AITO: The Association of Independent Tour Operators
Ecuador - Astride the Equator

Ecuador - Astride the Equator

Ecuador - Astride the Equator Overview

On this well researched small group tour you will discover a different side of Ecuador; a surprisingly lush land with an abundance of eco-diversity from warm sandy white beaches, damp cloud forests, giant snow clad volcanoes, colourful markets, bright colonial cities and a part of the Amazon basin packed with amazing wildlife encounters.

Day 1: Arrival in Quito
Arrive in Quito and transfer to the hotel. Depending on your time of arrival, you may have time to explore the city. Overnight Casa Sol or similar. No meals are included today.

Day 2: Quito
This morning explore the colonial old town of Quito (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Visit the major colonial churches and monasteries including La Catedral, El Sagrario, La Compañia and San Francisco. Later, visit Independence Plaza flanked by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishop’s Palace. Continue to the Church of San Francisco, one of the greatest religious buildings in South America. Its impressive façade and atrium lead to an opulent gold interior, a Baroque influence with the winged Virgin of Quito at its main altar. Visit the historic colonial quarter of Quito, resplendent with its churches, gilded altars and religious sculptures and paintings dating from the 17th 18th and 19th centuries. The tour continues through narrow streets, ancient colonial houses with Moorish-style arches and mysterious patios to El Panecillo, a vantage point for a stunning view of the city. This afternoon, drive from Quito north to Mitad del Mundo (literally middle of the world) where the Equatorial Line Monument is located. Here you can stand with one foot in the Northern, and one in the Southern hemisphere. Leaving Quito behind, continue to Otavalo. Overnight Hotel Santa Fe or similar. (BD)

Day 3: Otavalo - Cuicocha Lagoon – Cotacachi – Otavalo
This morning, we explore the surroundings of the Cuicocha Crater Lagoon during an easy to moderate grade 4-5 hour hike through the flora of the Andean highlands. After a traditional lunch in Cotacachi, visit a small archaeological museum. This afternoon, stroll through the Otavalo market and perhaps try the exotic fruits and vegetables. Overnight Hotel Santa Fe or similar (BL)

Day 4: Otavalo – Excursion on the Andean Train – Otavalo
Enjoy a train ride full of contrasts taking you through Imbabura today. Starting in Ibarra, travel to Salinas and back where you can enjoy the culture and history of the Afro-Ecuadorians. Along the way the train makes many stops, where you will get insights into the history, music, gastronomy, craft, and above all the spectacular scenery of the northern Andes. Hotel Santa Fe or similar. (BL)

Day 5: Otavalo – Papallacta – Archidona
Enjoy a walk early this morning through the streets of the Andean town of Otavalo to observe the lively market activity in Plaza de Poncho and the Andean culture of the Otavaleños. Continue over an Andean Pass of 4050m altitude into a valley at 3300 m where thermal springs feed the most beautiful Spa in the country. This afternoon we reach Hakuna Matata, a cosy rainforest lodge in the midst of a private protected forest. Overnight Hakuna Matata Lodge or similar. (BD)

Day 6: Archidona – Hike in the rainforest and Pacari chocolate experience
This morning take a hike through the protected rainforest of the lodge. Your nature guide will point out interesting medicinal plants and talk about the wildlife in the area. The destination of the hike is the small village of Santa Rita, where a delicious jungle lunch awaits you. Afterwards, the experts from Pacari show you how to make delicious chocolate from the local cocoa beans. After returning to the lodge, enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure. Overnight Hakuna Matata Lodge or similar. (BLD)

Day 7: Arajuno River – Quichua Community – Misahualli
Early this morning head to the Arajuno River, take a canoe trip to a clay lick, where you can observe hundreds of parrots and parakeets. Continue by canoe to the indigenous Quichua community of Santa Barbara to taste many local dishes in a typical jungle buffet with the community. Later continue to the small jungle town of Misahualli for a typical “Almuerzo” (Lunch). After a small walk through the village and its surroundings, return to the lodge. Overnight Hakuna Matata Lodge or similar. (BLD)

Day 8: Puyo – Macas
After breakfast, travel through the rainforest to Puyo where we visit an Animal Rescue Centre to observe tropical animals of the Amazon region and meet some monkeys face to face. From here, continue deeper into the rainforest to the small jungle town of Macas. Here there will be some time to relax at leisure in the afternoon in a nice rainforest Hosteria. Overnight Luzcelinda Hotel or similar (BD)

Day 9: Macas - Shuar Waterfall – Lagoons of Atillo – Guamote
A short drive, takes us to Shuar territory. Take a round trip of walk of around 3 hours through the forest to a sacred waterfall, where we participate in the spiritual waterfall ceremony of the Shuar, after which enjoy a soak in the waterfall and taste the typical food of the Shuar. Later, continue to the Atillo Lakes, crossing the Andean highlands to Guamote. Overnight Inti Sisa Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 10: Guamote – Andean Kichwa Community – Riobamba
Visit the traditional Andean Market of Guamote early this morning. After visiting the market, take a train ride over the “Devil’s Nose”, zigzagging through the valley up to Sibambe. After a short visit, return to Guamote. Later this afternoon, explore the area of Guamote and visit one of the surrounding small villages to get an insight into the life of the Kichwa population. This afternoon, travel to Riobamba, surrounded by the mountains of Chimborazo, Carihuayrazo, El Altar, and Tungurahua. The city is considered to be the most important agricultural centre of the Ecuadorian Andes. Overnight Mansion Santa Isabella or similar. (BL)

Day 11: Chimborazo Volcano (Altitude: 6,267m) – Latacunga
Today travel from Riobamba up to the heights of the mighty Chimborazo volcano. On the way, stop at one of the Indigenous Kichwa Communities that live here at an altitude of over 3000 metres. From here, continue to the mountain hut Hermanos Carrel at an altitude of 4800 metres altitude. The adventurous can then hike from here to the Whymper hut at over 5000 metres altitude. Later this afternoon, arrive at the small town of Latacunga situated at an altitude of 2800 metres. Overnight Villa Tacunga or similar. (BL)

Day 12: Latacunga – La Victoria - Zumbahua – Quilotoa Lagoon – Chugchilan
This morning continue to the village of La Victoria, which is famous for the traditional manufacture of ceramics. Continue to the Andean market of Zumbahua and experience the noisy and chaotic market before heading to the beautiful crater lagoon, Quilotoa. On a short hike, enjoy the changing views of the lagoon and the surrounding Andes Mountains. Overnight Mama Hilda Hotel or similar (BLD)

Day 13: Chugchilan - Hacienda La Cienega – Cotopaxi National Park – Quito
This morning drive to the 400-year-old Hacienda La Cienega and enjoy a coffee break in this nostalgic atmosphere before visiting a nearby flower farm to experience the many colours and fragrances. Continue to Cotopaxi National Park and enjoy an easy walk around Limpiopungo Lagoon, learning about the typical vegetation of the Andes and, with good weather, enjoy superb views of the impressive Cotopaxi. Lunch is taken In the mountain refuge Tambopaxi surrounded by the impressive peaks of Sincholagua and Cotopaxi before returning to Quito. Overnight Hotel Casa Sol (BL)

Day 14: Departure from Quito
Time at leisure until your transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)
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