Ecuador transportation directory - ground - air and river transportation companies in Ecuador

Ecuador Tours - Galapagos Islands travel and Amazon cruises:

Tours and travel to Ecuador and other South America countries, custom itineraries for groups and individuals, responsible tourism and soft adventures for all ages

Galapagos Islands Cruises and tours, yachts, expedition ships, hotels and dive resorts:

Tours and travel to the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador with an Ecotourism company, we are experts in leading expeditions to the Galapagos Islands with naturalist guides.

South America - Central American - Travel Directory

South and Central America travel directory and index of tours, hotels, cruises, transportation, vacation planners, trip guides, tour operators for organizing your travels to Latin America.

Galapagos Islands tour and cruises travel planner:

Galapagos Islands travel planner, description of the islands, tourist activities and sites, hotels, cruises and tours around the Enchanted Isles.


Amazon river cruises in Ecuador on board the Manatee Amazon Explorer:

Amazon riverboat eco tours to visit indigenous communities and tribes, birdwatching and adventure in company of naturalist guides..

Ecuador travel transportation and tour guides :

Find Ecuador vans for charter and guides for hire, custom tours for groups individuals, Color Bus Line is a supplier for many international wholesalers.

Galapagos Journey Fleet

Galapagos travel & luxury cruises:

We operate the brand new (July 2006) M/C Anahi Catamaran, this boat replaces one of the older boats of our Galapagos fleet, we have 20 years experience offering unique wilderness trips, our guides are certified by the Galapagos National Park and offer passionate onsight and classroom style lectures. The M/C Anahi will offer a new level of comfort and service in the Islands with our pampered adventures.

Ecuador Mainland Hotel, Lodges & Hacienda Listing and Reservation Center

Ecuador's major cities hotel directory and booking site. From five star international brands to local hacienda lodges, there is an option for every taste. By personally inspecting each hotel and having close ties with them, here you will find the best deals for your nights in mainland Ecuador.

Online Travel Guide for Ecuador Travel

Your complete guide to the country of the four worlds. Our consultants will happily assist you from accommodations to tours, transfers to meals, and everything in between to assure you have a memorable Ecuador travel experience!

Galapagos Travel Advisor

Complete Comprehensive Galapagos Islands Travel Adviser

Find all you need to plan the perfect Galapagos Islands getaway. Here you will find a list of must see attractions, accommodations in the archipelago's main islands, cruise tours and other alternatives. This travel advisor is an invaluable tool for anyone visiting the Enchanted Islands.

Cruise & Hotel Based Galapagos Island Tour Directory

The Galapagos Islands are pretty much in any travel lover's bucket list. They appeal to nature enthusiasts, geologist fans, bird watchers, divers and pretty much any other adventurer looking for something out of the ordinary. Here you will find tours and options that can fulfill any of these people's highest expectations.

Galapagos Islands Hotel Index and Booking Site

Traditionally, the Galapagos Islands have been explored onboard cruises. Today though, it is possible to enjoy the Island's many treasures by staying in one of the many accommodations present in the archipelago's main three main islands. One of these rooms, bungalows, suites or cabins will be the perfect complement to a day filled with exploration.

Ecuador ground transportation

Ecuador ground transportation

Private Transportation providers enable you to see Ecuador on your own schedule and terms. You can rent automobiles with drivers, or even bilingual driver/guides. Options run from compact cars to vans to buses to accommodate individuals or groups.

On the leftside menu bar you will find diferent categories of transportation around Ecuador, within each category we have listed the most important suppliers for your convenience.

Getting around Ecuador
Getting to Ecuador is the easy part. How are you going to get around once you're here? There are a lot options and we present to you both Ecuador's conventional and not-so-conventional means of transportation.

As more and more roads are paved in Ecuador, buses are becoming the preferred means of travel. All of Ecuador's top travel spots are within a day's ride from Quito and prices are very low. Click here to go to our bus partner page for distances, price and information.

Hiring a taxi or private transportation will provide all the freedom of having a car, while allowing the traveler to sit back and relax. Hire one for a few hours or a few days, it will certainly make your life easier. Private transportation can be found at

Experience every bump in the road or change in weather by riding in the back of a truck. This may be your only option if traveling to very remote areas, but it offers great views and a chance to get really close with the locals who will admire your sense of adventure.

Hitchhiking is not a very popular means of transportation in Ecuador. Most people who pick you up will expect some payment and with the safety concerns inherent in hitchhiking, it makes more sense to take a bus.

