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Highlands and Amazon

15 days from £4065pp plus international flights.

Mainland Ecuador is a rich blend of scenery, wildlife, culture and history and this holiday is designed to showcase these different aspects. From colonial Quito with its grand palaces and churches to the bustling markets of the Andes, the ethereal atmosphere of the cloudforest to the awe-inspiring sight of Cotopaxi Volcano, and the teeming Amazon jungle, you experience all this and more in just 2 weeks.

It's an active trip, where you are encouraged to get out and about to experience the country for yourself, walking, hiking and kayaking. There are Englsih-speaking guides in all destinations eager to share their knowledge and expertise, whose infectious enthusiasm is irresistable and makes learning a pleasure.

As well as the main highlights of each location we include some unusual experiences to give you an added insight. In Quito you learn how different plants have been used for their health-bestowning properties over the centuries, you meet a family of weavers in a rural village continuing a long tradition, take part in a cooking lesson in an historic hacienda, take a chocolate tour in a cloudforest village and spend time with a tribal community in the remote Amazon.  

You stay in some super places: a rustic alpine inn, a stunning mountain retreat, a riverside lodge reached by cable car, an ecolodge set at the foot of Cotopaxi and a community owned and run Amazon lodge, all of which perfectly suit their surroundings.  

  

Itinerary
La Casona de la Ronda louunge

DAY 1: QUITO

Having arrived at Quito international airport you are met by a local guide who transfers you to your hotel in the heart of the historic old town. The rest of the day has been left free to allow you to rest after your journey. Go down to the lounge were you can enjoy a drink andd meet fellow guests. This evening you can either dine at the hotel restaurant or head out into the old town where there's a wide choice of restaurants. It's been a busy day and you should sleep well tonight.

The church and monastery of San Francisco

DAY 2: QUITO CITY TOUR

After breakfast your guide takes you on a tour of Quito, to introduce you to the city's rch history. Starting at the Museum Casa del Alabado you see the impressive archeaological collection coveing 7,000 years of history. The museum has a special display dedicated to plants and theiir use in spiritual and medicinal practises over the centuries.  Afterwards you visit Quito's main square, Plaza de la Independencia, whose fine buildings include the catherdal, archbishop's palace and muncipal palace. You also spend time at the church and monastery of San Francisco, whose construction began just a few days after the founding oif the city in 1534. Breakfast  

Hike round Mojanda crater lake

DAY 3: QUITO TO OTAVALO

It's time to leave the city behind and enjoy the countryside. This morning you are collected from the hotel and driven north to the Yanahurco hill. This is the starting point for today's trek which leads down to Mojanda's largest crater lake, and continues by the lake shore to where you driver and vehicle are waiting. The total trekking time is around 4 to 5 hours. Your hotel for tonight is Casa Mojanda, in the highlands near the market town of Otavalo. You have dinner at the hotel, a chance to talk to other guests, as you enjoy a choice of Ecuadorian or continental fare largely made from produce grown in the organic garden. Breakfast, lunch, dinner 

See traditional weaving skills in the Andean highlands

DAY 4: TREKKING AND CULTURE

You are driven to Otavalo this morning. You start with a visit to the food market at Otavalo for a glimpse into the lives of the locals, then to Plaza de Ponchos with its large craft market where items such as bankets, ponchos, scarves, hats and tapestries are sold, where you have time to wander round and soak up the armosphere. From here you drive to the to start of the Peguche waterfall trail, then alight for the walk to Peguche village and on to the waterfall, an impressive sight with a drop of 18 metres. The hike leads on to the small town of Agato, where you meet a family who make their living through weaving, using the same type of backstrap loom that has been used for centuries. From here the trail continues into a more rural region where you can observe famers working the land and growing traditional crops like quinoa. The views from here are magnificent, and on a clear day you can even see Cotacachi Volcano. You are met here for the 10 minute drive to Sacha Ji where you stay tonight. Breakfast, lunch, dinner  

Take part in a cookery class at Hacienda Zuleta

DAY 5: OTAVALO TO ZULETA AND MINDO

This morning you trek for some 4 to 5 hours from your lodge to Hacienda Zuleta, and as you do so your guide recounts some the intriguing history of the area, very much bound up with the owners of the hacienda. The impressive buidlings date back to the late 17th century and came into the ownership of the Plaza-Lasso family in 1898, whose descendents still own and run the estate and farm. During their tenure they have restored much land back to the local Caranqui people to farm independently, while the hacienda provides employment to many local people. Today you are a guest at the hacienda where you take part in a cookery class using local produce to create tasty dishes. You sit down to a 3-course lunch after which you are driven the 4 hours or so to your next lodge, El Monte, in the cloudforest. Breakfast, lunch, dinner  

