15 day program
Day 1: Arrival to Quito
Welcome to Ecuador! Your guide will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel.
Day 2: Quito & Equator
In the morning, see emblematic Plaza Grande, a cloister with awesome interiors, the dazzling gold-covered La Compañía Church (considered one of the wonders of the world), bustling San Francisco Square which has been highlighted in the most prestigious travel magazines, a bird's-eye view atop Panecillo Hill, plus many more surprises, depending on your specific interests. Then, escape into the countryside to have lunch at the brim of a crater. In the afternoon, visit an interactive, open-air museum that proves you’re on latitude zero, the equator! (BL)
Day 3: Quito / Lasso / Baños
Journey through Alexander von Humboldt´s Avenue of Volcanoes in the central Andean plateau that lead to a rose plantation in a province that plays tribute to a colossal volcano, Mt. Cotopaxi, and even enjoy a snack at one of the oldest colonial haciendas in Ecuador. Then, continue to a weekly market packed with color and tradition. Fruits and vegetables are interspersed with handcraft bargains, like ponchos, scarves, baskets and more. Then take a fork in the road and descend into the lush eastern valleys, interrupted by the striking Pastaza River Canyon. It is here where you might get a glimpse of one of Ecuador’s most active volcanoes, Mama Tungurahua. Overnight at a quaint hotel in the outskirts of Baños. (BL)
Day 4: Cloud Forest / Riobamba
Early morning rise for an invigorating dip in thermal springs. After a hearty breakfast, take a field trip along the Pastaza River Canyon into the lush cloud forests, including the Pailón del Diablo Waterfall, and then backtrack to the main road to head towards Riobamba, near Chimborazo Volcano, a snowcapped giant that surpasses Mt Everest from the earth’s center by 7,049 feet (geodetically speaking)! Overnight at a lodge in the outskirts of town. (BLD)
Day 5: Devil’s Nose / Ingapirca
Journey south, past beautiful indigenous villages and checkerboard farmlands, to reach the famous Devil’s Nose railway station in the town of Alausí. This incredible engineering feat of the early 20th century uses three switchbacks to descend more than 1,000 feet in a just a few miles of track. After catching your breath and emotions, continue overland to the region of Ingapirca, where you will be hosted at an old colonial hacienda with delightful rooms and family hospitality to keep you warm cozy (in addition to a hot water bottle under the covers!). This establishment overlooks the largest Incan archaeological site of Ecuador. (BLD)
Day 6: Ingapirca / Cuenca
Visit the Ingapirca ruins, Ecuador’s most important and expansive archaeological complex - a blend of present-day Cañari and ancient Incan architecture. Then, head back to the main road to continue further south to Cuenca, Ecuador´s second World Cultural Heritage site. The afternoon is at your leisure; overnight in the heart of town at a charming colonial establishment with modern-day conveniences. (BL)
Day 7: Exploring Cuenca
Enjoy a full day to discover the charming beauty of Cuenca, which over the past few years has attracted retirees the world over to make this city their home. This is a walking tour through colonial downtown streets to peak into private courtyards and gardens, only to have locals gesture you in, colorful parks and plazas, religious monuments and handcraft shops with all sorts of artful creations. After lunch at one of the many inviting restaurants with Cuencan specialties, drive up Turi Hill from where the city stretches out in all directions and the ideal place for your guide to reveal to you some of the historical and geographical highpoints of Ecuador´s third largest metropolis. Just before reaching the summit, check out the best ceramic shop in the country. Later, pick out a museum, depending on your specific interest, plus see a workshop where a four-generation-strong family has blocked and hand-finished the world-acclaimed “panama” that “Teddy” Roosevelt erroneously coined when inspecting the canal – sure enough, little did he know his stylish “Panama hat” was an Ecuadorian import! (BL)
Day 8: Gualaceo & Chordeleg
The valley of Gualaceo is 22 miles (36 kilometers) from Cuenca, at an elevation of 7,446 feet (2,370 meters) above sea level. The ride starts along the verdant Santa Ana Valley and up the mountains through the most scenic landscapes that change at every curb. A stop is made at the small town of San Bartolomé where guitars are hand-made and artistically finished, plus Chordeleg, a little town atop a hill with many stores selling gold and silver. Past the village of Gualaceo, drive along the banks of the river, lined with weeping willows, arrive at Bullcay where the weavers produce the finest shawls and scarves using back strap looms and the warp that is prepared using the complex ikat technique, where the threads are tie-dyed to form specific designs before weaving. Then visit an orchid garden with over 2500 species and continue to lunch. Afternoon return to Cuenca. (BL)
