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Picaflor: Ecuador on track

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This unique escorted group trip ran for the first time in 2014 to celebrate the reopening of Ecuador's railway network, and has been running ever since. For over 15 years much of the rail line that once traversed this small Andean country had been closed following destruction by torrential rains and landslides, but after considerable work and investment from the government portions of this spectacular railway are now up and running again. We start the tour in the capital Quito and the nearby temperate cloud forest of Mindo on the western slopes of the Andes. Then continue by road and rail, over high passes and amazing switchbacks to finish in the sweltering Pacific lowlands in Guayaquil, Ecuador's main deep water port, and largest city.

Holiday itinerary

UK clients depart Thursday, arriving Quito, Ecuador, the same day.

Day 1

Transfer to hotel in Quito, overnight in the capital.

Day 2

Guided tour of the city and the Equatorial Monument.

Day 3

Travel to Mindo.

Day 4

Bird spotting and walks in Mindo Cloud Forest.

Day 5

Back to Quito, stopping to spot hummingbirds on the way.

Day 6

Board the Slow Train Sierra, passing magnificent volcanoes including Cotopaxi.

Day 7

Continue your journey by train to Riobamba, passing Ecuador's highest station.

Day 8

Travel by traditional steam train and tackle the famous Devil's Nose.

Day 9

By train into the tropical lowlands, finishing in Guayaquil.

Day 10

Day at leisure before flying home.

UK clients arrive home the following day, Sunday.

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What our experts say

Railways once crisscrossed South America, transporting people and goods to far-flung regions of the continent. Now, most are sadly gone, but this tour offers the chance to experience an epic ride through the Andes of Ecuador. Climb onboard the restored Tren Crucero as transports you from the mountains of Quito all the way to the Pacific coast at Guayaquil. A truly unique way to explore this fascinating country of contrasts.

Jim

Jim Ashworth

Travel Consultants

Places visited on this holiday

Picaflor: Ecuador on track

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Quito

Quito has long been a city of two halves. Occupying a highland valley at 2,850m and flanked by volcanoes, the setting of its historic centre and adjoining modern quarters is breathtaking. The formerly dark and run-down colonial heart has been magnificently restored. Cobbled lanes and whitewashed façades, scrubbed up churches and renovated theatres now gleam and echo with the sounds of the everyday life of its traditional inhabitants. Beyond are the skyscrapers and broad avenues of the contemporary commercial city, La Mariscal, with flashy shops, offices and restaurants, where busy young workers flock to the many bars and nightclubs.

When to go

The capital is an all-year destination. Lying at 2,850m on the Equator, Quito has a year round spring-like climate.  Most days have a sunny morning but there may be rain in the afternoon. Feb-Mar are the wettest months, Jul the driest.

Language

Spanish

Getting local currency
Ecuador uses the US dollar. Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs using a UK credit or debit card. 
Time difference

GMT -5 hrs.

Combines with

A visit to Otavalo market in the northern highlands, 58km (1-2hrs by road); the bird-filled cloud forest in the Mindo region, 100km (1hr 40mins by road); the Avenue of the Volcanoes, 77km (2hrs by road); the Galápagos Islands, (2-3hrs by air).

Getting there

Average flight time is 15 hrs. There are no direct flights from the UK to Ecuador, popular routes to Quito involve a change of plane in Amsterdam, Paris or Madrid.

Key events

Dia de Quito: Quito, 6 Dec. The city’s own festival is actually celebrated from 1st Dec, with parades, street music and bullfights, right up until the fiesta’s climax on 6th. It can be quite boisterous.

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Mindo and the cloud forest
Mindo and the cloud forest
Although only a couple of hours’ drive from Quito, the warm cloud forest-smothered slopes of the pre-Andean foothills, sloping down to the Amazon basin, are a world away from the busy capital. Its accessibility, the wealth of exuberant flora and fauna and the scope for adventure activities mean that the region around the little town of Mindo, 1,300m, is becoming increasingly popular as a leisure destination for local people and visitors alike. Reserves are being established to protect the biodiversity: the 450 species of tropical birds, the plethora of butterflies and the delicate orchids. The many waterfalls and hiking trails add to the attraction.
When to go

The cloud forest has an all year round spring-like climate with temperatures averaging 21°C.  There are on average a few hours of sunshine every day. The driest months are Jun-Aug. Mindo and the hotels and tourist attractions in the region can be busy at weekends and at national holidays.

Language

Spanish

Getting local currency
Ecuador uses the US dollar. There are no banks in the Mindo region, bring your cash from Quito or another town where there are banks and ATMs.
Time difference

GMT -5 hours.

Combines with

The Avenue of the Volcanoes, 98 km; the thermal springs at Papallacta, 45 km; Otavalo and the northern highlands, 68 km.     

Getting there

It’s a drive of 2-2.5 hrs to Mindo from Quito.

Key events

Fiesta de Mindo: Mindo, weekend closest to 18 May. Church masses, parties tubing and other sports.

