3 Ways To Save on Rail Travel

April 11, 2014 on 8:53 am | In Adventure Travel, France, Italy, Paris, Rail Tours, Rome, USA | Comments Off

Eurail Offers Discount with Vello Train in Italy and France

With the French railways once again part of Eurail’s Select Pass, Thello is now a new benefit partner with Eurail. Thello as a full Eurail benefit partner is offering pass holders a discount of 25 percent. Thello operates in France and Italy, connecting such destinations as Paris, Milan and Venice by night train. Traveling by night train provides passengers with the added value of saving money and time, while arriving ready to explore a new city the next day.

Thello is a French-Italian railway company born from the partnership between Trenitalia and Transdev. The train departs every evening from Paris and Dijon in France, and in Italy from Venice, Padova, Vicenza, Brescia and Milan. In Italy, passengers can continue their journey by connecting with the high speed Frecciarossa network, which takes just under three hours to cover the distance of 358 miles between Milan and Rome. Pass holders can redeem this special discount from most Eurail Sales Agents, as well as Thello and Trenitalia points of sale.

Eurail’s Mediterranean Deals promotion is valid until April 30. The promotion offers non-European residents a free travel day on any variation of the Italian One Country Pass and the following Regional Passes: France-Italy, France-Spain and Italy-Spain. You can view the various sales reps for Eurail at www.eurailgroup.org/eurail-vendors.

Amtrak Vacations Extends Savings

Amtrak Vacations will continue to extend its Savings Offer for 2014 Escorted and 2014 Independent Rail Journeys through May 31. All 2014 Escorted Rail Journeys booked by May 31 will receive a $600 per couple discount ($300 per person) for travel through March 31, 2015. All 2014 Independent Rail Journeys booked by May 31, 2014 will receive a $300 per couple discount ($150 per person) for travel through March 31, 2015. Amtrak Vacations is also continuing to offer discounts on all Family Adventures (up to $200 per family of four) and their Ultimate Getaway series (up to $50 per couple). These offers will be active and will continue until further notice.

Premier Rail Collection Launches First Scenic Rail Rewards Program

The Premier Rail Collection (PRC) launched the Rail Baron Club rewards program the first scenic passenger train company to offer a nationwide rewards program. The program includes discounts, upgrades and tickets for riders through a free membership on its seven railroads from Cape Cod Central Railroad on the Atlantic Coast to the Mount Hood Railroad in the Pacific Northwest.

“The history and romance of our trains and their classic routes continue to draw guests from across the globe,” said PRC’s Vice-President of Sales and Marketing Angela Arias. “We are thrilled to offer the Rail Baron Club frequent guest program for our loyal riders to find value and savings.”

There are no fees or cards in the program; members use their email address upon purchase of Premier Rail Collection train tickets and begin accruing points to their customer profile. Administered by Loyalty Gator, a web-based customer loyalty program, the Rail Baron Club’s website is user-friendly and easily accessible. Rail Baron Club members are encouraged to monitor for promotions during which they can score additional points for purchasing tickets for specific events, within a certain time frame or as gifts.

One reward point is earned for every dollar spent at any Premier Rail Collection railroad. Riders on the Cape Cod Central, for example, who have 200 points get a free upgrade to Diamond Class. If they have 300 points they get two free shoreline excursion tickets. Four hundred points earns them a family four pack of excursion tickets. With 500 points you get two free Sunday brunch tickets and with 600, two free dinner train tickets. Seven hundred earns you the dinner train tickets plus a gift.

The Great Canadian Train Ride – Across Canada by Vista-Dome Train!‏

April 9, 2014 on 10:30 am | In Adventure Travel, Alberta, British Columbia, Canada, Manitoba, Ontario, Rail Tours, Saskatchewan, Toronto, Yukon | Comments Off

For many decades, one of the ‘must-do’ holidays on every travelers list has been the legendary cross-Canada train trip, from Toronto to Vancouver, across the Dominion in vista-dome comfort. At Train Holidays, we have long believed that only one addition could make this idea better: Leisurely hotel stays in each great part of Canada along with intelligent, comprehensive sightseeing.