View of the cloudforest

DAY 6: CLOUDFOREST AND CHOCOLATE

Thiis morning you have the opportunity for a hike in the cloudforest to the Cordillera San Lorenzo. This trail ascends about 300 metres. This area is known for its rich bird life and you should see many species during your walk. The plantlife is equally impressive with ferns, bromelaids and orchids. The route loops back to El Monte, where you should arrive around lunchtime. In the afternoon you travel into Mindo village for a chocolate tour. You learn about the different stages of the production process and have the opportuniy to sample some of the finished products, before heading back to El Monte for dinner. Breakfast, lunch, dinner

See butterflies in the cloudforest

DAY 7: MINDO FLORA AND FAUNA

It's an eary start today for the visit to the cock of the rock lek, a place where male and female birds carry out their courtship rituals. This is an excellent chance to watch these birds with their distinctive red plumage and crest, and should be a good photo opportunity. There should also be time to visit a nearby butterfly farm before lunch at the lodge. In the afternoon you can go on a gentle 2 hour hike by the Mindo River and in the forest. As well as bird watching you can learn about the different plants and their medicinal uses from your guide. Breakfast, lunch, dinner  

Visit hummingbird paradise

DAY 8: MINDO TO COTOPAXI

On your final morning at El Monte you can go on an early nature walk before breakfast. Later you set off on your travels, heading to a place known as 'hummingbird paradise', a cloudforest refuge with a dedicated hummingbird garden where you can stroll among the plants and flowers that attract over 40 species of these delicate creatures. From here you are driven to la Mitad del Mundo, 'the middle of the world', where the northern and southern hemispheres meet. You have lunch then tour the Intinan Museum which has information and displays about the many different tribal peoples of Ecuador, celebrating the country's diverse cultural heritage. From here you are driven to your next lodge, near the breath-taking sight of Cotopaxi Volcano. Breakfast, lunch, dinner

Go hiking at Cotopaxi National Park

DAY 9: COTOPAXI

Today you explore the Cotopaxi region. In the morning you travel in to the National Park where there are options for horse riding and mountain biking (extra cost) as well as hiking. At the Interpretation Centre you can learn about the area's flora and fauna and about Cotopaxi's volcanic history. There is time to walk by the shores of Limpiopungo Lake, a good place to watch wildlife. After lunch you set out to the Pita River, formed by glacial meltwater from Cotopaxi. The hike takes about 4 to 5 hours and takes in tumbling waterfalls and lush forests. A warm fire and hot dinner are very welcome on your return to Chilcabamba Ecolodge. Breakfast, lunch, dinner   

Arriving at Sani Lodge

DAY 10: COTOPAXI TO THE AMAZON

Following breakfast you are driven to the airport in Quito, a trip of around 2 hours, for the 35 minute flight to Coca and the next stage of your Ecuadorian adventure - the Amazon! Your journey to Sani Lodge involves a motorised canoe ride of 2.5 hours, during which you will see varied birdlife, pass several villages and enjoy a picnic lunch, followed by a 15 minute walk through the forest. You are then paddled by canoe across the limpid waters of Challuaccocha Lake to the lodge. After a warm welcome you are shown to your cabin. There should be time for an introductory walk in the rainforest, just enough to whet your appetite for the next few days. You have dinner back at the lodge and later there's the option to be paddled out into the lake in search of nocturnal life, a thrilling way to conclude the day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner      

See frogs in the Amazon rainforest

DAY 11: AMAZON HIKING AND KAYAKING

Your first full day in the Amazon is bound to be an exciting one. Having breakfasted you set off with your guide for a lengthy hike to learn about plants, animals and people of the area. There's so much to see and learn, but with the help of your guide, you soon gain an understanding of the rainforest. Watch frogs, insects and primates, learn how plants are used to treat illnesses and find about the local Sani culture, even learning how to use a blowpipe! Lunch is a tasty picnic, after which you take to the water in kayaks to explore the waterways. It's a great way to see different aspects of the forest. You paddle back to the lodge where dinner is soon ready. Breakfast, lunch, dinner 