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Avenue of the Volcanoes
Avenue of the Volcanoes
The aptly named Avenue of the Volcanoes is 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. This is supreme hiking country, with trails leading to craters harbouring turquoise volcanic lakes, usually with views of the biggest peaks, Chimborazo and Cotopaxi.
When to go

The central highlands have an all year round spring-like climate with temperatures averaging 21°C.  The best time for a visit is Dec-Jan, while a lot of rain can be expected Mar-May. Jul-Aug are the driest months.  Visit Saquisili on a Thursday to see the market. Other towns have different market days.

Language

Spanish

Time difference

GMT -5 hrs

Combines with

Ecuador’s colonial southern city, graceful Cuenca, 250 km from Riobamba by road (3.5hrs) or rail and road.

Getting there

It’s a drive of 190 km from Quito to Riobamba, taking 2 hrs 40mins if you drive direct.

Key events
Fiesta de la Mama Negra, Latacunga, 23-25 Sep, a multi-cultural event with a historical narrative and costumed dancing and parades.  
Corpus Christi:  Pujili, Quilotoa Loop:  May-Jun. Masked parades, fireworks and competitions. 
Riobamba: There are several fiestas and parades, including one in celebration of Jesus in January; Holy Week, and the Fiesta de Abril on the town’s independence day, 21 Apr.

Getting local money

Ecuador uses the US dollar. There are banks in Riobamba but it’s best to take out money in advance in Quito where there are many ATMs.

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Guayaquil
Until quite recently a scruffy Pacific port with a dubious reputation, Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city is a newly emergent commercial and cultural centre, showing off freshened up plazas and boulevards, a charming waterside malécon (promenade), good hotels and trendy restaurants. Always a flamboyant place in comparison with the upland cities, it has a vivacious atmosphere. The river Guayas is chock-a-bloc with boats jostling for space, some laden down with tropical fruits and sugar cane, others offering transport to distant villages. The historic quarter of Las Peñas nearby is an arty district with a tumble of toybox multicoloured houses, galleries and bars.
When to go

Guayaquil is a hot, humid place where the temperature seldom dips below 28°C all year round. Heavy rainfall can be expected from Jan-Apr but hardly any outside this period.

Language

Spanish

Getting local currency

Ecuador uses the US dollar. There are a number of banks in Guayaquil. Notes can be withdrawn from ATMs using a UK credit or debit card, but the permitted withdrawal may be a lower amount than at home.

Time difference

GMT -5 hrs.

Combines with

The Galápagos Islands, 1.5hrs by air; the southern upland city of Cuenca, 175km (2hrs 40mins by road).

Getting there

Average flight time is 12 hrs. There are no direct flights from the UK to Ecuador, popular routes to Guayaquil involve a change of plane in Amsterdam, Paris or Madrid. The city is a 50min flight from Quito.

Key events

Fiestas Julianas:  Guayaquil, 24-5 Jul.  Parades, fireworks, beauty pageants and other events to celebrate the city’s foundation and Simon Bolivar’s birthday.
Dia de Independencia & Dia de Raza: Guayaquil 9-12 Oct.  Various cultural events.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

Tailor-made holiday

Our specialists have been expertly crafting award-winning tailor-made holidays to Latin America for over 37 years.
We would be delighted to create a truly personalised trip which perfectly matches your wishes and requirements.

97% of our clients rated their experience with us as Excellent or Good.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today. Picaflor: Ecuador on track

  • Ecuadorian Amazon 4 days from £1,073pp

    The rainforest of the Amazon of Ecuador, whence spring rivers which flow down to the Amazon proper, is conveniently accessible from Quito. Following a short flight and canoe trip you arrive at Sacha Lodge to begin your jungle adventures.

    Day 1: A 35min flight takes you over the snow-capped Andes to Puerto Francisco de Orellana, known locally as Coca. Please note that luggage is restricted to 20kg.

    On arrival, it is a short transfer to the docks where motorised dugout canoes are waiting to take you down the Río Napo, the largest river in the Ecuadorian Amazonia. Head deep into the rainforest - with opportunities to spot an array of wildlife along the riverbanks – to the reserve where Sacha Lodge is situated (2.5hrs). You’ll then set off on a guided expedition along a raised boardwalk through dense flooded palm forest to Lake Pichicocha (30mins) before crossing the motionless black-water lagoon by canoe to arrive at the lodge.

    Day 2: There’s a varied menu of activities and excursions to choose from at the lodge. They are conducted in small groups led by an English-speaking naturalist guide, and take place in the early morning when the wildlife is at its most active, in the afternoon as the sun sets leaving a mellow glow draped over the forest, and at night when the nocturnal insects and frogs join in a melodious chorus.

    Day 3: Waterborne adventures include a trip to a parrot lick, where the colourful and agitated birds gather to feed. There’s also a 300m canopy walkway suspended 30m above the jungle floor, giving you a canopy-level view of the wildlife which inhabits the trees, while an overall panoramic view is available from the top of the observation tower. Go fishing for piranha, and at night, set out on the dark waters in search of alligators.

    Breakfast daily, full board days 1-3.

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Start Date

26 Sep 2019

End Date

5 Oct 2019

Price pp

£3,031

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£471

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