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The Andes of Ecuador

Explore the Nature and Culture of the Andes

Ecuador is a small country dispersed north and south along the equator line in the west of the South American continent. In spite of its relatively small size the fascination to travel seems to be particularly great in Ecuador, as numerous visits from some of the World's most famous travelers prove. During this travel you will explore the nature at the equator line, visiting the cloud forest and hiking through the vast Andean highlands. You get a good insight into the cultures of the Andes, meeting its people in busy Indigenous markets, staying at typical Andean haciendas and strolling through colonial towns.


Itinerary:
Day 01 Arrival in Quito:
Arrival in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, which is located at 9187 ft above sea level in the middle of the Andes. We will pick you up from the airport and take you to your hotel in the modern centre of the city. After a short break to recover from the travel and a first introduction to the country you will get to explore this big city and learn something about its turbulent history. You will get to experience the new section of the city in the North with its many parks and tall modern buildings and the Avenida Rio Amazonas as well as the Plazas: Santo Domingo, Independencia and San Francisco which are in the colonial section in the centre of the city. Due to its many historical architectural monuments the UNESCO declared the old part of town a world heritage site in 1978. From the Panecillo hill in the South of the old part of town, where the 141 ft high monument of the Virgen of Quito stands, you have an impressing prospect. From here you have wonderful views over the red clay tile roves of the old part of town, the skyline of Quito in the North, as well as the surrounding Andean cordilleras range with its outstanding snow-covered mountain giants. Accompanied by a welcome cocktail during dinner in the evening, your guide will give you an introduction to the next day’s activities and answer any questions about your travel. D  
Day 02 From the Equator to the cloud forest:
In the morning you will drive from Quito 16 miles north to Mitad del Mundo (literally the middle of the world) where the Equatorial Line Monument is located. The monument reminds the Frensh-Spanish expedition from 1763-1744, which, under the leadership of Charles de la Condamine, determined the position of the equator. Here you can stand with one foot on the Northern and with the other one on the Southern hemisphere. You will visit the adjacent park with leisure facilities, which feature a typical Spanish style colonial village. Following you will visit the Museo del Sol where you will get to know a lot about the culture and the knowledge of the Incas. Afterwards you will continue your way to the nature-sanctuary Mindo-Nambillo on the western side of the Pichincha vulcano in a height of 4594 to 15420 feets . You will find diverse ecosystems in this region: from the treeless Páramo to the cloud forest as well as subtropical and tropical rainforest parts. This region is especially interesting for birdwatchers and botanists. You will stay the night in a typical lodge of this fascinating region.B/L/D
Day 03 The Cloud Forest

The cloud forest is located at the southern edge of the Choco/Andean hotspots of biodiversity that stretches from south western Colombia to northwestern Ecuador. The Mindo Area is an international important place for Birds, is the first area that was designated in South America by Bird life International in 1997. The New York Botanical Gardens wrote that the diversity of epiphytes ("air plants" that grows on other plants) is higher in the cloud forests of Ecuador, Colombia and Peru than anywhere else on the planet. Within this enchanting green kingdom a profusion of life awaits your discovery, including botanical treasures such as bromeliads and orchids, as well as the fascinating families of Gesneriaceae and Melastomataceae. Since the region is located on the equator, flowers are in bloom year round. The Tandayapa Valley boasts over 330 recorded species of birds, and the list continues to grow! The Tanager-finch, Giant Antpitta, Swallow-tailed Nightjar, Plush-capped Finch, Beautiful Jay, and White-faced Nunbird are all found here. Birders and nature lovers alike thrill to the sight of brightly colored tanagers and the Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, and everybody loves to admire the multitude of hummingbirds hovering around here. Enjoy this day exploring this fascinating nature paradise on one the many path that lead through primary and secondary forest and to hidden waterfalls. B/L/D

