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.
- 1 Easter egg hunt horror as mother finds dead body under deck of house
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Unbeliebable: The White House offer 'no comment' to anti-Justin Bieber petition
- 4 Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
- 5 How We Met: Alison Moyet & Emma Kennedy: 'I knew we'd be friends because she was happy to make a prat of herself'
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...
Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...
Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...
Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...