Volcanoes, The Highest Andes & Indigenous Communities
Day 1: Quito – Otavalo – Cotacachi – Peguche – Ibarra – Karanki Magdalena
Panoramic colonial city tour of Quito with the largest and best preserved colonial old town in Latin America, unique churches, and architecture. Later in the day, we arrive in the morning to the city of Ibarra, we will embark on a train journey engineered in the early 20th-century that connects the northern Ecuadorian Andes and the 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.
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 Cotacachi, an Indian village which features leatherwork including bags, jackets, hats, gloves, and belts.
In the village of Peguche, known for traditional weaving and the handcrafted Andean musical wind instruments.
Be amazed by a panoramic view of Ibarra, famous for very beautiful and skilled wood carving and sculptures.
The ride continues through a marvelous Andean setting we head into the indigenous community of the Karanki Magdalena. The scene displays a wide array of crops which resemble a colorful patchwork on the eastern foothills of Imbabura volcano. The skillful people are known to produce outstanding embroidery which could be admired and purchased directly from the artisans.
Enjoy a great delicious food made with the local produce and a comfortable overnight stay.
Day 2: Magdalena – Ibarra – Salinas – Magdalena
Learn about their everyday activities such morning cow milking, shepherding and in season ox plowing.
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.
Back to Magdalena. 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.
Dine at the community and overnight stay.
Day 3: Karanki Magdalena Community – Papallacta Hot Springs
A 2-hour drive will take us to Papallacta hot springs, which is a water resort and SPA located in the highlands, on the way to the Amazon. Relax in any of the thermal pools, rich in minerals and varied temperatures. Other activities include, SPA treatments and massages, eating at the restaurant, hike through the surrounding moorlands to see the flora and fauna, or stay overnight in one of the resort bungalows.
Day 4: Papallacta–Ecological Reserve Antisana – Cotopaxi – Lasso
After breakfast, we are headed to the Antisana is the fourth highest Ecuadorian volcano at 18,875 feet (5,753 m.). As you approach the area, you will encounter an enormous, relatively new, lava flow which has formed the small lagoon of Secas. The extensive plains bordered by a series of cliffs are home to condors and other birds of prey roost. Among the birdwatching, there are Andean gulls, carunculated caracaras, Andean seedeaters, sierra-finches, eye striped cinclodes and with luck, the unique black-faced ibis. Occasionally, white-tailed deer or Andean fox can be seen, as well as, wild rabbits. Discover the unspoiled nature surrounding the Mica Lagoon with many interesting plants such as wild gentians and various species of daisies adapted to this harsh mountain environment. Vast plains form the landscape adorned by some peaks like the Sincholagua or Cotopaxi, and weather permitting, we could also see the massive glaciers of the volcano.
After lunch our journey continues in and overnight stay in Lasso village.
Day 5: Lasso – Quilotoa Lagoon – Baños
After breakfast, we depart onto the high Andes, we will reach and pass by the village of Tigua, featuring the famous naïve paintings made on sheepskin and wooden – animal- masks worn during local festivities. We travel to the village of Zumbahua, an indigenous community famous for their handicrafts and multicolored ponchos; a unique cross-cultural experience amidst the marvelous patchwork setting of the Andes. Arriving at the Quilotoa Crater and lake to admire the turquoise waters surrounded by ancient legends and a trekking excursion.
We continue our journey to Baños.
Day 6: Baños – Riobamba
Enjoy a local breakfast to later start a visit of Baños. We head down into the Pastaza River canyon to the so-called “Route of Waterfalls” where we find Cascada de la Virgen, the Bride’s Mantle, Machay, Pailón del Diablo, all of which lie along the riverbed of the Pastaza and surrounded by green lush vegetation. Walk through Pailón del Diablo (the Devil’s Cauldron) to observe this waterfall from a breathtaking suspension bridge.
In the afternoon we continue south to pass through the foothills of Chimborazo at 6310 meters above sea level, the highest volcano from the center of the Earth. Arriving in Riobamba, we will take a panoramic city tour and stay overnight.
Day 7: 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 8: 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 9: 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.
Early in the evening, we will visit various landmarks in Guayaquil City such as the Parque Centenario, the colorful Barrio las Peñas, up the Cerro Santa Ana, a panoramic view of Rio Guayas, stroll along Malecon 2000, admire the Monumento La Rotonda, view of the Moorish Clock Tower, and a visit at the Museo Arqueologico del Banco Central.
Overnight stay in Guayaquil.