Best of Ecuador: Haciendas, Hikes & Communities | Trip Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive Quito. You’ll be met as you exit the secure area of the airport, and transferred into the city of Quito. Check in to your select hotel in the charming historical center of Quito (Casona de la Ronda or upgrade option Mama Cuchara) for a 2-night stay.
Day 2: Quito City Colonial Walking Tour (3 hours)
Ecuador is history, fascinating indigenous cultures, slow winding rivers and lush tropical forests, spectacular snow-capped volcanoes and some of the most exciting wildlife on earth.
The place to start 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.
We will walk through the Main Plaza, where you will see the Government Palace, and some of the most important churches built around the XVI and XVII centuries, including the La Compania, monastery of San Francisco which was started 5 days after the founding of the city in 1534.
We will also visit La Ronda Street, here we will learn about the traditional jobs in the Colonial Quito.
Ecuador’s unique equatorial climate provides the perfect environment for growing the world’s finest cacao - Cacao Arriba. Cacao has been revered in Latin America for over 5,000 years. Spanish explorers loved it so much they called it the ‘Food of the Gods’. Republica del Cacao´s journey started over ten years ago when they set themselves an ambitious mission, to locally produce the most authentic chocolate, protecting and developing sustainable fine cacao production.
Our chocolate experience starts with a guided journey by story through the history of
Ecuadorian cacao and a tasting of chocolate.
Included: english speaking guide, entrance fees, excursion
Day 3: Excursion Mojanda Lakes and Taxopamba Waterfall
We leave Quito early in the morning, after a hearty breakfast. The mornings are usually spectacularly clear and crisp in the high mountains and the 90 minute drive to our destination (more than 2,000 meters - 3,200 ft - above the sea level) is full of breathtaking vistas. This is a region surrounded by majestic mountain ranges only 40 miles wide, full of fertile valleys and unmatchable scenic beauty, inhabited by a kind people anxious to show you the customs and cultural heritage that make them so distinct. Our first stop is at the Quitsato Sundial, a cultural-tourist place located at La Mitad Del Mundo, near to Cayambe, where you will learn about astronomical aspects of the prehispanic cultures of the region.
Our home for the night is the charming Las Palmeras Inn--located just above the town of Otavalo. At the lodge you'lll find comfortable accommodations and lush gardens to enjoy.
After a well prepared lunch in the inn we will travel up to the Mojanda lakes, a 20 minute scenic drive from the Lodge. Here you can take a two-hour scenic hike around the lakes and their marvelous scenery or, for those feeling more athletic or interested in climbing there is the option to climb from the lakes up to Fuya Fuya (14,200 feet). This is a non-technical but steep climb. If, on the other hand, you feel more like unwinding and enjoying the view we can arrange a plan to fish, or simply relax at the lake. We can also make a stop to take a short hike to the Taxopamba Waterfall. Along the way you can learn about the medicinal herbs and plants that grow in the region, as well as the area´s many animals and birds, as well as discussing current conservation issues.
Another option is a visit to the nearby raptor rescue center--the Parque Condor. This is a place for the protection and recovery of a number of species of birds of prey. Amongst these is the magnificent Andean Condor, whose wing span can reach more than eight feet. This is a must visit if you are interested in this marvelous bird and its close association with the Andean indigenous cultures. Here we will also see some of the other fascinating and beautiful birds of prey that are found in the Northern Andes. Additional charge $10.00 entrance fee. The center gives educational flight demonstration of some of their resident raptors. If interested please inquire as to their current schedule so we can schedule this visit in advance. (currently closed on Mondays). Return to your hotel for a relaxing evening, with dinner included.
Night at Las Palmeras Inn (Standard room) (B, L, D)
Day 4: Otavalo: Cultural Immersion in Otavalo
We pass the Mojanda community on their traditional pathways connecting to the city of
Otavalo and make our first stop at the food market. What better way to understand a culture than by learning about their food! We will explore the market and learn about the different crops which are produced in the surrounding farmlands which we will be exploring over the next few days. Our expert guides will inspire you with information on the colorful, tasteful fruits and vegetables while interacting with the “caseras”. From the food market, we head into the heart of this bustling city market - the Plaza de Ponchos, the biggest Indian market famous for its craft work. Our recommendation: wander and explore it on your own, interact and get a feeling for it. Our guides will be here to assist you in your exploration. After Otavalo, we will travel back in time to the small communities that surround this big busy commercial town and whose farmers, ranchers and craftspeople make the Otavalo market what it is.
