Andes of Colombia and Ecuador

Saturday 7th October to Friday 20th October 2017
14 - Days


Prices from: £5495


Travel back in time to a golden age of Spanish colonial history on this extraordinary tour of two of the less well known countries of South America.


Departure Date: 07-Oct-2017
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With a landscape dominated by the Andes Mountains, you’ll spend time on several high plateaux hosting major cities such as Bogotá in Colombia and Quito in Ecuador. Both countries were once Spanish colonies and their cultural and architectural heritage figures prominently in your itinerary. The greatly varied climate also offers an amazingly diverse range of flora and fauna for discovery. Incredibly difficult terrain in the Andes made railway construction almost impossible but you’ll travel by train to these areas just as in the old colonial days, on specially chartered trains with steam haulage where possible. One highlight features climbing the world-famous ‘Devil’s Nose’ with gradients of 1 in 18 on this railway ‘Wonder of the World’. With many film and photo opportunities and run-pasts through spectacular scenery, historic heritage trips, and unusual highlights, this is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure holiday not to be missed.

Saturday 7th October
Flight to Colombia
You have an indirect early morning flight, with a change en route, from London Heathrow to Bogotá in Colombia. On arrival in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, you transfer to your hotel for overnight accommodation.

Sunday 8th October
Steam train from Bogotá to Gachancipá
After breakfast you transfer to La Sabana Station in Bogotá. On arrival you have a scheduled visit to the railway depot and workshops there, to see their collection of operational and stored ‘Baldwin’ locomotives. The Baldwin Locomotive Works of Pennsylvania produced over 70,000 locomotives, most of them steam. The Bogotá collection includes three 2-8-2’s, one 4-8-0, and a 2-6-0 built in 1921, refurbished as recently as 2012. After the visit you board a specially chartered train hauled by either a Baldwin 4-8-0 or 2-8-2 steam locomotive for a 53 km (33 miles) northwards trip from Bogotá to Parque and Zipaquirá. You have lunch at a traditional Colombian restaurant in Zipaquirá followed by a visit to the town’s Salt Cathedral, an underground church built inside the tunnel of a salt mine. The main square in the town centre is surrounded by old buildings in the Spanish Colonial style. You return to Bogotá Station where three more steam locomotives will be waiting. Steam locomotives in Colombia are kept in remarkably good condition and you’ll have four of them available for film and photo opportunities. You’ll travel along the line towards Zipaquirá as far as La Caro (34 km) where the route branches off towards Briceño (47 km), Tocancipá (53 km) and Gachancipá (58 km). Later the train takes the same route back to La Sabana Station where you return to your hotel for dinner. (B L D)

Monday 9th October
Steam train from Bogotá to Zipaquirá
Today you return to La Sabana Station in Bogotá for a chartered train trip hauled by a coal-fired Baldwin 2-6-0 steam locomotive. You’ll travel along the line towards the north of the city to Usaquén Station (15 km). This quaint village-within-a-city is in the middle of a residential area and dates from 1920. You continue on the line for 23 km where the city ends and the train line rolls through the green scenery of the Sabana. You arrive at La Caro Station (34 km) where the line divides. To the north it branches to Zipaquira and to the northeast to Villapinzon. You’ll take the northeast route, passing Briceño station (47 km), Tocancipa (53 km), Gachancipa (58 km), Sesquille (71 km) and Suesca (74 km). After Suesca the line runs parallel to the Bogota River, inside an amazing rocky canyon. You pass Santa Rosita Station (81 km) and cross the Bogota river at 84 km and 89 km. The flat lands continue until Choconta at (93 km), next to the river until your last stop at Villapinzon (105 km). You return to your hotel by coach for dinner and overnight accommodation. (B L D)

Tuesday 10th October
Bogotá city tour and a flight to Ecuador
Bogotá is located on the west of the Savannah of Bogotá, a high plateau in the Andes Mountains. It’s one of the most important cities in South America and was once the main trade centre between South America and Europe. It’s a city of contrasts, not least between the new and the old, and as such it offers a unique tourist experience. Today you’ll visit the colonial city and learn about its Spanish and pre-Colombian heritage, and discover centuries-old plazas and churches overshadowed by towering skyscrapers. La Candeleria neighbourhood is where many landmark events took place in the history of Colombian and South American independence. Plaza de Bolivar (Bolivia is named after Simon Bolivar, a South American revolutionary leader) is the city’s main square. It’s surrounded by neoclassical buildings, museums, and old churches, including the Catedral Primada, the largest church in the country. The Museo del Oro (Gold Museum) is famous for its legendary El Dorado collections, and regarded as the most important gold museum in the World. After your city tour you have lunch and then travel by road coach to El Dorado International Airport for an afternoon flight to Guayaquil in Ecuador. On arrival, you transfer to your hotel in Guayaquil for dinner and overnight accommodation. (B L D)

