Classic Ecuador | Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Quito
Arrival and transfer to your hotel. Overnight at Hotel Patio Andaluz, Casona de la Ronda or similar

Day 2:  Quito Colonial City tour
The place to start exploring Ecuador is Colonial Quito: a city of narrow cobblestone streets lined with whitewashed walls and, rising above, the steeples and cupolas of the city´s many spectacularly decorated historic churches. The city has one of the best preserved colonial centers in all South America, and its integrity was assured in 1978 when the United Nations declared Quito a World Cultural Heritage site.

Morning visit to colonial Quito. We will walk through the Main Plaza, where you will see the Government Palace, La Compañía, and some of the most important churches built around the XVI and XVII centuries, including the San Francisco Monastery which was started 5 days after the founding of the city in 1534. Then we will visit the city’s famous La Ronda street, where we will learn about traditional work in Colonial Quito.

For our last stop, we will also be visiting the ‘Panecillo’, the hill that dominates the South of the city, and where we will be able to admire the famous statue of Our Lady of the Panecillo and enjoy spectacular views of Quito. Return to your hotel in the early afternoon, with the remainder of the day free to explore the sites, museums, shops and restaurants of Quito. (B)

Day 3: Quito to Otavalo
Meet your guide early this morning to begin your 2 day/1 night exploration north to the Otavalo area. The mornings are usually spectacularly clear and crisp in the high mountains, and the 90-minute drive to our destination (2,000 meters /6,561 feet above sea level) is full of breathtaking sightseeing. This is a region surrounded by majestic mountain ranges 64 kilometers / 40 miles wide, full of fertile valleys and unmatchable scenic beauty Our first stop is at the Quitsato Sundial, a cultural-tourist site located on the equatorial line close to the Cayambe volcano, where you will learn about the astronomical knowledge of the region’s pre-Hispanic cultures.

Then we will drive to the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve for a visit to the Interpretation Center and a nice view of Cuicocha lagoon, a deep-blue crater lake on the lower southern flanks of Mount Cotacachi, After an optional the hike we will stop at the picturesque colonial town of Cotacachi, famous for its leatherwork, and enjoy lunch at a nearby local restaurant.

In the afternoon, we will be driven to our hotel, located in the center of the city of Otavalo.
The Hotel Otavalo is an exceptional combination of traditional architecture with modern design fuses perfectly to create an unforgettable luxury experience. In this way you will be able to walk around to visit the city at night and enjoy a different experience. (B, L)

Day 4: Otavalo Market & return to Quito
Meet your guide after breakfast for a visit to the famous, and very close Otavalo market located a short walk from your hotel.  The town´s famous craft market is one of the most visited sites in Ecuador, and with good reason. The market is filled with interesting colorful and sometimes rare objects and crafts. Do remember to bargain, but only if you´re interested! The market is held every day on one of the town squares at the foot of the majestic Imbabura Mountain. And to help you navigate the market, you will be given a short explanation of the market and provided with a map of the area. The Local Indian Market has been an economic and social center for more than 4000 years. 

As part of our day at the market we will visit the workshop of master weaver Miguel Andrango, in the village of Agato. Miguel’s art has taken him abroad, mainly to exhibitions and fairs in the United States where the quality of his work is widely acknowledged. In the small store in the courtyard of his Tawantinsuyo workshop, the walls are covered with bright designs, most with an indigenous motif; the designs are based on Inca patterns but are the work of Miguel and his family. The workshop uses only pure wool and Alpaca; the weavers card and spin it themselves and then dye it with natural inks made from mosses (for yellow) or seeds such as ‘Achiote’ (for red). 