Day 9: Cuenca / Guayaquil city tour
Travel overland to Guayaquil via the Cajas National Park and tropical fruit plantations, or take a short morning flight. Enjoy a guided tour of Guayaquil in the afternoon to marvel at exotic iguanas in Seminario Park and continue to the neoclassical City Hall building. Then, walk to the Moorish Clock Tower and the 2.5 km long Malecón Simón Bolivar boardwalk on the banks of the mighty Guayas River. At La Rotonda Monument, learn about what South America´s two independence heroes, Simón Bolivar and José de San Martín, were planned for the newly formed nations. Continue to the historic colonial district of Las Peñas with its beautiful wooden homes and enjoy a panoramic view of the bustling city via a gradual climb up Santa Ana Hill. (B)
Day 10: Guayaquil / Puerto López
Depart in the early morning for a drive up north via the so-called Spondylus Route along the Pacific Coast; optional visit to Sumpa Archaeological Museum depicting an unusual burial ritual display. Arrival to Puerto López in time for lunch. In the afternoon, visit the Salango Museum that features not only the oldest ceramics in Ecuador, but in all of the Western Hemisphere, where excavations are still underway to unearth even more unique testimonies of this country´s rich cultural past (BLD)
Day 11: Isla de la Plata
After breakfast, depart for a full day visit to Isla de la Plata – a wondrous island 2 hours sailing time from the mainland. Upon arrival and with your hearty box lunch in hand, hike on one of two trails in search of a number of birds that can also be found in the Galapagos Islands, such as blue-footed boobies, pelicans, masked boobies, albatross, and seagulls. We then return to our boat for a refreshing swim and snorkeling off the island’s coast. This is a change to see many tropical fish and, with luck, sea lions. Then we sail back to Puerto López. *Whale-watching included from June to September. (BLD)
Day 12: Agua Blanca & Los Frailes
Visit the Agua Blanca Archaeological Museum, a compilation of handicrafts, ceramics and utensils from the ancient cultures that lived in this area as early as 5,000 B.C., including Manteño, Bahía, Valdivia, Machalilla, Chorrera and Guangala. After lunch it´s time to enjoy the cooling waters of the Pacific at Los Frailes, one of the most beautiful beaches on the Ecuadorian coast to relax, stroll and snorkel. Optional sea kayaking is available at an extra cost. (BLD)
Day 13: Puerto Rico
Enjoy a half-day excursion to the village of Puerto Rico on horseback along the white-sand beach and learn about the mangrove ecosystem for which Ecuador is particularly famous for. You can also visit the town church made out of bamboo that the locals are quite proud of. The afternoon is at your leisure to explore Puerto López or relax in the comfort of your hotel. (BLD)
Day 14: Pile / Manta / Quito
Continue north to the small town of Pile, an artisan´s hub where the paja toquilla straw hats, most commonly known as Panama Hats, are painstakingly hand-woven. Visit the town´s comprehensive interpretation center and meet some of the best hat weavers in the world, for it´s no wonder Ecuador has elevated this craft into a true art form. Then, continue to the city of Manta to take the flight to Quito. Upon arrival you are transferred to your hotel. (BL)
Day 15: Departure home
Transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)
− Private airport transfers.
− Transportation throughout trip.
− Accommodations in double occupancy.
− Activities as per itinerary.
− English-speaking guides.
− Meals as specified (B breakfast, L lunch, D dinner).
− Domestic flights.
− Entrance fees to museums and nature reserves.
Does not include:
− International flights.
− Drinks with meals & meals not specified.
− Travel insurance.
The itinerary allows for flexibility with regards to activities and visits, subject to weather conditions, clients’ interests, and other factors. If changes should take place prior or after your arrival, you will be duly notified beforehand. In any event, your experience will be something to be remembered and treasured!
Pacific Coast & Andes
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Quito and the Middle of the World
Otavalo and other indigenous markets
Cuenca via the Central Andes
Quilotoa circuit hike and drive
Amazon cruises and lodges
Volcano watch and mountain climbing
Shamanism and natural healing
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