Leaving from Ibarra, the Tren de la Libertad follows a scenic path to the small town of Salinas and back again. The route goes through several tunnels and over a bridge while hugging the sides of the mountains and overlooking a gorgeous ravine.
The train itself is modern and comfortable with a quaint feel, though the ride was a little more bumpy than what we are accustomed to (on Amtrak or the MTA North). I was hoping to take some notes in my journal along the way but was unable to, due to the turbulent ride (just why is writing on trains such a heavily romanticized activity anyway?).
Tickets for the roundtrip journey cost $20 for what they call “Standard Excursion” and $25 for “Travel Plus.” The only difference that we could see between the two ticket types is where on the the train you’re assigned. The more expensive fare grants you a seat in a nicer car with climate control and more comfortable chairs which, in our opinion, was well worth the added cost. We also received a small snack, though I am not sure if the people in the other cars did as well.
The ride covers a distance of 30km and takes about 6 hours from beginning to end, although over 2 of those hours are spent off the train in the tiny Afro-Ecuadorian town of Salinas de Ibarra (not to be confused with the coastal city of Salinas). There is not much to see or do in Salinas other than to eat lunch, visit a one-room museum and browse through a very small market. For us, our time off of the train was probably our least favorite part of the excursion, though still interesting.
The train leaves the Ibarra station at 10:30AM, Wednesday through Sunday, though I would suggest contacting the station in advance as the train will not run on days when there are not enough tickets purchased.
This train ride was, hands-down, the most fun thing we have done in Ibarra and we would highly recommend it to anyone, but especially to those that enjoy train travel.
Train travel in Ecuador seems to be expanding, in fact, tracks are currently being laid to connect Otavalo to Ibarra. We look forward to exploring further routes in the future.