For those travelers to whom ‘how’ they get somewhere means as much as what they do, we offer up the most acclaimed train in North America, Via Rail’s showcase ‘Canadian’ where all of our guests enjoy First Class sleeping car accommodations in ‘Silver & Blue’ class with all meals aboard included. Guests enjoy access to the splendid art deco dining car, the signature dome cars with all-around viewing and the famous ‘Park Car’ with its Bullet Lounge and Mural Bar.

As befits an elegant holiday, we have included some very stylish events ‘ashore’ as well, including dinner in Toronto at the chic Canyon Creek Grill, stylish a dinner at Le Beaujolais in Banff,and an indulgent two-day stay in Vancouver at the beautifully situated Hyatt Regency Hotel, an elegant luxury hotel of great style.

In the Rockies, our guests enjoy five days of sightseeing including Jasper, Banff and Lake Louise as well as seldom-visited places like Moraine Lake, Maligne Canyon and Bridal Veil Falls. All sightseeing is included.

Book Early and receive a free pre-tour hotel stay at Niagara Falls before the tour!

Fully hosted by a professional tour manager.
Three-day/Two-night stay in Toronto at the superbly located Westin Harbour Castle.
Passage from Toronto to Jasper and Vancouver aboard VIA Rail’s acclaimed vista-domeliner ‘The Canadian’ in First Class sleeping car accommodations including all meals whilst aboard.
Three-nights accommodation in Banff at the ultra-luxe Banff Park Lodge in superior rooms.
Two-night stay in Jasper at the Amethyst Lodge with Jasper sightseeing including seldom visited Maligne Lake and Maligne Canyon.
Columbia Icefield Sno-coach tour atop Athabasca Glacier.
Banff sightseeing tour including the famous Gondola ride and a visit to Banff Hot Springs.
Lake Louise sightseeing tour including lunch at fabled Chateau Lake Louise!
Vancouver city sightseeing tour upon arrival in Vancouver.
Overnight deluxe stay in Vancouver at the Hyatt Regency Hotel including breakfast.
Farewell dinner in Vancouver.
Low-cost Amtrak transfer to Seattle available.

No other company offers the indulgent luxury of five full nights in the Canadian Rockies as part of a cross-Canada rail journey, one of the many reasons this one-time holiday always sell out!

Oct 2, 2014 – Oct 14, 2014

View All Luxury and Private Train Journeys Journeys

Elegant Canadian Rockies
2014 Fall Colors in Quebec & Vermont
2014 Great Canadian Train Ride
Springtime in the Canadian Rockies
2014 Atlantic Canada
2014 Canadian Panorama
2014 Classic Canadian Rockies
Uncommon Canadian Rockies

Explore the “London of the north” by rail

April 8, 2014 on 8:58 am | In London, Rail Tours, Scotland, United Kingdom | Comments Off

GLASGOW, Scotland. Eight of us sat around a table – flasks, tubes and bottles filled with liquids lined up before us. Under the watchful eye of “Professor” Alastair, we mixed and mingled the liquids, adding a dollop of one and a soupcon of another to our beakers.

Every so often, an excited “aha” seemed to indicate someone had hit on the magical formula. Liquids frothed; Alastair beamed, and we continued mixing with a maniacal frenzy.

Fortunately, it was nothing sinister. We were at Glengoyne Distillery, just outside Glasgow, in a class designed to teach us to blend our own Scotch whisky. Combining a bit of the sweet, mellow Speyside whisky with the peaty, smoky distillation from Islay, I attempted to get as close to the Glengoyne sample as possible.

When I was satisfied that I couldn’t improve on my product, I slapped a label with the name I had chosen – Misty Isles – on the bottle, and declared myself a distiller of Scotch whisky. I doubt my concoction will rival Glenfidditch or Glenmorangie any time soon, but the afternoon provided us with a lot of laughs and great fun, and just a hint of what Glasgow offers visitors.

“London of the north”
On previous trips to Scotland, I’ve focused on Edinburgh in the south or the majestic Highlands in the north, and rarely given Glasgow a second thought. I knew only that it was Scotland’s largest city, that during the Victorian and Edwardian periods, it was second only to London in wealth and power, and that the ingenuity of Glaswegians seemingly knew no limits.

