Discover the diversity of Ecuador
Ecuador is a country of great singular beauty, blessed by nature’s considerable gifts: snow-capped volcanoes cradling sparkling blue lakes, lush emerald valleys, and cool cloud forests harboring a multitude of extraordinary birds and plant life.
The human landscape of Ecuador is likewise rich and diverse, with cultural groups who have inhabited this rough and restless terrain since before the Incas. Our journey of discovery is as rich and varied as the country itself, with hikes in the highlands and in extraordinary nature reserves, combined with visits to cultural gems like Cuenca declared by UNESCO a World Cultural Heritage site, Otavalo, the Andean village of the Otavalo Indians who are widely esteemed for their weavings and handicrafts, and home of the world-famous market. Explore the countryside, soaking up the beautiful scenery, appreciating nature’s bounty, and meeting Ecuador’s friendly, welcoming people.
Nestled in the fertile highlands are exquisite haciendas, most dating back to the 16th century. These historic retreats were once large farming estates (and some are still actively working); they have now been converted to gracious country inns that exude the flavor of colonial Ecuador with all the amenities of a fine hotel. Each night you’ll prop your feet before a roaring log fire, sense long-gone eras steeped in history, and dine on delicious cuisine fit for a baron. The old saying, Mi casa es su casa, has never been truer.
Easy to moderate hikes, colonial and archeological visits, bird watching
- Visit the famous Otavalo market, and make your way among stalls piled high with colorful ponchos, woolen goods, and Indian jewelry
- Stay at historic Haciendas and feel a sense of long-gone eras
- Explore Cuenca, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999
Duration: 10 days Start Location: Quito End Location: QuitoDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrival in Guayaquil
Upon arrival in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s biggest city and a major port, you will be met by an MTS representative, who will assist you with your luggage and transfer you to your boutique hotel, the Mansion del Rio.
Day 2 : Guayaquil - Manglares Churute Reserve - Cuenca City
Just 25 miles south of Guayaquil, the Manglares Churute Mangrove Reserve is the largest mangrove reserve in Ecuador, spanning around 123,550 acres. After visiting the reserve, we'll continue driving to Cuenca City along a short but stunning scenic route from the coast through El Cajas National Park. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, Cuenca exudes history, colonial charm, and a sense of warm welcome.
Day 3 : Cuenca City - Pumapungo Inca Ruins - Cooking Class
To know a culture, you have to start in the kitchen. In our cooking classes, locals impart their knowledge of Ecuadorian cuisine—a fusion of traditional ingredients, colonial Spain, and Andean fare. Cuenca’s privileged location—nestled high in the Andes but near the Pacific—offers a rare opportunity for culinary innovation. We’ll begin by visiting the lively local market to pick up some fresh ingredients, which is an important part of the day for the people of Cuenca. Then, we’ll learn how to rustle up some exquisite Ecuadorian culinary creations with what we find.
Day 4 : Cojitambo Inca Ruins – Alta Flor Rose Farm – Hacienda Burgay
Cojitambo is one of the hidden gems of Ecuadorian tourism, offering spectacular views of Inca ruins and rolling valleys from the uppermost point. It comes as no surprise that this strategically placed town was so significant to the Incas in their day. After a short walk in the ruins, we will drive to Alta Flor Rose Farm, surrounded by mountains and pristine streams. The climate and geographical conditions have made this area ideal for growing roses.
Later we will have lunch and visit Hacienda Burgay, one of the most amazing haciendas in Ecuador. Originally built in the 1600s, it has been in the hands of the same family since its construction and now, for the first time, its magnificent doors are open exclusively for us.
We’ll also have the opportunity to visit Hacienda Uzhupud. Uzhupud is colonial-style hacienda, a hub of quietude surrounded by well-kept gardens where guests can relax and reflect. Uzhupud and its surroundings are steeped in history and tradition. Enjoy the subtropical climate and ideal location in the Andes—only half an hour from Cuenca. A quaint little church and an open-air swimming pool make Uzhupud all the more inviting.
Day 5 : Flight Cuenca to Quito – Papallacta Hot Springs
After a 45-minute flight from Cuenca to Quito, we will drive to Termas de Papallacta, an intimate lodge located just one hour east of Quito. At 10,000 feet above sea level, it sits in a pastoral setting that is great for hiking, birding, horseback riding, and relaxing in thermal hot springs. The resort is located on the “Cinnamon Trail,” the same route that the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Orellana followed in 1542, which lead to his discovery of the Amazon River. The lodge has many beautiful pools of varying temperatures and designs, as well as a full service spa. The restaurant serves up authentic Ecuadorian soups and specialties, and fresh trout are caught daily in the area. We will take a hike in the cloud forest next to the Papallacta River before relaxing in the hot springs.
