Exploring Ecuador’s Highlands – Nature and Culture

10-day round trip

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The country on the equator provides a selection of countless activities. Enjoy the Andean highlands with its beautiful colonial cities Cuenca and Quito, the culture of Cañari and Inca, the National Park Cotopaxi and the volcanic lake Quilotoa. At the end of the trip, you will get to know the Indian market of Otavalo.

Possibilities for extensions: Galapagos Islands, Amazon region, coast or individual tours

Travel program

Day 1 – Arrival in Guayaquil, Ecuador

On arrival at the airport in Guayaquil your English-speaking guide awaits you already. After welcoming it goes directly to your hotel in Guayaquil , where you can recover from the journey and absorb the first impressions of Ecuador.

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Day 2 – From the Coast to Cuenca with a visit at a Cacao Farm   B L

Today you will go on to Cuenca. On the way there we take a break on a family-run Cacao Farm. After an introduction to the planting and processing of cacao, we will roast the beans and produce our own chocolate. You will have a delicious lunch at the farm, before continuing through the Andes to Cuenca, the third largest city in Ecuador. On the way you pass the National Park Cajas with its rugged rock formations and countless lagoons. Your hotel is located in the historic center of the city, which was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in November 1999.

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Day 3 – Colonial City of Cuenca   B

After breakfast you will get to know Cuenca on a City Tour. The city was founded in 1557 on the Inca settlement Tomebamba. For most Ecuadorians – and for many travelers alike – is the most beautiful city in the country. Located at an altitude of 2,530 m above sea level, it is a center for crafts, ceramics, Panama hats as well as gold and silverware. During the City Tour we will show you historic buildings along the Tomebamba River, the Ruins of Todos Santos, the flower market and the main square with the old and the new cathedral. There will be still time to visit a Panama hat factory. You will have the afternoon off for strolling through the narrow cobblestone streets with its whitewashed houses and noble façades and discover the beauties of the city yourself.

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Day 4 – Ingapirca and Chimborazo   B

In the morning we start to the largest Inca ruins in Ecuador Ingapirca (in Cañari “stone wall of the Inca”). The guide will show you around at this fascinating archaeological site, whose stone structures surround the temple of the sun. After exploring Ingapirca you will continue to the mountain giant Chimborazo (6310 m). The scenic mountain landscape provides you with spectacular views. In the evening you arrive at your hotel in Riobamba.

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Day 5 – Vulkansee Quilotoa   B

After breakfast, we are heading north on the “Avenue of the Volcanoes”. You will visit the famous volcanic lake Quilotoa and  see how the water changes its color depending on the light of the sun. Upon arrival you can enjoy a wonderful view, take a walk down into the crater, or go for a walk along the crater rim. Today, you will stay overnight in the historic Hacienda La Cienega in which already Humboldt resided.

CotopaxiDay 6 – National Park Cotopaxi   B

This morning you will visit the National Park Cotopaxi, that certainly belongs to one of the most attractive nature reserves in the country. During a walk around the shallow “Laguna de Limpiopungo” at an altitude of 4,000 m above sea level, you will get to know the typical vegetation of the “Páramos” and see the majestic Cotopaxi (5,897 m) in the background. In the afternoon you continue your journey towards Papallacta, which is primarily known for its hot springs.

Thermas de Papallacta2Day 7 – Papallacta   B

The thermal hot springs of Papallacta are located in an area of 250 ha at an altitude of 3,330 to 3,500 m, which is known for its bizarre Páramo landscape. Its pools are among the cleanest and most beautiful in the country. Enjoy the thermal springs in Papallacta and the beneficial effects of warm thermal water in a beautiful countryside surrounded by clear mountain air. A modern spa is available (optional applications). In the afternoon we continue to Quito, capital of Ecuador and world cultural heritage.

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Day 8 – Quito   B

After breakfast you will tour the historic old town with its wealth of Spanish, Flemish, Moorish and pre-Columbian architecture. You will visit the Cathedral and its Museum as well as the church of La Compañia. The Square of Independence, the main square of the city,  and the no less attractive Square of San Francisco are part of the tour. You will continue to the Panecillo (“small loaf”) on a hill of the old city with his angel statue “Virgen de Quito”. Here you can enjoy the great views over the city and surrounding mountains. In the afternoon the journey continues to the Equator Monument “Mitad del Mundo” (“Middle of the World”).

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Day 9 – Indigenous Market in Otavalo   B

Today you will visit the famous handicraft market of Otavalo. At arrival in the small town you see the Plaza de los Ponchos, which represents the central point of the colorful market. You can watch the Indians of Otavalo dressed in traditional costumes, that are considered prosperous and reputable. Enjoy the hustle and bustle of the market. Here, the Indígenas from the surrounding villages offer their colorful, handmade products, hand-woven rugs, wall hangings, knitted sweaters, colorful belts, hammocks and mountains of wool and fabric products.

Day 10 – Departure from Quito   B

After breakfast, you will be transfered to the airport and start your journey back home. Alternatively, you can book an extension to the Galapagos Islands or the Amazon region.

Price: $1490 per person in a double room of a middle-class hotel, single room supplement $250 (this price is from 2 persons on, please ask for group prices via email)

Included:

  • All listed tours and activities with English-speaking guide and private transfers

  • Tour, transportation, sightseeings and entrance fees according to program

  • Accommodation in a double room of a middle-class hotel

  • Meals as described (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)

Not included:

  • International flights

  • Potential airport fees

  • Meals, unless mentioned in the program

  • Personal expenses for drinks, trips et cetera

  • Travel insurance