The ships they built have sailed every sea; their locomotives have pulled trains on six continents, and their engines have powered the world’s industry. In more modern times, the city was chosen as the 1990 European Capital of Culture. Still, in my mind, the elegance of Edinburgh and the grandeur of the Highlands always overshadowed Glasgow.

This time I gave Glasgow its due, and I’m glad I did. With a hip, edgy sensibility and a thriving arts, design and culinary scene, it’s become known in Britain as “the London of the north.”

To see why, take a stroll along the “Style Mile,” home to more than 200 stores, many of them exclusive to the area. From Argyle Street, with its vintage shops and one-of-a-kind boutiques, to Buchanan Galleries, anchored by the British department store John Lewis, this is the place to shop.

Merchant City, the epicenter of Glasgow’s 19th century wealth, is historic and atmospheric. Once home to warehouses of tobacco lords and cotton kings, it’s now packed with artists’ ateliers and galleries.

Founded in 6th century
With its current coolness quotient so high, it’s hard to believe Glasgow dates to the 6th century, when the Welsh missionary St. Mungo built a monastery on a tributary of the River Clyde, which cleaves the city in two.

St. Mungo, whose miracles involving a bell, bird, tree and fish are depicted on Glasgow’s coat of arms, was a benevolent sort – in direct contrast to the city’s other dominant religious figure, the stern and dour John Knox, founder of Presbyterianism.

This makes it all the more surprising when you discover that the statue of a glowering Knox dominates the Necropolis, a hillside cemetery that overlooks the cathedral named for the gentle saint (his remains are thought to rest in the crypt.)

Although its roots go back to antiquity, Glasgow’s architecture is predominantly Victorian and Edwardian. One of the best places to see this is in the West End, home of its beautiful university and two magnificent free attractions.

The red towers and turrets of Kelvingrove evoke the grandeur of a palace. Opened in 1901 and recently refurbished, it houses a respectable collection of Dutch masters and French Impressionists, and Dali’s Christ of St. John of the Cross.

These are the works highlighted in the museum brochure, but I found myself lingering in the Scottish Colorist Gallery, with its bold, vivid canvases, and the gallery devoted to the Glasgow Boys, a group of painters and sculptors who introduced modern art to the city from 1880 to 1900.

If you want the ultimate Scottish artistic experience, check out the two places most closely associated with Glasgow’s favorite son, 20th century architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The Mackintosh House, also in the university area and also free, is a replica of the interiors of 6 Florentine Terrace, the home of Mackintosh and his artist wife, Margaret, from 1906 to 1914.

Reassembled on one side of the Hunterian Museum, it is an homage to Mackintosh’s vision, which combined elements of the Arts and Crafts movement with Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles.

For a better perspective on the architect, take the free, student-led tour of the Glasgow School of Art. Designed by Mackintosh over a 13-year period, it is widely considered his masterpiece (the furniture gallery and the stunning library are highlights.)

A blending of past, future
To get some idea of how enterprising Glaswegians have taken their city’s rich past and imbued it with a 21st century sensibility, you have only to look at the Corinthian Club Restaurant and the new Blythswood Square Hotel.

To call the Corinthian Club a restaurant is like calling the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel a roof. In fact, some might think of the Sistine Chapel as they are ushered into the club’s opulent ground-floor brasserie. With its circular glass ceiling rotunda and teardrop chandeliers, it’s jaw-dropping in its magnificence.

The brasserie is only one of the rooms that sprawl over five floors of what used to be Glasgow’s High Court, dating to 1842. Where bewigged barristers and judges once meted out justice, revelers now flock. A multimillion pound refurbishment has resulted in entertainment venues ranging from a casino to a bubble-gum pink champagne bar.

Be sure to check out the Bootleg Bar, a paean to 1920s American speakeasies, except for the mosaic floor made of 500,000 pieces of colored tile. The face on the floor formed by the tiles isn’t of notorious gangsters Al Capone or Legs Diamond, but of a young Queen Victoria as she appeared on an original Bank of Scotland note.

