The first half of this four-day voyage is along the Avenue of the Volcanoes from Quito to beautiful Cuenca in the south; among spectacular scenery from the roof of the Chiva Express with many stops along the way for a close contact with the indigenous cultures, haciendas, plantations and a taste of the products of the land. The second half is dedicated to the cultural and natural experience of exploring the charms of Cuenca and the Valley of Gualaceo.
Day 1: The adventure starts in Quito with a bus ride to the station of Tambillo, where the "Chiva Express", a colorful one coach train, like a bus on tracks, is ready to depart. A highlight of the trip is to 'ride the roof' with a panoramic view of the stunning Andean region of Ecuador. You will leisurely enjoy the ever-changing scenery as the "Chiva Express" advances along the ancient tracks. Stop for a snack at a dairy hacienda with cows, horses and llamas. Then the Chiva advances up and down the slopes of Cotopaxi volcano and the fertile Valley of Latacunga for a visit to a rose plantation and a taste of the products of the land. Continue by bus to Riobamba, and at the foot of imposing Chimborazo volcano, visit a Tagua workshop and warm up with a canelazo by the fireplace. Dinner and overnight at Riobamba.
Day 2: After an early breakfast, transfer to the train station to board the "Chiva Express" for an astonishing ride, twisting and turning over the Andes, along bridging ravines and river gorges. Stop at Guamote, an Indian town, for a short visit to an Educational Center for Adults’ Development and Sustainability. Continue aboard the Chiva to Alausí, where a snack is served, and prepare to go down the Devil’s Nose switch backs, one of the most impressive feats of rail engineering in the world, and back to Alausí. Continue south along the Andes by motorcar to Cuenca, visiting the Inca Ruins of Ingapirca to arrive at dusk, with a stop for lunch. Accommodations and all meals at the hotel in Cuenca
Day 3: Today guests will enjoy a full day to discover, at a leisurely pace, the beauty and charm for which Cuenca has been recognized as a World Cultural Heritage Site. Its red tiled roofs, cobblestone streets, flowery plazas and museums make it very special. Lunch is served at a cozy restaurant.
Day 4: The day starts with a ride along the Santa Ana valley and then high in the mountains, through very scenic landscapes, which change at every curb. Stops are made at the small towns that produce a variety of handcrafts, such as artistic handmade guitars at San Bartolo and alongside orchards and sugar cane plantations, on to Chordeleg, famous for gold and silver jewelry. Then past the village of Gualaceo, follow the road along the banks of the Santa Barbara River, lined with weeping willows, to Bulcay where shawl and scarves are woven with the ancient technique of Ikat (tie dyed warp to form specific designs, on ancient shuttle looms. Visit lovely orchid gardens with over 2500 species and then lunch at an attractive hostel, surrounded by flowery gardens, close to the Paute River. After lunch, return to Cuenca in time to catch the return flight.
Note: Accommodation in Cuenca at hotels Oro Verde, Santa Lucía or Carvalho. Dress in layers (T-shirt, blouse, sweater, coat). Take a warm coat for evening and rain protection. Sun protection (SPF 40) even if the day is cloudy. Hat or cap. Good walking shoes.
Altitude: 2,550 meters (7,750 feet) to 3,000 meters (10,000 feet)
Average Temperature: Day 10° to 25° C / 50° to 77° F.
Dependant on season.
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South America Ecuador Local Culture Railway Trips Sightseeing