- Day 1: Arrival in Quito.
Arrival at Quito International Airport. You will be greeted at the airport and transferred to a centrally located hotel, near restaurants, bars, handcrafts and parks. Depending on your arrival time, you will have a free afternoon to settle in, adapt to the challenging altitude, and start discovering this beautiful city.
- 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: 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, located a few kilometers from the park’s southern entrance.
- Day 4: Quilotoa volcanic crater lake.
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 pictures 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. You will head next to the city of Riobamba, one of the oldest cities in Ecuador.
- Day 5: Ingapirca archeological complex.
We continue our journey along the Andes to reach the Ingapirca archaeological complex. This is a fine example of the pre-Columbian period built by the Incas and Cañaris. Thisis the largest and best-preserved Incan construction in Ecuador.
On the way, you will enjoy admiring the rolling landscapes and colorful costumes used by the indigenous inhabitants of the area. Ingapirca offers us the possibility to discover the Inca culture, its sophisticated construction techniques, as well as to understand the cosmovision of the Cañari culture that originated in these territories and was conquered by the Incas a few decades before the Spanish Conquista. Here, you will admire through the ruins of temples their solar calculation system, and the traditions of these pre-Columbian cultures.
Throughout the trip, we will make short stops to visit some of the most prominent sites of the central Ecuadorean Andes such as the church of La Balbanera which is the first Catholic Church built in the country in 1534. We will also stop at the Palmira desert, an unusual site located above 3,000 meters of altitude. At the end of the day, we will move to the cozy hotel located very close to the archaeological complex. Here we will enjoy a traditional dinner prepared with typical products of the Ecuadorian highlands.
- Day 6: Cuenca.
On this day we will discover the beautiful city of Cuenca, declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1999. We will visit some of the most emblematic places of the city such as the pictures and traditional neighborhood San Sebastián, the Museum of Modern Art, Parque Calderón (central park), La Plaza de las Flores, La Catedral del Sagrario (Old Cathedral), Immaculate Conception Cathedral (New Cathedral) considered being the largest in Latin America. The tour ends with a visit to a toquilla straw-hat manufacturing workshop to learn about the manual manufacturing of some of the world’s finest hats. Free time for lunch.
After lunch, we will continue for a visit to the artisan villages of the region such as Gualaceo known for its fabric handmade handicrafts, and Chordeleg with its jewels in gold and silver. The hotel is in the city center, a few steps from the central park and the Barranco neighborhood where you can find a variety of bars and restaurants.
- Day 7: Cajas National Park – Guayaquil
After breakfast, we will Cuenca to reach the port-city of Guayaquil. On the way to the Coast region, we will make a final stop in the Andes to visit the Cajas National Park. This is an extraordinary place to walk surrounded by beautiful lakes. Inside the park, there are approximately 240 lakes and lagoons and houses unique species of vegetation such ad Andean grasslands and polylepis tree forests. The 200 km journey between the two cities is a scenic drive where you will experience a sudden shift of climate due to altitude change.
Upon arrival in Guayaquil, we will head directly to Unipark hotel which is in front of the city’s Cathedral and the Seminario Park, known for the green iguanas that inhabit it. A few steps away from the hotel is located the city’s boardwalk, an ideal place to walk along the Guayas River. Guayaquil is a vibrant city that offers a gastronomic variety of seafood in national and international cuisine restaurants.
- Day 8: Guayaquil.
Breakfast at the hotel. On this day, we will take a tour of the second most important city in the country. The tour begins at Administration square, where the neoclassical Municipality building is located. We will continue to the Moorish-style clock tower to explore Simon Bolívar Street, a 3 km long promenade. An urban regeneration project began in 1.997 to link the city and its citizens with the most important natural attribute of the city, the Guayas River. In the monument of La Rotonda you will learn about the libertarian processes in South America led by Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín. The tour continues to the historic neighborhood of Las Peñas with its beautiful houses built in wood. From Santa Ana hill we will enjoy a panoramic view of the city, the Guayas River, and the green belt of mangroves. After this visit, you will enjoy the local cuisine in a restaurant.
In the afternoon, we will visit the Guayaquil Historical Park to learn about the nature and culture of the Ecuadorian Coast region, through a tour of this botanical garden and zoo that has native fauna and flora of this region, and many of them threatened and endangered species. The park also has a cultural section where some of the original wooden houses of old Guayaquil were reconstructed, and which were built during the country’s cacao boom.
- Day 9: Return flight.
Transfer from the hotel to the José Joaquín de Olmedo airport in the city of Guayaquil for your international return flight.