12-Day The best of Ecuador

Price
On Request
Highlights
  • Equator Line Museum tour
  • Hiking to waterfalls in the cloud forest
  • Visit Butterfly farm
  • Visit chocolate factory
  • Visit Otavalo indigenous market
  • Organic cooking class with the locals
  • Hike and boat ride at Cuicocha crater lake
  • Volcanic hot springs
  • Visit Cotopaxi National Park
  • Galapaguera and cerro brujo
  • Espan~ola island
  • Hike with giant tortoises
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Overview

Exploring the cloud forest and Andean areas of Ecuador promises a breathtaking journey through some of the world's most diverse ecosystems. In Mindo, you'll immerse yourself in the lush cloud rainforest, marvel at stunning waterfalls, and witness the fascinating process of chocolate production, a treat for both the eyes and taste buds. Don't forget to keep your binoculars handy to spot the myriad bird species flitting through the canopy and the kaleidoscope of butterflies dancing in the air.

As you journey through the Intag coffee valley, you'll be treated to panoramic views of the highlands while indulging in the rich flavours of organic, fair-trade coffee from a local plantation. The drive itself is an adventure, winding through picturesque landscapes that showcase Ecuador's natural beauty.

A visit to Cuicocha Crater Lake offers a serene escape, with its tranquil waters nestled within the stunning Andean landscape. And no trip to the highlands would be complete without exploring the vibrant indigenous market of Otavalo, where you can immerse yourself in the colours, sounds, and traditions of Ecuador's indigenous communities.

For a truly authentic experience, join locals in the heart of the Andes for an organic meal prepared using traditional methods and fresh, locally sourced ingredients. It's a chance to connect with the culture and cuisine of Ecuador in a meaningful way.

Before embarking on your adventure to Cotopaxi National Park, take time to relax and acclimatise at a luxurious hot springs resort. Surrounded by natural beauty, it's the perfect way to unwind and prepare for the awe-inspiring sights that await you at Cotopaxi, home to the world's tallest active volcano.

And of course, no trip to Ecuador would be complete without a visit to the Galapagos Islands aboard the magnificent Seaman Journey ship. Explore this pristine archipelago, teeming with unique wildlife and stunning landscapes, and discover why Ecuador truly is one of South America's most distinctive nations. With so much natural and cultural splendour to behold, you'll find yourself enchanted at every turn, eager to explore more of this remarkable country.

Itinerary

Meet your trip leader and group at 6:00 pm.

Welcome to Quito! The largest, best-preserved colonial city of America - declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. The city is considered the Cultural Capital of South America and is located on the equator in a valley at the foothills of the Pichincha volcano.

Accommodation: Go hotel or similar.

Meals included: In flight

On the first day of our adventure, we will drive north of Quito to witness the equator monument complex. Visiting the middle of the world is a mandatory stop once you are in Ecuador, You’ll have the opportunity to be able to stand on both sides of the hemispheres, north and south, at the same time and feel the neutral forces of the equator.

On our way, we will also stop for a view of the Pululahua crater, the third largest inhabited volcano crater in the world, hosting more than 400 people. After, we will reach the little town of Mindo, nestled into the cloud forest. This area is filled with a wide variety of plants and animal life, perfect for a nice introduction to the diversity of Ecuador. Mindo and its surrounding cloud forest are a birdwatcher's paradise, especially for hummingbirds!

In the afternoon, we will visit a chocolate distributor, where you can take a tour of the cocoa process, from harvesting the seed to the final product, like a delicious brownie or a cup of real hot cocoa.

Accommodation: Terrazas de Danna or similar.

Meals included: Breakfast

We will explore the pristine cloud forest of Mindo, crossing cable cars and hiking along waterfalls, surrounded by a lush green forest filled with toucans, hummingbirds, and colourful birds. In the afternoon, you will have some free time to enjoy the several optional outdoor activities offered in this area.

You can go whitewater rafting or "tubing" (several large inner-tubes tied together) as our steely-nerved guides steer you through thrilling rapids. Or try a canopy zip-line (sailing along one of 13 zip-lines over the beautiful canopy of the cloud forest.) One of the highlights of today is the visit to the butterfly nursery, where we watch gargantuan butterflies dry their wings after emerging from their jewel-like cocoons. You can dip your fingers into a banana concoction and then be thrilled as butterflies the size of birds’ land on your hands for a snack.

