Ecuador offers visitors some of the most stunning natural beauty and cultural diversity on the continent. Wander the cobblestone streets of colonial Cuenca, tasting new foods and bargaining with local vendors. Spend three nights discovering the cultural diversity of the highlands from Cotopaxi to Quilotoa, and the Inca ruins of Ingapirca. Conclude your trip with a night at Ecuador's main port city of Guayaquil. This is the perfect overview tour of Ecuador!
Hike on the earth's highest active volcano, Cotopaxi
Embark on a thrilling train ride over the Naríz del Diablo
Explore the unique ruins of Ingapirca and the colonial city of Cuenca
Visit the unique mangrove forest of Manglares Churute Ecological Reserve
Begin your journey with an exploration of the capital city of Quito. Drive north to visit "El mirador de Guápulo" (view point), from where you can admire its church and Quito's nearby valleys. Go south towards Quito's colonial center - one of the world's cultural heritage sites, where you can see many historical buildings including churches, museums, and monuments. From here continue to El Panecillo - the small, rounded hill which dominates the old town. From its summit you can see marvelous views of the whole city stretching out below, as well as magnificent views of the surrounding volcanoes.
Travel towards "La Mitad del Mundo" (the middle of the world) in the village of San Antonio, about 22 Km. north of Quito. Here visit the trapezium stone monument, which is built on the Equator, and the excellent Museo Etnográfico and Inti-Ñan.
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), ascend to El Parqueadero (15180ft/4600m). From this point hike for about an hour to El Refugio, the volcano's refuge lodge (15840ft/4800m). A short walk from here takes you to the nearest glacier.
Tonight 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. Visit Quilotoa, a beautiful emerald lagoon surrounded by several snow-capped volcanoes. After lunch, meet the famous Tigua painters. Their sheepskin paintings of traditional Andean village life have been highly regarded since before Incan times. This evening continue on to the town of Riobamba.
Head to Ecuador's most famous Inca ruin, Ingapirca. Take some time to explore the ancient citadel and the surrounding area of Cañar. Continue your journey south, following old dirt roads into the countryside. Pass a checkerboard of small farms growing corn, beans, potatoes, and other Andean staples as you make your way to Cuenca. Considered the most colonial city in all the Americas, red clay rooftops stretch throughout the city and baroque churches seem to stand on every corner.
Enjoy a full day of exploring colonial Cuenca with your guide. Choose the areas that interest you most. You may choose to depart early this morning and head to the markets at 10 de Agosto and San Francisco. From there, continue on to San Sebastion, the historical center and visit the Museum of Modern Art. Stop by the Parque de las Flores and visit Parque Calderón the city’s largest plaza and home to both the new and old cathedral. Choose from great museum options or visit a Panama Hat factory. You may choose to visit the famous Barranco along Calle Largo. Stop by Mirador de Turi for a great view of the city and finish up by visiting the Gallery of Eduardo Vega, whose ceramics have achieved international fame.
Your journey today takes you all the way to the coast. Along the way, stop to visit Cajas National Park.This amazing park in the highlands of Ecuador is located 30km west from Cuenca and with less volcanic activity than the northern highlands is formed by beautiful plateau with hundreds of water bodies with stunning views. The area will be toured for 1 to 2 hours either in the Cloud Forest or in the upper area of the Paramo.
As you get closer to the coast, econtinue with the descent towards the city of Guayaquil. On the way weather, vegetations and landscape change dramatically until we arrive to a small family farm that we will visit to observe the cultivation and process of the famous Ecuadorian Cacao; as well as banana and tropical fruit plantations. Includes lunch at the farm and finally, arrive in the coastal city of Guayaquil and head to your hotel.
Day 8: Depart Guayaquil
Head to the airport for your international flight home or extend your adventure with a trip to the Amazon or the Galapagos Islands!
The trip might have been the absolute best of our lifetime (thus far). We particularly want to commend our guide Peter in the Guilin area-he was so incredibly attentive, energetic, enthusiastic-and absolutely dedicated to ensuring that our meals were 100% vegetarian.