Slow travel and local Communities in Ecuador

Discover the Beauty of Ecuador Through Slow Travel and Meaningful Connections in 15 days

Immerse yourself in Ecuador’s culture and natural beauty: discover the Andes and Amazon at your own pace. Enhance your journey by spending a night in the welcoming community of San Clemente, immersing yourself in local culture and creating meaningful connections.

Length of stay: 15 days

Kind: Local Experiences

Fix: Suitable for children <12 years old

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 the Hotel Adamas in Deluxe Family room.

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Day 2 : Quito Historic Center

French-speaking guide in 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.* *Yumbos chocolate* is an initiative that promotes the so-called fino de aroma cocoa, certainly the best in the world, and mostly produced in Ecuador.

You will visit their store in the historical center of Quito, in front of San Francisco church. A guide will explain the whole process of transformation, from fermentation to the elaboration of the chocolate paste. Then, you will taste several chocolates with different strengths and flavors as well as products derived from cocoa, such as a cocoa syrup.

*NOTE: Yumbos is not only a product, but also a way to support cocoa-producing communities, many of which are neglected by the authorities in terms of social protection and education. Yumbos aims to finance teachers and to practice fair trade for a more dignified life.* You will visit the Quito Water Museum, better known as Yaku (water in Kichwa).

This interactive museum offers children the opportunity to play and interact with water while learning about the importance of this resource in the environment. In addition, the Yaku has a superb view of the city, the Basilica and the Panecillo. Night at the Hotel Adamas in Deluxe Family room.

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Day 3 : Quito Historic Center

French-speaking guide in private transport. And now, exclusively for you:

With an actor, illustrative character of the history of Quito, who will be your guide into the traditional games of Quito. You will discover games and have the opportunity to play as the little “quiteños” did.

The places you will visit : the city Museum, the traditional street *La Ronda,* the ice cream factory Dulce Placer. You will go to the market of Santa Clara, a typical place where you can fin fruits, vegetables, fish and meat. This is a perfect moment to mee people and discover the local life. You will have lunch at the same place. The hornado (pork slowly cooked in a oven) is really delicious! You will 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. Night at the Hotel Adamas in Deluxe Family room.

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Day 4 : Quito

French-speaking guide in private transport. Depart from Quito to reach Tandayapa, towards Mindo. In the morning you arrive at the Bellavista Lodge. Its dome immersed in the middle of the forest, which fills with clouds depending on the time of day, offers an almost mystical experience.

You will start the day by walking one of the many trails around the lodge in search of toucans, quetzal, tanagers and other bird species. Your guide will explain the flora and fauna found in this unique ecosystem.

Afterwards, you will be served a delicious lunch with a view of the mountain.

In the afternoon, you will enjoy a second walk, accompanied by your guide, to discover a magnificent viewpoint and to seek out more birds.

Before leaving this bird paradise, you will be able to approach the hummingbirds that have settled in this haven of peace. Depart from Tandayapa to reach Mindo. Night at Terrabambu Lodge in Suite room (Standard category).

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Day 5 : Mindo

French-speaking guide in private transport. A half-day in Mindo to discover the richness of this region.

You will choose two of the following four activities, according to your wishes:

– a chocolate making workshop
– a coffee making workshop
– a cable car ride over the mountain
– a visit to a butterfly farm Night at Terrabambu Lodge in Suite room (Standard category).

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Day 6 : Mindo

French-speaking guide in private transport. Trip to Otavalo, famous for its handcrafts. 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. Visit of the Condors Park in the upper Otavalo and watch a rapace’s flight show. You can get close to the condors, the Andes’s emblematic bird. You will spend some time with your host family, a privileged opportunity to discover their way of life, their culture and their traditions. During your walks in the community with your hosts, you will discover San Clemente, its people, its artisans, the workers in the fields, its medicinal plant trail carefully maintained because they use it frequently, the guinea pig farms, the llamas and much more. Dinner and overnight in the Karanqui indigenous community of San Clemente. You will be hosted in a family where you will share the meal.

This stay is one of the most genuine exchange experiences within an indigenous community.

