Highlander: Otavalo & Across The Andes to Cuenca
Day 1: Quito – Otavalo – Peguche – Ibarra – Karanki Magdalena
Departing from Quito to the north, we will ride across the colorful valleys of Guayllabamba and Cayambe. A ride through the breathtaking Andean setting offers great photo opportunities and after two hours of traveling through the riveting countryside, we will arrive at the province of Imbabura.
Walk through the famed craft market of Otavalo, which is the most famous and picturesque in South America. For visitors, the market offers the possibility of approaching Ecuadorians at a more intimate level as you negotiate prices of a variety of woven goods, bags, hats, flutes or simply appreciate the skillful and generous people responsible for the elegance and beauty of the clothing and handicrafts.
Visit the village of Peguche, known for traditional weaving and the handcrafted Andean musical wind instruments. Be amazed by a panoramic view of Ibarra, taste a typical, refreshing sherbet – helado de paila to continue in a ride back to Quito.
Arrive at Magdalena, lunch. Stand face-to-face with people untouched by the urgencies of modern life. Taste the most authentic Andean home cooking. The taste of this hidden mountain niche can be absorbed in a series of optional activities such as horseback riding, mountain biking, or hiking up to the nearby hills. Dinner and accommodation Magdalena Community.
Day 2: Magdalena – Cotopaxi National Park
Learn about their everyday activities such morning cow milking, shepherding and in season ox plowing. After breakfast, travel south into the valley Cayambe, and visit the Cotopaxi National Park.
The Cotopaxi Volcano (5,897 m) is the highest active volcano in the world, located in the middle of the moorlands which is home to numerous birds species and varied flora. The natural location is great for adventures of various skills, there is the opportunity for a light hike around the park or to climb to the summit.
The surrounding landscapes are also beautiful. In the northeast lies the Rumiñahui mountain (4,557 m ) and between the two mountains the plain and lagoon of Limpiopungo. Enjoy a delicious local lunch to continue visiting a rose plantation; following the various steps of the production, from the hoop houses to the post-harvest room and learn why Ecuador is the second largest rose producer.
Day 3: Chimborazo Reserve – Riobamba
After breakfast, we continue our journey in a three-hour drive to Riobamba going through the cities of Latacunga and Ambato along the Avenue of the Volcanoes to reach the foothills over the western flank of the highest volcano in Ecuador, the snow-capped Chimborazo (at 20,702 ft, 6,310 m. above sea level).
The reserve around the volcano is devoted to the production of vicuna and shows the beauty of the Andes in its full splendor. In the afternoon, we will go to Riobamba for a city tour around the main squares and churches.
Day 4: Riobamba – Alausí – Ingapirca Ruins – Cuenca
After breakfast, we’ll go south to Alausí, along the way see la Balbanera, the first Spanish church built in the country. In Alausí, we will take a spectacular train ride through the Devil’s Nose, a highlight on railway engineering of the early twentieth century. Box lunch is provided to continue south for a two-hour drive to visit the Incan archaeological site of Ingapirca. These relics is one of the biggest construction made by the Incas in the fifteen century connecting Quito and Cuzco. The Solar Temple also holds a museum displaying pottery and metal artifacts found in the surrounding archaeological findings.
We arrive in Cuenca for an overnight stay.
Day 5: Cuenca
After breakfast, Cuenca is one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Ecuador and also a Unesco’s World Heritage Site. It is a city of facades dated from the last five centuries which have been kept intact due to the unique privilege of being the only city on the Ecuadorian Andes which has not been hit by major quakes. We will visit the Cathedral, the Main Square, the flower market, San Francisco and Santo Domingo churches and the Central Bank Museum with permanent archaeological, anthropological, colonial and republican art collections, including photographies documenting the city’s history. In the late afternoon, we visit a Panama hat factory where a wide variety of goods made from “toquilla” fiber-like bags, dolls and of course literally thousand possible hat styles, colors and prices. By the end of the tour, we will be in the Turi viewpoint for a panoramic view of the city.
Return to your hotel or transfer to the airport.