Tren Crucero & the Galapagos

11-Day Independent Vacation: Trip begins and ends in Quito, Ecuador

Go from the highest Andean peaks to the world's most unique archipelago on this Ecuadorean adventure. On a 4-day rail journey, experience spectacular mountain scenery on the Tren Crucero, or cruise train, a new luxury rail service linking Quito and the coastal city of Guayaquil. Then enjoy close encounters with giant tortoises, marine iguanas and more in the Galapagos Islands, rich in biodiversity and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Highlights include:
• Tour a rose farm and visit an indigenous Shuar community on a 4-day rail journey.
• Stay in haciendas with views of the Andes and shop at an indigenous market.
A naturalist guide helps you explore the best of the Galapagos on hiking and snorkeling excursions.

From $4,550
per person*
Monday departures year-round through 2014
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Special Interest: Active Vacations, City & Resort Stay
Travel Provider:  AAA Sojourns

Package details include

Llamas in the high AndesDiscover Ecuador's Andean peaks, indigenous communities and colorful markets as you travel aboard the Tren Crucero from Quito to the coastal city of Guayaquil. Navigating through rugged terrain, spectacular ascents and dramatic descents, this deluxe train features spacious and comfortable seating, drink and bar service, and an open-air balcony carriage perfect for photo ops. You'll travel only by day, ensuring the best viewing opportunities, and enjoy frequent stops for sightseeing and cultural events. Each evening, stay in quaint inns and historic haciendas located in highland towns and communities. It's a wonderful way to learn about Ecuadorean cultures and lifestyles outside the big cities while enjoying the leisure and comfort of a superb rail journey.

Woman with vegetable stall at a local marketHighlights of the four-day trip include Cotopaxi National Park, a massive nature reserve with four volcanoes, an extensive recreational area and home to pumas, llamas and Andean wolves. Learn how world renowned Ecuadorian roses are grown on a visit to a rose plantation. Ascend nearly 12,000 feet above sea level to the town of Urbina for an overnight stay under the shadow of Ecuador's highest volcano. Known as the "Devil's Nose" for the railway that originated this part of the route, your descent the next day is equally spectacular as the train negotiates 1,800 feet in just 7.5 miles of dizzying switchbacks. Browse for hand-crafted goods at Guamote Market, one of the last authentic indigenous markets in the Andes where traders still exchange products by barter. Nearer the coast, visit a Shuar community, an indigenous people originally from the Amazon basin. You'll also spend a night at the elegant La Cienega Hacienda, a splendid colonial-style hotel that once lodged the 18th century scientists who help measure the Earth’s circumference.

Two blue-footed boobiesThen go from Andean heights to some of the most fascinating islands in the world. The 19-island Galapagos Archipelago 600 miles off Ecuador's coast is home to plant and animal species found nowhere else. It was here that Charles Darwin, visiting in the 1830s, was inspired to develop his theory of natural selection. Preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1978, you can still see these fascinating species up close. Accompanied by a naturalist guide, enjoy four days on two islands and learn about the islands’ ecosystem with plenty of time to hike, snorkel and relax at the beach. See giant Galapagos Tortoises in their natural habitat, spot marine iguanas sunning themselves on volcanic rocks, and snorkel with sea lions and blue-footed boobies. Also choose among optional activities such as surfing lessons, a snorkeling expedition or a visit to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center. The center has helped ensure the continuation of this magnificent species, releasing over 2,000 giant tortoises into the wild in the past few years alone.

IguanaPrice includes:
10 nights accommodations: 2 nights in Quito, 1 night in Lasso, 1 night in Riobamba, 1 night in Huigra, 1 night in Guayaquil, 2 nights on Santa Cruz Island and 2 nights on Isabela Island
Meals - Daily breakfast, 9 lunches and 8 dinners
Scenic rail journey that visits Cotopaxi National Park, historic haciendas, a rose plantation, The Ice Men Interpretation Center, Guamote Market and a Shuar indigenous community
Galapagos sights - See Giant Tortoises and lava tubes on Santa Cruz Island
Galapagos activities - Wildlife spotting, hiking and snorkeling on Tortuga Bay, hike of Sierra Negra volcano, and hiking and snorkeling on Tintoreras Islet
Choice of snorkel excursion, visit to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center or surf lessons on Isabela Island on Day 9**
Guides - A local guide on the Tren Crucero portion and a naturalist guide in the Galapagos
• On-tour road and rail transportation plus all airport transfers 

**Note: The optional afternoon activities on Day 9 are at additional cost.

Note: This itinerary can be customized for activity level plus the number of nights in each location can be adjusted. All optional activities on Day 9 are at additional cost. Additional hotel nights can also be added, subject to availability. Inquire at time of booking.

In addition, internal flights, as noted below, are at additional cost and quoted at the published rate at time of booking. Prices are subject to change until ticketed and are non-refundable. Full payment is required for all internal flight tickets in order to confirm tour seat reservations. Luggage restrictions are 44 lbs. maximum per person from mainland (Quito or Guayaquil) to Galapagos. Inter-island flights weight restrictions are 25 lbs. per person. Additional weight will incur a fee for transport if space allows.

