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Discover the diversity of Ecuador

Discover the beauty and culture of Ecuador’s fertile highlands on this all-new itinerary. As you travel from one luxurious hacienda to another, you’ll hike through lush valleys teeming with bird life, take a thrilling ride on one of the world’s most spectacular railways, and meet endangered condors at the Condor Huasi Project. Take a short but challenging hike on Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano on the planet. Your journey ends with a full-day guided tour of colonial Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Come with us on an Andean adventure that takes natural and cultural exploration to new heights (15,748 feet, in fact).

Activities

Easy to moderate hikes, bird watching

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

  • Explore the spectacular Northern Sierra, and ride the historic Ecuadorean Railroad
  • Visit the Huasi Condor Rescue Project, hike on Cotopaxi, the world’s highest active volcano
  • Experience remnants of Spanish colonial influence, stay at world renowned Hacienda Zuleta, featured in National Geographic

Duration: 9 days Start Location: Quito End Location: Quito

Download Detailed Itinerary
Itinerary
  • Day 1 : Arrival in Quito

    Today one of our staff members will assist you with your transfer to the hotel in Quito. Upon arrival we will take a 1.5 hour drive to our hotel in the colonial town of Quito. Dinner on your own.

  • Day 2 : Hike Pesillo to Zuleta

    We’ll head north, to one of the most fertile valleys in the region, to visit a sundial located precisely on the equator. Then we will continue our trip to Pesillo, a small village an hour’s drive from Guachala, where we’ll have lunch. Afterwards, we begin our 3-hour hike through the high Andean grasslands (9,800ft. a.s.l.) along an old “hacienda trail” linking Guachala with Hacienda Zuleta. There are more than eight old haciendas that lie along this route! We’ll arrive in the afternoon at Zuleta, a 4,000 acre working hacienda. Feel free to relax the remainder of the day, or visit the Hacienda’s beautiful surroundings. (Hiking 5.6miles; 3 hours.
    Best observation: Hummingbirds, flycatchers, saprrows, American kestrel, Andean condor, variable hawk, spectable bear, cultivation fields: quinua, wheat, corn, potatoes

  • Day 3 : Caranqui Pyramids

    The Hacienda Zueta is located between 9,400ft. and 10,000ft. a.s.l., in the Andean mountains of Northern Ecuador. The farm produces a wide range of products including: milk, cheese, barley, quinoa, potatoes, wheat, organic vegetables and compost and also boasts a wide variety of livestock, dairy cows, sheep and horses. One of the most interesting aspects of this hacienda is its Condor Huasi project, created to accomplish the reintroduction of captive condors to the wild. The Project provides food for wild condors in order to aid their re-population and basic survival. Next we will discover ancient Caranqui pyramids. The Caranqui civilization thrived here between 850 AD and 1,550 AD building the 15 pyramids and 20 “mounds” believed to be burial plots.
    Activity:easy walking 2 miles; 2 hours.

  • Day 4 : Hike Zuleta to Ibarra

    We will take a short drive from Hacienda Zuleta to the small community of Cochacaranqui Madgalena from where we will start our exploration by foot, an exhilarating hike in the old road that connects Hacienda Zuleta with the city of Ibarra. On the way we will see plenty of local houses and beautiful landscapes. We will pass alongside potato, quinoa, barley, wheat and corn fields, before reaching the small city of Ibarra. After lunch we will continue our drive through the Valleys, formed by the Andes Mountain Range alongside lakes, rivers and indigenous Otavaleno houses until we reach Hacienda Piman. This hacienda is located 30 minutes from the city of Ibarra, driving around Lake Yaguarcocha along a secondary road; at an elevation of 6,880ft. a.s.l.
    Activity: Hiking 4 miles; easy to moderate; 3 hours.

