The smallest country in the rugged Andean highlands, Ecuador has an array of vibrant indigenous cultures, well-preserved colonial architecture, otherworldly volcanic landscapes and dense rainforest. This program has been designed to show you the best of mainland Ecuador in one action-packed week.
|Trip Length||9 days|
Select Saturdays from Quito.
Shorter versions are available by request.
- Itinerary at a Glance
• Meet in Quito
• Hike and mountain bike in Cotopaxi National Park
• Horseback ride and hike in Tungurahua and Banos
• Jungle trek in the Amazon Basin, stay in a torch-lit jungle lodge
• River raft Jatunyacu River, stay at jungle lodge
• Relax or hike at Papallacta Hot Springs
• Mountain bike through Imbaya province and visit the famous Otavalo market
• Bike down from 4000 m through Mojanda Lakes area
• Return to Quito
• Skilled professional guide service
• All transfers as outlined in itinerary
• 7 nights lodging(based on double occupancy)
• Meals as outlined
• All activities and equipment as outlined in the itinerary
- Detailed Itinerary
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. The itinerary is subject to change as it is dependent on lodge availability, weather, National Park notices and participants, but here is a sample of what your trip may be like.
Today you arrive in Quito and we will transfer you to our favourite hacienda approximately 15 minutes from the new airport. Overnight Quito
Day Two: Cotopaxi National Park
After an early breakfast at the hotel, our guides will meet you and transport you to Cotopaxi National Park, one of the most scenic volcanic scenarios of the Ecuadorian highlands where glacial lakes, Inca ruins, rivers and plateaus speckled with lava rocks that tell us about the recent eruptions of the highest active volcano in the world (19,460 ft). This ecosystem, called Paramo, is vitally important. Unlike other places in the world that are perpetually covered in snow, Ecuador reveals a whole spectrum of diversity and wonder. The Paramo provides the lower Andean regions with water in the form of rivers and springs, and it is the home of unique plant and animal life. Soon we reach Hacienda El Porvenir, a 3000-hectare, family-owned hacienda rich in history and representative of the Chagra (Ecuadorian cowboy) culture. El Porvenir has been in the same family for 7 generations, and was the first hacienda in Ecuador to raise fighting bulls. After a traditional welcome tea, we gear up Chagra style, and don ponchos, chaps, and cowboy hats to explore the expansive grounds of the hacienda on horseback (hiking is optional). The hacienda produces potatoes, lima beans, quinoa, and other crops that grow at altitudes over 10,000 feet (3,000 meters), all with a backdrop of spectacular volcano scenery. Our Chagra guide accompanies us to care after our horses, share his knowledge of local plants, birds, and fauna, and help us to admire the brave fighting bulls. We ride up the slopes of the Ruminahui Volcano – where, if we are lucky, we’ll spot the magnificent Andean Condor, the largest flying bird in the world. After lunch we continue to Cotopaxi National Park for a soft hike and by the end of the day spend a relaxing evening at Hato Verde, a historic family-run hacienda.
Day Three: Tungurahua & Banos – Biking & Hiking
After a delicious breakfast, we continue our trip to the Tungurahua province where we explore Banos, a small town nestled on the foothills of Tungurahua Volcano, and within in the Pastaza river valley. Unlimited mountain trails are the scenario for mountain biking or hiking. We will encounter waterfalls and stunning views of the mighty Pastaza river gorge, which is the main gateway to the Amazon Basin. We also discover small villages, farmland, lush mountain scenery and the simple way of life enjoyed by the local people. These exciting and challenging trails along with the fresh trade winds make for an unforgettable day. You will have time to explore the town of Banos in the afternoon. Tonight we will stay at a spa resort overlooking the valley
Day Four: Down to the Amazon – Jungle Trekking
We start our morning with a lovely breakfast, before driving down to the Amazon Basin following the Pastaza river gorge, surrounding ourselves by splendid views of the Valley. We make a couple of stops along the way. The first stop is for those who dare to try the cable car ride on the Bride’s Veil Waterfall, and the second is for a small hike on the hanging bridge over the Devil’s Pail, an impressive waterfall feeding the Pastaza River. As we continue our journey, we feel a change in temperature and humidity, which tells us we have arrived to Kichwa territory. This is the main Indian tribe that populates the Arajuno and Napo river valleys. Lunch is served in a rainforest hut. We enjoy our afternoon hiking through the rainforest where an indigenous guide will teach us the tricks of the trade, show us the most important medicinal plants used by the kichwas, as well as an explanation of the exotic ecosystem surrounding us, exotic flowers and lush vegetation. The highlight tonight is the torch lit, Cotococha Amazon Lodge. Our rustic riverside cabanas complete with private showers and balcony are nestled by the Napo River and will immerse you in the sounds of the jungle.
