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Private Journeys

Ecuador by train and Galapagos cruise

14 days from £6,650pp

Ecuador & Galapagos Islands / Galapagos Islands


map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive in Quito and transfer to your hotel.

Transfer to your hotel in Quito, the Andean capital of Ecuador. The active volcano Guagua Pichincha, to the east, glowers over the dynamic city which, at 2,850m, is one of highest capital cities in the world. It is divided into two contrasting districts. The modern zone is characterised by towering glass buildings and houses banks, international companies, hotels, shops and restaurants, while the central colonial area has well-conserved and recently spruced-up white-washed architecture, open air markets and graceful Spanish-style mansions and churches.

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Day 2

Guided walking tour of colonial Quito and El Panecillo.

Visit the colonial centre of the capital, the first city ever to be named a World Heritage site. High on the agenda is a walk through the main plaza, the Plaza de Independencia, where you will see the government palace, the cathedral, and some of the most important churches built around the 16th and 17th centuries, including the monastery of San Francisco. Having explored this part of the city you’ll be taken up to the viewpoint on El Panecillo, the hill overlooking the city, for a panorama over the whole metropolis.

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Day 3

Embark your train, journey through the highlands.

Today you start your adventure by rail. By road through rolling highland moors to Otavalo, a prosperous town set in a pretty landscape of lakes and volcanoes. The town hosts one of the largest and most vibrant indigenous markets in South America. You, however, will be whisked off to the station to board your train.

You’ll driven by steam-powered locomotive across the plains and through the northern valleys to Ibarra, pulling up to visiting the woodcarving workshops of San Antonio, experiencing  the traditional food in Andrade Marin and a watching a presentation by musicians and weavers at San Roque railway station.

After a lunch of Andean Ecuadorian specialities at Cayembe  where you can appreciate an export-quality rose plantation, you return to Quito by bus and overnight there.


Day 4

Along the Avenue of Volcanoes by rail.

Board the train again at Quito station and set off on a scenic journey by rail south along the Avenue of Volcanoes, flanked by eight dizzyingly-high snow-mantled mountains striding south of Quito down the Andean spine. It passes through a valley rich with a landscape of dense forest and tiny fields plastering impossibly steep slopes. Dotted around is a mix of deeply traditional indigenous and colonial settlements with horticultural and artisan markets and cottage industries. There’s also a clutch of old estates gifted to conquistadores where the grandiose buildings are now countryside hotels.

En route the train will pull up at halts and stations in places of interest. The first stop after Quito will be at Hacienda La Alegria, where you’ll witness a horse-back show performed by chagras, traditional Andean cowboys.

Board the train once more, to continue up on-to the coarse highland grasslands which cover the plains to Urbina. Bleak and isolated, this is the highest station in Ecuador at 3,609m above sea level.  There’s a visit to the interpretation centre of the Chimborazo icemen to learn how these hardy men climb the slopes of Ecuador’s highest volcano to mine the glacial ice for sale below.

One of these estates hosts the Hosteria Andaluza close to the market town of Riobamba you’ll spend the night at this peaceful property.  


Day 5

From Riobamba down the Devil’s Nose by train.

You leave the hotel early for the station at Riobamba. This is a real highlight of the journey, since this short section is normally hauled by steam power.  At Colta there’s a visit to the small chapel of Balbanera, one of Ecuador’s earliest.

You continue by rail to Guamote, to visit the town and its indian market. After lunch at the station, board the train for Alausí to begin the most spectacular part of the journey and, from an engineering point of view, the most ambitious section of track between Quito and Guayaquil. This is the Devil’s Nose.

The track descends 200m, zig-zagging down an almost vertical wall of rock by a series of switchbacks. It’s a spectacular route which drops from high sierra (2,347m) to the steamy lowlands (294m). The climate and vegetation change from temperate to tropical in 56 kilometres. Disembark the train and continue by road to your countryside hotel at Bucay. 


Day 6

By rail to the end of the line at Duran, Guayaquil.

After breakfast, board the train for the journey to Naranjito station. This journey takes you across a blanket of tropical rainforest pitted with banana, cacao and sugar-cane plantations. Disembark and depart by bus to a coastal hacienda, La Danesa, to visit a cocoa plantation and learn about the history of this remarkable crop and why Ecuadorian cacao is amongst the best in the world.

Return to the hacienda for a chocolate tasting in the gardens followed by a typical Ecuadorian lunch after which you rejoin your train, heading for Yaguachi through tropical plantations of rice, bananas, sugar and pineapple. There your engine is switched to a steam locomotive for the final section of the trip to Duran, the end of the line. Disembark and continue by road to the port Guayaquil on the Pacific coast.

Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city has gone through a transition in the last few years. The expanse of waterfront has been made into an outdoor architectural showpiece, and restoration work has taken place along the city’s main thoroughfare and in the historical neighbourhood of Las Peñas.

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Day 7

Fly to the Galápagos islands, board MV Treasure of Galápagos.

The Galápagos Islands emerged in the Pacific Ocean 6 million years ago following a spate of volcanic activity and, isolated from the continental mainland, have become home to unique plant and animal species. Without fear of humans, they are sufficiently trusting to allow you to approach them and observe them up close.

Although geologically constantly on the move, these islands remain suspended in time, with giant tortoises, iguanas, penguins, frigate birds, waved albatross and blue-footed boobies and a wealth of rare flora all thriving there. For many, the fascinating and unique wildlife and natural beauty of the islands are matched by the thrill of being at sea. Find a spot on deck as you make your way through the ocean, often trailed by flocks of birds and playful dolphins.

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Days 8-12

Excursions by boat and on land in the Galapagos Islands.

You’ll sail on a compact, modern motor catamaran  – just nine cabins – offering an intimate and informal atmosphere reflecting the laid-back approach of smaller craft. You will have ample opportunity to make new friends among people with shared interests. In addition to landings on the islands you will have the opportunity to snorkel or swim with sea-lions.

The itinerary for your days in the Galápagos will depend on your date of departure, and is subject to change. There are normally two landings a day to seek out the different wildlife which inhabits the islands. 


Day 13

Return to Guayaquil by air to connect with your international flight.

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Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.


Your edit for Latin American inspiration

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

View Extraordinary Inspiration

Real Latin America Experts

  • Ben Line
    Ben Line - Travel Expert

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.

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    Sophie Barber - Travel Expert

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia and beyond to Antarctica.

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    It's hard to believe that Evie has had time to cram so much in to her life so far. Having lived as a child in the Americas and Europe she found herself immediately attracted to Latin America.

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    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

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    Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is a much valued Travel Expert in our Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tours sales team.

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Expert

    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

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