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Day 7 : San Clemente

French-speaking guide in private transport. Morning wake up to prepare breakfast with your host and probably then, to accompany and help the people of the community in their morning work with their animals.

NOTE: activities correspond to the needs of the community at the time of your stay. Presentation of the andean calendar and the agricultural cycles in relation with the ancestral medicine. You may participate to agricultural tasks as preparing the soil with the help of bulls, with the idea to understand the link between food safety and previous obligations in the andean cosmovision. You will go up to Cuicocha lagoon. 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. Night at Las Palmeras hotel in Cabaña room (Standard category).

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Day 8 : Otavalo

French-speaking guide in private transport. You will go to Cayambe from Otavalo, observing the beautiful landscape of the mountains. Stop at a breeding center of andean deers, destinated to their reintroduction. A unique thing, you can approach the animals and the children, as well as the adults, will appreciate the possibility to caress them and listen to the owner of the place about the growing of these wonderful animals. A unique encounter:

Maria Carolina is a person who could be described as a cultural memory coupled with a sense of humility. She doesn’t count them, but there are about 120 plants growing in her personal garden, of which she obviously knows the medical use (but she probably knows much more). At 52 years old (in 2020), a widow, speaking Quechua, she knows how to speak with verve and passion about the plants she cultivates on her 200m2. Her rudimentary living conditions do not prevent this woman from being invited all the way to Peru to share her knowledge of plants. It is a rare encounter that will only have an effect if you open yourself totally to this kind of adventure and conception of health. 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. Head towards the Cotopaxi volcano, the jewel of the snowy crowns! Night at Chilcabamba Lodge in Family room.

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Day 9 : Cotopaxi Park

French-speaking guide in 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. 1-hour horseback riding:

Ride your horse and let your local guide lead you through the Cotopaxi National Park. On this ride you will encounter wild horses and pass by ancient Inca huts. Surrounded by four volcanoes, including the majestic Cotopaxi, you will be mesmerized by the immensity of the paramo plains, the lines of the summits and the eternal snows. Night at Chilcabamba Lodge in Family room.

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Day 10 : Cotopaxi Park

French-speaking guide in private transport. You will then go to Baños, town famous for its thermal baths. Visit of about an hour to the Mama Tungurahua family project of organic and artisanal soaps. You will be able to discover the whole process of making a soap, with local fair trade ingredients.

The flagship product is an exfoliating soap made from the ashes of the Tungurahua volcano, near the town of Baños!

A great initiative! Journey to the Waterfalls Road along the Rio Pastaza canyon. You will visit the Pailón del Diablo , the most famous waterfalls in the country. You will discover them by descending to a viewpoint where you can appreciate this powerful waterfall, which is made up of three sections, the highest of which is 80 metres high. From its vertiginous stairs try to find the shape of the face of the devil who gave the name to the waterfall.

Further on the road, following the inca style, you can use a suspended basket called locally tarabita to cross the Pastaza and reach a waterfall called Manto de la Novia . Journey to Puyo, a town on the border of the Amazonia jungle. Vegan dinner and night at the Yapas Reserve hotel in Standard room.

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Day 11 : Fatima

French-speaking guide in private transport. Half day of participation in a solidarity activity of reforestation:

You will take part in solidarity reforestation activities such as weeding, fertilizing and/or planting a tree. This in order to better understand this complex environment that is the Amazon and the fragile balance of these ecosystems threatened by human activities. It will be a way to make your contribution to this fundamental struggle.

Lunch at the Reserve before or after the activity, depending on your program.

Vegan menu. You will go farther to the Amazon doors. Arrival at the lodge is by motorized dugout canoe. During this trip, you will be able to appreciate a part of the Amazonian forest relatively untouched by men.

Take advantage of the swimming pool and go for a night walk to discover the surprising vitality of the forest. Your guide will surprise you with all kinds of insects and small animals hidden under dense foliage.

Dinner and night in Itamandi.