Boat travel

Quite a common means of transportation on the both Ecuador's Coast and Amazonian regions as well as in the Galapagos Islands.

In parts of the oriente, dugout canoes navigate the tributaries of the Amazon and function as a bus system, stopping at villages along the way. These canoes can be quite large, carrying up to 36 passengers in one boat. Slather on the sunscreen and wear insect repellent. Also bring a daypack with a jacket and whatever else you will need (stored in plastic bags, of course). The boats have extra-hard wooden benches so that bringing something padded to sit on is a good idea. Prices vary so make sure to ask the price before getting on.

The coastal region often necessitates boat travel as well. Of course, jumping from fishing village to fishing village and exploring the mangroves are easiest by boat, and wide meandering rivers inland lead to numerous eco-travel destinations.

Most people decide to explore the Galapagos Islands by boat. If you fly in from the mainland and have paid for a tour of the Galapagos Islands, you will be traveling the islands on anything from an eight-person boat to a luxury cruise ship. Boats are usually categorized as Economy, Tourist, or Luxury. Make sure you know what you are paying for ahead of time.

To sail in the Galapagos a permit is necessary and these are only given to boats with a licensed guide onboard and after a National Park fee of several hundred dollars per person per day. Therefore, if you have sailed there on your own it's more economical and much less of a hassle to moor your own boat and hire a local tour boat to take you from island to island.

Border Crossings General Information

There are four official border crossings: two into Peru and two into Colombia. Entering Peru and Colombia are relatively straight forward affairs. You are required to present a valid passport for stamping and occasionally proof of financial independence. This can be in the form of a return plane ticket, cash (minimum of USD 20 per day), traveler's checks and or credit card. Respectable-looking travelers will rarely be asked to provide any of the above to border officials, however if you look scruffy... well, don't be surprised if you are confronted with hassles and delays. (In Latin America, dressing overly casual can be taken as a sign of disrespect.) Copies of passports and other forms of identification will NOT be accepted. Provisional passports are sometimes
accepted but sometimes they are not. Use your best judgement.

Very few nationalities require a prearranged visas to enter Peru or Colombia from Ecuador, although we suggest you consult with embassy representatives before leaving your home country, as visa regulations can and do change frequently. Not surprisingly, the situation at borders can change daily, so it is best to consult with other travelers and/or the South American Explorers for the latest information.

Entering Ecuador
Travelers entering Ecuador will be required to present a T3 card (available upon arrival at borders and airports), in addition to a valid passport. You will automatically receive a 90-day tourist visa. If you want to stay longer, extensions - up to three additional months - can easily be made at the immigration office in Quito (across from El Jardín shopping center on Amazonas 2649; 2nd floor; office; open 8-12 and 3-6 Mon - Fri). Oddly enough, you can only get your visa extended on the day it expires or within a few days thereafter; the fee is only a dollar or two..

Do NOT lose your T3 card as it is necessary for exiting the country, visa extensions and military check points. If you happen to lose your card, they are easily replaced - but do it ahead of time to avoid border and airport delays in addition to the pompous attitudes of immigration officials who seem to enjoy seeing you sweat.

Ecuador to Colombia

Tulcan - Ipiales
The border is open 7 days a week from 0600 - 2100. Beware of border-crossing scams and scammers; official looking and acting people may not be official, so ONLY have your passport handled by people in the actual office.

Lago Agrio - San Miguel
This border appears to be slightly less official and the logistics are quite complicated. You must get your passport stamped at the police station in Lagro Agrio (Quito 111-PS-T125) BEFORE taking a bus north to La Punta (1 1/4 hours), where you deliver your T3 card to the military guard on duty. Then you cross the Río San Miguel via boat (1 hour) to reach San Miguel on the Colombian side of the river. Apart from the logistical hassels, we have not heard any reports of problems crossing here.

Ecuador to Peru

Not recommended due to drug smugglers on Peruvian side.
The border is open 7 days a week from 0800 - 1800 (closed for lunch 1200 - 1400).

Huaquillas - Tumbes
The border is open 7 days a week from 0800 - 1800 (closed for lunch 1200 - 1400). The border may close earlier on Sundays (ask a local).

The cheapest way to travel around South America is by bus, and Ecuador is no exception. This mode of transportation also offers the traveler an alternative way of seeing the country. Each glance out the bus window will usually bring a new delight as you pass through lush valleys, vast deserts, snow-capped mountains and volcanoes, and drive along the Pacific Coast all within a day's journey.

