2019 - 2020 Departures
Daily based on minimum 2 person
A variety of day or overnight tours that can be added to your itinerary
Quito City Tour: $85 USD pp
Otavalo Full Day Tour: $225 USD pp / $ 325 overnight
Cuenca City Tour Full Day: $130 USD pp
Ingapirca Ruins Tour from Cuenca: $175 USD pp
Mindo Full Day Tour: $227 USD pp / $ 380 overnight
Papallacta Full Day Tour: $230 USD pp / $ 395 overnight
Guayaquil Cultural and Coastal Tour: $ 175 USD pp
QUITO CITY TOUR
We head out to Quito’s old town, or Centro Histórico, declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site since 1978. We begin with one of Quito’s highlights: its breathtaking views. At Alameda Park and the Basilica, we will admire the staggering hills on which the city was founded followed by a walk along one of Quito’s oldest streets, García Moreno (also known as the Street of the Seven Crosses), which dates back to pre-Columbian times. As we reach Quito’s main square, Independence Plaza, we take a peek inside the Presidential Palace, the main Cathedral, La Compañía Church (considered one of the continent’s most spectacular monumental buildings), San Francisco Church (the oldest in Quito and the largest religious complex in South America) and its spectacular cobblestone square.
OTAVALO FULL DAY TOUR
We begin our travels north of Quito, towards Otavalo, visiting the small village of Calderon, known for its unique and colorful ornamental ‘baked-bread’ dolls (figuras de masapán). We then continue along the Pan-American Highway to Guayllabamba to taste one of Ecuador’s endemic fruits (the chirimoya), stopping en route to admire the region’s beautiful landscape and snow-capped mountains, making a short stop at San Pablo Lake before arriving at Otavalo. Here we visit the busy textile market located at ‘Poncho Plaza’, famous as one of the largest open-air markets in South America. Find all kinds of handcrafts including tapestries made on old-Spanish weaving looms, and even older pre-Columbian backstrap looms. Enjoy some free time to shop (and haggle) with the friendly Otavaleños. In the early afternoon we visit a colonial hacienda for lunch. We then head to the small artisan village of Cotacachi and return to Quito in the late afternoon/early evening, or add a night at a country inn.
CUENCA CITY TOUR FULL DAY
Cuenca is a city filled with wonderful surprises. We begin our explorations strolling the cobblestone streets of this beautiful World Cultural Heritage Site, magnificently traversed by four rivers that placidly tumble their way through the city and give it its full name: Saint Ann of the Rivers of Cuenca. Picture-perfect squares, balconies and churches, animated by the “chola cuencana”, their traditional costumes dotting the sidewalks with color along with a majestic pink marble Cathedral prone to take our breath away. We will learn about the ancestral cultures of Ecuador at an archaeological site and museum and enjoy the magnificence of the Tomebamba River and the panoramic view of the city from Turi Hill. Another fascinating visit is the museum and factory of the famous, yet misnamed, Panama Hats… a true symbol of Ecuador. Lunch included at local restaurant.
INGAPIRCA RUINS TOUR
In the heart of the southern Ecuadorian Andes lies the country’s most important and best-preserved Inca ruins. The Ingapirca Archaeological Complex is a window into South America’s past. As we head north from Cuenca along the Pan-American Highway, through the rolling Andean landscape, past the city of Azogues, we reach the village of Biblián, known for one of Ecuador’s most unique religious temples, La Virgen del Rocío Church, perched on a hill like a fairy-tale castle. We’ll also have a chance to experience local delicacies en route and continue to the lively indigenous village market of Cañar. To reach Ingapirca, we climb to the páramo zone, where the ancient peoples of the region built a magnificent religious temple whose remains can be still witnessed today. The ruins help us envision pre-Columbian society in this part of the country, where the Incas established the northernmost capital of their empire. After the visit, lunch is served at a traditional farmhouse restaurant in the area, complete with its warm fireplace. At 3,300m altitude it will surely be much appreciated. Return to Cuenca.
MINDO FULL DAY TOUR
After an early breakfast, we leave Quito heading northwest towards Mindo along the Nono-Tandayapa-Bellavista Road/La Ecoruta El Paseo del Quinde. This is the old scenic route, world-famous amongst birding aficionados, that takes us to the town of Mindo (towards the Pacific Coast), offering intimate views of wonderful stunted elfin and lush subtropical cloud forests, along the way. Around midday, we will stop for an optional lunch. The town of Mindo is nestled amidst the exuberant presence of dense montane forests, laden with bromeliads and other epiphytes; a true tropical wonder, where nature thrives at every turn. We first visit an exquisite orchid garden to see many diverse and fascinating varieties; spectacular hummingbirds, frogs and butterflies are also a common sight here. The town’s cable-car (tarabita) takes us across the Nambillo River gorge into a waterfall-laden forest that is great for hiking and bird-watching. In the late afternoon, we return to Quito and transfer to hotel, or overnight and spend another day bird and butterfly watching.
PAPALLACTA FULL DAY TOUR
A short drive east of Quito takes us to the town of Papallacta and nearby hot springs, located amid a breathtaking natural setting and the backdrop of one of Ecuador’s most beguiling snow peaks, Mount Antisana. Also known as the gateway to Amazonia, Papallacta features a full-fledged Thermal Spring Resort (located at 3,000 masl) offering volcanically heated, transparent and odorless pools, ready for visitors to experience. A selection of pools of differing temperatures, the healing properties of these thermal waters and optional spa therapies make this an unforgettable getaway. In the late afternoon, we return to Quito and transfer back to hotel, or overnight at the hot springs resort.
GUAYAQUIL CULTURAL AND COASTAL TOUR
First we will visit the city cemetery with its impressive mausoleums and tombs carved in Carrara marble by Italian sculptors during the cocoa boom of the early 20th century. We then head across the river to the Guayaquil Historic Park with its excellent display of nature and culture of the Ecuadorian coastal plains. Discover an animal park in the middle of lush native flora and see a selection locally endangered species such as tapirs, spider monkeys, crocodiles, sloths, macaws and parrots. In the cultural section of the park we will admire the beautiful wooden residences of old Guayaquil, as well as typical rural houses built on stilts. Lunch and then drive along the spectacular coastline.