Quito * Amazon * Andes * Cotopaxi * Cloud forest * Galapagos

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BEST OF ECUADOR

Ecuador Highlights

This complete round trip in Ecuador shows you all the highlights of the country. After starting in the colonial Quito, you travel to one of the best bird spotting locations in the world, the mysterious cloud forest. Additionally, you can enjoy the indigenous culture and crafts in the Andes village of Otavala where you stay in a splendid Hacienda. Then it’s time for the Amazon adventure, where you’ll observe monkeys, sloths, otters, caymans and other wildlife from a comfortable outrigger canoe or while walking. Then, you’re welcomed by the imposing Cotopaxi and Chimborazo volcanoes with spectacular landscapes and glittering crater lakes. You’ll visit local communities, cross the Andes by train and end your trip with a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experience at the Galapagos Islands.

Day 1 - Quito

Welcome to Quito.

Upon arriving in Quito (2800m), there’ll be a private transfer to the hotel, located in the old colonial centre.

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Day 2 - Quito

In the morning, the programme features a private city tour to the old urban district of Quito. You’ll be able to enjoy fine examples of colonial architecture. There’s a reason Quito is known as South America’s most well-preserved colonial city.

Aside from the town houses with blue windows frames, beautiful patios and plazas, some of the many churches, like the San Francisco, the oldest church and the cathedral are also among the sights. You’ll also visit the Plaza de la Independencia, the convent of San Agustín and the Archeological Museum. Also enjoy the lively streetscape and delicious culinary treats! You can freely spend the afternoon.

Day 2 - Quito

In the morning, the programme features a private city tour to the old urban district of Quito. You’ll be able to enjoy fine examples of colonial architecture. There’s a reason Quito is known as South America’s most well-preserved colonial city.

Aside from the town houses with blue windows frames, beautiful patios and plazas, some of the many churches, like the San Francisco, the oldest church and the cathedral are also among the sights. You’ll also visit the Plaza de la Independencia, the convent of San Agustín and the Archeological Museum. Also enjoy the lively streetscape and delicious culinary treats! You can freely spend the afternoon.

Day 3 - Cloud forest

We leave Quito using a beautiful forested mountain road with amazing views. There’s a 2-hour ride to the cloud forest ahead. The change in landscape is impressive, the peaks of the Andes change into a lush misty cloud forest. Cloud masses collide with the Andes, with subtropical plant growth and green valleys. This place is home to more than 1600 species of birds. As such, it’s known as one of the best places in the world to spot birds.

You stay in a beautifully situated accommodation, from which several hikes will be taken, under the supervision of a (naturalist) guide. You can also take beautiful hike on your own. You’ll be able to spot hummingbirds, spectacled bears, toucans, beautiful butterflies and many more birds.

Day 4 - Cloud forest - Otavalo

Early in the morning, you can participate in hikes with a guide to spot birds and other animals. After breakfast, you can make another amazing hike on your own or with a guide.  After lunch, we drive to the native village of Otavalo. You’re dropped off at a beautiful Hacienda and can spend the afternoon any way you like.

There are various horse riding options for those who enjoy it. The beautiful environment is also great for hikes.

Day 4 - Cloud forest - Otavalo

Early in the morning, you can participate in hikes with a guide to spot birds and other animals. After breakfast, you can make another amazing hike on your own or with a guide.  After lunch, we drive to the native village of Otavalo. You’re dropped off at a beautiful Hacienda and can spend the afternoon any way you like.

There are various horse riding options for those who enjoy it. The beautiful environment is also great for hikes.

Day 5 - Otavalo

We’ll visit the market of Otavalo this morning. You can indulge yourself in the typically indigenous wares that are offered here for great prices.

In the afternoon, you’ll visit native villages like Llumán or Catacachi where you’ll meet local craftsmen. Here, they still work using looms and engage in leather-working, using traditional methods. In the afternoon, you’ll visit the impressive cater lake of Cuicocha, where, during a hike, you’ll have a splendid view of the surrounding volcano peaks when the weather’s clear.

