Travel by raft, bike, and horseback while exploring four of Ecuador's ecosystems: high altitude Andean forest, paramo (grassland), cloud forest, and glaciers on Cotopaxi Volcano. Jump right into the action with a fast-paced mountain bike descent down Pichincha Volcano to begin your Ecuador travel. Then settle into your lodge perched above the cloud forest canopy, and begin exploring the miles of trails that wind through waterfalls and steep ravines. Continue the adventure with an exhilarating whitewater rafting trip before you set off to explore the high Andes near the Cotopaxi Volcano on foot and horseback.
Bike down the slopes of Pichincha Volcano to Bellavista Cloud Forest
Explore miles of trails in Bellavista Cloud Forest & search for wildlife
Raft down Class III rapids in the Western Andes
Horseback ride across the páramo next to wild horses and bulls
Begin your Ecuador travel adventure with an exhilarating descent down the slopes of Pichincha Volcano to the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve. The tundra grass of the Andean paramo (high altitude grassland) changes before your eyes (and the knobby tires of your bikes) as you roll into the lush cloud forest. Steep gorges and ridges covered by impenetrable jungle provide spectacular views on the 3-4 hour downhill ride. In the afternoon, settle into Bellavista's cloud forest lodge and begin your first explorations of this unique ecosystem.
Bellavista protects 1800 acres of endangered cloud forest on the western slopes of the Andes. Bordering the Choco bio-region, the forest is part of something that scientists refer to as a biodiversity "hotspot" - a place of extreme biodiversity in danger of extinction. Today explore the miles of trails at Bellavista, passing by waterfalls, steep ravines, and thick gardens of hanging epiphytes in search of some of the 320 bird species recorded here. Learn more about the area's complex ecology, what Bellavista is doing to protect it, and about the endangered mammals such as the spectacled bear, mountain lion, Andean coati, and others that take refuge here.
Day 4: Whitewater Rafting near Santo Domingo de los Colorados
Time to hit the Class III+ rapids of the best whitewater in the Western Andes! During the winter months, raft on the Rio Blanco and in the summer paddle the Rio Toachi. On these exhilarating rides, pass through forested canyons and isolated villages as you descend towards the Pacific lowlands. This afternoon, you return to the highlands to the western flank of the Cotopaxi Volcano for dinner and to rest after an exciting day.
A thirty-minute drive takes you to the Hacienda Santa Rita Ecological Reserve and the impressive 270 foot high Condor Machay Waterfall. Continue on foot along a trail that takes you through a very unique native forest of the Andes known as the "paper bark tree forest". Continue to the village of El Pedregal where you have the chance to experience the local culture of the area before continuing to El Porvenir. Today's hike is 11 kilometers (7 miles).
After breakfast drive to El Porvenir, a fully-functioning hacienda and your base for the next three nights, set high in the Andean paramo with spectacular views of Cotopaxi. After a brief orientation is given to get acquainted with the horses, head out on horseback in the spirit of the Chagras (Ecuadorian highland cowboys) to visit the foothills of Rumiñahui Volcano, riding side by side with herds of wild horses and bulls. As you cross the paramo, enjoy the birds and wildlife while the local guides share their knowledge of medicinal plants. Afterwards, a delicious lunch of local dishes awaits you upon your return to the farmhouse.
In the afternoon learn how to milk a cow by hand and later on, have your Cooking in the Clouds lessons. The class starts with cooking lessons or the famous cheese empanadas, followed by the elaboration of aji. Aji or chili sauce is a very important part of Ecuadorian cuisine. The recipe varies from home to home. At Hacienda El Porvenir, learn how to make it the traditional way, on a stone mortar and seasoned with various herbs and spices. At last, learn how to prepare the delicious canelazo, a traditional hot drink that is served on celebrations on the Highlands of Ecuador. After the class, the participants enjoy their preparations next to a crackling fireplace. Dinner and overnight stay.
Day 7: High Ropes Course & Biking through the Andean Woods
In the morning after breakfast, get ready for your high rope course adventure. This is a high adventure activity with low environmental impact, letting people with little or no knowledge of climbing techniques have an unforgettable experience. Guests traverse ladders, nets, tightropes, swinging logs, wobbly bridges, and more fun surprises at 20 ft from the ground (6m). In the afternoon enjoy lunch and then test your bike and receive a short briefing of how to handle the bikes, start riding on the hacienda trails. This single track of 7 km pass through native woods that have been planted for habitat restoration and conservation. The trail zigzag uphill with a pretty good gradient between 5 and 8 degrees. Dinner and overnight stay.
After breakfast we leave the Hacienda and drive to Cotopaxi National Park. This is a very interesting drive through ancient lava flows from Cotopaxi’s past eruptions. The location is the perfect place to learn about Andean Geology. On our visit we reach the car park below the Cotopaxi’s Refuge, where we begin our short hike up to the climbing hut (Refugio José Ribas) at 4,800m. (15,744 ft). It is hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer immensity of the Volcano on this short hike. Once back in the vehicle, we continue on our way driving down to Limpiopungo Lake, where a wholesome box lunch will be served. This is an interesting site that is ideal for descriptions of the local flora and fauna, as well as details of the history and environmental conservation of the Park. We will also visit Pucará del Salitre. Return to Quito.
Day 9: Return home
Return home, or with more time, extend your trip in Ecuador's mainland or travel to the Galapagos or Peru!
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This was my first experience with Adventure Life - and I couldn't have been more pleased with the trip. The guides and local staff in both Buenos Aires and Uruguay were terrific - extremely helpful and accommodating. I really enjoyed meeting the friendly staff in Buenos Aires in person (I left my bags with them for the afternoon).