Accommodation: Terrazas de Danna or similar

Meals: Breakfast

Drive back up into the highlands and reach the Pan-American Highway, heading north on the way to the famous indigenous town of Otavalo. Here, admire the endless number of handicrafts made by the local people. Take time to stroll along the narrow cobblestone streets, which are filled with Otavalo indigenous people wearing the traditional blue ponchos. Visit their handicraft market, with its wonderful textiles, native paintings, ceramics, jewellery, tapestries, and more at bargain prices. In Otavalo, there will be enough time for shopping and cultural interaction.

In the afternoon, we will drive to Cotacachi to witness the impressive leather goods of the town and enjoy the beauty of this small village. There will be some free time for you to explore the shops or simply relax while sipping on one of the best coffees in Ecuador in the main plaza.

Later, we will arrive at the beautiful, historical hacienda of Pinsaqui, where we will stay overnight. Enjoy a typical Andean cocktail as welcome treat, and learn about the history of this place.

Accommodation: Hacienda Cusin or similar

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Today we will first visit the Cotacachi Cayapas ecological reserve to see the breathtaking scenery of the crystalline-clear waters of this active volcano and the amazing surrounding landscapes. At the end of an hour-long hike along the rim of the Cuicocha Crater Lake, we will take a boat ride to the centre of the crater to observe the activity of this volcano, watching bubbles coming up from the centre of the caldera.

Hands-on cultural experience: Sustainable Sacha WarmiKuna women Project

For lunch, we will head to Pijal, a small village located in the heart of the Andes, to visit one of the sustainable projects called Sacha WarmiKuna (women from the mountain). This is one fantastic effort developed by AJ and the local women with the main purpose of supporting their families and encouraging the position of the women in the local society, providing them with an alternative side job beside housekeeping as a new option for an income. Once at the project, you will experience an unforgettable cultural encounter, immersing yourself in the true spirit of the South American woman and their skills for textiles and deep culinary knowledge coming from past generations. You will be part of the preparation of "Aji,"  a local spicy salsa that is part of their identity. You will also share precious time with them and a tasty traditional lunch in which local women have used the fresh products harvested the same day from the surrounding organic fields. Later, we will learn more about the weaving process of their textiles. Don’t miss the amazing opportunity to have the chance to give back by buying handmade scarves here.

In the late afternoon, we will reach the luxury volcanic hot-springs resort of Papallacta, where you will have the chance to relax at the spa resort surrounded by the view of the majestic Andean mountains.

Accommodation: Papallact Spa & Resort

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch

After breakfast, following a last dip in the open-air hot springs, we will drive south on the Pan-American Highway to the highest active volcano in the world, Cotopaxi. The snow-capped volcano is surrounded by a national park, home to abundant plant life, a rich fauna and Inca ruins. We will begin our visit at the interpretation centre at the entrance of the park before continuing our drive across the pa´ramo to Limpiopungo Lake. During a short walk around the lake, we can observe a variety of birds and enjoy the stunning views of the almost symmetrical cone of the Cotopaxi volcano. Afterwards, drive back to Quito.

Accommodation: Go to a hotel or similar

Meals included: Breakfast, lunch

You will fly to Galapagos Island. Due to the Galapagos government, a fee of 20 USD must be paid for the migration control card.
Once in San Cristobal, passengers must go through an inspection point at the airport to make sure that no foreign plants or animals are being introduced to the archipelago. Also, this inspection point is where passengers have to pay for the entrance to Galapagos National Park under the following parameters:

Passengers Foreigners $100 and Children $50 (under 12 years old).

Later on, your guide will pick you up and carry your luggage to the bus. Passengers will arrive at the Catamaran Seaman Journey on a motorised boat called a panga.

In the afternoon, this is an interpretation centre with exuberant gardens and stunning ocean views. Visitors at the interpretation centre can learn a lot from the geological and human history of the islands, conservation facts, and natural history. This is the oldest museum of natural history in the Galapagos Islands, which attempts to preserve the archipelago. It is indeed inspiring and motivating to watch and learn about all of their research and attempts.

Accommodation: Seaman Journey

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner

A short visit will take place at the Galapaguera, a good place to observe Galapagos tortoises in its natural habitat.
San Cristobal island has endemic species such as: the Mockingbird Nesomimus melanotis, lava lizard (Microlophus bivittatus), Chatham Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus leei) and the tortoises. All of these species can be observed in this place; the beach is really big and it works as a nesting zone for marine tortoises. Between January and May, it is common to find the footprints of the female tortoises who have climbed to the sand dunes to deposit their eggs! This truly is a worthy experience to be a part of.

