Launched in 2013, Tren Ecuador is the commercial brand of the Ecuadorian Railway Company. Their Tren Crucero Luxury Experience offers a 4 day 3 night tourist trip between the port of Guayaquil and Quito, travelling through incredible Ecuadorian landscapes. But it is not your usual luxury tourist train; rather than keeping travellers distracted, hidden away in luxury comfort an only gazing out windows at the scenery and people they pass, Tren Ecuador offers an immersion in the culture, customs and traditions of the area, with that bit of luxury on the side, of course.
1. Exploring Ecuador whilst improving local livelihoods
The service aims to connect passengers with Ecuadorian life as well as the impressive landscape of the Ecuadorian highlands and coast region, organising one-day expeditions and providing unique and authentic experiences of Ecuador’s diverse cultural and natural heritage whilst simultaneously engaging local communities who offer tourist services along the routes. Local communities struggled when the old railroad collapsed, but the Tren Ecuador social initiative has been extremely successful in reengaging them. So much so that in 2016 it was a joint overall winner of the World Responsible Tourism Awards for its work in poverty reduction and inclusion, and it has also won South America’s Leading Luxury Train several years in a row at the World Travel Awards.
2. Authentic, socially inclusive organised tours and experiences
Passengers can enjoy a large variety of authentic experiences, from spending the night at high end haciendas, eating at delicious local restaurants or snacking at one of 23 locally run station cafes. Tourists can also visit one of 14 artisan squares and take part in a variety of cultural and natural activities, from hiking in the rainforest with a local guide to exploring a local Quichua community. Tren Ecuador’s luxury trips now sustain 5,000 livelihoods for people living in remote rural communities along the train’s route, and all enterprises involved with the project are fully licensed and receive technical support, training and contracts based on fair-trade principles as suppliers.
3. The train and the journey
The landscapes which the train passes through are amazing, from the ten volcanoes on route, to the well-known Devil’s Nose in the rocky slopes of the Andes, the rainforest and the unique transition between the Andes and the coast. However inside the elegant carriages of the train the experience is also one of a kind. There are four coaches on the Tren Crucero, each with their own unique features, all of them treasures of historical design, pulled by steam and diesel locomotives with a total train capacity of 54 comfortably seated passengers.
Coach 1 is Baroque Style of the Spanish colonial period, furnished with tables and chairs for 30 people and a place to enjoy a light aperitif or read a good book, with personal lockers for storing belongings. Coach 2 is in the Neoclassical Style of the Ecuadorian Republican period and is furnished with tables and chairs for up to 24 passengers, perfect for entertaining yourself with board games or conversations with friends. Coach 3 is Hispanic Style and Andean cosmovision, featuring a handcrafts shop, panoramic windows and a coffee bar serving snacks and beverages from local gastronomy. Finally, coach 4 is the Classical Style of the Coastal region and has two sections; the first a lounge for social activities, the second an open terrace where passengers can appreciate the beautiful Ecuadorian landscapes.