Day 04 Otavalo Indian Market:
In the morning you will leave the Mindo area and return into the highlands in order to travel along the north Panamerican highway, through the astonishing mountain scenery crossing the equator line to visit the Otavalo Indigenous market. For centuries, regional markets have played an important role in Indigenous life, providing regular gathering places for trade and socializing. The colourful local markets of the Andean valleys are famous for their fine handicrafts. The Otavalo Indigenous market dates back to pre-Inca times and is famous for its textiles woven on back strap and shuttle looms. Otavalo is South America’s most famous Indigenous fair. Here Otavaleños barter in silence, in marked contrast to the louder noise of other markets. You will have time to visit the famous market and stroll along the narrow cobblestone streets filled with Otavaleños wearing blue ponchos, white trousers and long braided hair. After lunch you will walk from Otavalo to the waterfall of Peguche which is in a small sanctuary, and from there you will continue to the San Pablo Lagoon. This area around the lake below the Imbabura volcano is the home of the Otavaleños. Following the ridge of the lake on an old cobblestone road through pastureland and fruitful fields you will pass some small villages still with Adobe houses inhabited by native farmers and art craftsmen. Clear mountain air and the wonderful sights on the landscape with the many small bird-rich side valleys as well as the enormous Cayambe in the background make this trip a genuine experience. You stay the night in a hotel near Otavalo. B/L/D
Day 05 Papallacta Thermal Baths:
From Otavalo you will drive south-east to Cayambe to visit Quitsa-To, the equator monument with an adjacent museum about the cultures that worshipped the sun at the equator. Later you will continue to Pifo while you drive along the transoceanic highway on to Papallacta, which is located at 12140 ft in the midst of an evergreen Páramo landscape. The area is renowned for its hot springs. Relax in the scenic pools and see if you can spot the ice giant Antisana (5.758m). Termas de Papallacta SPA, Resort and Convention Centre is located 40 miles east of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador balanced on the rim of the equator.  Perched on a high Andean valley at the entrance route to the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle, the spa resort offers its visitors health, recreation, adventure and rest. Whether relaxing in the thermal baths, indulging in pampering spa treatments, or embarking on relaxing walks at the Rancho del Cañón (Canyon Ranch), you are sure to enjoy the Papallacta experience complemented by the restaurants which serve a range of culinary delights to tickle your tastebuds. In the afternoon you continue your journey through the Ecuadorian Andes South to Hacienda El Porvenir where you will stay the night.
Hacienda El Porvenir, is located on the slopes of Rumiñahui Volcano at 3600 m (11808 ft), in a breath taking valley. This area is known as the land of the four corners due to the suurounding four volcanoes:  Rumiñahui 4,712 m (15,455 ft), Pasochoa 4200 m (13,776 ft), Sincholagua 4893 m (16049 ft) and Quilindaña 4878 m (16000 ft), with snow capped Cotopaxi at it’s center. B/L/D
Day 06 Andean Hacienda “El Porvenir”:
At Hacienda “El Porvenir” you have the opportunity to stay in a comfortable, welcoming and beautiful traditional Andean hacienda house that provides comfortable shelter and protection. Built through a suitable use of materials such as brick, straw, wood and adobe. The living room and dining room with their crackling fires warmly welcome the guests. The dining room overlooks a large courtyard surrounded by buildings and barns used for farming. An impressive backdrop is the ever-changing Sincholagua Volcano. The traditional bedrooms on the second floor, known as Machai, recall the huts in the Andean highlands with their straw roofs and “estera” walls, estera being the name given to a reed or cattail fabric woven by the skilled hands of our craftsmen. Each Machai can lodge two guests. These cosy bedrooms share 4 bathrooms (rooms with private bathrooms are included in the 4 and 5 star packages).
After a delicious breakfast a brief lesson is given in the morning at Hacienda El Porvenir to teach the inexperienced members of the group how to ride and get acquainted with the horses. Wearing the typical “Chagra” attire of the Ecuadorian highland cowboys, you will begin a visit to the foothills of Rumiñahui volcano, riding side by side with herds of wild horses and bulls. Your native guides will share their knowledge of medicinal plants.  The ride takes about 3 hours. Afterwards a delicious lunch of local flavors awaits you at the farmhouse. In the afternoon, you will explore the surrounding Paramo (Andean highland) on an easy hike to the Manto Blanco waterfall. After the hike relax in front of a crackling fire and enjoy a hearty dinner in the traditional Andean hacienda. B/L/D
Day 07 Cotopaxi National Park:
In the morning you will leave the Hacienda “El Porvenir” and hike towards the Cotopaxi National Park some 2.5 miles away from the Hacienda. Here you will trek cross country over the high plain to an old ritual place of the Incas, from which you have an excellent view across the high plain and the surrounding mountains Ruminahui, Sincholagua and of course the Cotopaxi Volcano. You continue the hike to the rustic mountain refuge Tambopaxi on the high plateau. Here you will eat lunch having great sights of the Lahar fields of the Cotopaxi Volcano and the wide expansion of the nature park. Later you will drive to the Limpiopungo lagoon crossing the wide high plateau at the slopes of Cotopaxi volcano. During an easy hike around the lagoon you get to know the typical vegetation of the Andean highlands and watch out for the local birds as the Andean humming bird and the condor. In the late afternoon you cross the Pan-American highway towards an Andean Hacienda. Enjoy the typical flair of this hacienda where you will spend the night. B/L/D
Day 08 Volcano Chimborazo – Riobamba:
In the morning you leave the Hacienda and drive further south and via the town of Ambato up towards the huge Volcano Chimborazo ( 6310m ). Through a picturesque landscape the road winds itself up, passing fields, valleys and the volcano Carihuayrazo, to the wide high plain at the slopes of Chimborazo. Every now and then you see lamas, which are still common working animals in this region. With a little bit of luck you also might see some Alpacas and even Vicuñas, the latter ones live in a wide reserve near the Chimborazo. Passing this huge volcano you reach the Chimborazo high plain. If acclimatization permits you can hike up to the refuges up to 4800m or even 5000m and have lunch here. Later you descend to Riobamba, the capital of Chimborazo Province at 2750m altitude. In the afternoon you explore Riobamba, especially its colourful and lively markets where you will have the chance to taste some of the tropical fruits like Granadilla (yellow passion fruit), Guaba fruit or Taxo. B/L
Day 09 Guamote Market – Ingapirca:
You will leave Riobamba in the early morning following the Panamerican Highway further South to the little Andean village of Guamote. Guamote is a pleasant mountain town in the middle of the Chimborazo province surrounded by stunning mountains. The inhabitants of Guamote still live a very traditional life and their Thursday-market shows the colourful culture at its best. Looking onto the town from afar you are faced with a sea of red filling the streets, squares and public areas, produced by the arrival of the many indigenous people that come to the market, all donned in the traditional red ponchos. They come in their thousands to sell sheep, pigs, cattle, horses, llamas, potatoes, cereals, wool, handicrafts, clothing and tools. Others simply come out of custom and ancestral ritual to meet with friends and take advantage of this time to catch up on the newest chit-chat. The exchange of goods or bartering as a form of trade still exists in Guamote. In the afternoon you will continue to the little Andean town of Cañar. In the afternoon you will reach the famous ‘Ingapirca’ ruins (Quichua for “wall rocks of the Inca”) the most important and well preserved of Ecuador’s Inca ruins situated to the North of Cuenca. There you can wander around the beautiful site and imagine the scenes prior to the Spanish conquest. A visit to the museum will reveal further details of life there at the end of the 15th Century. Your will stay the night in a small local hotel (Posada). B/L/D
Day 10 Colonial City Cuenca:
The rising morning sun will surely shine a mystic light on this ancient place and provide an impressive photo motive. Later you will head towards the nearby colonial town of Cuenca which you reach after a 2 hours drive. On arrival you will check into you hotel. After a short break you will explore the colonial part of Cuenca that is the third largest city Ecuador's offers you fantastic possibilities to admire great colonial and republican architecture, archaeological and ethnographical sites, sacred art museums and markets. Churches, many art and craft shops and a flower market are to be found. All this is located amongst beautiful old houses, ornately painted and decorated, in an area that was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. At midday you will feast on local cuisine in a typical town restaurant, after which you will have a pleasant stroll along the river to aid digestion! Cuenca is considered Ecuador’s cultural metropolis, and also the arts and crafts center of the country. The city and the surrounding countryside are fantastic places to buy ceramics, embroidery, leather goods and baskets. Explore the city and take the opportunity to look for a unique souvenir. B/L
11. Day Saturday: Cuenca – Guayaquil: From the Andes to the Pacific Coast
After breakfast you will travel down from the Andean mountains and through the Pacific lowlands to Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, which is also the financial, commercial and industrial center of the country. After a short rest at your hotel you make a city tour. First you will visit the Seminario park, which is a very popular meeting point for young people in love. Furthermore this little park is well known for its land iguanas that are resting in the trees. Then you visit the Cathedral, built in the classic gothic style. Afterwards the tour leads you to Guayaquil’s famous wide, tree-lined waterfront Riverfront Avenue „el Malecon“ that runs alongside the river Guayas. You will visit the municipality, the “Palacio Municipal” and the “Palacio de Gobernacion” (the Government Palace). Right in front of the Palace is the Moorish clock tower La Torre Morisca, which was constructed in the year 1843. The sights from the top make it worth the effort to climb its steep stairs. La Rotonda is a statue that marks the meeting between Simon Bolivar and Jose San Martin in 1822. Enjoy the flair of this tropical metropolis. B/L/D
Day 12 Transfer out or extension (Galapagos or Rainforest):
According to your travel plans we will accompany you to the airport to take your international flight or a flight to the Galapagos Islands or to Quito). Gladly we also help you with any desired individual extension. B

