Tour of ecuadorian biodiversity and wildlife

Explore Ecuador's Biodiversity and Wildlife in a 15 day tour

A 100% naturalistic trip for lovers of nature and open spaces. A diversity of ecosystems for a guaranteed change of scenery: from the Andean páramo to the lush Amazon through the cloud forest.

Length of stay: 15 days

Kind: Nature and Wildlife

Fix: For all public

Countries visited: Ecuador

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64 travelers reviews 4.8 / 5

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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 an english-speaking guide. Private transfer with spanish-speaking driver from Quito airport to your hotel. Night at the Mama Cuchara hotel in Deluxe room (Standard category).

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Day 2 : Quito

English-speaking guide in a private transport. The Quito Cable will take you up to 4000 meters to the edge of the Pichincha volcano. Needless to say, you will enjoy a spectacular view of Quito and the many snowy peaks of the Avenue of Volcanoes. From the arrival station, you will be able to walk along trails. Visit of the Quito Botanical Garden, an oasis of greenery and freshness in the heart of the capital (Carolina Park). It offers trails to discover species of trees, plants and flowers representative of the diversity of Ecuadorian flora and its many ecosystems.

The installations are made up of greenhouses (for ecosystems such as the Amazon or tropical zones), educational rooms on fauna and flora, facilities such as a Japanese-style garden to present the collection of bonsai trees protected by beautiful bamboo structures, shelters where children can play with textures and smells, and a collection of cacti, some of which are truly sublime. In short, it is an ideal place to discover the biological richness of the country in a single visit, suitable for children. As a bonus, a collection of more than 1200 species of orchids will delight orchid lovers. 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.* Night at the Mama Cuchara hotel in Deluxe room (Standard category).

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Day 3 : Quito

English-speaking guide in a private transport. Following the road to Baeza and Tena which climbs all the eastern cordillera up to 4000 meters, you will observe the evolution of the ecosystem from the Andean paramo to the tropical environment. 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 4 : 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.* English-speaking guide in a private transport.

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Day 5 : Arajuno

There is an island located in the middle of the Napo River, called Anakonda Island, on which you can observe a prehistoric bird called hoatzin as well as different species of monkeys.

Afterwards, you will visit a family of the community and learn about local farming methods, the medicinal plants they use and the ancestral tradition of hunting with blowguns and handmade traps.

After a picnic lunch, you will go to the Amazoonico , a refuge which aims to recover wild animals that have been injured or confiscated by the authorities and then try to reintroduce them into their natural environment. A good way to discover certain mammals that are often difficult to observe otherwise, especially felines.

Dinner and night in Itamandi.

*NOTE: 40 min. trip by motorized boat.* English-speaking guide in a private transport.

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Day 6 : Arajuno

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

Around 9:00 am you will have to take the dugout canoe back to your vehicle. English-speaking guide in a private transport. You will then take the road to the Pailón del Diablo, one of the most famous waterfalls in the country, on your way to the city of Baños. 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 . Road on the waterfalls avenue until the little city of Baños. Night at La Floresta hotel in Standard room.

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Day 7 : Banos

English-speaking guide in a private transport. You will take the Avenue of Volcanoes until Salcedo, Andean town famous for its delicious icecreams. You will make a stop of about 2 hours to visit a rose farm, one of the few to offer organic roses in addition to the classics. Ecuadorian roses are reputed to be the most beautiful in the world, due in particular to the mineral elements from the volcanoes and the quality of the mountain water. You will discover the entire production process up to the artificial colouring of the flowers. You will take the Pan-American Highway and then turn west to Quilotoa, a small Andean village. A must-see stop is the Shalala Mirador, where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the caldera of Quilotoa Lake from a modern infrastructure built as part of a community project. Night at the Posada de Tigua in Standard room.

*NOTE:* *At the end of the day, you can go to the barn to watch or participate in the milking of the cows. Afterwards, you will go to the kitchen to make cheese, using the same recipe that has been used for generations. A moment of life at the farm and of sharing that will delight the curious and the amateurs of organic and home-made dairy products!*

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Day 8 : Quilotoa

English-speaking guide in a private transport. 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. You will reach the very Andean village of Zumbahua. You will stop for a moment at the traditional market of Zumbahua, to get a feel of the local life.

Here you can buy everything from spices, fruit and vegetables, ponchos, shigras (cloth bags), all kinds of traditional Andean clothing, etc. Then, further down the square, there is the sale of cattle: llamas, pigs and sheep are traded here, valued and sold to the best bidder. Exit Quilotoa Lagoon in the direction of the Cotopaxi Park. Night at Chilcabamba Lodge in Standard room.

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Day 9 : 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. From the Cotopaxi Park you will make a flea step until Lasso. Night at Chilcabamba Lodge in Standard room.

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Day 10 : Lasso

English-speaking guide in a private transport. On the way to the Antisana volcano, with its mountain lakes and views of the green valleys of the Andes. Trek at the bottom of the Antisana :

The Antisana Reserve (the dark mountain in Quechua) is one of the easiest to reach by car from Quito. But not the least interesting because it is one of the ideal places to observe condors.

The ascent from Pintag to the Los Chillos Valley, east of Quito, is made through a winding road at the foot of cliffs where the condors nestle.

The walk will start at the edge of the Mica lagoon. Apart from the hill next to the lake, the terrain is generally quite flat but the difference in slight differences in height creates a very special lunar environment.

Difficulty: easy trek: Sunday sportsmen, welcome!

Estimated duration: 2 to 3 hours – Elevation gain: +300 m/-300m – Max altitude: 4125 m. – Distance: 2 km – 6 km. Night at Tambo Condor Hotel at the entrance of the Antisana Reserve in Standard room.

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Day 11 : Antisana

English-speaking guide in a private transport. Trip to Cayambe, at the foot of the volcanoe with the same name and in the surrounds of Otavalo. 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 12 : Cuicocha Lake

English-speaking guide in a private transport. Visit of the Cuicocha lake, one of the most beautiful in Ecuador with a shiny blue water.

At the centre of a former crater at 3064 meters, the nature lovers will enjoy a very various vegetation (orchids, elephants ears …) with more than 400 species identified there.

For the more sporty, you can walk around the lagoon. 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 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 the Hacienda Cusin in Sierra room (Standard category).

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Day 13 : Otavalo

English-speaking guide in a private transport. Trip to Mindo, paradise for ornithologists and trekkers people. The Alambi reserve is one of the best place to observe hummingbirds. You will make a little stop over on the road to Mindo so as to see around a dozen of species of these magical and emblematic birds of this region. Visit of a butterfly farm where you will discover the metamorphosis process of butterflies with the possibility to appreciate the different stages: eggs, larvae, chrysalises… and finally the multicoloured butterflies in flight: the famous blue morphs, the owl’s eyes , the papilionids, etc. Night at Terrabambu Lodge in Suite room (Standard category).

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Day 14 : Mindo

English-speaking guide in a private transport. Hike of Mindo Waterfalls:

On the way to Nambillo, you will take a cable car to go to the other side of the valley and start your walk which will take you to three beautiful places where are the most beautiful waterfalls of the region. According to your wishes and physical condition, the walk can last from 1 to 3 hours.

Difficulty: easy hike: sunday sportsmen, welcome!

Estimated duration: 1 to 3 hours – Elevation: -120m./+120m. – Max. altitude: 1600m. – Distance: 4 km. Visit of an ecobotanical garden, where a guide will explain you about the different species of birds found in this reserve. You will approach the hummingbirds that have established their home here. Departure from Mindo to Quito. Night at Ikala hotel in Junior Suite room.

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Day 15 : Quito 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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