Highlights of Ecuador & descending to the Coast
Day 1: Quito – Ibarra – Chaski Route – Train – Salinas – Otavalo – Karanki Magdalena Community
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.
Travel to Ibarra to catch the train that runs on an early 20th-century railroad system connecting the northern Ecuadorian Andes with the Ecuadorian Pacific Coast. The ride descends into the warm, dry valley of Salinas, across sugarcane plantations, magical landscapes, through tunnels and over bridges spanning canyons and patchwork fields.
Enjoy a unique lunch at the Salinas afro-Ecuadorian community restaurant, implemented by Go Galapagos – Kleintours in an effort to boost tourism in support of this fascinating area. The menu has been carefully put together through with the community to share the local savoir-faire with our high-quality standards.
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.
The ride continues through a marvelous Andean setting we head into the indigenous community of the Karanki Magdalena. Bike or horseback ride through a wide array of colorful patchwork on the eastern foothills of the Imbabura volcano. Learn from the community members about local planting techniques of potatoes, quinoa, lupin, corn, beans, wheat and other vegetables depending on the harvesting season.
Day 2: Otavalo – Papallacta Hot Springs – Amazon Rainforest Lodge
Departure south to enjoy the Andean countryside, moorland vegetation including the always intriguing Polylepis trees. Unwind at the spa and thermal springs of Papallacta before we continue with a local lunch. We continue on our way to the Amazon with dramatic changes in climate and vegetation until arriving at the Amazon Rainforest Lodge.
Day 3: Amazon Rainforest
We start the day with a delicious breakfast, to start our cultural visit to a local indigenous family to learn about their daily life. There are various Amazonian population living int he Ecuadorian jungle, each with their own culture and traditions. Experience nature and travel by canoe along rivers, depending on weather conditions some activities will be made depending on the interests of the visitors.
Day 4: Amazon – Baños – Riobamba
We will head to Baños and encounter a series of waterfalls along the Pastaza River canyon including Cascada de la Virgen, The Bride’s Shroud, Machay, and Pailón del Diablo. The town is a small and friendly city amidst mountains, found the midway between the Andes and the Amazon. Baños is an ideal destination for ecotourism and adventure sports traveling.
After lunch, we will drive to the city of Riobamba passing at the foothills of Chimborazo Volcano, the highest summit in Ecuador with over twenty thousand feet and from there to Riobamba for a quick view of the city.
Day 5: 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 6: 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.
Day 7: Cuenca – El Cajas National Park – Guayaquil
We start the day with a local prepared breakfast, to be headed to Guayaquil for a four-hour drive across El Cajas National Park. This natural reserve is famous for its more than 200 lagoons, such as La Toreadora which is home to various bird species and plants like the Polylepis trees. The motorway will take us from 4000 meters down to sea- level, making it possible to observe some of the different habitats responsible for Ecuador’s diversity: Andean moorlands, the cloud forests and the subtropical and tropical rainforests, along with some tropical crops such as cacao, bananas, sugar cane or rice.
We head to the city of Guayaquil for a drop off at the hotel or airport.