Day 6 - Hacienda & Mitad del Mundo

After breakfast, you’ll drive to the equator monument of ‘mitad del mundo’, where you visit the centre of the world. The place where the equator meets the primary meridian. In this place, you can stand on the equator, do some balance tests and play with gravity in the interactive Intinan Museum.

Afterwards, you’re brought to your hotel in Quito for the early flight to the Amazon.

Day 6 - Hacienda & Mitad del Mundo

After breakfast, you’ll drive to the equator monument of ‘mitad del mundo’, where you visit the centre of the world. The place where the equator meets the primary meridian. In this place, you can stand on the equator, do some balance tests and play with gravity in the interactive Intinan Museum.

Afterwards, you’re brought to your hotel in Quito for the early flight to the Amazon.

Day 7 - Amazon

Transfer to the airport and flight to Coca, the base for an all-in stay in the Amazon. Ecuador is one of the best countries in South America to experience the Amazon. The high concentration of wildlife in this part of the Amazon is due to the low number of tourists, small-scale eco lodges that are in perfect harmony with their environment and the large river network that ensures you can spot the wildlife up close.

After the short flight and canoe trip of around 3 hours across the Napo river, the inhabited world is left far behind. Here, indigenous native tribes live in harmony with nature.

A nature guide and local guide peddle you to your lodge in an outrigger canoe through lush plant growth. You can already spot a lot of wildlife on the way there, like large otters, snakes, monkeys, beautiful birds, crocodiles etc. The lodge is located near a splendid Amazon lake, depending on your choice of accommodation, you can do yoga, enjoy the sunset and make an exciting evening boat ride.

Day 8 - Amazon

The upcoming days, you’ll explore the Amazon rainforest on foot and by boat with a guide. This is done in the early morning and late afternoon (sunset) when the animals are most active and awake. You’ll be provided with information about the species of plants and their medicinal properties, visit the local native community, a clay lick with colourful parrots and a high observation tower to meet the animals face to face. In the evening, you’ll head out by boat to spot the glimmering eyes of caymans, bats and enchanting fireflies using a torch. The nightly sounds provide a wonder night’s rest. Hundreds of bird species live in this area from toucans to hummingbirds, you can also run into several species of monkeys, tortoises, snakes, caymans and many species of insects. Those last ones provide a deafening concert.

Day 8 - Amazon

The upcoming days, you’ll explore the Amazon rainforest on foot and by boat with a guide. This is done in the early morning and late afternoon (sunset) when the animals are most active and awake. You’ll be provided with information about the species of plants and their medicinal properties, visit the local native community, a clay lick with colourful parrots and a high observation tower to meet the animals face to face. In the evening, you’ll head out by boat to spot the glimmering eyes of caymans, bats and enchanting fireflies using a torch. The nightly sounds provide a wonder night’s rest. Hundreds of bird species live in this area from toucans to hummingbirds, you can also run into several species of monkeys, tortoises, snakes, caymans and many species of insects. Those last ones provide a deafening concert.

Day 9 - Amazon

Spend another day enjoying the world of animals and plants of the Amazon.

Day 10 - Papallacta

Today, you’re brought back to Quito by outrigger canoe and plane. From there, it’s an hour’s drive to your luxurious hotel of Papallacta, where you can wonderfully recuperate from your Amazon adventure in the hot water springs that dot the volcano landscape. The springs are right in front of your lodge, you can enjoy the spas and baths there until late in the evening.

Day 10 - Papallacta

Today, you’re brought back to Quito by outrigger canoe and plane. From there, it’s an hour’s drive to your luxurious hotel of Papallacta, where you can wonderfully recuperate from your Amazon adventure in the hot water springs that dot the volcano landscape. The springs are right in front of your lodge, you can enjoy the spas and baths there until late in the evening.

