Also great as a private trip. Call for details

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.
 

Activities

Easy to moderate hikes, colonial and archeological visits, bird watching

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

  • 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: Quito

Download Detailed Itinerary
BRIEF 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.           

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.
     

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

Download Detailed Itinerary

DATES: Best time to go: January - February, June, September, December Departures: Jun 13 - 22, 2014 Sep 19 - 28, 2014 Dec 17 - 26, 2014

PRICING:

2014 Trip Prices
$4,595 (6-12 members)
$4,895 (3-5 members)
$600 single supplement

Minimum age 12.

  • Hotel Mansion del Rio
    Guayaquil

    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 Alcázar
    Cuenca, 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 Uzhupud
    Cuenca
    Hacienda 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.

     

    - See more at: http://www.uzhupud.com/inn/uzhupud_magico/?lang=en#sthash.GETQfQ6M.dpuf
  • Hosteria San Jose
    Puembo, 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.

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

Jun 13 - 22, 2014 Sep 19 - 28, 2014 Dec 17 - 26, 2014
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