Day 1 - Arrive in Quito, Ecuador
Arrive in Quito where a representative will meet you outside the customs and immigration area. He or she will answer your questions, brief you on the immediate arrangements and escort you to your hotel.
Accommodation: Hilton Colon or similar - 1 night

Day 2 - Scenic Train Ride to Lasso & Cotopaxi National Park
Depart the Chimbacalle train station in Quito at 8am aboard our excursion train bound for Cotopaxi National Park. Once there, our journey continues aboard modern coach buses as we explore Cotopaxi National Park’s incredible landscapes. Cotopaxi is an important wildlife reserve for a variety of Andean fauna such as caracaras, Andean gulls, Andean dear, wolves, the unique spectacle bear and one of the last places to see the magnificent Andean condor. Moorlands are also a highlight of the park as well as the impressive snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano rising almost 19,700 feet above sea level (5.987 meters). There will also be time to explore on foot as we hike near the Limpio Pungo glacial lake.

Our journey continues to San Agustin del Callo Hacienda for a delicious lunch. The hacienda features incredible Inca walls and is the one of the only such structures north of Cuzco featuring an imperial architectural style. After exploring the hacienda, participate in local festivities at Lasso train station that include dance, music and more. Later check-in to La Cienega Hacienda for dinner and overnight. This hacienda once lodged important scientists such as Alexander Von Humboldt and the members of the French Geodesic Mission while they attempted to measure the exact circumference of Earth for the first time in modern history. The hacienda also lodged the most important South American hero, the Liberator Simon Bolivar who led four countries to become independent from Spain.
Accommodation: Hacienda La Cienega – 1 night

Day 3 - Lasso to Riobamba / Visit a Rose Farm & The Ice Men Interpretation Center
After breakfast, depart by bus to Latacunga train station to board the train and continue our journey to the south. On the way, stop to explore a rose plantation to learn how world renowned Ecuadorian roses are grown. Continue to the city of Ambato where lunch will be served at Roka Plaza Hotel, an ancient colonial house. If weather permits, we will have an impressive view of Tungurahua Volcano, which is still active and occasionally offers nature´s most impressive scenery, an eruption.

After lunch, continue to the Urbina station located at 11,840 feet above sea level (3,609 meters) and the highest train station in the country. Here we will meet the last ice-trader who will kindly share with us his daily craft of digging ice from the glacier-covered slopes of Chimborazo Volcano at the Ice Men Interpretation Center. If the weather permits, enjoy breathtaking views of Chimborazo which, at 20,700 feet above sea level (6,310 meters), is the highest volcano in Ecuador. Continue by bus to Abraspungo Inn for dinner and overnight.
Accommodation: Abraspungo Inn – 1 night

Day 4 - Riobamba to Huigra & Devil’s Nose / Visit Guamote Indigenous Market
Depart early to board our train at Riobamba train station, a city close to Chimborazo Volcano and once Ecuador´s capital. We’ll make a short stop at Balbanera church which marks the first Christian structure built in Ecuador nearly 500 years ago. Back on the train, continue to Guamote and its indigenous market. This market is one of the last authentic markets in the Andes where traders still exchange products as they did four thousand years ago. Lunch will be served at the train station.

Depart for the Alausi train station in the afternoon, traveling across impressive geological formations. Once in Alausi, we will start our descent by train to the emblematic Devil´s Nose. The train will perform a zigzag maneuver in order to descend 1,755 feet (535 meters) in 7.5 miles (12 kilometers). We will make a short stop at a viewpoint to appreciate this major engineering achievement that led engineers to call this route one of the most difficult in the world. Continue by train to Huigra train station and the small village of Huigra located between the Andes and the coast.
Accommodation: Eterna Primavera Lodge – 1 night

Day 5 - Huigra to Duran / Visit a Shuar Indigenous Community
After breakfast, depart Huigra train station and travel along the Chanchan riverbed to Bucay. As we travel, we will witness the impressive transition from the mountainous Andes to the coast. Once in Bucay explore a Shuar community, a people who migrated many years ago from the Amazon basin to the coast. The community will share their ancestral customs and traditions.

After lunch in the town of San Rafael, continue our train journey aboard a steam locomotive, passing through typical coast plantations of bananas, sugarcane and rice. Upon arrival in Duran, you will be transferred by bus to your hotel in Guayaquil.
Accommodation: Hilton Colon or similar – 1 night

Day 6 - Travel to Galapagos Islands / See Giant Tortoises & Lava Tunnels
After breakfast, board a flight to Guayaquil and then a connection flight to Baltra Island (flights at additional cost).

Note: A $10 USD fee per person for a Galapagos Transit Control Card is payable in cash upon checking in for domestic flight to Galapagos. In addition, a $100 USD Galapagos Entrance Fee per person is payable in cash only upon arrival at Baltra Airport; the fee is $50 for children 11 years of age and younger. (Both fee amounts are subject to change.)