Lunch is included at a local restaurant before our return journey to Quito. Check-in to your hotel for an overnight stay. (B, L)

Day 5:  To Cotopaxi
Morning departure from your Quito hotel for a 2-hour drive through the Andes to Cotopaxi. We will see bustling towns and small villages en route, along with beautiful alpine views . As we approach Cotopaxi National Park, you will be able to see the snow-capped summits of both the Cotopaxi and the Antisana volcanoes (weather permitting)

We make a stop at the Cotopaxi Interpretation center to learn about the history of its major eruptions as well as the local flora and fauna. Later, we will go to the windswept Limpiopungo Lake and discover the area by walking around it. Surrounded by beautiful peaks with Cotopaxi looming in the distance, it’s a beautiful setting to begin your discovery of the Andes ecosystem.  Optionally, if you feel like a longer walk, we can drive up the lower slopes of Cotopaxi, then embark on hike to the Jose Ribas mountain refuge (4800m), a small hostel used as a base for climbers preparing to climb to Cotopaxi’s summit. From here you will have spectacular views of Cotopaxi itself and the surrounding volcanoes of the Andes.  Overnight at the charming Chilcabamba Lodge/standard room. (B, L, D)

Day 6:  Cotopaxi-Quilotoa-Riobamba
After breakfast we leave Cotopaxi and continue our route through the Avenue of the Volcanoes. Our drive to Quilotoa will take approximately 3 hours.  Along the way, we will see indigenous markets. These markets are as authentic and untouristed as we can find in Ecuador today. They are important for the local indigenous people because the markets are the center of their social and economic worlds.  (*Markets take place in the following days.- Tuesday: Latacunga – Wednesday - Sunday: Pujili – Thursday: Saquisili - Saturday: Zumbahua.)

Next we'll visit the volcanic crater of Quilotoa, where we can appreciate a serene, green lake that is over 800 feet deep. The 2-mile-wide caldera was formed by the collapse of the now-dormant volcano following a massive eruption about 600 years ago. We’ll have the option of a short walk of about a mile along the crater's slope to take in the fantastic scenery.

On the way back down from Quilotoa, we will stop to visit the galleries of  the Tigua community where we can appreciate the paintings that represent the folklore of this Andean area.  Their unique style of paintings is an art that has been passed down three generations. We have the option of taking a painting class from a local artist, trying to learn the skills of these master artists and briefly immersing ourselves into their world--and of course you have a chance to purchase some of this fine local folkart!
Continue to the outskirts of Riobamba, where you check in to the Hotel Abraspungo for an overnight stay/Standard room (B, L, D)

Day 7:  Riobamba-Alausi/Devil's Nose Train Ride-Ingapirca-Cuenca
Early morning driver to Alausi, the departure point of the famed Devil's Nose Trail Ride. 

The biggest complication faced by the construction of the Trans-Andean railroad was the Devil’s Nose, a mountain with almost perpendicular walls. To overcome this obstacle a zigzag railroad was bulit that climbs more than 500 meters in less than 12 km with steep ascents and descents. It today remains an impressive piece of engineering.  While recovering from the mind-blowing descent you will enjoy the views of the narrow gorge of river Chanchán and will have the chance to learn a bit about the traditions and worldview of the Puruhuas in Sibambe.  Our way out of Sibambe we offer an optional hike to the Pistishi viewpoint. The route will take one hour uphill, and once there you will have an spectacular view of the Nariz del Diablo railroad. Alternately we  we can also have our transportation waiting for us to drive us to the viewpoint.  After admiring the view of the Devil’s Nose we will drive approximately 2 hours to Ingapirca.

(Note this train ride is currently not operating--during this time we'll include alternate visits to the Sibambe town & drive some of the train route;  hikes along the route, and view points/visits that will show off this very stunning part of Ecuador's scenery). 

