From clouds to coast – the new passenger train from Quito to Guayaquil

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  • The new train slips through the highlands between Quito and Guayaquil. The new train slips through the highlands between Quito and Guayaquil. Photo by: Jason Heflin
  • The train descends a steep canyon in the Andes. The train descends a steep canyon in the Andes. Photo by: Jason Heflin
  • A passenger watches the sunset on the final stretch to the coast and the city of Guayaquil. A passenger watches the sunset on the final stretch to the coast and the city of Guayaquil. Photo by: Jason Heflin
  • A train station attendant watches as the train pulls in and passengers unload. A train station attendant watches as the train pulls in and passengers unload. Photo by: Jason Heflin
  • Children from the Shuar community pose for the camera. Their people moved from the Amazon many years ago when pushed out by a rival tribe. Children from the Shuar community pose for the camera. Their people moved from the Amazon many years ago when pushed out by a rival tribe. Photo by: Jason Heflin
  • A porter ensures the train's safety through the journey. A porter ensures the train's safety through the journey. Photo by: Jason Heflin
  • Performers dress in a traditional mask and costume for a musical play at one of the train stations. Performers dress in a traditional mask and costume for a musical play at one of the train stations. Photo by: Jason Heflin
  • A view of one of the many volcanoes the new train route in Ecuador passes. A view of one of the many volcanoes the new train route in Ecuador passes. Photo by: Jason Heflin
  • A llama stands guard as the vollcano Chimborazo is shrouded in clouds. A llama stands guard as the vollcano Chimborazo is shrouded in clouds. Photo by: Jason Heflin
  • Horses watch the new train pass from a ridge. Horses watch the new train pass from a ridge. Photo by: Jason Heflin
  • An indigineous woman at the Guamote market. An indigineous woman at the Guamote market. Photo by: Jason Heflin
  • The Tren Crucero company offers a side trip to visit the Cotopaxi Volcano. The Tren Crucero company offers a side trip to visit the Cotopaxi Volcano. Photo by: Jason Heflin
  • A mesmerized child on the tracks after the new passenger train has passed. A mesmerized child on the tracks after the new passenger train has passed. Photo by: Jason Heflin
  • People wave as the train passes under a bridge. People wave as the train passes under a bridge. Photo by: Jason Heflin
  • A boy watches the train pass. A boy watches the train pass. Photo by: Jason Heflin
  • 75 year old Alejandro Diaz plays guitar near the station in Yaguachi, Ecuador. 75 year old Alejandro Diaz plays guitar near the station in Yaguachi, Ecuador. Photo by: Jason Heflin

WASHINGTON D.C., June 6, 2013 — Few things impart the romance of travel more than the sound of a train whistle. Now that the tracks between Quito and Guayaquil have been rehabilitated and modernized, that iconic sound has returned to Ecuador. Riding these rails on a “tren crucero,” or train cruise, is an incredible way to soak up the beauty of the country. Descending from the thin air of the Andes to the steamy coastal region, the variation in the landscape and culture of Ecuador becomes clear.

Beginning at the Heart of Ecuador: Quito


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The train begins its trek in the heart of the country, Quito. It was the first city to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The city center, known as “Old Town,” has a quaint sense of charm with its hilly cobblestone streets and ancient stone churches. Each weekday there is a bustle of activity as government officials and business people shuffle back and forth from meetings while small colorfully clothed indigenous women stand on the corner frying meat on an open grill or selling fruit. On Sundays, most of the streets in Old Town are closed to automobile traffic. People walk or ride their bikes and enjoy a much quieter experience.

Quito Street Scene

The balance between old and new is delicate, however; it’s easy to see that Quito is quickly becoming a modern city. La Mariscal neighborhood is packed with hip fusion restaurants, art galleries, and raucous nightclubs.

This hub of modern activity is a great place to observe the younger Ecuadorian generation and see how they are changing the cultural landscape of the country. 


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It is a must to plan a few nights in Quito before the train leaves for the coast. The city provides a fascinating glimpse into the soul of the country.  

As one explores the busy streets and tours the beautiful churches – especially the gold laden La Compañia — they begin to understand the cultural evolutions of Ecuador.

The Avenue of the Volcanoes

The Quito train station is the starting point for the sleek new red train’s four day journey. Once the train clears the hustle of the city, it slips into the emerald green landscape of the surrounding mountains and farmland. Many of those peaks are actually volcanoes, some active, and their volatile nature symbolizes the turbulent past of Ecuador.


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Throughout the centuries the indigenous people of the region fought Inca and Spanish conquerors, eventually winning their independence. Despite this violent past of volcanic and political eruptions, many of the old traditions endured.

Small family farms are the lifeblood of the Andes and these farms dot the land as the train slips through the corridor of snowy summits. Since travel to cities can be difficult in the region, those tiny rural communities are bound together and sustain themselves by providing much of their own food. 

From Clouds to Coast

Slowly, over the course of four days, the bright red train passes from the clouds and farms of the high Andes, through the tangled jungles of the foothills, and down to the humid coast. All meals, excursions, and accommodations are included in the price of the trip, and guests can expect to be pampered. 

Rural Ecuador

Each night the train stops at a station and passengers are transported by bus to haciendas. These quaint hotels are one part B&B and one part history lesson. Having been used as roadside rest stops for centuries, travelers can meet locals, enjoy delicious recipes passed down through the generations, and immerse in the rural lifestyle of Ecuadorians from bygone eras.

The small town of Guamote is another highlight of the high country. The train pulls into its newly renovated station and passengers spill out into a lively local market. The vendors there sell everything from souvenirs to fresh meat, fruits and vegetables, grains, household goods, and beautiful textiles.

Those brave enough to explore more deeply will discover the livestock market. Sheep, pigs, and more are herded into a large pin, along with their owners, and those from nearby communities come and negotiate for the animal’s purchase. The smells, colors, sounds, and sights in the market are sensory overload; this is not a stop for leaving the camera behind.

The journey concludes just north of Guayaquil, the country’s most populated city. If time permits, travelers should walk the Malecon 2000, a walkway packed with shopping and restaurants along the riverfront. At the end of the Malecon sits the MAAC, or Museum of Anthropology and Contemporary Art.  Just beyond this is the neighborhood of Las Peñas. Its beautiful multi-colored houses, all perched on a bulging hill, have been an artist’s haven for decades.

Equatorial Smiles

One constant on the tren crucero are the smiles and waves of the people it passes. The rehabilitation of the tracks has been somewhat symbolic for the country. The train was once an icon of commerce, as it would roll into rural villages with crates and sacks of goods. It stopped running for decades and its return (full of tourists) represents progress and hope for the future.

Making it Happen

American Airlines currently has flights from Miami, both to and from Quito and Guayaquil. The direct flight from Miami takes roughly four hours. The train can be booked through Tren Crucero and will compliment a trip to the Galapagos nicely.


This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Jason Heflin

Jason spent his youth exploring the creeks, trails, and back roads of his home state, Kentucky. His final year in college he joined a study abroad trip to Ireland.  His time exploirng the hills and pubs of the Emerald Isle sparked his passion for  travel.  Since then, his journeys have landed him on five continents and in dozens of countries.

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