Uncover the Origins of Chocolate: Follow the Cocoa Road

Embark on a Delightful Journey: Discover the Origins of Chocolate along the Cocoa Road in 9 days

The glory of cocoa in Ecuador began in the 16th century in San Lorenzo de Vinces, one of the oldest cities in the province of Los Ríos. It was a prosperous city, thanks to the Vinces River, which facilitated the commercialization and export of cocoa, known as the “pepa de oro” (golden bean) at that time. During the 18th and 19th centuries, cocoa exports grew, and Vinces experienced its golden age. In 1879, Ecuador became the world’s largest exporter, with over 4,500 tons exported, marking a period known as the Cocoa Boom.

Come and discover the exquisite flavors and enticing aromas that make cocoa one of humanity’s greatest delicacies. Unveil the secrets behind crafting exceptional chocolate through a range of activities, including visits to historical cocoa haciendas and farms that played a pivotal role in the global expansion of this product. Delight in expert-led chocolate tastings, led by a renowned chocolatier with international accolades, and explore specialized Ecuadorian chocolate factories to experience a diverse array of flavors and textures.

Discover why Ecuador is the ultimate destination to savor the true essence of chocolate and why Ecuadorian chocolate is the most esteemed worldwide!

Length of stay: 9 days

Kind: Local Experiences

Fix: For all public

Countries visited: Ecuador

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Day 1 : Guayaquil 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 ! English-speaking guide in a private transport. Reception at the airport y transfer by your guide (and optional driver) to your hotel. Night at Wyndham Guayaquil hotel, close to the Guayas river and offering a great view in Deluxe room (Standard category).

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Day 2 : Guayaquil

English-speaking guide in a private transport. Direction the South Coast. You will cross many banana plantations before reaching the region of the Churute Nature Reserve and the plantation Cacao & Mango . Course toward the mangrove swamp of Churute.

The aim of this ecological reserve is to preserve this ecosystem which plays an essential role in protecting the coastline from the ocean’s onslaught. A large number of fish and shrimps spend part of their life cycle here. Finally, this strange universe is home to a host of endemic animal species.

The visit, of about 3 hours, will start with a boat trip in the mangrove to observe the fauna.

Then, you will take a short walk of about an hour on the trail of howler monkeys that you will certainly be able to observe in this surprisingly dry but very lively forest. On the return to your visit to Churute (or before this one, depending your program), you will go to have lunch in a finca of cocoa culture. You will go back to Guayaquil from the same road you came. Night at Wyndham Guayaquil hotel, close to the Guayas river and offering a great view in Deluxe room (Standard category).

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Day 3 : Guayaquil

English-speaking guide in a private transport. You will start your visit to Guayaquil by walking through the main streets of the city. You will pass by the neo-gothic cathedral and next to it the Simon Bolivar park whose main attraction is the hundred green iguanas measuring sometimes more than one meter that wander freely.

You will then continue towards the walk along the Guayas River, called here Malecón 2000. You will visit the colonial district Las Peñas to admire its architecture and its numerous art galleries. From Fort Santa Ana you will have a panoramic view of Guayaquil and its river. Visit of the Cocoa and Chocolate Museum:

The San Juan Cocoa Hacienda, located in the Historical Park of Guayaquil, has been converted into the Cocoa and Chocolate Museum. It is a real place formerly dedicated to cocoa where you will discover the production process of chocolate and the living conditions of a farm. Night at Wyndham Guayaquil hotel, close to the Guayas river and offering a great view in Deluxe room (Standard category).

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Day 4 : Guayaquil

English-speaking guide in a private transport. Ascent to the Andean Cordillera. This path will take you through many ecological stages, from the heat and humidity of the tropics to the coolness of the Andes. Riobamba is also known as the Sultana de los Andes , it’s a peacefull and quiet city that had to be rebuilt after the earthquake of 1797. You will visit the park Pedro Vicente Maldonado and the cathedral also. You will also stop in the market that is very colorfull before going to Quitoloma from where you can observe the Chimborazo. Night at La Andaluza hacienda in Standard room.