After lunch we'll have a guided tour of the Ingapirca Ruins--the largest and best preserved archaeological complex in Ecuador. The Inca Empire’s only remaining sun temple, it was built with stones perfectly carved and joined with natural mortar. The temple served as a venue for ceremonies and rituals of the Cañari-Inca culture, and also had strategic military purposes. We will explore the complex, learning about the various structures – from baths to the wineries.  After our time at Ingapirca, we will drive approximately 1.5 hours to reach Cuenca where we check-in to the Hotel Victoria for a 2-night stay/standard room. (B, L)

Day 8: Cuenca
After breakfast, you will meet your guide for a half day city tour and an opportunity to admire the colonial architecture. One of the first things you notice in Cuenca is the magnificent skyline marked by shining church domes. Cuenca’s winding rivers, graceful ironwork balconies, and beautiful gardens are part of the pleasant atmosphere of this historic city, declared Cultural Patrimony by the UNESCO in December 1999, it’s a perfect place to discover walking and is ideal for those looking to blend into the relaxed setting of a truly romantic colonial city.  Our route in the Colonial area will include San Francisco Market, Flowers´ and San Sebastian Squares, Abdon Calderon Park, and the two cathedrals of the city.

Later we will continue to El Turi, an incredible viewpoint in the city and later we will visit to Eduardo Vega Gallery. Eduardo Vega is one of the most esteemed creators of murals and designers of ceramics of Latin America. He has contributed to beautifying public spaces in Ecuador, his native land and other places of the continent. The gallery/workshop produces, exhibits and offers for sale a rich sample of artistic, decorative and utilitarian pieces made by hand in an ambience of color and luminosity. One can find a range of pieces from small tiles decorated with native birds, to heritage houses, or plants, to mugs, cheese dishes, coffee-cup sets, to complete sets of dishes or murals in high relief. Enjoy a nice lunch before returning to your hotel. Your afternoon is free to explore the local markets & handicraft stores on your own. We suggest a visit to one of the famous Panama Hat workshops and galleries. (B, L)

Day 9: Cuenca -Bucay-Guayaquil
Departing very early from Cuenca, we will begin to make our way to Bucay on Ecuador’s coast. The drive takes approximately 3.5 hours straight through, however we will likely be tempted to stop and take in the views or stretch our legs with a short hike in the stunning Cajas National Park on our breathtaking descent from the Andes. This park, virtually unknown outside of Ecuador, is home to Lord of the Rings type landscapes, along with incredible flora and fauna.

 As our drive continues, we make our way through a variety of Ecuador’s incredible ecosystems. Our rapid descent from the Andes into the lowlands is spectacularly scenic, with snowy peaks, misty forests, and finally the coast.  On arrival in Bucay, we will visit Hacienda La Danesa. Located in Ecuador’s tropical coastal region with the spectacular Andes Mountains as backdrop, Hacienda La Danesa is a 500 Ha. traditional dairy farm that produces about 2,000 liters of milk per day, as well as fresh cheese for guests every morning. The hacienda also has cocoa and teak plantations and breeds beautiful pinto quarter horses.

The hacienda has belonged to the Olsen family for over 50 years.  They emphasizes exceptional service, ‘deep green’ environmental practices and authenticity that creates an experience every guest will remember. La Danesa is also committed to improving local standards of living through tourism, and implements strict policies to create jobs in the neighboring communities, start-ups and sourcing local ingredients.  During your day at Hacienda La Danesa you will be able to choose from the following activities: a tour of the cacao plantation, teak plantation tour, mountain biking and tubing on lazy rivers.  You will also enjoy a delicious three-course lunch menu prepared by the Hacienda’s expert chefs.

After lunch, we will drive approximately 2 hours to Guayaquil, where you check-in to the Wyndham Hotel for an overnight stay/Deluxe room. (B, L)

Day 10:  Depart
Take the hotel shuttle to the airport to continue with your travels to the Galapagos Islands, return to Quito, or back home. If your flight is in the afternoon, we can arrange an sightseeing tour of Guayaquil for this morning. (B)

B=Breakfast; L=Lunch; D=Dinner


2020 Departures

Daily (based on market options)
with a minimum of 2 people

2021 Departures

Daily (based on market options)
with a minimum of 2 people


4 travelers/2 rooms
$2595 pp

2 travelers/1 room
$3495 pp

Travel Style
recommended custom itinerary