Day 11 - Cotopaxi

The adventure starts early today when you drive south to the volcano belt. The destination is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, the elegant Cotopaxi (5897 metres). The impressive snow covered volcano stands proudly in the middle of the beautiful national park that carries its name. You spend the night in an atmospheric hacienda at the foot of the national park.

Day 12 - Cotopaxi

Free day in the splendid highlands.

You can visit the national park under supervision of a guide. You can take beautiful hikes and enjoy the glittering highland lakes. The active traveller can take a hike up to around 4680 metres, this is quite a tough hike through the high mountains.

There are also splendid horse riding options from the hacienda with breath taking views of the volcano. The level is accessible to everyone and is absolutely recommended. You can also follow an empanada cooking workshop in the hacienda, which is a lot of fun if you want to master the local cooking techniques.

 

Day 12 - Cotopaxi

Free day in the splendid highlands.

You can visit the national park under supervision of a guide. You can take beautiful hikes and enjoy the glittering highland lakes. The active traveller can take a hike up to around 4680 metres, this is quite a tough hike through the high mountains.

There are also splendid horse riding options from the hacienda with breath taking views of the volcano. The level is accessible to everyone and is absolutely recommended. You can also follow an empanada cooking workshop in the hacienda, which is a lot of fun if you want to master the local cooking techniques.

Day 13 - Quilatoa Crater lake

Early this morning, you’ll drive to Laguna Quilotoa, the most beautiful crater lake of Ecuador. The crater lake is at a height of 3900 metres and occasionally changes from emerald green to heavenly blue due to the high concentration of sulphur. You’ll be amazed by its beauty.
The lake is at a 5-minute walk from the parking lot. You can also choose from hikes of 3 or 6 hours across a properly constructed path along the edge of the crater. On the way, you’ll encounter llamas, alpacas and the beautifully dressed indigenous population.

A visit to the Shalala project is also one of the options. There are accommodations and a lookout tower built by the indigenous population with a spectacular view of the lake. They sell their handmade wares there and this allows you to provide a small contribution to the local economy.

At the end of the afternoon, you’ll drive on to Banos.

Day 14 - Banos

Free day in Banos.

You can do all kinds of activities in Banos; horse riding, hiking, mountain biking and rafting are some of the options. You can also visit many waterfalls nearby and Banos has the highest swing in the world.

Day 14 - Banos

Free day in Banos.

You can do all kinds of activities in Banos; horse riding, hiking, mountain biking and rafting are some of the options. You can also visit many waterfalls nearby and Banos has the highest swing in the world.

Day 15 - Chimborazo & Communities

The Chimborazo National Park is at a 2,5 hour drive from Banos. The Chimborazo stands at 6,267 metres and is the highest of the 60 volcanoes in Ecuador. Thanks to its location close to the equator, this volcano is also the highest point on earth, measured from the core of the earth. You can see the elegant vicuña on the abandoned plains.

Afterwards, you drive on to Guamote, a native village with colourful local attire like ponchos and bowler hats with peacock feathers. You’ll visit a local school and the Inti Sisa volunteer project run by Flemish people. You’ll spend the night in the colourful, comfortable posada, of which the profits go to the project. The Flemish volunteers can tell you a lot about the indigenous population and the beautiful initiative.

Day 16 - Inca ruines & Andes train ride

Today, we’ll travel towards Cuenca through an untouched Andes landscape.

On the way, you visit Ecuador’s only Inca ruin, Ingapirca, with its sun temple. There’s also the option of booking the world-famous Devil’s Nose train ride, which zigzags through the Andes mountain range.

Day 16 - Inca ruines & Andes train ride

Today, we’ll travel towards Cuenca through an untouched Andes landscape.

On the way, you visit Ecuador’s only Inca ruin, Ingapirca, with its sun temple. There’s also the option of booking the world-famous Devil’s Nose train ride, which zigzags through the Andes mountain range.

Day 17 - Cuenca

Free day in Cuenca.

