Where to go in 2013: Ecuador
Sunday 21 October 2012
Why go in 2013? Making tracks
There's a buzz in the Andean air – or, rather, a klaxon blast. Ecuador's rail network, almost totally closed after the devastating floods brought by El Niño in the 1990s, is scheduled for a radical $250m (£150m) revamp in 2013, rebuilding lines between increasingly cosmopolitan Quito in the mountains and the port of Guayaquil. Tracks will also connect Ecuador's famed 5,900m volcano Cotopaxi and the Nariz del Diablo (Devil's Nose), claiming the steepest (and most hair-raising) stretch of railway in the Western world. It's not for nothing that Ecuadorians dub their railway the most difficult train in the world – and the restoration has been Ecuador's most ambitious tourism project. But developers believe it will pull in unprecedented tourist numbers.
And why wouldn't it? International visitors to this diminutive but diverse nation are already at an all-time high and navigating it has never been so much fun. The highlight will be the chance to see hitherto remote places such as Machachi with Ecuador's finest old haciendas or the Baños del Inca archaeological site.
If trains don't do it for you, chocolate might. The country produces some 60 per cent of the world's quality cacao and new, exclusively chocolate-themed tours kick-off in November.
Ecuador's wildlife is why tourism started here, but this year eco-excursions just got flashier. Mashpi Lodge now offers a "boutique Amazon" experience with treetop gondola whooshing guests 2km through the jungle canopy.
Start your Ecuadorian foray in Quito, which is Unesco-listed along with the country's other mountain metropolis, Cuenca. See the handicraft markets at Otavalo and visit one of the world's highest, most active and dramatic volcanos, Cotopaxi. If you ride only one train, make it the Riobamba–Alausi–Sibambe line with its ridiculously sheer switchback descent around the Nariz del Diablo. In Ecuador, you can be in the high Andes one moment and the rainforest or beach the next. After the mountains, soak up volcanically heated spas in Baños or go Amazon birdwatching in the world's most biodiverse spot. Nowhere else offers such diversity.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 4 Floyd Mayweather's mouthguard costs $25,000 - enough to fly to Las Vegas and back 18 times
- 5 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
New York woman gives up $95,000 a year job to work in an ice cream parlour in the Caribbean
What is Pyongyang really like? What tourists see and hear on a trip to the North Korean capital
The 10 Best lightweight luggage
Bergen-Belsen 70 years after the liberation: the final resting place of Anne Frank and 70,000 others
The most powerful passports in the world
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
Indonesia executions live: 'Hysterical' families heard prisoners being shot dead by firing squad
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
£24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...
£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...