Taste traditional Sani food

DAY 12; OBSERVATION TOWER AND SANI VILLAGE

An early breakfast is followed to a kayak ride to the observation tower built next to a lofty kapok tree. Climb the 36 metre stairway to the deck where your efforts are rewarded with far-reaching views over the forest canopy, and the chance to spot dozens of birds, and possibly squirrel and howler monkeys. If you're really lucky you may spy a sloth lazing among the topmost branches. Descend the tower where a member of the local Sani community is waiting to take you to the village. On the way you learn about different facets of the Sani lifestyle and how they have adapted to life in the Amazon. On arrival at the village you can help the women in the kitchen as they prepare lunch. This is a great opportunity to learn about Sani day to day life first hand. You enjoy lunch together then it's time to hike back to Sani Lodge, arriving in time for dinner. Breakfast, lunch, dinner    

See parrots at the clay lick in Yasuni National Park

DAY 13: YASUNI NATIONAL PARK

Today you visit Yasuni National Park, the largest on mainland Ecuador, a UNESCO biosphere reserve and home to a wide range of species. You walk to a hide set up near a clay lick, a favourite feeding place of parrots and parakeets. Watching these vibrantly coloured birds is endlessly fascinating, and a great photographic opportunity. On the conclusion of the visit you return to Sani Lodge for lunch. The afternoon has been left free so you can chose how you spend your time: go hiking in the forest or take a kayak out onto the lake, or perhaps opt to stay at the lodge, lazing in a hammock. After dinner you can follow your guide into the rainforest to experience the abundant nightlife. Breakfast, lunch, dinner   

Departing from Sani Lodge by canoe

DAY 14: AMAZON TO QUITO

After breakfast it's time to depart the Amazon, travelling by kayak, on foot and motorised canoe back to Coca. Along the way you hear about some of the challenges local communities face and what can be done to combat them, In Coca  you board the flight back to Quito, where a guide is waiting to take you to La Casona de la Ronda, where your holiday began 2 weeks ago. This evening you can stroll in to the old town to choose a restaurant for dinner, or opt to dine at the hotel. Breakfast  

La Casona de la Ronda in Quito

DAY 15: DEPART QUITO

Enjoy breakfast at La Casona de la Ronda before, with bags packed, you are transferred to the international airport for the flight back home. Breakfast 

Price & Dates

Guide price from (pp sharing): £4065 (ex. international flights)

Includes: 

14 nights twin share accommodation, meals as specified, transport as specified including return flights Quito to Coca, services of an English-speaking guide throughout, Quito city tour, 3 days trekking in the Andean highlands, cooking class at Hacienda Zuleta, afternoon bird watching walks in Mindo, visit to a hummingbird reserve, visit to the Mitad del Mundo museum, excursion to Cotopaxi National Park, guided activities at Sani Lodge

Excludes: 

International flights and taxes, visas, travel insurance, meals not shown, drinks, tips, items of a personal nature

Getting there: This holiday starts and ends in Quito. International return flights from the UK will cost from around £900 per person, depending on season and availability. We usually book these flights for you. 

places you will see

places you will see

Otavalo
Otavalo
A region of mountains, volcanoes, attractive haciendas, with opportunities for hiking and mountain biking. There are lots of interesting towns, among them Otavalo, known for its lively market.
Quito & the Equator
Quito & the Equator
Quito is at an altitude of 2800m, and since it is only 25km south of the Equator, mostly has very pleasant days and cool nights. The city took its name from the Quitus tribe who lived here in the pre-Colombian era. The equator, which divides the Earth into the northern and southern hemispheres and after which Ecuador is named. lies slightly to the north of Quito and is marked by a monument and a museum.
Mindo & Bellavista Cloudforest
Ecuadorian Cloudforest
Cloud cover frequently shrouds these forests, with their moss-clad trees and branches hanging with old man’s beard. It’s great for bird watching and there are chances for ziplining and tubing.
Cotopaxi National Park
Cotopaxi and the Avenue of Volcanoes
Situated about 40 miles south of Quito in the "Avenue of Volcanoes", Cotopaxi National Park was founded in 1979 and covers about 33,500 hectares.
Yasuni & the Rio Napo region
Yasuni & the Rio Napo region
The Yasunì National Park is an important UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the largest tract of tropical rainforest in Ecuador. Rio Napo is a vast river, flowing from the Andes to the Amazon River and is some 550 miles long.
map

customer rating

5/5 from 42 reviews

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WHEN TO VISIT

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facts and information

Time: GMT -5 hours

Flight time: There is an international airport at Quito and at Guayaquil. KLM and Iberia have routes via Europe to both cities. The flying time is about 14 hours. It is also possible to fly via America.

Language: Spanish is Ecuador's official language.

Visas: Not required for British travellers. Other nationalities should obtain advice from their embassy.

Health: There are no compulsory vaccinations, except yellow fever if visiting the rainforest. Malaria prophylactics are also recommended in the rainforest.

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