  • Day 5 : Salinas de Ibarra to Peguche

    In 2008, the Ecuadorian Railway was declared Testimonial, Symbolic, Civil and Historical Heritage Monument. This railroad network started to function by the end of the 1800?s, connecting the coastal and mountainous regions north and south of the country. It promoted the economy and cultural exchange throughout Ecuador. In 2007 the Ecuadorian national government initiated the process of the railway’s rehabilitation. Today Ecuador’s railway system is oriented towards expanding the tourism industry, promoting outstanding routes such as the Ibarra – Salinas de Ibarra. In the course of this route you will appreciate the magnificent landscape, local culture and history of the area. It’s an 18-mile route, which lasts approximately 2 hours; crossing bridges sustained a hundred feet over the rivers. As we continue to descend towards the dry Andean Valley of Chota, the scenery will get exceptional. The 7 tunnels carved into the mountain rock is one of our tourist’s favorite attractions.

    Later we will visit the most famous and largest handicraft fair in South America, the market at Otavalo. The indigenous weavers from Otavalo and its surroundings are well talented in the weaving arts. All these products are traded in the ‘Plaza de los Ponchos’ in the center of Otavalo city. Nowadays indigenous artist from all over the country bring their arts and crafts to this Market where can find all sort of art crafts such as woven textiles, sweaters, blankets, ponchos, shawls, scarves, tagua carved figurines, Andean musical instruments, hammocks and many other products. You will also find paintings, ceramics and jewelry. One of the highlights of the visit will be provided by the Otavaleno culture, their costumes, music, colors, textiles, language and food can be fully appreciated during this visit. Finish your day by resting at the beautiful luxury Hacienda Cusin.
    Activity: Train ride 18 miles, 2 hours
     

  • Day 6 : Hiking to Pastocalle

    We’ll start our hike to El Chaupi with a moderate climb up a cobblestone road. Once we reach the highest point, we’ll walk through the paramo highlands along a fine volcanic sand road, and after crossing two small ravines we’ll begin our descent to the small town of Pastocalle. During this hike we will see one of the most fertile valleys of the Andes with impressive views of the Cotopaxi and the Illinizas. Here, a variety of vegetables are cultivated, including potatoes, quinoa, and lima beans. We’ll learn more about the past eruptions of Cotopaxi Volcano based on the sediments of ash and stone. We’ll also be able to see a variety of birds such as black chested buzzard eagle, American kestrel, and several varieties of hummingbirds.
    Activity: Moderate hiking 6miles; 3 hours.

  • Day 7 : Cotopaxi National Park

    Cotopaxi is considered the highest active volcano in the planet. It’s now a National Park, offering several great visiting sites and adventure sports. On our drive up to Limpiopungo Lake 12,467 feet above sea level, we will see some of the largest pine tree plantations in the country, followed by patches with scarce vegetation—just rocks and boulders remaining from the eruptions of the volcano. Once at the lake, we’ll hike around it for an hour and a half to acclimatize. Afterwards, we’ll drive up to 15,748 feet above sea level, to start our high altitude hike towards the Refuge climbers use before they summit the volcano. It is a short but challenging hike with rewarding views of the inter-Andean valleys. In the afternoon we’ll head towards Quito.

  • Day 8 : Quito City Tour

    Visit the colonial temples and monasteries of this urban jewel, declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site. Visit St. Augustine Convent, the Independence Plaza sorrounded by the Cathedral, La Compañía de Jesus, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishop’s Palace. Continue to the Church of San Francisco, one of the greatest religious buildings of the New World. Drive along the northern section of the city, until reaching the town of "San Antonio de Pichincha" where we'll have lunch at El Crater Restaurant, which is located 8 minutes away from the Equator at the border of the volcanic crater "El Pululahua". This is the only inhabited crater in the world and widely recognized as a magnetic center of positive energy. After our lunch, we will visit the Ethnographic Museum inside "the Middle of the World's Monument - Monumento La Mitad del Mundo". This monument celebrates the measurement of the world in the 1700s by the French geodesic mission. It has interesting and well-displayed exhibits showing the many different Indigenous Communities that make up the indigenous population of the country. We will find information about their customs, houses, typical dishes and geographical location. With this incredible visit, you will travel around Ecuador and know more about its ethnographical reality.Enjoy a guided tour of Quito, a colonial jewel that’s now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Explore the well-preserved historic center, have lunch by the world’s only inhabited crater, and visit the Ethnographic Museum.

  • Day 9 : Fly home

    Today you will be transfered to the airport  for your international flight back home.

