Andes of Colombia and Ecuador

Saturday 19th October to Friday 1st November 2019
14 - Days


Prices from: £5695


This tour visits two of the less well known countries of South America that are dominated by the Andes Mountains.


Departure Date: 19-Oct-2019
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Several high plateaux host major cities such as Bogotá in Colombia and Quito in Ecuador where we spend time. Both countries were once Spanish colonies and their cultural and architectural heritage figures prominently in our interesting itinerary. The greatly varied climate with an amazingly diverse range of flora and fauna will be fascinating to experience. Incredibly difficult terrain in the Andes Mountains made railway construction almost impossible but we travel by train to and through these areas. We use specially chartered trains with steam haulage wherever possible. Our journey from the Pacific Ocean into the Andes of Ecuador features climbing the world-famous ‘Devils Nose’. There will be many opportunities for filming and photographing spectacular scenery, historic heritage, and unusual highlights.

Saturday 19th October
Flight to Colombia
We have an early morning indirect flight, with a change en route, from London Heathrow to Bogotá in Colombia. On arrival in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, we transfer to our hotel for overnight accommodation.

Sunday 20th October
Steam train from Bogotá to Gachancipá
After breakfast, we transfer to La Sabana Station in Bogotá. We visit the railway depot and workshops to view the collection of operational and stored “Baldwin” locomotives. The Baldwin Locomotive Works, located in Pennsylvania, USA, was a builder of railway locomotives. The collection of steam locomotives includes three 2-8-2’s, one 4-8-0, and a 2-6-0 built in 1921 which was refurbished as recently as 2012. We board a specially chartered train hauled by either a “Baldwin” 4-8-0 or 2-8-2 steam locomotive, operated by Tren Turistico de la Sabana. The company runs heritage steam trains northwards from Bogotá to Parque and Zipaquirá. We have lunch at a traditional Colombian restaurant in Zipaquirá followed by a visit to the town which is famous for its Salt Cathedral. This is an underground church built inside a tunnel of a salt mine. The main square in the town centre is surrounded by old buildings in the Spanish Colonial style. We return to Bogotá Station where three more steam locomotives will be waiting for us. Steam locomotives in Colombia are kept in remarkably good condition and we shall have a total of four of them to provide filming and photographic opportunities for us. Later we return to our hotel for dinner and overnight accommodation. We shall travel along the line towards Zipaquirá as far as La Caro where we branch off towards Briceño, Tocancipá and Gachancipá. We take the same route back to La Sabana Station in Bogotá and return to our hotel for overnight accommodation. (B L D)

Monday 21st October
Steam train from Bogotá to Zipaquirá
Today we return to La Sabana Station in Bogotá. Our chartered train will be hauled by a coal fired “Baldwin” 2-6-0 steam locomotive. We shall travel along the line towards the north of the city until we arrive to Usaquén Station, this beautiful country dates from 1920 and is located in the middle of a residential area. We continue on the line until where the city ends and the beautiful green scenery of the Sabana will follow our train line. We later arrive to La Caro Station where the line will be divided. The line to the north goes to Zipaquira and the one to the northeast goes to Villapinzon. We take the northeast way; where we will pass Briceño station, Tocancipa, Gachancipa, Sesquille and Suesca. After Suesca Station the railway goes parallel to the Bogota River, inside an amazing rocky canyon. We pass Santa Rosita Station and cross over the Bogota river. We continue in flat land until Choconta aand continue next to the river line until our last stop at Villapinzon. We return to our hotel by coach for overnight accommodation. (B L D)

Tuesday 22nd 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 is one of the most important cities in South America and was once the main trade centre between South America and Europe. It is a city of contrasts, not least between the new and the old, and as such it offers a unique experience to its visitors. Today we visit the colonial city, to learn about its Spanish and pre-Colombian heritage, and encounter centuries-old plazas and churches overshadowed by towering skyscrapers. The neighbourhood of La Candeleria 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 is 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 is regarded as the most important gold museum in the World. After the city tour, we have lunch and then travel by road coach to El Dorado International Airport for an afternoon flight to Guayaquil in Ecuador. On arrival, we transfer to our hotel in Guayaquil for dinner and overnight accommodation. (B L D)

Wednesday 23rd October
Steam train from Durán to Yaguachi and a tour of Guayaquil city
This morning we 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 1067 mm narrow gauge lines eventually stretched for 965.5 kilometres but natural disasters and neglect reduced this to only 10% open in 2008. We visit the railway workshops of the Ecuadorian Railways Company, where we may see “Baldwin” built steam locomotives, a railbus, and an Alstom built diesel locomotive. After our visit we board a train hauled by a steam locomotive, either No. 11 or No. 14, for the journey to the historic town of Yaguachi. We travel through the streets of Durán and then the Ecuadorian coast region, passing rice plantations and marshlands supporting a variety of birdlife. We witness something of the local customs and traditions and visit Yaguachi Cathedral before returning by steam train to Durán. We return to Guayaquil and in the afternoon have 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 is 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 there are boat trips on the river. We stay overnight in Guayaquil. (B L D)

