Virtuoso Traveler 2018 June Dispatch: Travel to Ecuador Now

Dispatch: Travel to Ecuador Now

Tren Crucero traverses the Andes.
Tren Crucero traverses the Andes.
Photo by Tren Ecuador
World travelers were rattled when a major earthquake struck Ecuador in April 2016. Now though, tourism is back and better than ever, says Virtuoso travel advisor Varya Simpson. She recently visited the biodiverse country with one of Virtuoso’s on-site connections, Metropolitan Touring, exploring Quito’s Old Town while staying at a historic boutique hotel, connecting with nature at a posh eco-lodge in the Mindo cloud forest, and riding the “Devil’s Nose,” a white-knuckle section of rail line in the Andes, aboard Tren Crucero. Simpson, who’s based in Berkeley, California, describes the four-night luxury rail trip between Guayaquil and Quito as “not just a journey from one point to the other, but a beautifully designed, inclusive tour that allows visitors to experience some of Ecuador’s many cultural facets.” (Working with your travel advisor, Metropolitan Touring can add the rail journey to any tailor-made tour.) Here, she shares a few moving experiences throughout the country.
Quito’s Old Town from Casa Gangotena’s terrace.
Quito’s Old Town from Casa Gangotena’s terrace.
Photo by Casa Gangotena

All Aboard

“Tren Crucero passed through a great variety of landscapes, from lush lowland plantations to the country’s spine of volcanoes and barren Andes mountainscapes. Each day, we made interesting stops: a local ranch with llamas, vicuñas, and beautiful horses, where cowboys displayed their dexterity; a large rose-growing enterprise with huge hothouses filled with brilliant, multicolored blooms; and a local crafts market to watch skilled artisans carve tagua nuts (I bought a small octopus sculpture). As the sun went down, we retired to traditional haciendas and five-star hotels for the night. I felt we had truly experienced it all.”

Full Flavor

“Throughout the trip, I was constantly being plied with delicious local snacks. Aboard the train, there were baskets full of indigenous tropical fruits, including variants of passion fruit I didn’t know existed. During one stop, we tasted ice cream made from glacial ice, chopped off at the source by an older man who hauls it down on the backs of donkeys. At Casa Gangotena in Quito, I sampled fabulous Ecuadorean chocolate.”

Surprise, Surprise

“I didn’t expect the great diversity of people and landscapes, from the most modern to the most rural. Mashpi Lodge connected me to the teeming world in the incredible cloud forest, including hundreds of butterfly species and more than 30 different hummingbirds. The train offered us handmade artisan products each day and always provided unexpected treats: Once, a gleeful troupe of masked dancers came on board to entertain us. But I don’t want to say too much and give it away!”

Farther-Flung Adventures 

“I was told not to miss Cuenca, so I flew down for two days to explore this beautiful, well-preserved colonial city. Cuenca is now attracting large numbers of residents from around the world, especially the U.S., who retire there for the nice weather, good hospitals, low cost of living, and relaxed attitude about life. Of course, every visitor to Ecuador should also spend at least a few days cruising the Galápagos – what an excellent opportunity to experience nature in some of its most unusual forms.”

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