Ecuador Highlights

6 Nights / 7 Days

Day 1 Quito

Arrive Quito.  You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel

Day 2 Otavalo  (B,L)

Full day excursion to Otavalo.  This excursion heads north, to the land of the Otavaleños and South America's most famous Indian fair.

Day 3 Quito (B)

Morning at leisure.  Afternoon scenic tour of Quito; the capital of Ecuador, will take you through its wealth of culture, history and tradition.  Ending up at a lookout point with fantastic scenic view.

Day 4 Quito – Patate (B,L,D)

The artisans tradition of Quito is present in the visit to the Yanapi Hat Shop, where you can observe the process of making hats by hand, created from wool felt and fur felt; these high-quality hats are exported to European, Australian and American markets.  Along valleys and mountains, arrive to Cotopaxi National Park, which surrounds the magnificent Cotopaxi Volcano, for an up-close view of the Andean paramo habitat and its unique flora and fauna; a number of high-altitude birds can be observed around Limpiopungo Lagoon, and occasionally, wild horses.  On clear days, the perfect snow-capped cone of the Cotopaxi Volcano is quite a sight!  At the foot of the volcano is a charming hacienda, where lunch is served in a room with Inca walls, perfectly preserved through the centuries - a truly archaeological jewel.

After lunch, mingle with the llamas of the hacienda and stroll along a rose plantation, many varieties, many colours, ready for exportation.  From here, descend towards the town of Patate, to spend the night at a 300-year old hacienda, hidden amongst the mountains, a magical ambience, where, as the afternoon mist descends, stories are told about those who left in search of the treasure of the Incas in the nearby Llanganatis - and never returned.

Day 5 Patate - Riobamba  (B,L,D)

After breakfast, take a spectacular route along the gorge of the Pastaza River to the town of Baños (Baths), right at the foot of Tungurahua Volcano, from where the thermal waters that gave it its name emerge.  Drive along the Route of the Cascades to El Pailón del Diablo (the Devil's Cauldron) - the most adventurous will descend (medium difficulty) to observe the impressive cascade up close, surrounded by sub-tropical vegetation and orchids.  The force and sound of the waters can also be appreciated from a lookout point without descending.  Lunch is served at an hacienda / hostel in the surroundings, and in the afternoon a short stroll along Baños - a town with an international pulse, full of people from all over the world, as well as many locals who pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Holy Water.  From here, the route to Riobamba is up the mountain, to where the clouds can be touched, alongside the massive Chimborazo, the highest mountain of Ecuador, on the high paramo where vicuñas graze and scamper - this is a protected Faunistic Preserve.  On the hillsides, where the land is worked beneath the plough, one might think the farmer's true objective was to paint the hills in fascinating patterns, not just to till the dark, fertile soil.  Great photo ops on this route!  Arrive to Riobamba in time for dinner.

Day 6 Riobamba - Devils Nose Railway - Cuenca  (B,L,D)

After an early breakfast depart by road, skirting the flanks of the Andes, an astonishing ride, twisting and turning, along bridging ravines and river gorges.  Ride through Indian villages and cultivated fields; here is where most of the cereals in Ecuador are grown, among them, the quinoa, considered the perfect grain for its nutritional value.  After about 2 hours arrive at the small town of Alausí, the beating heart of the re-habilitation of the Ecuadorian Railway Company in the last years.  Great effort has been made to restore the 100-year old train to its old glory and romance.  Stations have been renewed, railways and sleepers replaced, engines and classic coaches renovate, and, most important, the project involves the local communities along the route in the rail operation. 

The highlight is the thrilling 800 metre (2630 foot) descent on the zigzag cuttings on the rock of the Devil's Nose.  At the bottom one finds the newly renovated Station of Sibambe.  Here there is time to visit the local museum "Condor Puñuna" built and run by the Nizag community, see the display of local handcrafts, fruit and medicinal plants and try the local coffee.  The train whistle calls guests back on board for the return to the Station of Alausí, where a light snack is served to regain strength.  Continue exploring the Andean world by motorcoach to the south, visiting the Inca Fortress of Ingapirca en-route.  Lunch in the area.  Arrival to Cuenca at dusk for dinner and accommodation.

Day 7 Cuenca (B)

Cuenca is Ecuador's third largest city; yet it still retains its pleasant provincial air.  Its red tiled roofs, cobblestone streets, flowery plazas and museums make it very special.  This comprehensive visit includes the Plaza of San Sebastian, a colorful artisans market, where handicrafts are sold.  Then, visit the Museum of Modern Art, featuring an excellent collection of contemporary fine art.  Next is a visit to the flower market at the small plaza in front of the carved stone entrance to the church of El Carmen de la Asunción.  From here, a stroll to the main square, surrounded by the imposing blue-domed Cathedral, the Court of Justice, the Municipal Palace, the Governor's Palace and the Church of El Sagrario.  Then, a drive along the Tomebamba river to admire the city's overhanging houses.  Lunch is at one of the excellent restaurants in Cuenca, and in the afternoon, drive for a short visit to a ceramics handcraft shop.  Then, observe the whole process of making the famous Panama Hats of high quality toquilla straw.  Later this afternoon transfer to the airport for departure.

Dates & Prices

Departures: Friday weekly

Prices Per Person    US$ 

                              3 Star                     4  Star 

                      Double Single        Double  Single

2014

Jan-Dec        $1370    $1635        $1420    $1735