seem excited to welcome all aboard. Further, people all along the route wave excitedly to see the train roll by.

    to top

    The Highlights

    • Traveling along the famed “Devil’s Nose,” considered an engineering feat and one of the most difficult tracks in the world to build
    • Steam locomotive hauls on two sections of the Tren Crucero route between Quito & Guayaquil
    • Private tour of Quito, taking in the historical Old Town, meeting local artisans and visiting the market
    • Trail walks to waterfalls and overlooks and with Mashpi Lodge guides and naturalists
    • Bird-watching at Mashpi Lodge — a staggering 500 species of bird inhabit the area forests
    • Walk in Boliche National Park
    • Stop at Urbina station at 11,840 feet above sea level, the highest train station in Ecuador
    • Optional Galapagos cruise extension; please inquire
    Staff member of the Tren Crucero awaits passengers on the observation platform.  Photo by Owen Hardy.
    Staff member of the Tren Crucero awaits passengers on the observation platform. Photo by Owen Hardy.
    We loved the birds at Mashpi Lodge.
    We loved the birds at Mashpi Lodge.
    Tren Crucero travels along the famed Devil's Nose.
    Tren Crucero travels along the famed Devil's Nose.
    Roses enhance the fabulous views out of Tren Crucero's windows.  Photo by Owen Hardy.
    Roses enhance the fabulous views out of Tren Crucero's windows. Photo by Owen Hardy.