B: Breakfast / L: Lunch / D: Dinner


Prices 2017 per person (minimum 02 people):

3* Hotels in a double room: US$ 2018-
Single room supplement: US$ 194,-

4* Hotels in a double room: US$ 2344,-
Single room supplement: US$ 387,-

5* Hotels in a double room: US$ 2979,-
Single room supplement: US$ 919,-

(NB: Where no 5* hotel accommodation is available, accommodation will be in the best available rooms – in Ingapirca accommodation will be in typical local Posada and in El Porvenir in a typical highland hacienda)

Prices include: All transfers in private transportation, excursions and overland tours as mentioned in the program, accommodation based on double rooms in hotels & haciendas of the chosen category, meals according to the itinerary description (B: breakfast, L: Lunch/Box Lunch D: Dinner), entrance fees, bilingual guide (Spanish/English – other languages upon request) during the round trip.

Not included in the price: Beverages, extra charge for single rooms, international airport tax (Quito ca. US$ 43 / Guayaquil ca. US$ 28), personal equipment and items, tips, travel insurance and luggage, anything not mentioned in the program.

Please note that according to the day you start the tour, we will have to revise the program and changes may be necessary.

Please note that the category-stars given for the accommodations are estimated as local categories do not fit international standards. Local categories are in all cases equal or higher then the ones given above. Accommodation in Ingapirca will be in a typical local Posada and in El Porvenir in a typical highland hacienda

NB: Please read all itineraries as a guide only. All routes and programs can change without notice due to National Park policies and regulations, weather conditions, seasonal changes, safety reasons and the wildlife encountered during the travel. Flexibility is the key to the success of any tour. Nevertheless the safety and the interest of our passengers is always our first priority.


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