If dining at the Corinthian Club is a must, you would also do well to check into Blythswood Square Hotel. Situated on its namesake square in the city center, the building began in 1823 as the Royal Scottish Automobile Club. With the British penchant for sumptuous private clubs, it has all the requisite features – marble fireplaces, ornate ceilings and rich wood paneling.

It also has 100 stylish rooms, a lively bar and restaurant, luxury spa and a private 40-seat screening room.

After a few days in Glasgow, I came away with a new appreciation for its historic past and vibrant future. In the 6th century, founder St. Mongo reportedly liked to utter a pray, “Let Glasgow flourish.”

He would be happy to know that it has done just that.

Going on BritRail: As someone who has gotten increasingly disenchanted with air travel, I find it a pleasure to take one of BritRail’s clean, comfortable coaches to my destination. An upgrade to Business Class doesn’t cost an arm and a leg; the seats are spacious and comfy, and on longer trips, you get something to eat more substantial than the stale peanuts airlines provide.

German-Springtime-3 Save up to 20% on German trains

April 8, 2014 on 8:57 am | In Germany, Rail Tours | Comments Off

Purchase your German Rail Pass between February 1st and April 30th, 2014 and save up to 20% on a 10-day pass or up to 10% on a 5-day pass with the German Rail Pass Springtime Special. Your promotional pass is valid for travel anytime between February 1st and May 31st 2014.

Spring is a great time to visit Germany, especially if you want to discover a few of Germany’s seasonal celebrations. Frankfurt’s Spring Fair, for instance, is an annual folk festival that dates back to the 14th century. Travel to Frankfurt between April 11 and May 5 to join in on this family friendly festival. Long Nights of Music in Munich is hosted on May 17, during which over 100 venues will hold more than 400 concerts all over the city. On April 30, it’s Witches’ Night, where people dress up as witches and swarm to Mount Brocken, in the region of Harz to light bonfires and perform dances and rituals around the fire, celebrating the beginning of spring.

Traveling by train is an easy, fast and comfortable way to reach different cities in Germany. Take advantage of the German Rail Pass Springtime Special and discover one of Europe’s most efficient rail systems, connecting almost every city, from the larger urban centers to the smaller villages, making it easier to enjoy every corner of Germany during the blooming season.

The high speed Intercity Express (ICE) trains can reach speeds of up to 320 km/h and offer frequent departures out of several major cities. German ICE trains make it possible to travel between Berlin and Hamburg in as little as 1 hour and 41 minutes or reach Frankfurt from Munich in 3 hours and 15 minutes. In addition to the fast rail services they provide, ICE trains include lockers for your luggage, restaurant cars, on-board catering, audio connection to radio stations, at seat video screens in First Class and Wi-Fi for internet access on several routes.

The German Rail Pass Springtime Special is available for the 5-day and 10-day German Rail Passes, German Rail Twin Passes and German Rail Youth Passes in First Class and Standard Class. German Rail Twin Pass owners will find this promotion particularly attractive as two adults traveling together already save up to 25% off regular adult prices. Now, with the Springtime Special they can add extra savings of up to 20% off.

The German Rail Pass Springtime Special is non-refundable.

Rail Plus unveils ‘Tailor Made Canada’

April 8, 2014 on 8:43 am | In Adventure Travel, Alberta, British Columbia, Canada, Labrador, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, NWT, Ontario, PEI, Quebec, Rail Tours, Saskatchewan, Toronto, Yukon | Comments Off

Rail Plus is embarking on a major expansion of its product range with the unveiling of its first ever Canada sales manual and the launch of the company’s exciting new “Tailor made” brand.

Developed in partnership with the Canadian Tourism Commission, the ‘Tailor Made Canada’ program combines helpful destination information with a wide range of non-rail land-based products, including city stays, sightseeing experiences and holiday packages.

The manual is designed to be an invaluable selling tool for agents, with suggestions on “not to be missed” experiences and examples of FIT packages, ranging from a three-night trip through the Rockies, to a seven-night journey from Vancouver to Toronto via Canada’s stunning mountains, prairies and great plains.