Day Five: Jatunyacu River – Jungle River Rafting
We start the day with an easy hike in the Llanganates National Park. This is a mysterious and fascinating region of Ecuador – famous for hiding the secrets of the legendary gold treasure of the last Inca Ruler, Atahualpa. This path leads us to some pristine natural pools where we can enjoy a swim and a natural massage in the stream. The Jatunyacu river is famed for its big waves and calm pools. We have a day filled with class III+ rapids, rainforest, and local Indian tribes. Tonight we will return to the jungle sounds and rhythms at Cotococha Lodge.
Day Six: Eastern Andes – Hotsprings
The afternoon finds us traveling towards up the Andes to 3,000 m in elevation and our destination at Papallacta Hot Springs resort where we were earlier in the trip. If you wish, we can do a great acclimatization hike or you can just enjoy the beautiful hotsprings and a spa nestled in the middle of fantastic cloud forest. Fine dining and a night of relaxation will help rejuvenate and invigorate your tired muscles.
Day Seven: Otavalo – Mountain Biking
Today we will shuttle to Imbabura Province, land of the Imbayas, which are some of the proudest Indian tribes of the northern valleys. The Imbayas are known for their music, culture and handicrafts, which are sold in markets around the world. We’ll bike through this cultural area, winding our way through indigenous villages, lakes and volcanoes. A brief stop at Peguche holy waterfalls, the town of Peguche known for its weaved handicrafts, Iluman, village of the shamans, and the town of San Antonio where wood carving and handicrafts are the highlights. Dirt roads, old cobblestones and single track lead us through this imposing valley between the volcanoes of Imbabura (father) and Cotacachi (mother). In the afternoon, we will spend time at Otavalo Indian Market. By day’s end, we’ll transfer a beautiful hacienda for dinner and celebrations. Overnight Hacienda Pinsaqui
After a delcious breakfast we transfer to Hacienda La Jimenita or to the airport
- About the Region
Once a little known region for expert paddlers and mountaineers alike, Ecuador is now being recognized as the ultimate multi-sport location. Arguably South America’s most diverse country and ideally situated on the equator, Ecuador has everything from beaches to 20,000 foot snow-capped peaks. And all that in a nation no bigger than the state of Nevada. When you touch down in its picture-perfect capital, Quito, you are no more than a day’s drive from Amazonian jungle, a snow-swept ascent of an active volcano, a sociable haggle with indigenous artesanos or a welcome wallow on a tropical beach.
Travelling in small groups we’ll see the best of what Ecuador has to offer. We’ll hike and bike in Cotopaxi National Park, raft an Amazon river, horseback ride to volcanoes and waterfalls and even soak in deluxe hotsprings. Long downhill descents and endless single track make for a mountain biker’s dream come true. Nightime is equally as enjoyable as you’ll be treated to the region’s best lodging in traditional haciendas, jungle lodges and even a French baronial mansion.
Traveling the east and west Andes is spectacle to behold, but it diverse geography and the warmth and friendliness of the Ecuadorian people that makes this trip most memorable. This dramatic multi-sport makes a perfect stand-alone vacation or can be paired with our Galapagos multisport for the ultimate 2 week adventure.
Ecuador – as the name implies – lies draped across the equator in the northwestern corner of South America. It shares a border with Peru to the south and east, and is bounded by Colombia to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Ecuador contains within its borders an improbable variety of landscape and culture. For the mountaineer, it is bisected by an epic stretch of the northern Andes. For the jungle explorer, there is a biological mother lode within the Amazonian Oriente. The sea-minded are rewarded with miles of Pacific coastline, to say nothing of the living wonders of the Galapagos Islands.
The country is also home to some of the world’s most extraordinary national parks. In a matter of two hundred miles, the traveler can penetrate all of the mainland’s defining regions. For simplicity, Ecuador can be divided into four regions: the western coastal lowlands, the central Andean highlands, the eastern jungles of the Amazon Basin and – some 620 miles west of the mainland – the Galapagos Islands.
