Exploring Ecuador

13 nights

Priced from £4850 per person

A note about pricing

This itinerary runs the length of Ecuador, through the Andes and the Avenue of Volcanoes.  It includes time in a cloud forest, colonial towns, Inca ruins and a chance to see some of the most colourful markets in South America.

As a guideline, the itinerary outlined below would cost approximately £4,850 per person based on two people travelling and includes all activities on a private basis, private transfers, entrance fees, internal flights in Ecuador, accommodation and taxes and meals where mentioned.

Please note that the itinerary does not include any international flights

Day 1 Fly to Quito. Met on arrival by our representative and transfer to the Café Cultura for 2 nights in a suite on a b&b basis.
Day 2 In Quito. Free for personal exploration.  The city is a world heritage city and is an excellent place to explore on foot.
Day 3 Met and transferred to the Mindo Cloudforest for 2 nights in a standard room on a full board basis. Your day starts with a visit to the dormant Pululahua Volcano, just north of the equator, and considered by the locals as the naval of the earth.  This huge crater, with its own microclimate, is a fantastic place to see various hummingbirds! Continue to El Pahuma Reserve for a short 45 minute walk alongside a lively creek to the 40 metre Pacaya waterfall.   El Pahuma Reserve is a private, Ecuadorian owned forest who are searching for a viable economic alternative to destructive activities such as logging or cattle raising, and as such protects over 600 hectares of tropical forest.  Following lunch you will head to the Bellavista lodge.  In the afternoon there is an optional walk to observe a lek (a place of courtship of birds) of the very attractive cock-of-the-rock, where up to 12 birds flying from one branch to another, displaying their red feathers to attract the females amid loud calls is a fantastic but seldom seen site!
Day 4 A free day for personal exploration and relaxation.  The lodge has numerous walking paths within the reserve.
Day 5 Met early in the morning for your transfer to Patate in the heart of the ‘Avenue of Volcanoes’. It’s downhill by car to the Valley of Mindo, past the quaint little village of the same name and on to the Butterfly Vivarium, housing 25 varieties of butterflies.  Flight areas simulate the outside forest with water streams, mineral deposits, and a wide range of wild flowers. Hundreds of caterpillars feed on their host plants in their natural environment to assure the best development of pupae and butterflies.The drive south passes through valleys and mountains before arriving at the Cotopaxi National Park, which surrounds the magnificent Cotopaxi Volcano.  You will have a chance to take a short walk through this Andean paramo habitat and its unique flora and fauna, where you should be able to see a number of high-altitude birds around Limpiopungo Lagoon, and occasionally wild horses.  On clear days, the perfect snow-capped cone of the Cotopaxi Volcano is quite a sight!  At the foot of the volcano lies a charming hacienda, where lunch is served in a dining room with original Inca walls. After lunch, mingle with the llamas of the hacienda and stroll along a rose plantation to walk off lunch.  From here you will descend towards the town of Patate, to spend 2 nights at the Hacienda Leito, a 300-year old hacienda, hidden among the mountains. Standard room, full board basis
Day 6 A free day for personal exploration and relaxation.
Day 7 After breakfast, you will take a spectacular route along the gorge of the Pastaza River to the town of Baños, right at the foot of Tungurahua Volcano, from where the thermal waters that gave it its name emerge.  Along this route you will pass through the Cascades to El Pailón del Diablo (the Devil’s Cauldron) where you have the opportunity to descend down to the waterfall to see it up close.  The falls are surrounded by subtropical vegetation and orchids.  The force and sound of the waters can also be appreciated from a lookout point without descending.  Lunch is served at a local hacienda.  In the afternoon you can wander through the rather touristy town of Baños.  From here, the route south to Riobamba climbs up the mountain and through the clouds, alongside the massive Chimborazo, the highest mountain of Ecuador, before arriving in Riobamba and the Abraspungo hacienda for the night in a standard room on a full board basis.
Day 8 After an early breakfast depart by road, skirting the flanks of the Andes, along bridging ravines and river gorges.  Ride through Indian villages and cultivated fields; here is where most of the cereals in Ecuador are grown, among them, the quinua, considered the perfect grain for its nutritional value.  After about 2 hours arrive at the small town of Alausí, to board your train to the devils nose.  Great effort has been made to restore the 100-year old train to its old glory and romance.  The highlight is the thrilling 800-metre (2630-foot) descent on the zigzag cuttings on the rock of the Devil’s Nose.  At the bottom one finds the newly renovated Station of Sibambe.  Here there is time to visit the local museum “Condor Puñuna” built and run by the Nizag community, before returning by train to Alausi.  On arrival you will continue   south, visiting the Inca Fortress of Ingapirca where you will have lunch. Transfer to Cuenca in the late afternoon and the Mansion Alcazar hotel for 3 nights in a standard room on a b&b basis
Day 9 Cuenca is Ecuador’s third largest city; yet it still retains its pleasant provincial air.  Its red tiled roofs, cobblestone streets, flowery plazas and museums make it a unique place.  Your city tour today includes the Plaza of San Sebastian, a colorful artisans market, where handicrafts are sold.  Then, visit the Museum of Modern Art, featuring an excellent collection of contemporary fine art.  Next is a visit to the flower market at the small plaza in front of the carved stone entrance to the church of El Carmen de la Asunción.  From here, a stroll to the main square, surrounded by the imposing blue-domed Cathedral, the Court of Justice, the Municipal Palace, the Governor’s Palace and the Church of El Sagrario.  Then, a drive along the Tomebamba river to admire the city’s overhanging houses.  Lunch is at one of the excellent restaurants in Cuenca, and in the afternoon, drive for a short visit to a ceramics handcraft shop.
Day 10 Met for your full day excursion to the Las Cajas National Park. Cajas is lake country, a protected 28,800-hectare area starting at 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) above sea level; the region shows remains of intense volcanic activity and glaciation.  The highest point is reached on the road at Three Crosses, the water divide of those than go to the Pacific and to the Atlantic. The wind and drizzle can make it very cold, but the scenery surrounding these 230 lakes is splendid, for walking and hiking, for observing flora, fauna and bird life.  The vegetation includes small forests of quinua trees, whilst dwarf forests are home to many species of birds like hummingbirds and the gray-breasted mountain toucan.  The cold lakes of Cajas are full of trout, and A visit to a trout-breeding hacienda is included, where lunch will naturally feature delicious fresh trout.  Return to Cuenca in the late afternoon
Day 11 Met and transferred to the airport for your internal flight to Quito, depart on EQ 172 at 08:30 arrive 09:15.  Met on arrival and transferred north to Otavalo.  Your first stop is at Calderón, a small town where local bread is made.  Continue along the valleys of Guayllabamba and Cayambe, with their dairy farms arriving around lunchtime at the hacienda Cusin where you will spend the next three nights on a full board basis. In the afternoon you will visit the town of San Antonio de Ibarra, famous for the woodcarvings, the town of Cotacachi, an entire town dedicated to selling fine leather products, and the town of Peguche where textiles are woven in old fashioned looms.
Day 12 Met for your visit the famous market of Otavalo, piled high with ponchos, woollen goods, tapestries, the original “Panama” hat, sweaters, Indian jewellery and many other peculiar handicrafts.  Lunch will be at another of the beautiful haciendas in the area.
Day 13 A free day for personal exploration and relaxation.
Day 14 Met and transferred to the airport for your return international flight.

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