Transfer by boat to Santa Cruz Island, the second largest island in the Galapagos Archipelago after Isabela, but with its largest city, Puerto Ayora. In order to get up close and personal with the giant Galapagos Tortoise, the group will then take a 40-minute journey from Puerto Ayora to private farms that conserve pristine native and endemic vegetation for the habitat of these magnificent creatures. As we follow the trail winding through this landscape, you’ll get plenty of chances to marvel at Galapagos Tortoises in all their splendor—just don’t forget your camera! These majestic and gentle creatures, part of a family best known for their dome-shaped shell and gigantic form, are often found partly submerged in mud ponds to combat skin parasites or to regulate their body temperature on warm and sunny days.

Continue to explore the volcanic origins of the island by journeying through an intriguing 1,312 foot (400 m) long lava tunnel to the other side. Later, return to the hotel for the rest of the day at leisure.
Accommodation: Local hotel in Puerto Ayora - 2 nights

Day 7 – Tortuga Bay Hike & Snorkel
This morning after breakfast, depart Puerto Ayora for a 3km hike to Tortuga Bay. The hike is on an easy concrete path that runs through a field of prickly pear, (Opuntia) cacti, (Matazarno) and Palo Santo trees, where mockingbirds and finches are abundant. At Tortuga Bay we’ll find a beautiful white sand beach where the group can spend some relaxing and watching the wildlife. We’ll walk the full length of the beach until we get to the small shore. The bay’s calm waters are perfect for some snorkeling or you may want to rent a kayak.

Day 8 - Travel by boat to Isabela Island & Hike of Sierra Negra Volcano
After breakfast, take a speed boat to Isabela Island, the largest in the Galápagos Archipelago. Upon arrival we will drive up to the highlands of Sierra Negra Volcano in order to enjoy the magnificent views of the caldera of this volcano. Sierra Negra (4,890 feet above sea level) last erupted just two years ago and today we’ll hike its slopes to see its 30-square-mile caldera, petrified lava formations and fumaroles. Enjoy spectacular views of the ocean and surrounding islands followed by lunch at a local farm.
Accommodation: Local hotel in Puerto Villamil – 2 nights

Day 9 - Hike & Snorkel on Tintoreras Islet
Visit a small island called Tintoreras, a unique volcanic formation. On its west face a primitive species of lichen flourishes in the moisture brought by the prevailing wind. You will find young marine iguanas and may see white-tipped reef sharks. Snorkel in the quiet lagoon where you may also see blue-footed boobies, sea lions and other marine wildlife.

In the afternoon, choose among three optional activities (each is at additional cost):

Snorkel Concha Perla - After lunch, travel to Concha de Perla, a perfect spot for those who love swimming or snorkeling. Concha de Perla is a shallow, calm bay with crystal clear water that allows you to enjoy the fascinating marine life of the Galapagos. If you are lucky you will be able to swim with sea lions and penguins.

Hike Wetlands & Visit the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center - A boardwalk leads us over the marshlands or humedales—brackish lagoons that provide a habitat for four mangrove species, marine iguanas, flamingos and numerous migratory birds. The wooden walkways lead to a tortoise breeding center with interesting interpretive displays. The center has been responsible for the breeding and release to the wild of over 2,000 giant tortoises in the past few years alone. From the center, a walk along the beach takes you through town and back to the hotel, where you can take a swim or stop in town to get a taste of local life.

Surf Lessons – Enjoy a chance to engage in surf classes from Puerto Villamil’s beautiful beach. Our local surf expert will provide with the boards, wet suits and will tailor the lessons to everyone’s level of expertise. After a few minutes on the beach reviewing the basics, venture into the water where expert assistants will help you stand on your surf board and catch the waves.

Day 10 – Travel to Baltra Island and on to Guayaquil and Quito
Transfer to the airport to catch our flight back to Baltra Island and then back to Guayaquil and then Quito (flights are at additional cost). Upon arrival in Quito, we will be transferred to the hotel.
Accommodation: Hilton Colon or similar – 1 night

Day 11 - Depart Quito
Transfer to the airport and depart on your homeward-bound flight.

Limitations & Restrictions

*Prices are per person based on double occupancy, are subject to availability at time of booking, and may change without notice. Single supplement may apply. Except for packages including air transportation, unless stated otherwise, airfare, taxes and government fees are not included. Offers valid for new bookings only. Member Benefits are per person and apply to first and second traveler only. Member Benefits are available only with advertised fare and are subject to change without notice. Your travel arrangements may be modified or canceled subject to the travel providers’ policies. Blackout dates and other restrictions may apply. We make every effort for accuracy at time of printing but reserve the right to correct errors. AAA Travel strongly recommends the purchase of trip protection insurance. Except for packages including air transportation, fares may not reflect additional fuel supplement or port charges and vary by provider.

CST #1003968-80. Registration as seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California.