Taking a ride down the Devil’s Nose: Ecuador’s scariest train ride

It is considered one of the world’s most dangerous train rides. The section of Ecuador’s railway aptly titled ‘the Devil’s Nose’, was responsible for some 2000 deaths during construction and even a few gringos after that.   It was a remarkable feat for a developing country to build a train system over a century ago that crossed the Andes linking Quito to Guayaquil.

alas ecuador train ride

The Devil’s Nose traverses the rocky slopes of the Andes and drops 500 meters over a course of 12km via a switch back system.  The switch-back track involves the train moving past a junction, stopping and then heading back down the section to the next junction and moving forward again continuing down the mountain. The mountain side, called ‘the Condors Aerie’ in the town of Alausi, was last section of rail needed to connect the Quito and Guayaquil lines.

tren ecuador

view from ecuadors most danergous train ride

In 1901, this became known as the ‘Devil’s Nose’ because of the deaths of many workers that occurred there due to the difficulty of construction. To construct the devil’s nose track, 3 000 Jamaicans and 1 000 Puerto Ricans were brought in.  Unfortunately so many died during construction, only about 300 stayed in Ecuador.

alas ecuador

Even though much of the rail system has deteriorated, the section of the ‘Devil’s Nose’ has remained well kept because it has been such an attraction for tourists. Tourists flock from all over South America to take their journey down the Devil’s Nose. Visitors used to be able to take their seats on the top of the train over-looking the valley which claimed so many lives and make their journey from the top to the bottom and back up again. However, due to the deaths of a couple of tourists and a few broken bones of others, they have terminated this ticket and now limit riders to the interior of the train only. There are however still many other adventurous and danergous activities left in Ecuador, see some of my favourites in adventure capital, Baños.

tren ecuador alausi

 

The ride itself is fabulous, leaving 3 times a day at 8:00am, 11:00am, and 3:00pm and is of the best $30.00 I spent in Ecuador. After boarding the train, you are given an informational tour about the history of the Ecuadorian rail and Devil’s Nose section in both English and Spanish as you traverse the historical switch back track.

nariz del diablo ecuador conductors

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At the bottom of the valley, tourists have the opportunity to leave the train to take photographs, watch some traditional dancers, visit the museum and buy handicrafts. We spent our train break drinking coffee from the café up a few flights of exterior stairs located beside the museum. From the outdoor café we enjoyed a beautiful view of the Andes partly because of the beautiful weather we were lucky enough to have. The tour also includes a boxed lunch (sandwiches) that you can pick up on your way back to the train. The train then departs and heads back through the switch-back track, but this time up to the top of the valley. A total tour duration of 2 hours, still this was probably one of the best ‘bang for your buck’ moments I had in Ecuador.

restaurant on alas train trip

ecuadorian dancers alausi

The town of Alausi also has some of the best restaurants I sampled in Ecuador. Small “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants served delicious homemade local fare for a super reasonable price.  To get to this small town you will have to take a bus to Riobamba, or towards Guayaquil and ask the bus driver to drop you off at Alausi. Yes you will be dropped off on the highway BUT it is only a short 4 block walk to the main street in town.

most dangerous train ride in ecuador

 

22 Comments

  1. Ahh i wanted to do this last year when I was in south america, but didn’t quite have time! I did do the ‘death train’ from bolivia – brazil though. But that’s not scary just has a scary name haha

  2. This looks like an interesting tour. Stunning landscapes! Is it considered one of the world’s most dangerous train rides because of a few tourists that died and got hurt? That doesn’t seem so bad. Very sad about the construction workers though. 🙁

  3. This looks Like a fun thing to do, thanks for sharing. I thought the title referred to the train ride itself (not the building of it) and wondered what in the world anyone would want to do this for? Nice pictures.

  4. Wow, interesting to see how you enjoyed the experience.

    We love train travel, however it was the apparent lack of value for money here that saw us avoid this excursion.

    $30 for 2 hours b Ecuadorian standards is a small fortune! 😉

    Glad to be able to see something we missed when we were there!

  5. This is a very similar story to Bolivia’s Death Road. Everyone that passes through La Paz now cycle’s The World’s Most Dangerous Road but it actually got its name from the number of deaths whilst making it. Interesting post, I’d like to do this ride!

  6. What a beautiful experience! I’ve done this also but not the way you did it! I hope you liked Ecuador as much as I did and if ever you are still in the area, I live in Peru (neighbor) and would want to meet! Xx

  7. I’ve never heard of the Devil’s Nose before. It should like my type of trip and has great views. I’m going to look into it more now and maybe add it to my 2016 bucket list.

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