One thing to remember is that distances may be short, but the roads are often in poor condition, adding hours to the journey. For the sake of your back and long gringo legs, take one of the many luxury coaches that travel these longer routes. These offer more comfortable seats with leg room and usually come well-equipped with a toilet, television, and air-conditioning.

International Buses

If you are traveling to Peru or Colombia your best bet is to buy a ticket to the border and then buy an onward ticket there. You can take an international bus, but these are significantly more expensive and you still have to switch buses once you arrive at the border, and you will still have to go through Immigration and customs. Beware of scammers and thieves at both Peruvian and Colombia borders.

Air Travel
If you prefer to continue your trip through Ecuador by plane, there are daily domestic flights that are reasonably priced. Getting to la costa (the coast), takes approximately 20 minutes, while flying to el oriente (the jungle or Amazon) is a short 30-minute ride from Quito.

Flying within Ecuador, with the exception of the Galapagos, is quite affordable. There is a two-tiered system depending on what city you are going to; foreigners going to the Galapagos or the Amazon can expect to pay more than double what nationals pay. You can fly almost anywhere within the country in about a half-hour. Expect incredible views, particularly if you are passing over Ecuador's breathtaking "Avenue of the Volcanoes" on the Quito-Cuenca flight.

TAME has flights to almost all destinations in the country including: Guayaquil, Quito, the Galapagos, Bahía, Esmeraldas, Manta, Portoviejo, Machala, Cuenca, Loja, Tulcán, Coca, Lago Agrio, and Macas, The up and coming Icaro now flies to most major destinations and is in the process of expanding its service. While prices vary depending on the destination and the season, non-national tourists can expect to pay under USD 50 each way for mainland flights (with the exception of flights to and from jungle destinations in the Oriente which tend to be a little more expensive) and between USD 300 and USD 380 for a round-trip flight to the Galapagos from Guayaquil or Quito. For the most up-to-date fare and scheduling information, it is always best to check with TAME and or Icaro. Also, don't forget that students who have a valid ID card from their home university may receive a 10-25% discount. There is no departure tax on internal flights.

There is no assigned seating on domestic flights, nor is there any separate non-smoking section, but be sure to reconfirm your reservation at least 24 hours before your flight. Ecuadorian airlines are notorious for bumping people off their flights if their reservations are not confirmed.

Most of the world's major airlines have offices or servicing agents in Quito. So, if you need to extend your ticket, fly home early, take a trip to the Galapagos, or even arrange a flight in your home country, here's where to go...

Aces: Aerolineas Centrales de Colombia*
Av Atahualpa 955 and República, Edificio Digicom, Office #204
Tel: 2253123, 2253124, 2253294 Fax: 2253131
Mon - Fri 0830 - 1300 1430 - 1800

18 de Septiembre 413 and Amazonas, 1st Floor
Tel: 2221004, 2220982 Fax: 2223352
Mon - Fri 0830 - 1830

Amazonas 7797 and Juan Holguin (opposite Airport Mariscal Sucre)
Tel: 2257202 Fax: 2430847
Mon - Fri 0830 - 1730


c/o Servicios Internacionales Salmor
12 de Octubre 394
Tel: 2505213, 2505214, 2504961, 2504971 Fax: 2565160
Mon - Fri 0830- 1800

Portugal 448 between 6 de Diciembre and Eloy Alfaro
Tel: 2465350, 2464363, 2464364 Fax: 2443945
Mon - Fri 0730 - 1230 1430 - 1830

Air France
12 de Octubre 24-562 y Cordero, of. 710
Tel: 2224818/857, 2221605
Mon - Fri 0900 - 1300 1400 - 1800
3 flights weekly to Paris (Monday, Thursday, Saturday) with onward connections to Madrid, London, Geneva, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Rome.

Ernesto Novoa Caamano 474 and 6 de Diciembre
Tel: 2545652, 2509061, 2509062 Fax: 2569143
Mon - Fri 0930- 1730

American Airlines
Amazonas 3 and Robles
Tel: 2561144 Flight Information: 2528166 Airport Tel: 2434610, 2434653 Airport Fax: 2434612
Mon - Fri 0900 - 1800 Sat 0900 - 1300
Daily flight to Miami from Quito and Guayaquil with onward connections to Honolulu, Mexico, London, Paris, Madrid, Tokyo and a huge choice of connections to destinations in North Americ.