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Day 5 : Riobamba

English-speaking guide in a private transport. You will make a nice stop at the lama museum which presents the relationship of the Andean populations to the llama (breeding, its medicinal virtues,…). You will finally know the difference between a lama, an alpaca, a vicuna and a guanaco. Salinas de Guaranda is a synonym of integration and developpment. With patience and organization, this village has created a network of successful micro-enterprises that export their products nationally and internationally. They have achieved a responsible model that allows them to progress while respecting differences.

With a local guide, you will visit during 3 hours fair trade cooperatives, such as cheese, chocolate, meat, soy products. You will then take the road back east to Riobamba. Then you will take the Panamericana to reach the small village of Lasso. 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. Way from Lasso to get to the Cotopaxi National Park. 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. Trip to Cayambe, at the foot of the volcanoe with the same name and in the surrounds of Otavalo. Lunch at the restaurant Balcon 2 Hemisferios , almost on the Ecuador line. Your menu is in gourmet tasting mode with typical Ecuadorian flavors, on the equinox line, in an unlikely restaurant run by a young Ecuadorian chef. 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. 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 the Hacienda Cusin in Sierra room (Standard category).

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Day 7 : 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. Trip to the Middle of the World from Otavalo. You will go to La Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world) to set one foot in the southern hemisphere and the other in the north! Beware, this is only for the photo because make no mistake, the site was built in homage to a scientific mission that came to determine the passage of the equatorial line, but not to indicate it. The site also includes various pavilions that deal with the geographical and cultural subjects of Ecuador, including the French pavilion dedicated to this expedition led by Charles-Marie de La Condamine in 1736. The Inti Nan Ethnographic Museum, next to the Mitad del Mundo site, presents the different ethnic groups of the country with their customs, clothing and traditions. You will be able to entertain yourself with different experiences such as the water flow or the balancing of eggs, whose results are supposed to be conclusive due to the fact that we are on the equatorial line. We will not give any guarantee but the activities are well appreciated, especially by children! You will take a little part of the Panamerican Road back to Quito. Night at Illa Experience hotel in Luxury room (Standard category).

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Day 8 : 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 participate in a chocolate tasting organized in partnership with one of the most famous Ecuadorian chocolate manufacturers, Pacari.

You will be explained the process of chocolate elaboration, the origin of the cacao fino de aroma and the history of cocoa in the world.

You will have the privilege of tasting 10 different chocolates and learn how to smell, crunch and savor it to appreciate all its facets.

*NOTE: Pacari works directly with farming families and provides them with a good remuneration for pure and organic cocoa, thus preserving the genetic diversity of cocoa in Ecuador. This initiative has been rewarded many times at the international level both for the quality of the products and the social commitment.* Night at Illa Experience hotel in Luxury room (Standard category).

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Day 9 : Quito

*Suggestions for visits:*

*If you have already visited the Quito Historical Center, this discovery will complement your knowledge of the city.*

*The choices are multiple:*

– *We recommend 2 museums:*
– *Mindalae: collection of crafts from all over the country (district of La Mariscal).*
– *Guayasamin: Colonial house dedicated to the work of the most famous modern Ecuadorian painter (one of his works adorns the walls of Unesco in Paris), and archaeological objects that he collected during his life (Bellavista district ).*
– *The artisanal market: A Handicraft Sample for Last-Minute Gifts (La Mariscal-Amazonas District)*
– *The cable car: a last climb to the edge of the volcano Pichincha for a last view of Quito and its surroundings.*
– *La Floresta: bohemian neighborhood with bars and terraces, designers and organic shops, to catch a last glass of craft beer or feel the atmosphere of this trendy neighborhood.*
– *Guápulo: small village backing the city with its church dedicated to the Virgin of the Clouds.*

*NOTE: the entries of the sites and museums are not included.* *Suggestion of visit:*

*The Mindalae Museum of crafts located in the area of La Mariscal . This private museum offers a tribute dedicated to the activities done by the people of the amazonic villages, their costums, cosmovision and shamanic practices.*

*NOTE: the entrance fee is not included, count 3 USD per person.* Transport with a guide from your hotel to the airport. Private transfer with spanish-speaking driver to Quito airport. Free connection for your international flight from Quito. According to your flight schedule, you will dispose of more or less free time.

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