DAY 1. ARRIVAL IN QUITO
Welcome to Ecuador! Our driver will meet and transfer you to the hotel.
DAY 2. HALF DAY QUITO CITY
Enjoy a half-day guided tour of Quito which is sure to impress! This interesting excursion starts in old colonial Quito in the main square where the Presidential Palace, the main Cathedral and some other important buildings can be seen. Continue to Plaza Santo Domingo and walk through “La Ronda”, one of the oldest streets in town, with colonial homes and shops dating back to the early 1600s. Your walk continues to the City Museum and San Francisco Plaza, with a quick stop to try typical homemade sweets. San Francisco is the oldest church in Quito, packed with history, legends and wonderful photo opportunities. We then visit La Merced Church with arabesque and baroque-style interiors. La Compañía de Jesús Church is one of the most beautiful temples in South America or perhaps the world. Finally, it´s up Panecillo Hill for a bird’s eye view of the city. (Breakfast)
Optional culinary experiences
· Chapolate (30-40 minutes) $15 per person
Enjoy something for kids of all ages: an informal hot chocolate making class! You first get an eye-opening briefing on the history and origins of cacao, the beans from where chocolate is made from. This goes back thousands of years ago when the beans were so valuable that they were used as currency, up to our present times, where Ecuador has become the No. 1 producer and exporter of the finest aroma chocolate in the world. We will use award-wining Pacari Ecuadorian chocolate to make your own cup of grandma’s style hot chocolate, aromatized with cinnamon, orange peel and lemongrass. We also add a special ingredient, “máchica” or toasted barley flour to make our drink thicker and resemble the traditional “chapo” that Andean people eat on a regular basis. Hence, this creation is called chapolate.
· Traditional corn tortillas (45-60 min) $25 per person
We will use kitchen utensils from 18th century Quito to prepare your own traditional corn tortillas. Fill your delectable tortillas with cheese, onions and annatto (a rare spice from the Amazon used to give food a special color and tang), and cook them on a “tiesto” or adobe hot plate. Next, we will grind organic roasted coffee beans and learn how to make a delicious cup of this aromatic brew using a “chuspa” or cloth filter. And to accent your tortillas, we will prepare a special chili sauce using a volcanic stone grinder to mix all of the ingredients – an ancient-old method still used by the more traditional Quiteño families. Finally, enjoy a healthy Ecuadorian snack!
Optional dance show
On Wednesdays and Fridays, you can experience the dance shows by Jacchigua National Folkloric Ballet, a colorful performance comprised of over 80 dancers, musicians and stage support that highlight the culture and traditions of Ecuador. This 2-hour presentation features 6,160 pounds (2,800 kilograms) of costumes and ethnic elements in various regional dances from around the country. Under the direction of choreographer and founder Rafael Camino, some of the most popular dances are: The Black Mama Festival, The Deer Hunt, The Ribbon Weaving Dance, and Traditions of Saraguro. Starts at 7:15 pm and costs USD 40 per person. More info here: www.jacchigua.org.
DAY 3. DAY TRIP TO OTAVALO PLUS QUITSATO EQUATOR MONUMENT
Departure from Quito to the northern Andes region. Brief stop at Calderón, famous for its handcrafted masapan bread-dolls. Continue through the town of Guayllabamba to savor its typical chirimoya or custard apple fruit, unlike anything you may have tried before. At Guachalá, you will cross the equator into the Northern Hemisphere, with Mt Cayambe in the distance, the only snowcapped in the world that straddles latitude zero at almost 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) above sea level. The nearby Quitsato Equatorial Marker is an experience not to be missed, where guests can straddle latitude zero “all to themselves”, away from any tourist crowds. Moreover, here you will learn about the “correct” way to view Planet Earth and the constellations, with the Big Dipper and Southern Cross visibly opposite one another at the same time. Additionally, some interactive experiments will prove you are indeed “in the middle”. At the town of Cayambe, savor Ecuadorian bizcochos – oven-baked biscuits served with cheese and/or brown sugar spread. Eventually, we reach Otavalo, known as “The Awakening Valley”, passing by beautiful San Pablo Lake and Mt Imbabura. In 1495, the Otavalo region was conquered by the Inca Empire and in turn occupied by the Spanish Crown in 1535. Today, this is a most prosperous community of skilled textile weavers, who gather to sell their products at an open-air market as they have done for centuries, not only for business, but also for socializing at this colorful gathering place. Elegantly dressed, the women do all the negotiating, where you get more than what you bargained for, as the most exquisite woven works of art will be hard to pass up. And the setting is spectacular, crowned by Andean landscapes of outstanding beauty: mountains, lakes and cascades, as integral elements of their lifestyle and beliefs. But that is not all.
In addition, by special arrangement, you will be able to witness a healing ceremony at a private indigenous home that will be a never-to-be-forgotten experience. A typical tasty lunch will be included to add to your immersion into the best of the Ecuadorian highlands. (Breakfast / Lunch)
DAY 4. DAY TRIP TO ANTISANA RESERVE
Antisana Volcano is a massive snowcap on the eastern Andean Cordillera that surpasses 5,700 m (19,000 ft) above sea level, but because of its indirect access, some 48 km (30 miles) southeast of Quito, it is well away from any major road. Indeed, it is perhaps one of the lesser-known natural wonders of Ecuador and therefore well-worth enjoying its many features. We can take you there in just a day’s outing to enjoy its main attraction: the Andean condor. En route, a number of small checker-board farmlands lead our way to these páramo grasslands that are a most important source for pure spring water. Your personable naturalist guide will point out unusual bromeliads called “puyas”, “frailejones”, Andean cushion plants and a variety of hummingbirds and other species that flock around small lagoons and deep ravines, cut by 200-year old lava flows. We will take a short hike by La Mica Lagoon to enjoy expansive views and observe the wildlife. As we drive around the reserve, we may see ibis, caracaras, and deer. (Breakfast / Lunch)
Finally, enjoy a typical lunch at a small restaurant in front of the Condor Lookout.
DAY 5. DEPARTURE
After breakfast, our driver will take you to the airport, ready to continue with our tour extensions to Galapagos, Amazon or Andes.