Head south from Quito, along the "Avenue of the Volcanoes", viewing the breathtaking high plains surrounding the magnificent snow-capped Cotopaxi - the earth's highest active volcano (19347ft/5897m). This area provides excellent opportunities to spot the Andean Condor. After lunch in the Limpiopungo valley (12540ft/3800m), we'll ascend to El Parqueadero (15180ft/4600m). From this point we'll hike for about an hour to El Refugio, the volcano's refuge lodge (15840ft/4800m). A short walk from here will take us to the nearest glacier. Tonight we'll overnight in one of Ecuador's most famous haciendas, the 400 year old Hacienda La Cienega. This enchanting hacienda on the slopes of Cotopaxi has hosted many of Ecuador's former presidents as well as Alexander von Humboldt, founder of modern geography.
After breakfast this morning head south to Latacunga along the magnificent Central Valley, which is sheltered by two parallel mountain ranges. We'll visit Quilotoa, a beautiful emerald lagoon surrounded by several snow-capped volcanoes. After lunch, we'll meet the famous Tigua painters. Their sheepskin paintings of traditional Andean village life have been highly regarded since before Incan times. This evening return to Quito.