The Nariz del Diablo train ride provides an excellent opportunity to view some of the amazingly beautiful and mountainous landscape of Ecuador. It’s also a great chance for kids to learn a little history while playing conductor. All in all, it is a great trip for families.
History of Nariz del Diablo
This portion of the Ecuadorian railroad system was completed in 1908 in order to connect the coastal city of Guayaquil to the capital city of Quito, high in the Andes Mountains. The vertical wall of rock that was known as El Nariz del Diablo, or The Devil’s Nose, was the most challenging part of the railway to construct and was referred to at the time as the «ferrocarril más dificil del mundo» or the most difficult train track in the world. There seemed to be no way to build the track up the steep mountain slope.
The solution was to build the track into the side of the mountain in a tight, zig-zag pattern, like switchbacks on a hiking trail. The train travels up the hill and rather than turn around the bend, the train reverses direction for the next section, leading with the rear. The train zig-zags almost a full kilometer up Nariz del Diablo and returns in the same manner.
For many years, the train provided service from Guayaquil to Riobamba and then on to Quito. However, in 1997, the intense weather conditions of El Nino damaged so much of the railway, that it could no longer be used.
The Train to Nariz del Diablo Today
Currently, the portion of the track between Alausi and Sibambe, an almost 7.5 mile stretch, has been opened to tourism. And this is the train ride now available for anyone game for the adventure!
The train is a relatively modern engine that pulls beautifully refurbished, old railway carriages. Some of the carriages are coach style, while others are open-air cars.
Our tickets for the train ride were for the 11:00am departure which allowed us time to enjoy the breakfast provided by the hostería where we stayed and still enjoy a leisurely drive to Alausi. For early morning adventurers, there is also a train that departs at 8am and returns by 10:30am.
The town of Alausi is quaint and colorful and fun to photograph! Make sure to plan some time to walk around.
And the landscape of train ride itself was even more amazing! It was a very picturesque two and a half hour adventure. We stopped for short amount of time in Sibambe, where we grabbed a bite to eat and enjoyed watching a performance of traditional dance before heading back down the mountain.
Basic Info for Reservations, Nariz del Diablo
Tickets for your train ride can actually be purchased online. The site is easy to understand and to navigate. The train runs Tuesdays through Sundays, including holidays.
There are 2 departure times from Alausi (8:00 am and 11:00 am), and the round-trip time is two and a half hours. The price for this roundtrip is $30 per person.
There is a new option to leave from the Riobamba train station which can be combined with the Alausi leg. It is called the Tren de la Quinua. This train runs Tuesday through Friday and the trip from Riobamba to Alausi includes a stop in the the market town of Guamote. The return trip includes a stop in the town of Colta where the oldest church in Ecuador still stands. A one way ticket from Riobamba to Alausi costs $50 per person. It is not possible to include the Nariz del Diablo and make the return trip to Riobamba completely by train in a single day.
Tips for this Trip
We chose to stay in the town of Huigra, at the Hostería Eterna Primavera, a one hour drive from Alausi. Many people choose to stay in Riobamba, an hour and a half a way.
If you tend to get car sick, you might want to take some medicine before driving in the mountains from Alausi to Huigra.
About Guest Author Amy Atland
Amy has lived in Quito, Ecuador for an adventurous 4 and a half years with her husband and 4 kiddos. She has her Master’s degree in pediatric occupational therapy, but is currently enjoying focusing on her family and growing her photography business. She is passionate about traveling, coffee, and capturing the joys of life through her camera lens (but not necessarily in that order). She can be also be contacted by email.