Ecuador – Andes to Amazon

Resort:Ecuador - Andes to Amazon
Operator: Explore
Destination: Ecuador, Latin America
Price From: £1675.00

Over View

Next to the giants of Peru and Brazil, Ecuador is a tiny pocket of underrated beauty. Our ambitious journey encompasses a wealth of culture and nature, taking in traditional Andean villages, snow-capped volcanic peaks, lush jungle landscapes and a fascinating colonial history.

Volcanoes – Drive through the spectacular Avenue of the Volcanoes and walk in Cotopaxi National Park
Otavalo – Marvel at the colour and noise of this traditional indigenous market
Banos – Relax in this small town, the gateway to the jungles of the orient
Why not extend your stay? – Some dates of this trip can combine with our 4 night Galapagos Island cruises (trip codes: GM4A or GM4B), giving you one of the world’s most sought after wildlife experiences


Day 1 Join trip in Quito

Arrive in Quito, Ecuador’s mountain capital and, at 2,850m, the second highest capital city in Latin America. Quito lies in a narrow valley at the foot of Pichincha volcano, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and extinct volcanoes. The fascinating UNESCO Heritage site of the Old City, with its rich blend of colonial architecture, imposing churches and bustling local markets, makes for a stunning introduction to this most enchanting of regions.

Due to the number of evening flights into Quito, your Leader plans to do the welcome meeting on the morning of day two, and will leave a message in reception with details on timings and everything else that you’ll need for the day. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Quito at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you’ll need to arrive into Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), approximately a 1 hour drive respectively from our hotel. Should you miss the meeting, your leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.

If your flight arrives earlier in the day, you could spend time resting and acclimatizing to the altitude at the hotel, or take a gentle stroll around the atmospheric streets of the old town, stopping for a refreshing drink of horchata and a delicious empanada.

Day 2 Tour of Quito’s highlights including the Church of San Francisco

We begin with a walking tour of Quito, Ecuador’s mountain capital and the second highest capital city in Latin America. One of South America’s most beautiful cities, Quito lies in a narrow valley at the foot of Pichincha Volcano, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and extinct volcanoes. The fascinating UNESCO Heritage Site of the Old Town, with its rich blend of colonial architecture, imposing churches and bustling local markets, makes for a stunning introduction to Ecuador. We will visit some of the main sites, including the Plaza de la Independencia, the cultural heart of the colonial city, and La Compania church with its magnificent gilded altars, walls and ceilings. At the church of San Francisco we are introduced to Quito’s largest and oldest colonial church, built in 1553. A climb to the top of nearby Cerro Panecillo affords us one of the best views across the city and the surrounding mountains, presenting us with an unparalleled vista of the encircling Andes from the viewing platform offered by the statue of the Virgen de Quito.

Day 3 Visit the Quitsato Equator Monument en route to Otavalo; visit Peguche Village

This morning we drive to Otavalo via the Equator line, stopping off at the Quitsato Equator monument, a huge sundial spanning 54 metres across, which celebrates the crossing of the equator line at zero degrees. From this huge clock face, a compass of stones allows you to not only read the time, but also the month, while other features indicate the solstices and equinoxes. The word ‘Quitsato’ comes from the language of the indigenous Tsachilas people from the Ecuadorian coast. ‘Quitsa’ means ‘Middle’, and ‘To’ means ‘world; Quitsato therefore means Middle of the World, and it is from this word that Ecuador’s capital city also derives its name. Following the Panamericana Highway, we then head north, towards San Pablo Lake, via the scenic route Cayambe – Zuleta, where we take a gentle walk. We will have lunch before continuing to the indigenous village of Peguche. This village is famed for its local families who make colourful weavings plus others who play traditional Andean music by using several types of panpipes made by themselves. We will stop and enjoy visiting one of the musician families before heading to Otavalo where we will overnight.

Day 4 Explore Otavalo Market and visit Laguna Cuicocha

This morning we explore the small market town of Otavalo. The town is one of South America’s most important areas for ethno-tourism and its regular markets attract traders and artisans from as far away as Peru and Bolivia. The Otavalenos are an incredibly dignified and assured people, proudly displaying their cultural traditions and ancient heritage for all to see. The market is a rich confusion of goods and styles from right across the region, with jewellery, rugs, woven linen bags, woodcarvings and leather goods on display. Add to that the visual majesty of the setting and the colourful costumes of the protagonists and you have a truly remarkable cultural experience. This afternoon we take a drive out to the tranquil setting of Cuicocha, a turquoise crater-lake located at 3100m and approached though a wonderful landscape of alpine vegetation. Located in the Western Cordillera, at the foot of Cotocachi, this now dormant volcanic caldera is a prime spot to find the ‘King of the Andes’, wide-winged condors that soar high above the valleys in graceful flight. There may be the option to go for a walk along a segment of the trail that goes around the lake (1.5 hours) before returning to Otavalo for the evening.

Day 5 Visit Cotopaxi, drive via the Avenue of the Volcanoes to Quito

Our journey to Quito takes us south through some of the most impressive mountain scenery in the entire country, into the landscapes so aptly described by the German explorer Alexander von Humboldt as the ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’. We actually drive just past Quito this morning, into the spectacular Cotopaxi National Park, where we shall see one of the world’s highest active volcanoes. Ecuador’s second highest mountain, Cotopaxi is a classic volcanic cone, snow covered and rising an imposing 5897m from the valley floor below. We will take some time whilst we are here to walk around the Limpiopungo Plateau (1.5 hours), where a shallow glacial lake presents us with a perfect spot to explore something of the rich flora and fauna of the paramo (high altitude Andean grasslands). Set between the imposing masses of Cotopaxi and Ruminahui, the plateau is a haven for birdlife, as well as wild horses, the south american fox and the white tailed deer. After exploring this majestic place, we head back north to our overnight stop in Quito.

