Reception at the airport and transfer to the hotel.
Overnight at selected hotel in Quito.
Ecuador is history, fascinating indigenous cultures, slow winding rivers and lush tropical forests, spectacular snowcapped volcanoes and some of the most exciting wildlife on earth. The place to start is the ‘Mitad del Mundo’; a site located just 30 minutes north of Quito, where a monument marks the equator at its closest point to the city. Archaeological evidence shows that both pre-Inca and Inca civilizations recognized and celebrated the equinox, the day the sun is directly over the equator.
In the morning we will make a 45-minute journey northwest to the equatorial line, where we will walk the rim of the extinct Pululahua volcanic crater. Later we will visit the “Ciudad Mitad del Mundo” a group of buildings designed to explain the significance of the site, as well as the Ethnographic or Intiñan Museum, located right on the Equator. Here you will have the chance to plant your feet in two hemispheres at the same time. Back in Quito, after lunch we will visit the city’s impressive colonial center, the reason Quito was the first city to be named a world heritage site by the United Nations. First on the agenda is a walk through the main plaza, the ‘Plaza de la Independencia’, where you will see the Government Palace, the Cathedral, and some of the most important churches built around the XVI and XVII centuries, including the San Francisco Monastery, a building begun only 5 days after the founding of the city.
Overnight at selected hotel.
You start in Quito with a 2-hour drive through the Andes to Cotopaxi. You will see bustling towns and small villages en-route, along with beautiful alpine views (weather permitting). As you approach Cotopaxi National Park, you will be able to see the snow-capped summits of both the Cotopaxi and the Antisana volcanoes on a clear day.
You will visit the Cotopaxi Interpretation center to learn about the history of its major eruptions as well as the local flora and fauna. Later, you will go to the windswept Limpiopungo Lake and discover the area by walking around it. Surrounded by beautiful peaks with Cotopaxi looming in the distance, it’s a beautiful setting to begin your discovery of the Andes ecosystem.
Optionally, if you feel like a longer walk, we can drive up the lower slopes of Cotopaxi, then embark on hike to the Jose Ribas mountain refuge (4800m), a small hostel used as a base for climbers preparing to climb to Cotopaxi’s summit. From here you will have spectacular views of Cotopaxi itself and the surrounding volcanoes of the Andes.
Overnight at selected lodge.
Included: Breakfast and dinner.
After breakfast you leave Cotopaxi and continue our route through the Avenue of the Volcanoes. Your drive to Quilotoa will take approximately 3 hours. Along the way, you will see indigenous markets. These markets are as authentic and untouristed as you can find in Ecuador today. They are important for the local indigenous people because the markets are the center of their social and economic worlds. (*Markets take place in the following days.- Tuesday: Latacunga – Wednesday - Sunday: Pujili – Thursday: Saquisili - Saturday: Zumbahua.).
Then you will visit the volcanic crater of Quilotoa, where you can appreciate a serene, green lake that is over 800 feet deep. The 2-mile-wide caldera was formed by the collapse of the now-dormant volcano following a massive eruption about 600 years ago. You’ll have the option of a short walk of 1.7 km along the crater's slope to take in the fantastic scenery. On the way back, you will stop to visit the galleries of Tigua community where you can appreciate the paintings that represent the folklore of this area in the Andes, art that has transcended and up to the third generation. You have the option of taking a painting class from a local artist, trying to learn the skills of these master artists and briefly immersing ourselves into their world.
Overnight at the lodge.
Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
After breakfast you will drive for 2 hours to Alausi to meet the Devil’s Nose train.
The biggest complication faced by the construction of the Trans-Andean railroad was the Devil’s Nose, a mountain with almost perpendicular walls. To overcome this obstacle, a zigzag railroad was built, enabling the train to climb or descend, first going one way and then reversing. The transition from Andean to coastal vegetation in an incredibly short distance is one of the journey’s most remarkable features. You descend nearly 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) in only 12 km (7.5 miles) of track. This, right on the Equator, translates into a dramatic shift in climate and environment. It is one of the most spectacular railway journeys in the world, and remains an impressive piece of engineering.
While recovering from the hair-raising descent you will enjoy the views of the narrow gorge of river Chanchán and will have the chance to learn a bit about the traditions and worldview of the Puruhua people in Sibambe.
You have two options for departing Sibambe – you can either hike or drive to the Pistishi viewpoint. The scenic, uphill hike takes about an hour. Either way, you have spectacular views of the Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose) railroad from the viewpoint.
If you prefer, you can also have transportation waiting to drive us to the viewpoint.
After admiring the view of the Devil’s Nose we will drive approximately 2 hours to Ingapirca.
The Ingapirca Ruins, are the largest and best preserved archaeological complex in Ecuador. The Inca Empire’s only remaining sun temple, it was built with stones perfectly carved and joined with natural mortar. The temple served as a venue for ceremonies and rituals of the Cañari-Inca culture, and also had strategic military purposes. You will explore the complex, learning about the various structures – from baths to the wineries.
After your time at Ingapirca, you will drive approximately 1.5 hours to reach Cuenca.
Overnight at the selected hotel.
Today you explore and celebrate the traditional craftspeople of Ecuador. The towns of Gualaceo and Chordeleg, are located just 45 minutes East of Cuenca. In these traditional settlements set in beautiful Andean landscapes, we will meet families who are still making textiles the way the "Cañaris" (the pre-Inca inhabitants) did more than 500 years ago. You will also visit the workshops of a traditional jewelry maker, a guitar maker’s that forms part of the ‘Guitar Trail’, and a ‘Chola Cuencana,’ who stills makes her straw hats in the traditional manner. Along the way you will have the opportunity to visit an orchid farm that houses more than 2,000 species of orchids, as well as visiting shoemakers, jewelers, the food and fruit market, and more.
Overnight at selected hotel.
Included: Breakfast, lunch.
Departing very early from Cuenca, you will begin to make our way to Bucay on Ecuador’s coast. The drive takes approximately 3.5 hours straight through, however you will likely be tempted to stop and take in the views or stretch our legs with a short hike in the stunning Cajas National Park on our breathtaking descent from the Andes. This park, virtually unknown outside of Ecuador, is home to Lord of the Rings type landscapes, along with incredible flora and fauna.
As your drive continues, you make your way through a variety of Ecuador’s incredible ecosystems. Your rapid descent from the Andes into the lowlands is spectacularly scenic, with snowy peaks, misty forests, and finally the coast.
On arrival in Bucay, you will visit Hacienda La Danesa. Located in Ecuador’s tropical coastal region with the spectacular Andes Mountains as backdrop, Hacienda La Danesa is a 500 Ha. traditional dairy farm that produces about 2,000 liters of milk per day, as well as fresh cheese for guests every morning. The hacienda also has cocoa and teak plantations and breeds beautiful pinto quarter horses.
During your day at Hacienda La Danesa you will be able to choose from the following activities: a tour of the cacao plantation, teak plantation tour, mountain biking and tubing on lazy rivers. You will also enjoy a delicious three-course lunch menu prepared by the Hacienda’s expert chefs.
Overnight at selected hotel in Guayaquil.
Included: Breakfast, lunch.
Transfer from the hotel to the airport.
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