The western lowlands – once thick with forests – are today blanketed by banana, palm and cacao farms and have little to interest most travelers. The Andean highlands – the country’s backbone – are composed of two volcanic ranges separated by a central valley in which the bulk of the population lives. The highlands also contain the nation’s highest mountain, Chimborazo, whose 6310m (20,700ft) peak stands out – thanks to Earth’s equatorial bulge – as the farthest point from the center of the planet. Quito, the national capital, sits centered at the northern end of the country in an Andean valley only 22km (14mi) south of the equator. Guayaquil, Ecuador’s other main city, basks on the sweltering southern coast just north of the Peruvian border.
Weather & When to Visit Ecuador?
Always warm, Ecuador’s can be visited year round. There’s no real summer or winter in Ecuador. Embracing the Pacific, Ecuador’s seasons are defined more by rainfall than temperature. The warm season lasts from January to April, and May through December is characterized by a slighty cooler, drier period. The mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding are good at any time while the Amazon Basin is best for rafting between October and February.
With its relatively small territory, Ecuador holds more than 11% of the land vertebrates in the world. Thanks to its agreeable climate and patchwork of habitats (alpine grasslands, coastal swamps, tropical rainforest), Ecuador is one of the most species-rich nations on earth. Dubbed by ecologists a ‘megadiversity hotspot,’ it boasts 300 species of mammal alone, including monkeys, sloths, llamas, alpacas and the rare spectacle bear. Birdwatchers may gawk at the Andean condor, but there are plenty of other species. Holding less than .02% of the world’s land mass, Ecuador holds about 10% of all the bird species found on the planet. Falcons, hawks, parrots, toucans, parakeets, hummingbirds and cuckoos are just o a few of the 1600 sepecies found here.
Ecuador’s culture and history mirrors the diversity of its landscape. Like much of South America, Ecuadorian culture blends the influences of Spanish colonialism with the resilient traditions of pre-Columbian peoples. Archaeologists trace the first inhabitants as far back as 10,000 BC, but by 3,200 BC three distinct agricultural-based civilizations had emerged, producing some of the hemisphere’s oldest known pottery. Soon trade routes developed with nearby Peru, Brazil, and Amazonian tribes. Culture continued to thrive and diversify, and by 500 BC large cities had been established along the coast. In 1460 AD, when the Inca ruler Tupac-Yupanqui invaded from the south. Remarkably, the Canari, Quitu, and Caras were able to hold back Tupac-Yupanqui, though they proved less successful against his son, Huayna Capac. After conquering Ecuador, Huayna Capac indoctrinated the tribes to Quechua, the language of the Incas, which is still widely spoken in Ecuador.
In celebration of his victory, Huayna Capac ordered a great city to be built at Tomebamba, near Cuenca. Its size and influence rivaled the capital of Cuzco in Peru–a rivalry that would mature with posterity. When he died in 1526, Huayna Capac divided the empire between his two sons, Atahualpa and Huascar. Atahualpa ruled the northern reaches from Tombebamba, while Huascar held court over the south from Cuzco. The split inheritance was an unconventional and fateful move, as the first Spaniards arrived in the same year. On the eve of Pizarro’s expedition into the empire, the brothers entered into a civil war for complete control.
Francisco Pizarro landed in Ecuador in 1532, accompanied with armed men and an equally strong lust for gold. Several years earlier, Pizarro had made a peaceful visit to the coast, where he heard rumors of inland cities of incredible wealth. This time, he intended to conquer the Incas just as Hernando Cortez had crushed Mexico’s Aztecs–and he couldn’t have picked a better time. Atahualpa had only recently won the war against his brother when Pizarro arrived, and the empire was still unstable. Pizarro ambushed the ruler, forced him to collect an enormous ransom, and then executed him. Although the Incas mounted considerable resistance to Pizarro, they were soon broken.
Spanish governors ruled Ecuador for nearly 300 years, first from Lima, Peru, then later from the viceroyalty of Colombia. The Spanish introduced Roman Catholicism, colonial architecture, and today’s national language. Independence was won in 1822, when the famed South American liberator Simon Bolivar defeated a Spanish army at the Battle of Pichincha. Bolivar united Ecuador with Colombia and Venezuela, forming the state of Gran Colombia. His plan was to eventually unite all of South America as a constitutional republic, and one can only wonder what such a nation would have been like if his dream had been realized. After eight years, however, local interests sparked Ecuador to secede from the union. Colombia and Venezuela soon split.
Today most of the population live in the highlands. Over half of the people are mestizo, and a quarter are indigenous. Spanish is the official language, but many natives speak Quechua or Jarvo. European-descended residents, who account for about 10% of the population, are mostly landholders and play a dominant role in Equador’s unstable political life. Some 10% of the country’s inhabitants are of African descent. Roman Catholicism is the main religion, although there is no established church.