Ecuador Highlights Tour: From the Andes to the Breathtaking Pacific Ocean

Explore the Best of Ecuador in a 15 day tour

In 15 days, you will go from the highnesses of the Andes to the Pacific Coast. Going along the Avenue of the Volcanoes where you will visit the Cotopaxi national park and Cuicocha lake to feel the presence of these lava colossus. With a stop in the autochtonous markets to see how people lives here. A complete change of scenery before reaching the coast where you can decide to extend your stay going to Galapagos on the white sand beaches, or even go to the rainforest.

Length of stay: 15 days

Kind: Highlights

Fix: For all public

Countries visited: Ecuador

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Day 1 : Quito Airport

Welcome to Ecuador !

A proverb says *Traveling leaves you speechless at first, before turning you into a storyteller*

… Let the adventure start in the country of the middle of the world ! Chulla vida ! Reception at the airport by a french-speaking guide. Private transfer with spanish-speaking driver from Quito airport to your hotel. Night at Casa Gardenia hotel in Standard room.

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Day 2 : Quito Historic Center

English-speaking guide in a private transport. Quito stands out for its topography spread out from north to south, in an Andean corridor flanked by the Pichincha volcano and the valley where the airport is located. But it is above all the largest and most preserved colonial city on the continent.

Then you will visit the colonial and republican center of Quito :

– the Panecillo, the statue of the Virgin of Quito, located on top of a hill overlooking the city;
– the Plaza Grande where the Presidential Palace (Carondelet) and the Cathedral of Quito are located;
– the district of La Ronda for its craftsmen;
– the Church of San Francisco (Franciscans) and its convent/museum (open until noon) OR the Church of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), the most gold-laden in South America (open from noon).

*NOTE:* *If the time of visit in Quito allows it, you can go to the Church of San Francisco and the Society of Jesus.* You will go to Cayambe, famous for its snow-capped volcano. You will spend 2 hours at the hacienda of the *Compañia de Jesús*, a French neo-classical style property.

At the heart of this experience: the roses with a visit to the adjoining plantation. We will explain the whole process from cultivation to the preparation of the bouquets before export. You will also learn the technique of colouring the roses.

Ecuadorian roses are reputed to be the most beautiful in the world, due in part to the mineral elements from the volcanoes.

To top it all off, visit the showroom! The old stables have been adapted for the pleasure of the eyes by offering an impressive show of hundreds of roses of different varieties. Otavalo is awaiting for you at a short distance from Cayambe. Let’s go… still a little piece of road in these magnificent Andes. Night at Las Palmeras hotel in Cabaña room (Standard category).

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Day 3 : Cuicocha Lake

English-speaking guide in a private transport. You will take a 30-minute ride in a small boat on the lake. In the centre of the old crater are two islands covered with vegetation, resulting from successive volcanic eruptions, which you will tour around. Pay attention to the sulphur emanations that colour the bottom of the lake, where it is visible, and to the bubbles that come out of them. You will visit the village of Peguche, with its sacred waterfall and its Andean music instrument fabrication workshops. You may witness a local music session and the weaving process, an art well established in the area. Night at Las Palmeras hotel in Cabaña room (Standard category).

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Day 4 : Otavalo

English-speaking guide in a private transport. You will visit the indigenous market of Otavalo, the most famous Ecuadorian handicraft market in the Andes.

There you will meet the indigenous Otavaleños wearing espadrilles, brown felt hats and a blue poncho on their shoulders. They are the most prosperous indigenous people in Ecuador and are formidable traders.

Obviously this market has a very developed tourist aspect, but it is one of the country’s must-sees. You will then get back on the road to pass Quito and reach Cotopaxi National Park. Stop at Quitsato, on the genuine 0° latitude: a giant sundial marks the line of the Equator. We will explain to you the phenomena observable from this authentic place in our opinion and of importance for the civilizations that preceded us. You will be able to discover how the local people integrate seasonal rhythms and activities into the agricultural calendar and what it means, between sky and nature. Night at Hacienda El Porvenir in Tradicional room (Standard category).

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Day 5 : Cotopaxi Park

English-speaking guide in a private transport. Today, visit of the Cotopaxi national park with Ecuador’s second highest summit at 5897 meters. It is also the highest active volcano in the world although it mainly shows a few fumaroles from its ice covered crater. But sometimes it launches a huge column smoke and ashes right upon its center.