After lunch, we will visit Cerro Brujo, which is a beautiful white coral beach where you can swim and watch birds and sea lions, plus you can snorkel. This is the first coast where Charles Darwin walked in 1835. In this marvellous lava landscape, you can watch seabirds like blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, herons, frigate birds and shore birds. The protected bay is well known for its young tortoises, which like to swim around.

The pools with salty water behind the sand dunes were used by the fishermen as a salt mine in order to preserve food for the local population. Among the fauna, you can observe the Chatham Mockingbird and the San Cristobal Lava Lizards; both species are endemic to the island and unique to the area. Furthermore, you will see the Galapagos turtles and, with luck, the little bird known as the Pajaro Brujo in Spanish, an endemic species in San Cristobal Island.

The vegetation covers the entire route, where you can find species like the candelabrum cactus and carob trees. Located on the north coast of Isla San Cristobal, it is a peaceful place with white sand and crystal water, the perfect combination for an incredible stay.

Accommodation: Seaman Journey

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Located on the north-eastern coast of Hood, Gardner Bay offers an excellent beach to relax, swim and even kayak, plus the opportunity to observe sea lions (Zalophus wollebaki), Here we can also observe sharks in the crystal-clear ocean waters.
At this place, you can see three species of Darwin finches:

A subspecies of the large-billed cactus finch (Geospiza fuliginosa), which is similar to the large-billed terrestrial finch;
The small-beaked ground finch (Geospiza fuliginosa) and
The singing finch (Certhidea Olivacea), which is another endemic subspecies,.

Both resident and migratory birds are observed.

In the afternoon, we will visit Suarez Point; this area is great for spotting blue-footed boobies, albatrosses and Nazca boobies. A beautiful site on the oceanfront, the large waved albatrosses use the cliff as a launching pad. The famous attraction is the magnificent blowhole, which spurs water high into the air, at least from 50 to 75 metres high. This site presents wonderful photographic opportunities.

Accommodation: Seaman Journey

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

This site offers probably the best flamingo lagoon in the Galapagos; it is also one of the largest in the islands. It’s situated between two tuff lava cones that give the area a special atmosphere. There are various species of shorebirds to observe besides flamingos; the most frequent are common stilts, white-checked pintail ducks, and other migratory birds. It is very interesting to see the two distinct beaches: “The Green Beach” (due to its high percentage of olivine crystals in the sand) and “Flour Sand Beach,” which is made up of coral.

After the interesting walk, the group is taken to Champion Islet, a great place to enjoy snorkelling and underwater wildlife. Some of the animals that can be seen are sea turtles, sea lions, and multiple fish, thanks to the nearby coral reef.

Then, we will visit Post Office Bay. Historically, this site is the location of a wooden barrel that was placed in the 18th century by the crew of a whaling ship. It has been used since this time by marines and tourists as a post office. The idea is to carry letters or postcards to their destination by hand. Besides, this site was the landing area for some of the first colonists. This day’s afternoon is thought to be a relaxing time for visitors to enjoy the beach and the beauty of the Galapagos.

Accommodation: Seaman Journey

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Although the great majority of Galapagos visitors come here to observe and appreciate natural wonders, it is also interesting to learn how the protection and conservation of the islands are carried out. This path offers the possibility to learn aspects and feel synchronised with nature.

After the morning excursion, you will be taken to the airport for your flight to the mainland. Transfer to Baltra airport.

Accommodation: Sheraton (Quito)

Meals: Breakfast

Today our trip will end, and you will have your international departures. Take with you your memories and photos and leave a piece of your heart, as you will want to return to Ecuador soon to experience more of this enchanted land. We wish you a “Buen viaje”!

Meals: Breakfast

Price Includes

  • Transportation: Private and comfortable land transportation.
  • Accommodation based on double occupancy:
  • 4*hotel in Quito, cloud forest lodge in Mindo, hacienda in Otavalo, 4-star spa resort in Papallacta
  • First class eco cruise in Galapagos.
  • Activities mentioned in itinerary
  • Out-door gear: Hiking sticks
  • English-speaking adventure leader and local guides.
  • 100% financial protection & Security with TTA
  • Responsible Travel

Price Excludes

  • International flights
  • Galapagos flights
  • Single Supplement
  • Travel insurance (mandatory)
  • Meals not described in the itinerary
  • Personal expenses
  • Tips