Wednesday 11th October
Steam train from Durán to Yaguachi and a tour of Guayaquil city
This morning you travel by road coach from Guayaquil to Durán, crossing the Rafael Mendoza Aviles Bridge over the rivers Daule and Babahoyo. Durán is a dormitory town for commuters but well known as the location from where the country’s first section of railway line opened in 1873. The network of 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) narrow gauge lines once stretched for 965.5 km (600 miles), but natural disasters and neglect reduced this to only 10% open in 2008. You’ll visit the railway workshops of the Ecuadorian Railways Company (FEEP), where Baldwin steam locomotives, a railbus (autoferro), and an Alstom built diesel locomotive are housed. After the visit you board a train steam hauled by either No. 11 or No. 14 locomotive for the 21 km journey to the historic town of Yaguachi. The route runs through the streets of Durán and then the Ecuadorian coast region, passing rice plantations and marshlands supporting a variety of birdlife. You discover the local customs and traditions and visit Yaguachi Cathedral before returning by steam train to Durán. You return to Guayaquil in the afternoon for a tour of Ecuador’s largest city. The district of Las Peñas, where the city was founded, contains most of the city’s colonial buildings. It’s located on the slopes of Santa Ana Hill from where there are good views across the city to the River Guayas. The Malecon 2000 is a long park beside the river where several historical monuments are located, including La Rotonda and the Moorish Clock Tower. There are also museums, gardens, fountains, shopping malls, restaurants, and waterfront jetties from where boats run on the river. You stay overnight in Guayaquil. (B L D)

Thursday 12th October
Diesel hauled train from Yaguachi to Huigra
In the morning you return to Yaguachi by road coach to join a specially chartered train hauled by a diesel locomotive. You travel eastwards for 87 km through the coastal plain to Bucay, along one of the recently repaired sections of railway line that had been closed for nearly two decades. This lush region is one of the most productive agricultural areas in Ecuador. Bucay is 500 metres above sea level and the last station on the coastal plain before the ascent of the Andes Mountains. Here the coastal steam locomotives were exchanged for mountain locomotives to begin the steep ascents. You’ll visit the Bucay workshops and depot where these steam locos were based and serviced. Continuing towards Huigra, you pass through a very scenic section of the line within the Chan Chan River Gorge. The vegetation changes from tropical into cloud forest as the line gains altitude. Huigra is 1,200 metres above sea level and site to the old headquarters of the Guayaquil and Quito Railway Company (G&Q). The G&Q Railway had been declared impossible to build and construction was constantly beset with problems. Major John Harman was a major influence in getting much of the route completed but he died in mysterious circumstances and is buried in Huigra, where you’ll stay overnight. (B L D)

Friday 13th October
Diesel hauled train on The Devil’s Nose and Riobamba
Today, you continue the journey on your chartered train from Huigra to Riobamba. The train will be diesel hauled between Riobamba and Alausi, over the Devil’s Nose and on to Guamote. An 800 metre section of the route between Huigra and Sibambe was rebuilt and reopened recently following destruction by a landslide in 1998. Above Sibambe Station you negotiate the spectacular and world-famous Devil’s Nose. This immense mountain resembles the shape of a nose and the railway climbs gradients of 1 in 18 and uses two zigzags to gain height and surmount the obstacle. There will be plenty of film and photo opportunities to capture this railway ‘Wonder of the World’. You continue climbing the Andes until you reach Alausi, a quaint colonial village with picturesque streets. Passing over a noteworthy steel bridge you leave the village on a section of line that reopened in 2011. The route runs high above the Chan Chan River Gorge all the way to Palmira, a bleak desert station at 3,200 metres above sea level. From there you have magnificent views of the high Andean Plateau en route to Guamote, a traditional and colourful indigenous town. You continue to Riobamba, a large colonial city in the central Andes, and transfer to your hotel for dinner and overnight accommodation. (B L D)

Saturday 14th October
Steam train from Riobamba to Guamote
This morning you visit the Riobamba railway workshops, which were the busiest on the G&Q Railway and where most of their steam locomotives were maintained. You then board a specially chartered steam train for a return trip to Guamote. This section of the route offers views of spectacular landscapes, numerous Indian villages, the Colta Lagoon, and of the imposing 6,300-metre-high Chimborazo inactive volcano. There will be opportunities for filming and photography en route including run-pasts by the train. In late afternoon there’s a tour of Riobamba, a city that still retains a lot of architecture from the Spanish period. You return later to your hotel for dinner and overnight accommodation. (B L D)