In addition, travel agents will find details on Canada’s world-class luxury rail journeys.

General Manager marketing Greg McCallum says Rail Plus has developed a deep understanding of the Canadian market thanks to its long association with rail providers such as Rocky Mountaineer and VIA Rail.

“As a result we identified a need in the Australian market for a specialist FIT Canada program providing competitively-priced, year-round product, with a particularly strong focus on winter experiences,” says McCallum.

“We also recognised that travel agents selling Canadian FIT product need the support of highly-trained consultants with extensive knowledge and outstanding customer service skills.

“No company is more qualified than Rail Plus to deliver that kind of support.”

Rail Plus has now created a dedicated Canada division staffed by specialist consultants, who can offer expert advice and help create bespoke FIT itineraries for agents’ clients.

McCallum says the Canada program heralds the arrival of a new brand, ‘Tailor made by Rail Plus’, which will serve as a platform for future destination programs.

Copies of the Canada sales manual are now being distributed directly to agents by Rail Plus’ state Sales Managers.

Connect to France with Eurail

April 7, 2014 on 10:32 am | In Adventure Travel, France, Paris, Rail Tours | Comments Off

26 countries to choose from – now, also includes France!

There is some great news for international travelers visiting Europe: you can now select France as one of the eligible countries when booking a Eurail Select Pass.

Also, the Eurail Select Pass is now exclusively available as a four-country pass, letting you choose 4 European destinations connected by train or boat from a selection of 26 countries. Start your journey in any of your chosen 4 countries and enjoy unlimited travel for 5, 6, 8, or 10 days within 2 months.

This makes the Eurail Select Pass one of the most flexible passes available, allowing you to not only select the number of days you will travel but also the destinations you will visit.

The eligible countries include: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.

- Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg, also known as Benelux, are counted as one country

- Bulgaria, Montenegro and Serbia are counted as one country

- Croatia and Slovenia are counted as one country

The Eurail Select Pass is available in First Class for Adult & Child fares. In addition, Youth travelers between the ages of 12 and 25 enjoy a discount of up to 35% off adult fares for travel in Standard Class and groups of 2 to 5 travelers save up 15% off adult prices for each person thanks to the Saver Pass discount.

Reach for the Top of Europe by train

April 7, 2014 on 10:31 am | In Adventure Travel, Rail Tours, Switzerland | Comments Off

You can now purchase rail passes to travel on the Jungfrau Railways network in Switzerland. The 3-day Jungfrau VIP Pass and 6-day Jungfrau Railways Pass both allow you to travel to Kleine Scheidegg, Schnyge Platte, Harder Kulm and other popular destinations in the Bernese Oberlands. The Jungfrau Railways Pass includes boat trips on Lakes Thun & Brienz and the Jungfrau VIP Pass includes a journey to the summit of mount Jungfraujoch, also known as Top of Europe.

Switzerland’s Jungfrau Region is right next to the iconic Eiger, Mönch & Jungfrau massif, placing you at the heart of a region with a sensational array of natural attractions and scenic displays which include Lake Thun & Lake Brienz and fabulous mountain scenery with snow-capped summits and alpine glaciers. The region offers outdoor activities like summer skiing, mountain hiking on spectacular trails and zip lining over glacier crevasses.

Whether Jungfrau Region is a short stop on your itinerary or a destination where you’ll stay over an extended period of time, there’s a variety of accommodation options from simple hostels, to luxury hotels and a choice of two rail passes for traveling between stations:

The Jungfrau VIP Pass
The Jungfrau VIP Pass is valid for unlimited travel on the Jungfrau Railways network over a 3-day period. The pass includes free access to the cable car between Grindelwald and First as well as a round trip excursion up to the highest rail station in Europe located on top of Mount Jungfraujoch. In addition, you’ll be able to benefit from up to 50% discounts on cableways between Grindelwald–Mannlichen and Wengen–Mannlichen.