Thursday 24th October
Diesel hauled train from Yaguachi to Huigra
In the morning we return to Yaguachi by road coach to join a specially chartered train hauled by a diesel locomotive. We travel eastwards for 87 kilometres 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 climb into the mountains. We visit the Bucay workshops and depot where these steam locomotives were based and serviced. We continue towards Huigra, passing 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 1200 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. We stay overnight in Huigra. (B L D)

Friday 25th October
Diesel hauled train on The Devil’s Nose and Riobamba
Today, we continue the journey with our chartered train travelling 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 we negotiate the spectacular and world-famous Devils Nose, an amazing engineering feat. 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 opportunities for filming and photographing this ‘railway wonder of the world’. We continue climbing the Andes until we reach Alausi, a quaint colonial village with picturesque streets. We pass over a noteworthy steel bridge as we leave the village on a section of line that reopened in 2011. The route is high above the Chan Chan River Gorge all the way to Palmira, a bleak desert station at 3200 metres above sea level. We have magnificent views of the high Andean Plateau en route to Guamote, a traditional and colourful indigenous town. We continue to Riobamba, a large colonial city in the central Andes, and transfer to our hotel for dinner and overnight accommodation. (B L D)

Saturday 26th October
Steam train from Riobamba to Guamote
This morning we visit the Riobamba railway workshops which were the busiest on the G&Q Railway and where most of their steam locomotives were maintained. We then board a specially chartered steam train for a return trip to Guamote. This section of the route offers spectacular landscapes, multiple Indian villages, the Colta Lagoon, and imposing views of the 6300 metre high Chimborazo inactive volcano. There will be opportunities for filming and photography en route including ‘run-pasts’ by our train. In the late afternoon we have a tour of Riobamba, a city that still retains a lot of architecture from the Spanish period. We return to our hotel for dinner and overnight accommodation. (B L D)

Sunday 27th October
Special train from Riobamba to Latacunga
We continue our journey by train northwards from Riobamba Station travelling along the city streets and to the region known as the Avenue of the Volcanoes. As we gain altitude the environment changes once more into open moorlands. We pass many indigenous communities along the way to the Urbina summit and station. Urbina is the highest station on the line at 3600 metres above sea level. It is located at the base of Chimborazo, the highest mountain in Ecuador which because of its location on the equatorial bulge makes its summit the farthest point on the Earth’s surface from the Earth’s centre. After a stop for some highland tea, our train will continue 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. We transfer to a hotel in Latacunga for dinner and overnight accommodation. (B L D)

Monday 28th October
Diesel hauled train from Latacunga until Tambillo and steam hauled onwards to Quito
Today we continue travelling on our specially chartered train from Latacunga to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. We will be diesel hauled from Latacunga to Tambillo and steam hauled onwards from there to Quito. Enroute our train climbs into the Cotopaxi National Park, a protected area that takes its name from the 5897 metre high Cotopaxi Volcano. There are some spectacular views as we pass close to one of the world’s highest active volcanoes. We continue to El Boliche, the second highest railway station on this line at 3540 metres above sea level, Machachi, and Chimbacalle Station in Quito. Chimbacalle Station has been beautifully restored to its original condition. We 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. We stay overnight in Quito. (B L D)

Tuesday 29th October
Railcar from Ibarra to Salinas
This morning we transfer by road coach to the Imbabura Province in northern Ecuador, home to lakes, lush valleys, volcanoes and traditional indigenous towns and markets. Our 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 1960’s but only operated for 20 years before it was closed by landslides. Today the line is open for just 35 kilometres as far as Salinas, an afro-Ecuadorian village in a dry subtropical environment. We have a trip by diesel railcar over this highly scenic line that includes some spectacular tunnels and bridges as it descends into the Salinas Valley. We return to Otavalo for overnight accommodation. (B L D)

Wednesday 30th October
Otavalo Market and the equator at Quisato
After breakfast we travel by road coach to Ibarra in an area of farming communities surrounded by mountain peaks. We take a steam train from Ibarra up the steep climb to Otavalo, where we have lunch. We visit the famous Otavalo Market which is Ecuador’s best known Indian bazaar. The indigenous Otavaleños are famous for weaving textiles, usually made of wool and which is often black. The market offers a good selection of locally made handicrafts including tapestries, jewellery, ceramics and wood carvings. We 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 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 and we shall have this explained to us by members of the local community. We return to Quito in the mid-afternoon for overnight accommodation. (B L D)

Thursday 31st October
Return to the UK
Following breakfast at the hotel we have a late morning departure by road coach to Quito Airport for our return indirect flight to the UK. (B)

Friday 1st November
Arrive in the UK
We arrive in the UK in the afternoon.


Details

Price

  • Tour price £6495
  • Single supplement £595
  • Ground only (Bogotá – Quito) £5695

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 11 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!