Sunday 15th October
Special train from Riobamba to Urbina then diesel to Latacunga
Today you continue your journey by train northwards from Riobamba Station, travelling along the city streets to the region known as the Avenue of the Volcanoes. As you gain altitude the environment changes once more into open moorlands. You pass by many indigenous communities along the way to the Urbina summit and station. Urbina is the highest station on the line at 3,600 metres above sea level. It’s located at the base of Chimborazo, the highest mountain in Ecuador, the summit of which, because of its location on the equatorial bulge, is the farthest point on the Earth’s surface from its centre. After a stop for some highland tea, your train continues diesel hauled through the inter-Andean valleys, passing through the towns of Ambato and Latacunga. This section of the line has been recently rebuilt after nearly 20 years of neglect. You transfer to a hotel in Latacunga for your dinner and overnight accommodation. (B L D)

Monday 16th October
Diesel hauled from Latacunga until Tambillo and steam hauled onwards to Quito
You continue travelling today on your specially chartered train from Latacunga to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. You’ll be diesel hauled from Latacunga to Tambillo and steam hauled onwards from there to Quito. En route your train climbs into the Cotopaxi National Park, a protected area that takes its name from the 5,897-metre-high Cotopaxi Volcano. There are some spectacular views as you pass close to one of the world’s highest active volcanoes. You continue to El Boliche, the second highest railway station on this line at 3,540 metres above sea level, Machachi, and Chimbacalle Station in Quito. Chimbacalle Station itself has been beautifully restored to its original condition. You head to the colonial centre of Quito for lunch and a city tour. The historic centre of the city is one of the largest, least-altered, and best preserved historic centres in the Americas. It was the first to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. You’ll stay overnight in Quito. (B L D)

Tuesday 17th October
Railcar from Ibarra to Salinas
This morning you transfer by road coach to the Imbabura Province in northern Ecuador, home to lakes, lush valleys, volcanoes and traditional indigenous towns and markets. Your destination is Ibarra (San Miguel de Ibarra), a market town popular with tourists. Ibarra Station is the starting point for a railway line that used to reach San Lorenzo, a natural port on the Pacific Coast. This line was built in the 1960s but only operated for 20 years before it was closed by landslides. Today the line is open for just 35 km as far as Salinas, an Afro-Ecuadorian village in a dry subtropical environment. You have a trip by diesel railcar scheduled over this highly scenic line which navigates some spectacular tunnels and bridges as it descends into the Salinas Valley. You return to Otavalo for overnight accommodation. (B L D)

Wednesday 18th October
Otavalo Market and the equator at Quisato
After breakfast you travel by road coach to Ibarra in an area of farming communities surrounded by mountain peaks. You take a steam train from Ibarra up the steep climb to Otavalo, where lunch is taken. Afterwards you visit the famous Otavalo Market, Ecuador’s best known Indian bazaar. The indigenous Otavaleños are famous for weaving textiles, usually made of wool, which is often black. The market offers a good selection of locally made handicrafts including tapestries, jewellery, ceramics and wood carvings. You continue to Quisato, where there is an equatorial monument on the latitude zero line. The Quisato Sundial consists of a large circular platform 54 metres (177 ft) in diameter, made from pebbles, that indicates the solstices and equinoxes. Its purpose is to demonstrate the astronomical knowledge of the pre-Hispanic cultures of the region, as will be explained by members of the local community. You return to Quito in the mid-afternoon for overnight accommodation. (B L D)

Thursday 19th October
Return to the UK
Following breakfast at the hotel you have a late morning departure by road coach to Quito Airport for your return indirect flight to the UK. (B)

Friday 20th October
Arrive in the UK
You arrive in the UK in the afternoon.


Details

Price

  • Tour price £6295
  • Single supplement £595
  • Ground only (Bogotá – Quito) £5495

All prices shown are per person

Price Includes

  • Flights from London to Bogotá and from Quito to London
  • 12 nights accommodation with breakfast
  • 11 lunches and 10 dinners
  • All rail travel as detailed in the itinerary
  • All visits and coach journeys as detailed in the itinerary
  • The services of a tour manager

Meals included each day are shown as:
B = Breakfast - L = Lunch - D = Dinner

 

Map feature coming soon!