Ecuador Multisport – Amazon & Andes
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||6 days|
Select Mondays from Quito.
Shorter or longer versions are available by request.
- Itinerary at a Glance
- Mountain bike on the slopes of the world’s highest active volcano
- Explore an Andean hacienda on horseback
- Exhilarating Amazon jungle rafting on the best one-day river run (class III+)
- Relax in the rejuvenating natural hot springs
- Learn the ancient meaning of the equator
- Learn the secrets of textile weaving
- Hike around the Cuicocha Crater and Lake
- Top-notch bilingual adventure guides lead every step of your journey
- Accommodations in quality hotels, historic haciendas, and eco lodges
- Skilled professional guide service
- All transfers as outlined in itinerary
- 5 nights lodging(based on double occupancy)
- 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.
Day One: HIKE IN THE PASOCHOA WILDLIFE RESERVE (SANTA RITA) AND MOUNTAIN BIKE AT COTOPAXI NATIONAL PARK
We depart in the morning from Quito due south through the famed Avenue of the Volcanoes. On the way, we enjoy spectacular views of the Pita Canyon River Gorge in the foothills of the Pasochoa Volcano. We will visit the private reserve of Santa Rita; this lively forest boasts a wide range of highland trees and shrubs, as well as orchids, bromeliads, lichens, and ferns. Prolific birdlife includes at least 11 species of hummingbirds, and many birds endemic to Ecuador are easily spotted along the trails. If the skies are clear, the hike is made even more magical by the stunning backdrop of snow-capped peaks in the distance.
We continue driving towards the base of the Cotopaxi Volcano, where we begin our mountain biking adventure. After a safety briefing, we explore the park’s highland plateaus as we observe typical highland vegetation, ancient Inca ruins and fauna with stunning volcano scenery as a backdrop. We visit Limpiopungo Glacier Lake and exiting the park through the south entrance. We spend a relaxing evening at a famous local hacienda. (L, D)
DAY 2: HORSEBACK RIDING AT TILIPULO HACIENDA & EXPLORE ANDEAN FOREST
After breakfast, we drive to the ancient farmlands of Hacienda Tilipulo, located in an inter-Andean valley surrounded by interesting native vegetation and astounding views of the nearby volcanoes. After a safety briefing will be given before our departure towards the western cordillera bound to the highlands of Atapulo where we will be able to observe small farmlands called chacras, adobe houses, livestock such as llamas, sheep and others. The indigenous way of life, the occasional view of volcanoes Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Illiniza, Chimborazo and Altar will accompany us throughout this journey in the spectacular trails that go over hills, ravines and dirt roads
We continue our journey driving through the Avenue of the Volcanoes up to the Leito Valley. We enjoy spectacular views of the Tungurahua Volcano and the Patate River. In the afternoon we reach a cozy Andean Hacienda and if time aloud we will hike in to the Andean forest and beautiful waterfalls. Return to the farm house to relax and dinner (B, L, D)
DAY 3: BIKING TO THE AMAZON & VISIT THE FAMOUS WATERFALL ROUTE
In the morning, we drive to the edge of Llanganates National Park, gaining altitude until we reach an area with one of the best views of the – often fuming – Tungurahua Volcano. Here, we set up our mountain bikes for a scenic ride through highland paramo, which gradually melds into mountain cloud forest, and then lowland rainforest. We pass through a dry basaltic gorge that is a great spot to look for wild orchids. We continue our ride along the Pastaza River Gorge, one of the principal waterways that feed into the Amazon Basin. This is an especially scenic route, with high rock walls giving way to deep cloud forest canyons. We stop to admire some of the spectacular waterfalls in the area, such as Pailón Del Diablo (Devil’s Cauldron) and Manto de la Novia (Bride’s Veil). Switching from 2 wheels to 4, we drive until we reach Puyo, an Amazon frontier town where we learn about the manufacture of products made from Balsa wood, bamboo, ceramics, and other local materials. We enjoy lunch in Puyo before setting out along the Amazon highway to reach our Jungle Lodge. Once we settle into our lodge, if time aloud we will visit a Kichwa indigenous community. Here, we learn about their way of life, culture, traditions, and customs of the Amazon. At the end of the day, we settle into our jungle lodge ready for a peaceful evening surrounded by rainforest sounds. (B, L, D)
DAY 4: JUNGLE RAFTING ON THE JATUNYACU RIVER
After enjoying breakfast in our lodge, we drive to Llanganates National Park, which extends from the high Andes down into the Amazon basin and is part of an area declared a Biosphere Zone by the United Nations. The water that collects in this area forms the Jatunyacu River, which is considered Ecuador’s best one-day river run. We begin the day with a walk in the jungle to reach naturally-formed swimming pools. Upon our return and after a safety briefing, our whitewater rafting adventure begins. A trip down the Jatunyacu River offers spectacular jungle scenery, crystal-clear water, and glimpses into indigenous communities that live along the shores in small bamboo and wood houses. The Jatunyacu is also famed for its big waves, fun holes, and high volume of water (Class III – III+). We’ll spend the rest of the day navigating the Jatunyacu, whose waters carry us through breathtaking landscapes with abundant bird life. In the afternoon, we drive back up into the Andes, climbing from 1,500 to 10,000 feet (500 to 3,000 meters) in altitude and passing through a national park and nature reserve until we reach the Papallacta Hot springs Resort & Spa. In the evening, we relax in the therapeutic alkaline-rich natural thermal waters of Papallacta while nestled in fantastic cloud forest scenery. Spa services such as massages, aromatherapy, and other optional treatments can also be arranged in advance. Lodgings at Papallacta Resort (B, L, D)
DAY 5: PARAMO HIKE, QUITSATO MONUMENT, & OTAVALO INDIGENOUS MARKET
In the early morning, we visit the highland interpretation center and go for a guided nature hike in a private cloud forest and paramo reserve, where we seek out birds, highland plants, and other Andean wildlife species. Afterwards, we drive to a Middle of the World monument shaped as a star of eight points, representing pre-colonial and Incan indigenous beliefs that 0º latitude was the center of time and measurement. Here we learn about Ecuador’s geographic position and how its location on the equator influences its many cultures, climates, and biological diversity. Lunch on route and then we spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the towns of Otavalo and Peguche, where Ecuador’s indigenous culture and heritage is visible in their famous markets full of colourful textiles, traditional handicrafts, and more. We spend time one-on-one with local weavers who share the secrets of their craft that have been passed down for generations, and visit the Andean Music Museum to hear the traditional instrumental and vocal sounds of the Andes. The evening is spent at a traditional colonial hacienda. (B, L, D)
DAY 6: HIKING AROUND CUICOCHA CRATER LAKE
After breakfast, we drive up to Cuicocha Crater Lake, located 10,000 feet (3,068 meters) above sea level within the Cayapas-Cotacachi National Park. Cuicochoa Lake is the freshwater-filled caldera of a dormant volcano, located at the foot of a volcano of the same name, and surrounded by stunning cloud forest scenery. We hike around the shore of the Crater Lake, admiring the lava dome islands in the center and keeping an eye out for birds and other interesting wildlife. We enjoy a picnic lunch on the lake before departing for Quito in the afternoon. Upon our return, we have the evening free to explore the landmarks and night life of Ecuador’s capital city. (B, BL)
- 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.