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Quito Gets on TrackJune 9, 2008 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent
Destination’s restored railway line is latest hook for agents
In the December 10 issue of Travel Agent, we told you all about Ecuador’s capital, Quito, and why you should book this hot spot in Latin America for your culture-craving clients. Now, the destination has even more to offer: The big news to come out of Quito is something that is literally “coming out” of Quito—a restored railway line.
Quito is restoring its railway line to offer more options for travelers
The destination’s old railway line, which connects Quito and Cuenca and Quito and Guayaquil, is currently being restored and will offer clients a great way to explore Quito and its neighboring gems.
The first section of the line, which will be restored this year, connects Quito with Latacunga, which is about 110 kilometers south, along the Avenue of Volcanoes. The official opening of this section is slated for June 25, and the Quito Visitor’s Bureau is touting the event, which will be attended by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, as “one of the great feats of railway engineering in the world.”
This is a great pitch for clients looking to explore Quito without the hassle of hailing a cab or hiring a driver. This is also a good option for clients who simply want to take in breathtaking views via train. We further recommend pitching this to backpackers looking to tour as much of Ecuador as time permits or even for older romantics looking to travel the countryside the old-fashioned way.
Outline of the Project
The first big section of the overall project is from Quito to Duran. The others will be Riobamba to Cuenca; Quito to Ibarra; and Ibarra to San Lorenzo. Within the Quito-to-Duran line, there are segments currently functioning—Quito to El Boliche and Riobamba to Alausi. The section that will be inaugurated as part of the opening festivities in the coming weeks is Quito to El Boliche, which extends the track all the way to Latacunga.
According to the Quito Visitor’s Bureau, “after that, the next section on this line will be from Latacunga to Riobamba, and finally the Alausi-to-Duran section. All that work, Quito to Duran, will cost $110 million and will take an estimated two years.”
The Ministry of Tourism plans to develop tourist infrastructure and possibilities for exploring the surrounding countryside at all stations along the routes to Cuenca and Guayaquil. According to the Bureau, “these will allow visitors more intimate contact with local people, their gastronomy and their culture.”
The public train at present leaves Quito for the Cotopaxi area on Saturday and Sunday. The hope, according to the Bureau, is that the new project will increase this frequency to at least four departures a week. Tickets are available from the Chimbacalle train station.
In a statement released exclusively to Travel Agent, the Bureau says, “The rehabilitated railway will provide a more relaxed, enjoyable and insightful way for visitors to travel along the Avenue of the Volcanoes in the Ecuadorian Andes. The restoration of the railway will bring multiple benefits to rural parts of Ecuador, which have been all but abandoned for decades.”
Booking a Ride
Although we were told tickets for the train are not commissionable, there are several operators that offer private rides on the train. Agents should call Marcelo Meneses of Ecuador Adventure, one of the few operators offering private journeys on sections of the railway, although the Bureau is expecting more to jump on board as news surfaces. Meneses can be reached at 800-655-4053, ext. 8806 or e-mail [email protected].