The Jungfrau Railways Pass
The Jungfrau Railways Pass is a great option for an extended stay in the Jungfrau region. The Pass allows for unlimited travel over a 6-day period, perfect for those who plan on doing a lot of outdoor activities in the region while staying in resorts nearby. The pass includes free travel on the Grindelwald and Wegen Cable cars. You’re also encouraged to make the most of your pass by using it for boat cruises on Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. And finally, receive discounts of up to 50% off journeys to Top of Europe, the station atop Mount Jungfraujoch.

Jungfrau Rail Passes are available in Adult and Child fares. Travel season on the Jungfrau Railways network starts on May 1 and ends October 26, 2014.

Eurail Mediterranean Deals

April 7, 2014 on 8:54 am | In Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Europe, France, Greece, Italy, Lichtenstein, Macedonia, Monaco, Montenegro, Rail Tours, Romania, Rome, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain | Comments Off

Free Travel Day on Eurail Italy, Eurail France-Italy, Eurail France-Spain and Eurail Italy-Spain Passes!

Receive one free travel day with your purchase of a Eurail Italy, Eurail France-Italy, Eurail France-Spain or Eurail Italy-Spain Pass between March 15th and April 30th, 2014. For example, if you purchase a 4-day pass you will receive a pass valid for 4+1 days. This promotion is offered on all validities in First and Standard Class for Adult, Child, Youth and Saver Passes. Eurail Passes can be activated within 6 months of their date of purchase so it’s a good opportunity to buy now and enjoy this summer!

The Italian (Trenitalia), Spanish (Renfe) and French (SNCF) railways offer an extensive and modern rail network, making traveling by train comfortable, relaxing and hassle free. Imagine your list of possible destinations as you travel around with, for example, your Eurail Italy-Spain Pass…Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice, Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Malaga, Valencia and many more!

Choose your Eurail Mediterranean Deal:

Amtrak Guest Rewards Members Earn More During Double Days

April 4, 2014 on 10:59 am | In Rail Tours, USA | Comments Off

PROMOTION: Earn extra points on travel now through May 17

WASHINGTON – Train travel is an even better option this spring for Amtrak Guest Rewards® members who can earn even more points toward free travel and other rewards with the “Double Days” promotion.

Amtrak Guest Rewards members will earn double points on qualifying Amtrak travel now through May 17. To take advantage of the promotion, Amtrak Guest Rewards members should register online at AmtrakGuestRewards.com/DoubleDays.

To receive credit for all qualifying travel, Amtrak Guest Rewards members need to provide their membership number when making a reservation. Cancelled or refunded reservations and/or tickets are not eligible to receive bonus points. Double points earning is limited to two one-way trips per day. Other restrictions apply.

For more information or to enroll as an Amtrak Guest Rewards member today, visit AmtrakGuestRewards.com. Members earn two points for every dollar spent on Amtrak travel, with a 100-point minimum, no matter the price. Members also have more than a thousand ways to earn additional points from transactions with our program partners and shopping in our online mall, Points for Shopping. Free Amtrak travel starts at just 1,500 points.

To view a complete list of current Amtrak promotions, visit the Deals tab at Amtrak.com.

About Amtrak®

Amtrak is America’s Railroad®, the nation’s intercity passenger rail service and its high-speed rail operator. Amtrak and its state and commuter partners move people, the economy and the nation forward. Formally known as the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, Amtrak is governed by a nine member board of directors appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Anthony R. Coscia is board chairman and Jeffrey R. Moreland is vice chairman. In FY 2013, a record 31.6 million passengers traveled on Amtrak on more than 300 daily trains – at speeds up to 150 mph (241 kph) – that connect 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian Provinces. Enjoy the journey® at Amtrak.com or call 800-USA-RAIL for schedules, fares and more information. Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter (@Amtrak) and check out our blog at www.blog.amtrak.com

Taking the Pulse of Quito, Ecuador

April 1, 2014 on 11:02 am | In Adventure Travel, Dine Drink, Ecuador, Rail Tours, South America | Comments Off

The mountain city of Quito is not only Ecuador’s capital, but a historic city that features one of the Americas’ largest and best-preserved colonial districts. Quito’s 130 historic buildings include ornate and art-filled 16th and 17th century basilicas, churches and palaces, connected by winding cobblestone streets leading to broad open plazas. In 1978 Quito joined Krakow, Poland as one of UNESCO’s first two official World Heritage Sites.

