Pathway through The Andes & Baños descending to the Coast
Day 1: Quito – Baños – Riobamba
Early departure from Quito towards the “Avenue of the Volcanoes” to view the impressive Cotopaxi Volcano. Continue along a series of temperate valleys with some villages and towns like Latacunga, Salcedo or Ambato before turning east headed to Baños, a small and friendly town/thermal bath resort nestled amidst mountains and found midway between the Andes and the Amazon. In the Gateway to the Amazon by the Agoyán waterfall, we arrive into the Pastaza River canyon to the so-called “Route of Waterfalls” where we will see Cascada de la Virgen, the Manto de la Novia, Machay, Pailón del Diablo waterfalls surrounded by green lush vegetation. Walk through Pailón del Diablo (the Devil’s Cauldron) to observe this waterfall from a breathtaking suspension bridge. Return to Baños for a brief sightseeing of the town before we continue the ride to Riobamba passing near the foothills of Chimborazo Volcano, the highest mountain from the center of the earth.
We arrive in Riobamba for an overnight stay.
Day 2: 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 3: 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 4: 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.
Drop off at the hotel or airport.