Americana de Aviacion*

Eloy Alfaro 266 and 10 de Agosto, First floor, Office 111
Tel: 2506815, 2545478, 2508527 Cellular: 09-9495731 Fax: 2522079
Mon - Fri 0900 - 1300 1500 - 1900

Av. Naciones Unidas and Amazonas, Edificio Banco La Previsora, Torre B, Office 410-411
Admin Tel: 2466461 Reservations: 2466462, 2466463 Fax: 2464244 Airport Tel: 2250294
Admin: Mon - Fri 0830 - 1700 Reservations: Mon - Fri 0830 - 1900
Daily flights to Lima and Caracas (Caracas via Bogota)


6 de Diciembre and 18 de Septiembre
Tel: 2508843, 2508844, 2508846, 2508847, 2508848 Fax: 2502746 Airport Tel: 2448342
Mon - Fri 0900 - 1300 1400 - 1800 Sat 0900 - 1200 (reservationsonly)
Daily flights to Bogota with connections to London, Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt and 11 destinations throughout the Americas/Carribean.

c/o Servicios Internacionales Salmor
12 de Octubre 394
Tel: 2505213, 2505214, 2504961, 2504971 Fax: 2565160
Mon - Fri 0830 - 1800

British Airways*
Amazonas 1429 and Colón, Edificio Espana, Local #5
Tel: 2540000, 2540902, 2550739 Fax: 2228933
Mon - Fri 0830 - 1300 1430 - 1800

Continental Airlines
Av. Naciones Unidas and Amazonas, Edificio Banco La Previsora, Torre B, 8th Floor, Office 812
Tel: 2461485, 2461486, 2461487, 2461488, 2461489, 2461490, 2461491 Fax: 2462119
Airport Tel: 2461493, 2461494 Airport Fax: 2461492
Mon - Fri 0830 - 1830 Sat 0900 - 1300
Flights from Guayaquil to Houston and from Guayaquil to NYC (Newark) via Panama City
Flights from Quito to Houston (via Panama City) and from Quito to NYC (Newark) via Bogota.
Flights from Ecuador to Houston connect with Continental Airlines flights to North America, Europe and The Far East.

Veintimilla 910 and Juan León Mera
Tel/Fax: 2565969, 2228740, 2563358 Cellular: 09-9722474 Airport Tel: 2253240 Airport Fax: 2254615
Mon - Fri 0900 - 1300 1430 - 1830
Flights from Guayaquil and Quito to Panama City with onward connections to over 20 destinations within the Americas.

Cubana de Aviacion*
Av de Los Shyris and 6 de Diciembre, Edificio Torre Nova, 1st Floor, Office A
Tel/Fax: 2227454, 2227463
Mon - Fri 0900 - 1700

Colón and Reina Victoria, Edificio Torres de Almagro, Mezzanine Floor
Reservations: 2568800 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
Office Tel: 2563003 Fax: 2563920
Mon - Fri 0830 - 1800 Sat: 0900 - 1200
Regular flights from Quito and Guayaquil to 9 destinations in the Americas.

El Al

Juan León Mera and Roca, 3rd Floor, Office 302
Tel/Fax: 2564019, 2525354
Mon - Fri 0900 - 1800

Amazonas 239 and Washington
Admin: 2562930 Reservations: 2560546, 2560547, 2560548 Fax: 2566852
Airport Tel: 2431708, 2441509 Airport Fax: 2431711
Mon - Fri 0830 - 1800
Two flights weekly (Monday, Thursday) from Quito via Santo Domingo to Madrid with a huge variety of onward connections throughout Europe

Diego de Almagro 1822 and Alpallana
Tel: 2561820 Fax: 2562031
Mon - Fri 0900 - 1800

Japan Airlines*
Amazonas 3899 and Corea, Edificio Unicornio II, 14th Floor, Office 1402
Tel: 2464652, 2457302 Fax: 2457302
Mon - Fri 0830 - 1630

Amazonas 3617 and Juan Pablo Sanz, Edificio Xerox
Reservations: 2455233, 2455550, 2455551 Fax: 2435176 Airport Tel: 2432088 Airport Fax: 2432089
Mon - Fri 0900 - 1300 1400 - 1700
Four flights weekly (Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday) to Amsterdam from Quito and Guayaquil (via Curacao) with a wide variety of onward connections throughout Europe.