*NOTE: 20min. trip in motorized dugout canoe. Entrances to the communities and visits planned during these days are not included (unless otherwise indicated below) as Itamandi wishes that these payments be made directly to the interested parties for transparency reasons.*

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Day 12 : Arajuno

On the program, a nice surprise: the visit of a saladero . This is a rather rare place where many parrots and parakeets gather, coming to peck at the clay to obtain the minerals that will help them digest the fruits or seeds they have eaten. The departure will be early, around 6 am, it is the birds that decide!

Impossible to resist the temptation to immortalize this fleeting moment, when hundreds of these specimens will approach the treetops and then gradually descend towards the clay wall.

Return to the lodge for breakfast before leaving for a walk in the primary forest.

In the afternoon it will be the cultural sequence. An Amazonian Kichwa community will welcome you to share their way of life and explain their interaction with the forest.

During this visit, you will see that part of the Amazon that is not on the maps: the Amazonian people in their daily life. You will test the famous chicha , a fermented drink made from manioc that is never missing during festivities as well as in everyday life. You will participate in the preparation of this drink and taste some of the traditional dishes. They will most likely demonstrate a traditional dance performed by the children of the community. Even if this is done on the occasion of your visit, this dance is still a demonstration of their continued cultural expression.

Dinner and overnight in Itamandi.

*NOTE: The visit of the saladero will be according to the weather conditions. Canoe trip of about 15 min. The first outing will be about 3 hours.* *The entrance fees to the communities and during the visits with your lodge are included.* French-speaking guide in private transport.

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Day 13 : Arajuno

You’ll have had a quick glimpse of the Amazon rainforest.

Around 9:00 am you will have to take the dugout canoe back to your vehicle. French-speaking guide in private transport. Rafting day on the Jatun Yacu River.

Rafting in the Amazon is an unforgettable memory, if only because the water is warmer there!

If you have never practiced this type of activity before, this is an ideal route to learn in complete safety. For the regulars, it is a moment of sharing in group with some nice adrenaline passages.

You will have some nice surprises along the way, including the junction of rivers from the Amazon basin and the Andean Cordillera.

*NOTE: Class III river (> 7 years old) – Duration: about 5 hours. Mandatory safety instructions at the beginning of the day.* You will spend the night at the Hamadryade Lodge. You will have various activity options:

– Relaxation by the pool;

– Walking on the trails of the lodge;

– Visit the village of Misahualli on the banks of the Napo River;

– Take a walk to the Latas waterfalls;

– Dinner at the lodge’s panoramic restaurant from where you can enjoy the view of the jungle and the Rio Napo.

– Option of a relaxing massage next to the fire in the outdoor massage room.

*NOTE: these options have different prices to be agreed on site or with your guide.*

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Day 14 : Misahualli

French-speaking guide in private transport. You will go up towards Archidona, north of Tena. You will join the community of Santa Rita where you will learn more about the origin of the cocoa selected by the manufacturer Pacari. You will see how the cocoa is processed as well as all the technical process necessary to create the unique taste of Pacari chocolate.

During your walk through the plantations, you should go through petroglyphs. These are the ancestral traces of the native cultures that inhabited this area, known as the Sacred Valley of the Anaconda. You will also look for ripe cocoa pods to taste the flesh coating the beans, sweet and slightly tart .

You will also learn how to make chocolate paste and hot chocolate. You will learn the complete process of cocoa making with local secrets. You will take the road that goes up all the eastern cordillera up to 4000m. allowing you to observe the changes of ecosystems passing from a tropical environment to that of the Andean paramo. Rest in the hot springs of Papallacta. A bath in the warm waters with a stimulating air can only win colors.

Keep in mind, however, that sometimes it can be cold and that if you are afraid of sudden changes in temperature, it will be better to abstain. In this case, a restaurant-cafeteria will serve as a refuge to admire the beautiful vegetation of this corner. Night at Mamallacta hotel in Standard room.

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Day 15 : Papallacta

French-speaking guide in private transport. Free time and then back to Quito airport, passing by a mountain pass that will make you discover an impressice landscape of paramo. Transport with a spanish-speaking driver to Quito’s 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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