Day 6 Drive to the Amazon, our base for the next three nights

This morning we will drive north-east to Termas de Papallacta, this route was taken by the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Orellana in 1542 as he crossed the Andes mountain range upon discovering the Amazon and Amazon River. Termas de Papallacta Spa & Resort is located just 67 km (40 miles) from Ecuador’s capital. With an altitude of 3300 meters (10,824 feet) above sea level and a cold wet climate we will enjoy a couple of hours at the thermoludic area, which consists of five hot thermal pools and one cold pool. We’ll continue driving into the Amazon Region and will take a short walk around the lodge before dinner.

Day 7 Explore the Amazon by canoe searching for wildlife

After breakfast we will depart the lodge for a canoe trip on the Misahualli and Napo River to the protected forest of Misicocha where we will walk in the forest. We will admire the extraordinary flora and the exotic sounds of the primary rainforest. If we are lucky, we might see toucans, oropendolas, parrots and small monkeys. The local guide will explain the flora and fauna of the Amazon Region with special emphasis on medicinal plants. We will have lunch in a typical hut with a wonderful view over the Napo River We will return to our canoe and ride upstream to visit the indigenous village of Muyuna and find out how to prepare ‘chicha’, a fermented yuca drink.

Day 8 Walk along the Misahualli River learning about local plants and visiting an Indian Community

Today we go for a walk with a native guide who will explain the typical plants of this area and their daily use. During the hike we will pass through a labyrinth of high rocks with caves and amazing vegetation. After lunch, we will walk along the Misahualli River to the small village of Pununo where we cross a suspended bridge and enter the territory of the indigenous community of ‘Alto Pununo’ where we will see how the local people live and work.

Day 9 Travel the Waterfall Route to Banos

Crossing from the Amazon Jungle to the Highlands we will drive through the ‘Avenue of Waterfalls’. We’ll stop to visit the Pailon del Diablo waterfall, and will continue to the town of Banos, sitting below the active Tungarahua volcano. If the level of activity of the volcano changes, the accommodation for tonight is subject to change, but we will keep you updated if that happens.

Day 10 Visit Chimborazo Forest Reserve, overnight in Alausi

Today we plan to see the highest peak in Ecuador in the Chimborazo Forest Reserve. Mt. Chimborazo, at 6310 mts is the most distant point from the centre of the earth. The reserve is an important protected area that guards a wide variety of vegetation and animals, including alpacas and vicunas. Once in the reserve, we will drive up to the ‘Hermanos Carrel Refuge’ located at 4800m, a great place to take a rest and enjoy a fantastic view of the beautiful Ecuadorian Andes. From here we will descend to El Arenal at 4200m, here we will take a leisurely 1 hour walk observing the vegetation, fauna and landscapes of the reserve. Leaving this magnificent scenery behind, we will continue driving to Alausi, where we will stay overnight.

Day 11 Travel on the ‘Devil’s Nose’ Train before continuing to Cuenca

Today we take the train to Sibambe, which is inaccessible by road. This famous railway is a triumph of engineering. From Alausi the track drops 800m down a ridge and into the gorge of the Ro Chanchan. This almost sheer descent, known as the ‘Devil’s Nose’, was achieved by building a series of switch backs, making it one of the most exciting train rides in the world. From here, we continue to the small town of Huigra where we rejoin our bus. Our trip continues south along the scenic Panamerican Highway with a stop in Ingapirca, the main Inca complex in Ecuador where we will visit its principal archeological sites, before continuing to Cuenca.

Day 12 Cuenca city tour, visit the Panama Hat Factory

Today, we’ll visit the principal neighbourhoods and streets of Cuenca, a UNESCO World Heritage city. We will visit the downtown historical area, the central market, Abdon Calderon Park with its new and old cathedral. This city continues a proud intellectual tradition that has produced many notable writers, poets, artists, and philosophers We continue the tour to the Homero Ortega Panama Hat factory to observe the complete process of manufacturing of the Panama hat which is undoubtedly most important to our country. Finally we will visit the tourist balcony of ‘Turi’ where we can see a panoramic view of the whole city of Cuenca.

Day 13 Discover Cajas National Park before travelling to Guayaquil

We will drive to Guayaquil on the El Cajas route, stopping at the national park. Here, we’ll visit Llaviuco lake for a one and a half hour walk, before travelling to Guayaquil for the night.

Day 14 Morning city tour of Guayaquil city tour before the tour ends

This morning there is time for a tour of Guayaquil before the trip ends. We’ll visit the administration square, where the local government buildings are located. Then we’ll go Parque Seminario, also known as ‘Parque de las Iguanas’ due to the colonies of land iguanas that can be found there and visit the Metropolitan Cathedral of Guayaquil. We will walk to the Malecon 2000 to visit Torre Morisca and La Rotonda before our bus takes us to the bohemian neighbourhood of Las Penas, which was declared as a Cultural Heritage Site in 1982.

You will be dropped off at the airport at approximately 12pm once the city tour has finished, however if you’d like to leave earlier and skip the city tour you are free to organise flights at any time. If you’d like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you’ll need to depart from Guayaquil’s Jose Joaquin de Olmedo International Airport (airport code: GYE), which is approximately a 20 minute drive from our hotel.