Korean Airlines

Veintimilla 400 and Tamayo
Tel: 2543502, 2542527 Fax: 2222867
Mon - Fri 0830 - 1630


12 de Octubre 394
Tel: 2505213, 2505214, 2504961, 2504971 Fax: 2223744 Airport Tel: 2452657 Airport Fax: 2451924
Mon - Fri 0830 - 1800
Regular flights from Quito and Guayaquil to San Jose, Costa Rica with connections to over 20 destinations in the Americas.

Lan Chile
18 de Septiembre 238 and Reina Victoria
Tel: 2508396, 2541300 Fax: 2244844 Airport Tel: 2459041, 2445097 Airport Fax: 2459041
Mon - Fri 0830 - 1300 1400 - 1730
Three weekly flights (Monday, Thursday, Saturday) to Santiago de Chile with onward connections to Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Mendoza and Papeete.

Lloyd Aereo Boliviano

Service agents - Ecuatoriana. For information see listing under Ecuatoriana
Flights from Quito via Lima to La Paz with one internal connection (to Santa Cruz) and international connections to 14 destinations in the Americas.

18 de Septiembre 238 and Reina Victoria
Tel:2508396, 2541300 Fax: 2224844
Mon - Fri 0830 - 1330 1400 - 1730
Three weekly flights (Monday, Thursday, Saturday) to Frankfurt via Bogota with a choice of 19 onward connections across Europe.

National Airlines Chile*
Portugal 448 between 6 de Diciembre and Eloy Alfaro
Tel: 2465350, 2464363, 2464364 Fax: 2443945
Mon - Fri 0730 - 1230 1430 - 1830

The two central offices are at:
Amazonas 1354 and Colón, 2nd Floor
International Flights Tel: 2221494, 2221495, 2223857, 2223026 Domestic: 2509382 / 83 / 84 / 86 / 87 / 88
Fax: 2554907
Mon - Fri 0930 - 1300 1345 - 1730
Colon 1001 and Rabida
Tel: 2554905, 2554274, 2554900
Mon - Fri 0800 - 1830 Sat: 0900 - 1200
Other offices can be found at 10 de Agosto, 239 (Tel: 2583939) CC Naciones Unidas, local 17 (2459166) Rodrigo Chavéz 200 and Francisco Gomez, Villa Flora (2612284 - 2612286) Eloy Alfaro and República, edificio Parque La Carolina (2541373) Manabí 635 and Venezuela (2512988) 10 de Agosto 2482 (2232083) Amazonas 6040 and El Inca (2456296) and Andagoya and América (2520477)
TAME offers a wide variety of domestic flights and a number of international flights, including to Cali, Panama, La Habana and Santiago de Chile.

TAP Air Portugal*

Amazonas 3899 and Corea, Edificio Unicornio, 14th Floor, Office 1402
Tel: 2464652, 2457302 Fax: 2457302
Mon - Fri 0830 - 1630

United Airlines

Av. República de El Salvador 880, Edificio Almirante Colón, Ground Floor
Tel: 2254662, 2255466, 2255467, 2255468 Fax: 2225918
Mon - Fri 0830 - 1300 1430 - 1800

Portugal 794 and Av. República de El Salvador, Edificio Porto Lisboa
Tel: 2250126, 2250131, 2435960 Admin Tel: 2437136, 2437137 Fax: 2436845
Mon - Fri 0900 - 1300 1500 - 1800

(*Indicates those airlines who do not fly directly from Quito but who have offices dealing with sales, reservations etc etc.) In addition, national airlines in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela have an airpass system whereby you can take internal flights within the country at reduced prices. Restrictions do apply and in addition you need to buy the flight pass outside the country. Check with the airlines or a travel agent for further information.)

Car rental
Most big-name car rental companies have offices in Quito, as do a handful of Ecuadorian operators. You can book anything from a 4x4 jeep to a limo.

To hire a car in Ecuador you need to be at least 25 years of age, hold a valid driver's license, and carry an internationally recognized credit card. Realize, however, that car rental in Ecuador is vastly different from that in the USA or Europe, mainly because there is no CDW (Collision Damage Waiver). Practices differ from company to company, so you need to make sure you understand fully the details of the contract and your responsibilities. Generally speaking, you can expect the following when renting a car in Ecuador.

The daily hire rate will not include 10% tax and insurance coverage - these are both extra. Read the details of the insurance coverage extremely carefully - it will not be as comprehensive as car insurance at home.