Afterward, you will walk around the Limpiopungo laggon with stunning view on the Cotopaxi. You will appreciate the flora and some fauna, typical of the paramo , those wide plains swept by the cold winds of the Andes.

After driving up to the car park at 4600 meters you will continue by foot to the José Rivas hut 200 meters higher.

The most motivated can also go and reach the snowline. Night at the Hacienda La Cienega in Standard room.

Here we carefully maintain the character and the historical furniture that has seen celebrities from all over the world pass through, such as *Charles Marie de la Condamine*, who participated in the Geodesic Mission, and *Alexander Von Humboldt*, who studied the volcanic activity of Cotopaxi.

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Day 6 : Lasso

English-speaking guide in a private transport. You will reach the Quilotoa lagoon via the small village of Tigua. You will take the Pan-American Highway and then turn west to reach Tigua, a small Andean village famous for its painters and their naive and colorful pictorial art. Arrival in the small village which overhangs the Quilotoa lagoon whose edges culminate at 3914 m. This crater lake, undoubtedly the most spectacular of the whole country, will surprise you by its waters oscillating between emerald green and turquoise blue. The reflections of the clouds and the color of the skies are generally a spectacle that will not leave your camera at rest. The lagoon is nestled in the hollow of a volcano that would be considered still active.

A legend tells that the Inca Atahualpa is said to have hidden a treasure in the lagoon, which gives it an extra dimension…

If you wish, you can make the descent to the bottom of the crater to the edge of the lagoon in about 2 hours round trip. Or you can hike on the trail around the lagoon, if you have 5 to 6 hours. On the way to Riobamba you will stop in the area of Tigua which specialty is the colored painting on sheep leather representing the life in the Andes. Arrival in Riobamba, a peaceful Andean town totally rebuilt after the 1797 earthquake. Night at Mansion Santa Isabella hotel in Standard room.

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Day 7 : Riobamba

English-speaking guide in a private transport. Journey to the North to Chimborazo as from Riobamba a peaceful Andean town totally rebuilt after the 1797 earthquake. Visit to the Chimborazo Natural Reserve:

In a landscape of paramo , these Andean plateaus with high grass swept by the winds of altitude, you will certainly come across herds of vicuñas. You will drive up to the first refuge.

Then you will be able to get closer to the summit (you don’t have to, of course, you can stay at the refuge), the highest in Ecuador, at 6,263m / 20,548 ft. when you reach the second refuge.

You will not be far from the first snows and never so close to the sun because due to the bulging of the earth at the level of the equator, the summit of Chimborazo is considered the furthest from the center of the earth.

*NOTE: Altitudes: 1st refuge (Carrel): 4800m. / 2nd refuge (Whymper): 5100m.* Journey to the South and to Guamote, a typical Andean village. Night at the Inti Sisa Inn.

*Inti Sisa is a* *community-based housing* *initiative in the village of Guamote. You are in the heart of* *the most indigenous region of the country. And your hosts will be able to guide you or give you the keys to understand this unfamiliar Andean world.*

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Day 8 : Guamote

English-speaking guide in a private transport. Visit of the Guamote market (Thursdays only), one of the most authentic, popular, original and colorful markets in Ecuador. Its animal market is considered to be the most important in Latin America. All kinds of animals are bartered or sold there. And the mix of Andean populations with colorful traditional clothing is a real spectacle. You will join the archaeological site of Ingapirca from Guamote. With sumptuous landscapes along the Avenue of the Volcanoes, this road winds through the middle of the Andes and offers magnificent panoramas with colorful patchworks of fields of crops made in harsh conditions. Visit of Ingapirca. It is the most important Inca site in Ecuador and here the stone is full of history and legends. Ingapirca was built by the Inca Huayna Capac in the 15th century. It was an imposing fortress housing a temple, warehouses and an observatory made of stones assembled without mortar. This complex was certainly a tambo (relay) along the Inca royal road from Quito to Cuenca. The locals also see the shape of a puma.

