- Day 1: Arrival in Quito.
Arrival at Quito International Airport. Private transfer from the airport to the hotel located in the historic center of the city, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978. The historic center is a very special site and visiting it at night allows you to admire its imposing architecture through the illuminated domes, bell towers, facades, and squares.
- Day 2: Quito City Tour Quito – Middle of the World.
After breakfast, our guide will pick you up at your hotel to travel towards old town Quito. We will start our walking tour in Plaza de la Independencia, Quito’s main square named after the country’s Independence from Spain. This is the location of some of Ecuador’s main administrative buildings such as the Presidential Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Municipal building. The tour will continue to visit two of the most significant churches of the colonial area and the 17th and 18th century artistic movement knowns as the Quito School (Escuela Quiteña); the church of Society of Jesus (La Compañía de Jesús) known for its impressive gold-gilded nave, and the church of San Francisco where we will visit the temple and its impressive convent that houses the most important museum of religious art in the country.
Then, we will continue with the walking tour through several of the neighborhoods of this vibrant historic center. These areas still maintain traditional aspects of the daily life of quiteños. We will walk through Carmen Bajo convent, the so-called Queen’s Arch next to the City Museum, the emblematic La Ronda Street, Santo Domingo Church, Junín Street and San Marcos neighborhood. The tour will conclude at Espejo Street where travelers will have a lunch break and explore the nearby area on their own. Throughout this tour you will be able to discover a fascinating commercial system of artisanal and local products, and even some more peculiar ones.
In the afternoon, we will travel towards the Middle of the World, located 22 km north of Quito at the Equator’s location. The line’s position was determined in the 18th century by the French Geodesic Mission with the support of Spanish and Ecuadorian geographers. You will visit the ethnographic museum, the colossal Middle of the World monument, and to take fun photographs while stepping with one foot on each hemisphere. At the Intiñán museum, which is located nearby, you will perform a series of dynamic experiments that validates the Equator’s location. Return to the hotel.
- Day 3: Otavalo y Cotacachi.
The province of Imbabura was declared in 2019 as a Unesco World Geopark for its geological and natural heritage in harmony with the cultural heritage of its indigenous peoples. This day we will visit several communities to meet some of the artisans and visit one of their natural landmarks. After breakfast, a local guide will join us to take us to visit artisan workshops that work weaving sheep and alpaca wool. We will visit an indigenous family in San Rafael to observe the artisanal work with a natural fiber called Totora. Next, we will visit a musical instrument workshop where we will enjoy a short walk to visit the Peguche waterfall.
Afterward, we will travel to the city of Cotacachi for lunch and visit it. Cotacachi was chosen in 2020 as one of the so-called “Magical Towns of Ecuador” and is known to produce fine leather garments. Very close to this town is the Cuicocha lagoon, located within a volcanic crater at the foot of the Cotacachi volcano. In this place, we will walk a portion of the path that surrounds the lagoon and admire this place’s natural landscape, in particular the two islets inside the lagoon. After this visit, we will return to Quito.
- Day 4: Cotopaxi National Park.
After breakfast, we will head south down the Pan-American Highway towards volcano Cotopaxi. It is the second-highest peak in Ecuador at 5,897 meters. Cotopaxi is active and easily recognized by its snowcapped conical shape. It is surrounded by beautiful Andean highlands vegetation.
The visit begins with the travelers’ registration at the southern entry point of the National Park, then, we will visit the interpretation center to learn about the fauna and flora of the area and learn more about the volcano and the Andes Mountain range. After this stop, we will take a one-hour walk around the Limpiopungo lagoon This is an ideal place to admire the majestic volcano and take beautiful photographs if weather permitting.
Optionally, it is also possible to drive up towards the parking lot of the Jose Rivas Mountain refuge. From there, you can walk up 200 meters to reach the refuge which sits just below the glacier line and is used as a basecamp by hikers who ascend to the top of the volcano. Take into consideration, that the parking lot is located at 4,600 meters. You will enjoy lunch observing the Cotopaxi volcano, from the only hotel located inside the National Park. At the end of the day, we will head towards the hotel, a historic Hacienda and guesthouse.
- Day 5: Quilotoa.
We will leave from the hotel early in the morning to reach the Quilotoa volcanic lake which is in the western Andes at an altitude of 3,900 meters. This is one of the most beautiful and spectacular places of Ecuador that stands out for its natural environment that transmits serenity, and for its green- and turquoise-colored waters located inside an extinct volcanic caldera. It is possible to descend towards the shore to admire its waters from up close. This is a perfect spot to relax and enjoy the peacefulness of Mother Nature. The ascent back is an excellent exercise, but physically demanding. Alternatively, the community rent mules to travelers who require assistance to reach the top. After visiting the lake, you will have lunch at the restaurant ran by the indigenous community that live in this area.
The trip to Quilotoa is a panoramic drive and travelers will also visit Pujilí, Zumbahua, and Tigua, which are picturesque traditional Andean towns that still preserve their traditions and culture. On Saturdays, the Zumbahua indigenous market takes place, where you can admire the colors and dynamism of this important tradition. Tigua is particularly known for being a community of visual artists who represent in colorful paintings the indigenous lifestyle of the Andean countryside and landscape. On this night, you will stay at the Roka Plaza hotel located in Ambato’s historic center, a land of writers and poets.
- Day 6: Salinas de Guaranda.
After breakfast, we will travel to Salinas de Guaranda to visit an innovative indigenous community that through microenterprises has become one of the most important producers of cheese and chocolate in the country. A member of this community will guide us around to learn first-hand the work they have been doing. This town is named after the salt mines that since ancient times provided salt to several villages.
The road connecting Ambato and Riobamba along the western flank of the Chimborazo volcano is perhaps the most scenic drive in Ecuador, where you can often see herds of wild vicuñas. Before returning to Ambato, we can make a short stop at the Chimborazo Nature Reserve. The top of this volcano is the closest point from planet earth to the sun. This area is remote and authentic and will allow you to discover in-depth the indigenous cultures that inhabit this area and that still preserve their customs and traditions. We will travel next to the hotel located in Guamote, which through tourism contributes to the development of local communities.
- Day 7: Guamote – return to Quito.
After breakfast, we will travel to a local community in Guamote, which is the most traditional region of Ecuador. 95% of the population is indigenous (while in the rest of Ecuador it is only 25%). Guamote itself has about 5,000 inhabitants, but in the mountains surrounding the city, another 40,000 people live in small communities.
We will start the day with a visit to the Inti Sisa educational center in Guamote where sewing, computer science, and English are taught. Afterward, we will take off for a beautiful car ride through the mountains to learn more about the history of this region and the indigenous culture and traditions. We will make a stop at the primary school where local children will share with you some stories of their daily life and play traditional games. Then we will visit the house of a traditional weaver who will demonstrate how they hand-make typical ponchos out of sheep and alpaca’s wool.
We will visit an indigenous family to learn about the traditional dwelling (hut) to get an idea of how people live in the Andean territory. We will have time for lunch in the community and enjoy its gastronomy. After this experience we will return to Quito, to stay again at the Colonial San Agustín hotel.
- Day 8: Return flight.
Transfer from the hotel to the Mariscal Sucre airport in Quito for your return international flight.