First we will explore the community of Peguche and then continue along the path to a a beautiful 50 ft. (18 m) waterfall which is also an Indigenous Ceremonial Site due to the purification baths held here a couple days prior the Inti Raymi celebration. Then the hike continue to the town of Agato where we will be hosted by an incredible family that preserves the tradition of weaving on a backstrap loom. Sadly, this art form is slowly dying so be inspired and help us support the conservation of this art! The quality of the items produced at the workshop is clearly superior to many of the machine-woven products you may find in the market and your purchase goes direct into the efforts of this community to revive this ancient art. In the second part of the day we will explore a more rural area as we hike above these communities learning about small-scale agriculture, an important part of life in the valley. Meet people that continue to farm their land and learn about the products you saw earlier in the market, especially grain crops, like quinoa. The scenery is gorgeous and from this vantage point in the foothills of Imbabura, you can see all the places we hiked through in the morning. If it's a clear day you can even see Cotacachi Volcano. During our hike we’ll enjoy a box lunch at one of the area’s scenic spots. At the end of the trail, our supporting vehicle will be waiting to transfer us a short distance to the Sach Ji Wellness and Eco Lodge, where we spend the night.
• Start of the trail: 2943 m.s.n.m
• Otavalo Market: 2582 m.s.n.m
• Peguche Waterfall: 2612 m.s.n.m
• Highest Point Trekking: 2832 m.s.n.m
(B, L, D)
Day 5: Otavalo-Zuleta-Cotopaxi/Communities Zuleta
We leave towards another indigenous valley with an interesting story of a Hacienda that became a community. After a quick transfer to the beginning of our trail, we will trek for around 4-5 hours, witnessing what a son of a liberal reformer and a wealthy, land-owning mother did during his lifetime that no landowner in Ecuador had ever done before and perhaps has never done since. Our guide will teach us about the amazing and inspiring Plaza family story and our work with the local community of Zuleta to help develop one of the best ecotourism destinations in the northern Andes of Ecuador. This agricultural area is famed for its traditional embroidery, dairy products, alpaca farming and highland crops such as wheat, maize, potatoes, lentils and quinoa. “Zuletenos” and “Zuletenas” are known to keep their culture and traditions - keep an eye out for the way the locals dress here and how different it is from the traditional Otavalo clothing. After our community stop we have a special treat—a cooking workshop in a local’s home where we learn many cooking tips while we prepare our own typical lunch. We will be using the different ingredients we have been learning about for the past few days. Following lunch we drive south into Ecuador’s Avenue of the Volcanoes to the lovely Hacienda Alegria, where we spend the night.
• Start of the trail: 3044 m.s.n.m
• Highest Point: 3115 m.s.n.m
• Zuleta Community: 2892 m.s.n.m
(B, L, D)
Day 6: First peak, Pasochoa
Volcano time!! Today we’ll climb the Pasochoa peak. At 4,200 meters this is a challenge that will get our engines revving in anticipation of the second part of our adventure. Access is not difficult and our hike to the peak will take about 3 hours over grassland trails. From here you will get a spectacular view of the mountains surrounding Quito, the inspiring scenery of the Pasochoa crater, as well as the impressive surrounding mountain crests: Antisana, Sincholagua, Quilindaña, Cotopaxi, Rumiñahui, Corazón and the twin Iliniza peaks. Box lunch is included to enjoy along the way. The second part of our day consists of the descent to the Pita river canyon, a downhill walk of about 3 hours through grasslands and low ‘Chaparro’ forests, ending at Chilcabamba Lodge and our home for the evening. The lodge is situated at about 3,200 meters above sea level and with direct views of the impressive Cotopaxi Volcano.
Maximum Altitude: 4,200 meters above sea level.
Hiking time: 7 Hours.
Difficulty– Type of terrain: Grassland trails – Moderate.
(B, L, D)
Day 7: COTOPAXI/ THE PEDREGAL TRAIL
Today we head to Cotopaxi National Park, one of the most beautiful protected areas of Ecuador. On a clear day, you might see Cotopaxi’s peak from parts of Quito, but its majesty is only clearly revealed from within the borders of the park. When the weather cooperates, views of its snow-capped, nearly symmetrical summit cone are awe inspiring. We start at the Pita River. This river gives life to hundreds of thousands of Quiteñios (as Ecuador capital city residents are known), and its source is the pristine glacial meltwater of Volcan Cotopaxi. Its rushing waters will guide us throughout much of our adventure. This is a special and beautiful hike, but it’s more than just the beauty and activity. By hiking here, we are working to conserve the Pita River. We hike to raise awareness for both locals and visitors alike about the importance of this water, how conserving it is important, and how melting glaciers will impact our population. The hike enters the Cotopaxi National Park towards an archaeological site called Pucara de Salitre, where we can see a variety of migrant and resident Andean bird life. On the way, we might see some of the wild horses, deer or llamas that make the park their home, as well as gorgeous seasonal mountain wildflowers and breathtaking scenery. We will spend time at the water’s edge of the Pita and the natural springs at the park, admiring classic views of Cotopaxi Volcano or perhaps the reflection of Rumiñahui Mount in its waters. During our adventure, we will stop to enjoy a picnic in the crisp alpine environment. We will finish our exploration at our next cozy mountain lodge, Tambopaxi.