There is a path near the site where Inganahui is located, the face of the Inca that rain and wind carved into the rock, probably inspired by Inca powers. You will then reach the beautiful city of Cuenca, by a road winding through the middle of the Andes and offering magnificent panoramas of the colorful patchwork of typical agricultural crops and the last high volcanoes of southern Ecuador. Night at Los Balcones Boutique Hotel in Standard room.

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Day 9 : Cuenca

English-speaking guide in a private transport. The city of Cuenca has an indefinable charm. This colonial city, classified as a World Heritage Site by Unesco, combines a warm and lively atmosphere with splendid historical buildings, with colonial and republican style.

To appreciate its warm colors, you will stroll among the paved streets, lined with white houses with Romanesque tile roofs and flowered wrought iron balconies. Cuenca is also unique for the treasures of colonial art that it shelters in the heart of its churches and convents of the 17th and 18th centuries.

During this day you will discover:

– the historical centre and the colonial houses;
– the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the old Cathedral;
– the flower square with its market;
– the local markets to soak up the local life;
– the city’s churches, such as Santo Domingo and San Francisco;
– the Pumapungo Museum, with its ethnographic collections, as well as colonial and modern art;
– a Panama hat factory to discover the different stages in the manufacture of this Ecuadorian headgear, which became famous during the construction of the Panama Canal. Night at Los Balcones Boutique Hotel in Standard room.

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Day 10 : Cuenca

English-speaking guide in a private transport. You will follow up Western cordillera to Cajas park where you will enjoy stunning views over the many lakes of this protected area. Cajas National Park is located in the southern Ecuadorian Andes and comprises a complex of 235 lagoons of glacial origin, connected to each other by small rivers.

The park includes several stretches of the Qhapaq Ñan, the famous Royal Inca Trail, which connects the coast with the highlands, the north to the south, and served as a network for the management of the empire.

You will be able to hike with a local guide. The choice of the path will be made on the spot according to the duration and difficulty. Journey to get to Guayaquil, Ecuador’s biggest city and economical capital.

Down from the mountains you will pass by fertiles lowlands with huge orchards and banana plantations before arriving to Guayaquil. Night at Grand Hotel Guayaquil in Standard room.

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Day 11 : Guayaquil

Private transportation with your spanish driver. He will welcome you at Guayaquil and drive oyu until in the Puerto lopez. Night at Nautilus hotel in Villa.

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Day 12 : Isla de la Plata

The *Isla de la Plata* is located 30km. from the coast, about 1h30 of crossing. The island owes its name to the famous English pirate and navigator Sir Francis Drake who shared a booty of silver coins (plata) captured on a galleon. But it is perhaps also the abundance of guano with a silvery sheen that earned the island its name Silver Island .

Every year from June to September, humpback whales congregate in this area for their breeding season. You may also come across dolphins surfing on the bow wave of your boat, or manta rays. On this little Galapagos , you will hike for about 3 hours in a surprising landscape of dry tropical forest, where you will see many colonies of birds, including blue and red legged boobies, albatrosses, frigate birds, pelicans and also a small colony of sea lions. You will get back on the boat to pick up your packed lunch and do some snorkeling on Ecuador’s most important coral reef with a rich and varied underwater fauna. Night at Nautilus hotel in Villa.

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Day 13 : Los Frailes Beach

Direction the *Playa de Los Frailes*, in the Machalilla National Park, reputed to be the wildest and most beautiful in the country. The area is characterized by the presence of a dry tropical forest, a curious ecosystem to discover after your sun session on the beach. Night at Nautilus hotel in Villa.

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Day 14 : Puerto Lopez

Night at Nautilus hotel in Villa. Here are the activities around Puerto Lopez that we suggest:

– Fishermen on the port of the village, early in the morning, who unload the fish caught during the night;
– a boat trip to the island of La Plata;
– a trip to the island of Salango by kayak and snorkeling;
– the beach of Los Frailes, the most beautiful beach in the region;
– the Agua Blanca community with its museum and its remains, but also its trails and to finish in beauty its sulphurous thermal waters;
– the mountain bike in the dry tropical forest of Machalilla;
– a surfing course for an unforgettable experience on the Pacific Ocean.

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Day 15 : Puerto Lopez

Private transport with your spanish-speaking driver. He will take you at Puerto Lopez and drive you out to Guayaquil city. Departure from your hotel to the airport by private transport with a spanish-speaking driver. Free connection with your international flight.

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