Today, you can explore this beautiful colonial city on your own. Wander through the beautiful streets, enjoy the many delicious ice cream salons, markets, nice shops and splendid plazas with cathedrals that can be found in the city.

Day 18 - El Cajas NP - Guayaquil

On the way to Guayaquil, you visit the Cajas National Park. The park has over 250 lakes located between 3000 and 4500 metres. It’s a rough area with bushes, paper trees, orchids, cactuses and other plants that can grow at this altitude. The Paramo landscapes are interspersed with cloud forests that can be found in the slightly lower areas. You can find animals like deer, foxes, marmots and many species of birds like hawks, hummingbirds and the condor.

Tonight, you’ll stay in Guayaquil.

Day 18 - El Cajas NP - Guayaquil

On the way to Guayaquil, you visit the Cajas National Park. The park has over 250 lakes located between 3000 and 4500 metres. It’s a rough area with bushes, paper trees, orchids, cactuses and other plants that can grow at this altitude. The Paramo landscapes are interspersed with cloud forests that can be found in the slightly lower areas. You can find animals like deer, foxes, marmots and many species of birds like hawks, hummingbirds and the condor.

Tonight, you’ll stay in Guayaquil.

Day 19 - Galapagos

Transfer to the airport for a flight of around 2 hours to the Galapagos Islands, for an all-inclusive 4-day cruise. You’ll fly to Baltra; a small island north of Santa Cruz. On your way to the port of Ayora where you get on your ship, you can encounter a colony of wild giant tortoises, the pelicans fly overhead and sea lions welcome you on the pier. From the pier, you can enjoy the display of schools of golden rays, sharks and playful seals.

Depending on which cruise you choose, you explore different islands that give you a stunning close-up of wildlife. You moor in beautiful bays and can enjoy the volcanic evolution of the islands, the place where Darwin conceived his theory of evolution.

Day 20-22 - Galapagos

Under the supervision of a professional guide, you moor multiple times a day during the cruise for wildlife observations and learn a lot about the unique flora of the Galapagos Islands. On the white beaches, you’re welcomed by blue-footed boobies, stubborn iguanas, flamingos, pelicans and playful sea lions. Giant tortoises are hiding in the giant cactus forests and it’s an amazing experience to come face to face with one of these enormous creatures.
The underwater world of the Galapagos Islands is equally breathtaking. There are multiple stops that allow you to swim in the Pacific area and can snorkel among turtles, iguanas, penguins, sea lions, oceanic whitetip sharks and schools of rays and other fish. An experience to never forget!

You can choose between 4-day, 5-day or 8-day cruises in multiple price categories.

The last day, the guide will take you to the Baltra airport for a flight to Guayaquil or Quito. Transfer to the hotel.

Day 20-22 - Galapagos

Under the supervision of a professional guide, you moor multiple times a day during the cruise for wildlife observations and learn a lot about the unique flora of the Galapagos Islands. On the white beaches, you’re welcomed by blue-footed boobies, stubborn iguanas, flamingos, pelicans and playful sea lions. Giant tortoises are hiding in the giant cactus forests and it’s an amazing experience to come face to face with one of these enormous creatures.
The underwater world of the Galapagos Islands is equally breathtaking. There are multiple stops that allow you to swim in the Pacific area and can snorkel among turtles, iguanas, penguins, sea lions, oceanic whitetip sharks and schools of rays and other fish. An experience to never forget!

You can choose between 4-day, 5-day or 8-day cruises in multiple price categories.

The last day, the guide will take you to the Baltra airport for a flight to Guayaquil or Quito. Transfer to the hotel.

Day 23 - Quito

Transfer to the airport for the international return flight.

End of an unforgettable trip through Ecuador.

Included:
* All accommodations with breakfast
* Mentioned meals
* Transport like mentioned in the program, except from domestic flights
* Excursions like mentioned in the program, unless stated otherwise

Not included:
* International and domestic flights
* Not mentioned meals
* Entry fees national parks, unless mentioned differently
* Optional and not mentioned services and excursions