Volcanoes, the Highest Andes & Indigenous Communities

Volcanoes, the Highest Andes & Indigenous Communities

Day 1:Quito city tour-Otavalo-Cotacachi-Peguche-San Antonio de Ibarra-Magdalena

Panoramic colonial city tour of Quito with the largest and best preserved colonial old town in Latin America, unique churches and arquitecture.  Departing from Quito to the North, we drive across the colorful valleys of Guayllabamba and Cayambe. Guayllabamba is rich in fertile soil and through effective irrigation systems has become an important producer of avocado and the local cherimoya fruit. Cayambe, traditionally dedicated to dairy cattle and manufacturing of dairy products, has recently enjoyed an important boom in rose farming. The breathtaking setting offers great photo opportunities and after two hours of traveling through the riveting Andean countryside, we arrive to the province of Imbabura.

We visit the world renowned craft fair and market at Otavalo which is the most famous and picturesque in South America. Markets are meeting places for shopping, bargaining and chatter, while people of the region exchange local produce, animals, utensils, pots and pans or textiles. For visitors, the markets offer 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
Cotacachi, village which features leatherwork including bags, jackets, hats, gloves and belts.  Technical stop
Visit Peguche, a village famous for its fabrics and indigenous looms where you can purchase beautiful weavings directly from the looms.Visit an Andean wind instrument store and workshop.
VisitSan Antonio de Ibarra, famous for very beautiful and skilled wood carving and sculptures.
Arrive in Magdalena, an agricultural community based in the picturesque valley of Zuleta.  The scene displays 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. 
Overnight in a comfortable room, taste the most authentic Andean home cooking. Dinner & Accommodation. 

Day 2: Magdalena – Ibarra – Train – Salinas - Magdalena
Learn about their everyday activities such morning cow milking, shepherding and in season ox plowing.  Breakfast. Continue to the city of Ibarra to catch the train; traveling across green and mountainous landscapes, we will learn about sugarcane production in Chota Valley and enjoy a typical lunch at the Salinas Afro-Ecuadorian community restaurant.  Lunch.
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. Lodging and dinner.

Day 3: Magdalena – Papallacta Hot Springs 
Breakfast. Departing from Madgalena for around two-hour drive, we reach PapallactaHot Spring resort, located in the high Andes, on the way to the Amazon Basin. Pools and hot springs are the primary attraction, where you can also enjoy soothing massage therapy in an exclusive spa for full-body relaxation. Technical stop. This location features wonderful trails, ideal for bird watching, horseback riding, or simply enjoying a unique natural setting dominated by unusual Polylepis trees. Accommodation.

Day 4: Papallacta–Ecological Reserve Antisana – Cotopaxi – Lasso
Breakfast. Travel to Antisana Ecological Reserve. The Antisana Volcano is the fourth highest volcano in Ecuador at 18,875 feet (5,753 meters) above sea level and is considered the most important Andean condor sanctuary in Ecuador. We will explore relatively recent lava formations and a series of cliffs where condors roost. Discover remote, unspoiled nature surrounding the lake Mica and observe the rich vegetation amid a landscape of high peaks and glaciers. Lunch. Continue south to the village of Lasso. On a clear day, along the way we will admire Cotopaxi Volcano in its entire splendor. Accommodation.

Day 5:Lasso–Quilotoa Lagoon – Baños
Breakfast.Departing west and ascend the mountains to reach the village of Tigua, home to sheepskin naïve paintings and wood-carved masks worn during local festivities, depicting the animals of the region. We then visit the village of Zumbahua, famous for its handicrafts and colorful ponchos, where you can engage in a wonderful cross-cultural experience amid stunning Andean landscapes.Visit Quilotoa, a turquoise-colored crater lagoon surrounded by mountains and legends. Technical stop.Travel to Baños. Accommodation.

Day 6:Baños - Riobamba
Breakfast.After visiting the village, we head down into the Pastaza river canyon to the so called "Avenue of Waterfalls" where we find Cascada de la Virgen, Maria Inés, the Bride’s Mantle, Path of Machay, Pailóndel Diablo, all of which lie along the riverbed of the Pastaza and surrounded by green lush vegetation. The tallest waterfall, Pailóndel Diablo (the Devil’s Cauldron) can be observed from a breathtaking suspension bridge. Technical stop. In the afternoon we continue south to pass by the foothills of Chimborazo at 6310 meters above sea level, the highest volcano in the country. In the afternoon, we will arrive in Riobamba and will take a panoramic city tour. Accommodation.

Day 7:Riobamba –Alausí–Tren-IngapircaRuins - Cuenca
Breakfast. From Riobamba we’ll go to Alausí, via 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 true feat in railway engineering of the early twentieth century. Box lunch. Continue south for another two hours to visit the Inca-Cañari ruins of Ingapirca, this citadel was built in the fifteenth century on an ancient route that connected Quito to Cuzco. The Solar Temple and the surrounding buildings follow the system of construction found in the ancient Incan capital.  Visit the archaeological site and also the site museum displaying pottery and metal artifacts found, not only at this site, but also at the surrounding archaeological findings. We arrive in Cuenca by nightfall. Hotel accommodation.

Day 8:Cuenca
Breakfast. One of the most beautiful colonial cities in Ecuador and also a Unesco’s World Heritage Site.Cuenca is a city of facades dated from the last five centuries which has being kept intact due to the unique privilege of being the only city on the Ecuadorian Andes which has not being hit by major quakes. We visit the Cathedral, 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 interesting photography documenting the city’s history. Technical stop. 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. At the end we shall have a panoramic look of the city from Turi viewpoint. Overnight in Cuenca.

Day 9:Cuenca - El CajasNational Park- Guayaquil
Breakfast. Departure from Cuenca to Guayaquil for a four-hour drive across El Cajas National Park, famous for its more than 200 lakes and lagoons, such as La Toreadora where we can see some birds and plants such as Polylepis trees. In less than three hours, the highway 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 cloudforest and the subtropical and tropical rainforests, along with some tropical crops such as cacao, bananas, sugar cane or rice. 
Early evening arrival to Guayaquil "the Pearl of the Pacific".Upon arrival we visit the Centenario Park devoted to the independence and freedom on the old city from the Spanish domain to continue on to the legendary Barrio Las Peñas, the original and only surviving colonial district of the city where you can have some fantastic panoramic views of the city and Guayas River. Stroll along charming river promenade, Malecón 2000: we’ll admire the Rotonda monument dedicated to San Martin and Bolivar, leaders of South American Independence together with some important historical landmarks such as the Moorish clock tower. We then visit the well known Central Bank Archaeological Museum. Overnight in Guayaquil.

Volcanoes, the Highest Andes & Indigenous Communities