Download Detailed Itinerary

DATES: Best time to go: January - March, June - September, December Departures: Mar 12 - 20, 2015 Jun 27, 2015 - Jul 5, 2015 Aug 14 - 22, 2015 Dec 11 - 19, 2015

PRICING:

2015 PRICES PER PERSON
$4,695 (3-15 members)
$5,295 (2 members)
$600 single supplement

Minimum age 12

  • Swissôtel
    Quito, Ecuador

    This luxury hotel offers comfort and professional service in an excellent location close to the Old Town and the airport. Large, comfortable rooms and great views of the surrounding area from the top.

  • Hacienda Piman
    Ibarra

    A historic retreat located in the northern Ecuadorian Andes. A place redolent with peace, a place where you’ll enjoy comfortable rooms and social areas amid modern and traditional architecture, delicious home-cooking, peaceful gardens and the warmth of your hosts.

    Tucked into an oasis-like valley between the folds of dry mountains, Hacienda Piman is ideal for exploring the rich cultural and natural heritage of one of Ecuador’s most captivating regions.

  • Hacienda Zuleta

    Dating from the late XVI century, the Hacienda lies in the spectacular Andean mountain range of Ecuador at 9,600 feet above the sea level, and only two hours north of Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

    Zuleta is a colonial working farm of 4,000 acres (2,000 hectares) that belongs to the family of Mr. Galo Plaza lasso, a former president of Ecuador, for more than 100 years.

    The hacienda has 14 beautifully decorated bedrooms, all with their own fire place; Antique gardens along with cosy living and reading rooms offer a peaceful atmosphere. Delicious home Ecuadorian cuisine among other types of gastronomic adventures are offered daily, prepared with organic vegetables, trout and dairy products produced on the Hacienda. Guest can also visit our Condor Andes rehabilitation program “Condor Huasi Project” that works for the rehabilitation of the majestic Andean Condor.

  • Hacienda Cusin
    Otavalo

    Hacienda Cusin is a restored, 17th-century estate at 8.500ft in the Ecuadorian sierra. This very personal hotel and its 38 attentive staff and famous gardens are one hour from Quito’s new International airport, near the Equatorial line, the market town of Otavalo and two hours from Spanish Colonial Quito, via the PanAmerican Highway. Cusin’s 25 guest rooms garden cottages, suites and salons, furnished with antiques and select Andean craft, most with log-burning fireplaces and beamed-ceilings, overlook several acres of landscaped perennial gardens, ancient trees, and often snow-capped mountains. Guest wing el Monasterio de Cusin.

  • Hacienda Santa Ana
    Cotopaxi

    The Hacienda Santa Ana is located in the Valley of Cotopaxi between the Pasochoa, Ruminahui and Sincholagua Mountains. The property belonged to the Company of Jesus (Jesuits), a religious community that lived there in the seventeenth century, it has now been restored to its original style.

Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.

Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.

photo credits: ©MTS Photo File



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Activity Ratings

Easy

Many activities are optional and involve fairly easy travel. Trips may include short hikes of two to three hours or optional walks at low elevations. Includes less demanding sea kayaking and river rafting trips with Class I-II rapids.

Moderate

More active trips involving hiking over moderate terrain, usually - but not always - with vehicle support and at elevations less than 10,000 feet, or trips with long hiking days, multiple sea kayaking days, wilderness camping, or other invigorating activity. On many trips, you can elect to skip a day's activity, depending on logistics. Includes more demanding sea kayaking trips and river rafting trips with Class III rapids.

Strenuous

Hiking and trekking over steeper or more rugged terrain or where elevations may exceed 10,000 feet - often several days in a row. Includes more demanding sea kayaking trips (4-5 hours paddling a day) and river rafting trips with Class IV-V rapids.

Ultimate Challenge!

Our most demanding trips: trekking over steep, rugged terrain at high elevations (no vehicle support) or with substantial altitude gains and losses; trips to remote, extreme wilderness; mountaineering trips. Includes our most demanding sea kayaking (5-7 hours paddling a day) and river rafting trips with Class IV-V rapids.

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Departure Dates

Mar 12 - 20, 2015 Jun 27, 2015 - Jul 5, 2015 Aug 14 - 22, 2015 Dec 11 - 19, 2015
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