Small Group tour. 8 days / 7 nights
Start: Saturday in Quito
[N.B. This trip can be tailor-made for private groups and individuals, to begin any day.]
We run this brilliant tour once a month. People come from all over the world to form a mixed-nationality group of a max 12 persons. The guide is tri-lingual (English, Quechua and Spanish) and you will discover the wonderful natural mountain landscapes, beautiful colonial cities of Quito and Cuenca and the local people who are waiting to welcome you. The famous train ride “Devil’s Nose” is included along with hidden-away villages, colourful markets, the largest Inca site in Ecuador and the majestic snow-capped volcanoes on the High Andes. The trip ends by travelling through banana and cacao plantations to reach the Pacific Ocean.
Day 1 (Sat): Quito City Tour and The Equator Monument (Mitad del Mundo)
Your journey begins with an exploration of Quito the capital of Ecuador (2,850 m) and one of the oldest cities in South America. The architecture of the city centre is a treasure of the Spanish colonial period and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1978. The walking tour visits several UNESCO buildings and includes “El Panecillo” hill, to meet the winged virgin and enjoy a panoramic view over Quito. Lunch at El Tianguez restaurant.
In the afternoon we drive to the Equator Monument “Middle of the World”, which is located in a valley on the northern outskirts of Quito. Visit the Museo del Sitio Inti Ñan, which records several different indigenous cultures and their traditional way of life
Overnight hotel in Quito. B&B; lunch included.
Day 2 (Sun): the local market at Pujili; Quilotoa crater lake
Leave Quito heading south towards Cotopaxi province. Our first stop is the indigenous market of Pujili, which is off the beaten track and a massive display of scents and colours (it’s a rose market, amongst other thiungs!). Travel on to Quilotoa, a crater lake filled with turquoise water. Trek down from the crater rim to the shoreline. No need to worry about the way back, because there are horses and mules to hop aboard! Back at the rim for a picnic lunch. Continue to the hacienda (“farmhouse”) for dinner and overnight.
B/ Box Lunch / D.
Day 3 (Mon): Cotopaxi National Park – Rose plantation – Baños
In the morning drive into Cotopaxi National Park for a short hike to the foot of the snow-capped colossus and discover its diverse flora and fauna. Continue to the José Ribas Refuge 4,800 m where a short path leads right to the edge of the glaciers.
Return to the car and drive to the the Nevado Roses plantation that thrives on this volcanic soil. See the different varieties of roses and learn about the production and export process. Lunch at the plantation, before continuing to Baños, the lively pilgrimage town with its famous thermal springs and beautiful cathedral. Overnight hotel.
B, L or upgrade to the Spa Hotel Luna Runtun (FB).
Day 4 (Tue): Excursion to Pailon del Diablo – Baños – Riobamba
Baños (1,800 m) feels delightful after the recent high altitude. There is time for a stroll around town this morning before setting off for “The Route of the Waterfalls” which runs along the Pastaza River Gorge. Stop at Rio Verde and take a short walk through the cloud forest to reach the thundering waterfall known as “Pailon del Diablo” (Devil’s cauldron).
In the afternoon, continue to the highest volcano in Ecuador, Chimborazo (6,310 m). The landscape is sandy and desert-like and herds of shy vicuñas (similar to llamas) graze the meagre slopes. From here you can walk to the Edward Whymper shelter (5,000 m) for the stunning view back down the valley.
The day ends in Riobamba. Overnight hotel or hacienda. (B/D)
Day 5 (Wed): Devil’s Nose train ride – Ingapirca – Cuenca
An early start driving through picturesque landscapes and small villages to reach The Alausí train station where we hop on board one of the most famous trains in the world; The ‘Devils Nose’ which is an unforgettable journey down an almost sheer rock-face; the train makes switchbacks all the way down the cliff and then all the way back up the other side!
Picnic lunch and visit to Ingapirca which is the largest Inca site in Ecuador. Explore the temples and fortifications with a guide. In the late afternoon continue to Cuenca and check-in to the hotel. Before turning in for the night we will have a delicious dinner at the charming restaurant “Villa Rosa”.
Day 6 (Thu): City tour in Cuenca´s colonial centre.
A guide will show you around the beautiful colonial city of Cuenca, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999. The tour includes a visit to a workshop and museum of the famous Panama hat, the finest braided hats of the world.
Lunch at “El Maiz” restaurant which specializes in fusion cuisine. The afternoon is free for you to explore this charming city independently. Overnight as previous night.
Day 7 (Fri): El Cajas National Park – Guayaquil
Head west to El Cajas National Park, a high-altitude park (4,200 m) with an astounding variety of plant and animal life: in addition to rugged ridges and deeply incised, box-shaped valleys, there are 240 lagoons; this is the most western watershed between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. After this the route descends to the coastal region, passing through changing landscapes as the altitude drops and the vegetation grows in size and variety. Drive through extensive cocoa, bananas, rice, and sugar cane plantations to enter the bustling metropolis of Guayaquil, the largest city in the country.
Check in to the hotel. Explore the city on foot starting from Parque Bolivar; this is a green city with a strong arts culture. Gather in the evening for a farewell dinner at the traditional restaurant “Lo Nuestro”. (B /D)
Day 8 (Sat): Transfer to the airport for your return flight or your next adventure!
This trip is available at two accommodation levels, 3 star (Standard) or 4 star (Superior) or you can mix-n-match! Details available upon request.
7 nights in double room. B&B
Meals as detailed above
English speaking guide and driver
Private transport throughout
Visits and excursions as described in the itinerary.
Soft and alcoholic drinks