Maximum Altitude: 3,755 meters above sea level.
Hiking time: 5 Hours.
Difficulty – Type of terrain: Forest– grassland trails / Easy.
(B, L, D)
Day 8: COTOPAXI: HIKE TO THE SNOW LINE & RETURN TO QUITO
From the lodge we will drive in our private vehicle to the parking area of the Cotopaxi mountain refuge. We will then walk for approximately an hour before reaching the mountaineers’ lodge, and hike from there to the edge of the glacier, a walk of approximately two hours. From here, the northern side of the mountain offers a spectacular panorama. You will be able to identify (with the help of our guide) all the ground we have covered since the first day of our adventure: Quito, its valleys, the distant mountains in the north, and the road from Pasochoa, through the Pita canyon, to el Pedregal, Sincholagua, Rumiñahui and the magnificent Limpiopungo valley. The descent, which will take approximately 2 hours, takes the same route back to the parking lot and we head back to Quito. On arrival in Quito check-in to your select hotel for an overnight stay. Free evening to enjoy the restaurants and nightlife of the city.
Mountain: Cotopaxi (Glaciers on the snow line).
Maximum altitude: 5,100 meters above sea level.
Hiking time: 4 Hours. Difficulty – Type of terrain: Sandy ground - Glacier / Moderate.
Transportation: Vehicle from Tambopaxi to Cotopaxi parking area and walking and DRIVE back to Quito
Lunch at a typical Ecuadorian food restaurant and drive back to Quito. Check-in to your Quito hotel for an overnight stay.
Your hike on Cotopaxi to the snow line will undoubtedly offer the most rewarding views, and challenging heights of your trip. Should you not feel adequately adjusted to this higher altitude, we can offer a couple of lower elevation level hikes in its place:
Rumiñahui central peak
Climbing the lowest peak of Rumiñahui, named after a famous Inca general and known as the park’s sentry, will take us right into the heart of the grasslands, passing small waterfalls before arriving at the stone plains and walls of the mountain at around 4,600 meters above sea level.
The climb is not difficult, and you do not need to be an experienced climber; for some this will be just the second peak they have climbed in their lives. This hike highlights the grandeur of the Andes, offering you views over the eastern side of Sincholagua as well as Cotopaxi, the lord of the brilliant grassy foothills that never cease to entrance hikers.
Today we will make a circuit of the mountain, hiking through the eastern foothills, passing by the ‘Machay’(an Inca refuge), arriving at the stone plains where we will take a southerly direction after climbing the central peak. On our descent we will pass through ‘the silent valley’ that follows the course of a number of small streams before opening out onto the stunning Limpiopungo lagoon.
Mountain: Rumiñahui Central.
Maximum altitude: 4,600meters above sea level.
Hiking time: 6 Hours.
Type of terrain: Grassland/sand hills - Rocky
Pita River Loop
The hike will take around 4-5 hours and departs from the lodge and back to the lodge, the descent is gradual from the grasslands of Cotopaxi down to the area known as the Pedregal and the humid Andean forests. Explore waterfalls, bird watch, learn about plants. It is suitable for kids as well as keen trekkers preparing to explore the surrounding higher mountains. Hiking time: 5 Hours.
Type of terrain: Grassland
Our hotel tonight is in a more modern and active neighborhood than your first nights in Quito. Opt for either Casa Aliso or the Anahi for your overnight stay. Both hotels will bring you closer to the more active nightlife and restaurant scene of the La Mariscal and La Floresta districts. (B, L)
Day 9: Transfer to Quito airport, or continue with other Ecuador/South America explorations.
Free day until your scheduled transfer to the Quito airport. Many flights to the US depart around 11:00 PM-1:00 AM, allowing a full day to enjoy and explore Quito. Your hotel is located close to large artisan marketplace. If your last day falls on a Saturday or Sunday, don’t miss the popular art and handicraft market in the Parque El Ejido. Additional optional tours can be arranged on request. (B)
B=Breakfast; L=Lunch; BL= Box Lunch; D=Dinner
Daily with a minimum of 2 people
Daily with a minimum of 2 people
2020 and 2021:
4 travelers/2 rooms
2 travelers/1 room