Day 6 : Papallacta – Pesillo – Zuleta
After breakfast we’ll drive north to the town of Guachala to visit the "Middle of the World." We’ll continue our trip to Pesillo, a small village about an hour drive from Guachala, where we’ll have our picnic lunch. From here, we’ll begin our three-hour hike through the high Andean grasslands (elevation about 9,800 ft.) along an old “hacienda trail” linking the little town of Pesillo with Zuleta. Along the route we’ll enjoy the beautiful Andean landscape and observe the daily life of the local people amid the eucalyptus forests and grasslands. In the afternoon, we’ll arrive at Zuleta, a 4,000-acre working hacienda with general agriculture, forestation, and dairy farming operations. The remainder of the day we are free to relax or visit the beautiful environs of the hacienda.
Day 7 : Hacienda Zuleta – Condor Project – Caranqui Pyramids
We’ll begin our day by visiting different sites on the farm—the milking station, cheese factory, earthworm farm, vegetable garden, and embroidery project. We’ll discover ancient Caranqui pyramids, cattle fields, and cobble-stoned roads surrounded by eucalyptus trees. The highlight of the day is our chance to see the magnificent Andean condor, star of the Condor Project, while learning how conservationists have endeavored to preserve this endangered species in its natural habitat. This unique Andean ecosystem is also home to the world’s largest hummingbird, the hummingbird with the longest beak, and a hummingbird with a tail twice the size of its body—a truly amazing sight! If we are lucky enough we may even catch a glimpse of the Andean spectacled bear, the only known species of bear in South America.
Day 8 : Hacienda Zuleta – Angla Community
After breakfast we’ll start with an exhilarating two-and-a-half hour hike through eucalyptus forests, cattle farms, pastures and hills before reaching the small elementary school of Angla, where we have the opportunity to spend time with local children and teachers, giving them a hand with their daily school activities. Here we’ll enjoy a picnic lunch and then drive to back to Zuleta.
Day 9 : Cuicocha Crater Lake – Otavalo Indigenous Market
After breakfast drive to the nearby Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve for a hike at Laguna de Cuicocha (10,200'), a deep-blue crater lake on the lower southern flanks of Volcán Cotacachi. After the hike we’ll stop at the historic Otavalo Market, the most famous and largest handicraft fair in South America. One of the highlights of the visit will be the Otavaleño culture, with its characteristic costumes, language and food. Drive to our hotel close to airport.
Day 10 : Fly home
Depart Quito, or join one of our extensions to the Ecuadorian Amazon or to Peru’s Machu Picchu.
DATES: Best time to go: January - February, June, September, December Departures: Jan 17 - 26, 2014 Feb 21, 2014 - Mar 2, 2014 Jun 13 - 22, 2014 Sep 19 - 28, 2014 Dec 17 - 26, 2014
2014 Trip Prices
Minimum age 12.
Hotel Mansion del RioGuayaquil
The hotel was built in 1926 under the name of Villa San Antonio and its restoration started in 2007. The landmark property where the hotel is located as well as most of the neighborhood Las Peñas area was purchased in 1920.
All rooms are decorated with an antique European style, making the rooms and suites unique in the city with a splendid view of the river Guayas.
Mansión AlcázarCuenca, Ecuador
Mansión Alcázar, a turn of the century Mansion, completely restored and transformed in a luxury boutique hotel is located in the heart of the city of Cuenca. The interior decor evokes the style of the century, with careful selection of fine furniture and objets d'art that embellished at one time the most luxurious rooms in one of the most beautiful cities in Ecuador.
Hacienda UzhupudCuencaHacienda Uzhupud is located south of the Andes of Ecuador, 32 km northeast of the city of Cuenca, a World Heritage Site. The road takes you to the Hacienda in a first class paved road, a very smooth and secure ride. - See more at: http://www.uzhupud.com/inn/the-house/?lang=en#sthash.YvN6NPfU.dpuf
Welcome to a beautiful, traditional late nineteenth century Hacienda in Uzhupud, located in the Andes in southern Ecuador, near the city of Cuenca, at 2219 meters above sea level. You will find spacious trees and beautiful gardens.
Being in Uzhupud is like beginning a journey back in time to experience life in a southern Andean Hacienda in Ecuador. Upon arrival, you will enjoy the warmth of a beautiful old fireplace, enjoy delicious traditional drinks and relax in a comfortable room, surrounded by beautiful hand-painted murals.
Hosteria San JosePuembo, Ecuador
Hostería San José is located in Puembo Valley, only 15 minutes from new airport in Quito. THe current building is of a rustic colonial style, the result of a painstaking restoration project to recover the old farmhouse of Hacienda San José that dates back to XXVIII century.
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.
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