SEE – Quito’s position at 9,350 feet above sea level places the city within range of spectacular natural attractions. The city in fact lies along the eastern flank of the Pichincha volcano, and is indeed surrounded by volcanoes that are visible across the city on clear days.

Cotopaxi National Park, located in a protected area of the Pichincha province 30 miles south of Quito, offers an up-close view of the region’s volcanoes. The park features the snow-capped Cotopaxi along with two others volcanoes: the dormant Ruminawi volcano and the Sincholagua volcano, which last erupted in 1877. Cotopaxi is among the highest active volcanoes in the world; its last significant eruption took place in 1904.

Visitors to Cotopaxi can opt for hiking, horseback riding and mountain-bike excursions among the park’s awe-inspiring natural settings and distinctive Andean fauna. Travelers will find more than 100 species of birds as well as deer, foxes and even puma. Modern-day Andean cowboys even herd cattle within the park’s boundaries. Travelers can select from day tours of the park or visit Cotopaxi as part of eight-day Andean valley tours that end in Cotopaxi’s lower plains. Along the way travelers can stay in historic estates were built during the 17th century.

VISIT – Located two hours by car from Quito, Ecuador’s cloud forest offers a lush alternative to the soaring volcanoes around Quito and the city’s urban environment.

A cloud forest is characterized by a persistent low-level cloud cover, usually at the canopy level, and an abundance of moss-covered ground and vegetation. Indeed almost every inch of Ecuador’s cloud forest, from the standing and fallen trees to the very ground itself, is covered in parasitic flora. The cloud forest is home to more than 500 bird species and a variety of orchids endemic to the region.

Travelers can explore Ecuador’s cloud forest through stays at one of the area’s ecologically themes hotels, including the Pachijal Reserva Ecologica and the Mashpi Lodge.

EXPERIENCE – Tren Crucero is a high-end rail service that traces historic routes through the country’s Andes and coastal regions. The railway offers one- to three-night steam and diesel locomotive excursions through 300 miles of Ecuador’s highlands, allowing travelers to visit indigenous communities and experience regional cuisine, creative arts and cultural customs.

Tren Crucero offers three routes that traverse Ecuador’s Andes from Quito to the country’s Pacific Coast: Quito to Guayaquil (three nights), Quito to Alausi (two) and Alausi to Guayaquil (one). Daily excursions visit Ecuador’s “Avenue of the Volcanoes” and the Guamote indigenous Andean market. Itineraries also include visits to Cotopaxi National Park and a rose plantation utilizing fair trade practices.

Powered by steam and diesel locomotives, the four-coach train features capacity for 54 passengers in sofa chairs facing dining tables. The coaches also offer personal lockers, a café serving beverages and snacks and an outdoor terrace from where travelers can observe Ecuador’s landscape. The railway features bilingual service staff and guides, and Ecuadorian feasts are held at local haciendas where travelers spend the night.

EAT – Ecuadorian cuisine varies with the country’s altitude and agricultural conditions. Residents of the mountain regions prefer pork, chicken, beef, and coy (guinea pig) served with grains including rice, corn and potatoes. Popcorn, both in its popped and kernel form, is an extremely popular appetizer.

Seafood dominates the country’s coastal regions, with shrimp and ceviche served with fried plantain and popcorn are considered staples. Arroz con menestra y carne asada (rice with beans and grilled beef) is a traditional dish of Guayaquil, along with fried plantain. Yuca is a favorite of the Amazon region, and fruits including bananas, tree grapes, and peach palms are available across the region.

BUY – The weaving of garments from alpaca wool is a long-honored Ecuadorean art. Alpaca textiles are available for purchase all around the country, including at the Otavalo artisan market in the Andes. The style of hat today known as a “Panama” hat originated in Ecuador around the 17th century. It is a traditional, brimmed hat of toquilla straw made from the plaited leaves of the Carludovica palmata plant, and is available from makers around the country.

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