Even though you can pay with cash or traveler's checks, you will need a credit card to guarantee the booking. You will be required to put up around USD 2,000 which will be split between two vouchers: one to guarantee the rental, the other to guarantee against damage. After you return the car, any amount over the cost of the rental will be refunded to your card - a process that can take a few weeks.

Driving a rented car, you will be one of few people on the road who has any type of insurance coverage. Car rental companies require a police report in the event of an accident. If you are involved in a collision however, you may find that the other party is reluctant to involve the police - especially if they are responsible. They may prefer to come to an agreement, go to a local garage and pay for the repairs then and there. Note that car rental companies prefer to carry out the repairs themselves.

If the police are called and there is no agreement about responsibility, both parties may have to stay in the police station until an agreement is reached. Depending on the car company, you will be responsible for the first USD 1,000 - 2,000 in repair costs. If the other party is liable, legally they should pay. But since few Ecuadorians have that kind of money, you may end up covering these costs yourself.

The majority of Ecuadorian roads are of poor quality, so you can expect to lose a few tires if you are driving for a couple of weeks. So before leaving the car rental location, make sure there is a car-jack (gato) and a spare tire (llanta de repuesto) in good condition. You should also check the car thoroughly inside and out, since you will be responsible for any scratches or damage when you return it. Replacement of the spare tire is rarely included in your insurance, but you will find tire replacement centers (vulcanizadoras) on roadsides throughout Ecuador. In the case of mechanical failure, Ecuador is relatively small and you will rarely be more than five hours away from Quito or Guayaquil, so roadside rescue or car replacement is not too complicated.

Most rental fleets in Ecuador feature cars with manual transmission; automatics are rare. If you require an automatic, particularly in high season, you should request it in advance. Diesel is also available. Gasoline prices are similar to U.S. prices. Drop-off charges regularly apply.

Current Rail Service

The country's most popular rail trip begins in the picturesque city of Riobamba. Like many cities in the Ecuadorian Andes, Riobamba sits in shadow of a giant volcano. At 6,310 meters, the volcano Chimborazo enjoys the distinctions of being Ecuador's highest peak and the furthest point from the center of the earth, thanks to the bulge at the equator. The train travels south from Riobamba through a few small towns and large expanses of open country before arriving at Alausi, where it begins a hair-raising descent of the Devil's Nose. Most travelers sit on top of the rail cars to take advantage of the spectacular vistas. Tickets cost $15 and are available at the train station located at 10 de Agosto and Carabobo. The train leaves Riobamba on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays at 7am.

The Quito-Cotopaxi excursion is a full day trip, offering fantastic scenery that culminates with the towering, perfectly symmetrical Cotopaxi volcano. On clear days travelers can see Cotopaxi looming in the distance from the moment they leave Quito, Ecuador's capital. Covering 33,000 hectares of craggy green countryside and centered by 5,897-meter volcano, the highest active volcano in the world by some accounts, Cotopaxi National Park represents all the best of the Ecuadorian Andes and is the showpiece of Ecuador's 26 national parks and ecological reserves. The train departs Saturdays and Sundays at 8am. .

Until the devastating storms driven by the 1997-1998 El Niño, thousands of travelers launched their rail trips to the coast from Ibarra, a tranquil but entertaining city a few hours north of Quito. Though the train no longer travels all the way to San Lorenzo, the remaining stretch of track from Ibarra to the village Primer Paso is well worth a ride. The trip boasts 23 tunnels, a dizzying 120-meter bridge over the River Ambi, and sojourns at several Andean villages. The train leaves every Saturday and Sunday at 8am..

The Devil's Nose

Train making a spiralling descent down El Nariz del Diablo. Photo by Christopher Sacco.
Thirty kilometers into the ascent of the towering western range, 130 kilometers east of Guayaquil, the railway snakes up a mountain known as El Nariz del Diablo (The Devil's Nose). This nearly vertical wall of rock was the greatest natural obstacle engineers encountered during construction of the Southern Railway, and one of a string of blunders that nearly smothered the dream of connecting Guayaquil and Quito by rail.

In retrospect, the mistake of going over instead of around the Devil's Nose has become a point of engineering pride. A team of engineers lead by the North Americans William Shunck and brothers Archer and John Harman, came up with an ingenious solution of carving a series of tight zigzags into the side of the mountain, which allowed the train to climb a gradient of 1-in-18 from 1800 to 2600 meters, by going forwards then backwards up the tracks.