10 Days , 6 Cities
After being picked up from the airport, you will arrive at Cayambe, where you will have the opportunity to taste the delicious “Bizcochos de Cayambe”, a type of biscuit baked in a clay oven, and are typically paired with local cheese or milk caramel sauce. Following this, you will head to the provincial town of Otavalo, located after a two-hour drive north of Quito. It is the place of the best known indigenous market in all Ecuador, and its inhabitants form a traditional ethnic group with distinctive dresses and customs.
Otavalo and Surrounding Countryside
For most tourists, Otavalo’s highlight is the daily handicraft market on Plaza de Los Ponchos, where skillful native merchants wait for you to play the game of bargaining on alpaca sweaters, ponchos, hammocks, pan flutes, and other souvenirs. This region is famous for its woven textiles.
Also, every Saturday the provincial town of Otavalo fills up with the bustling and best-known street market of Ecuador. It is a commercial and social meeting place. Besides crafts, clothing, and household items, exotic fruits, vegetables, species, and meat are traded. In the early morning cattle market, you can even find guinea pigs (a local delicacy!).
Lunchtime will be a gastronomical and cultural experience, where you will get involved hands-on in preparing typical local delicacies. The activity will include the tasting of chicha de Jora, an ancestral and sacred drink; typical attire; a visit to the family’s garden; the local ingredients for the preparation of all the dishes as well as an explanation; and the most enjoyable part of all: eating the meals you prepared!
After lunch, you will get to enjoy live traditional Ecuadorian music. The highlands region of Ecuador is home to a style of music called Sanjuanito, as well as a few others. The music of the people from Otavalo is well-known worldwide. A small panpipe called rondador is the most distinctive instrument, but ensembles are typically groups of wind instruments, guitar trios, or brass bands. Folk rhythms include cachullapi, yumbo, and danzante. In this short presentation, you will learn about them, as well as enjoy some popular local songs.
Before closing the day, you will enjoy the sights of Cuicocha crater lake. It was created when its former cone collapsed during the latest violent eruption (about 3,000 years ago). Entering the rim, you are suddenly surrounded by the enormous bowl of the remaining caldera. You can notice both newly-born islets in the middle of the emerald lake, in which its alkaline waters support very little wildlife.
Rose Farm - Quitsato - Mishky Huarmy
Today you will visit a gorgeous rose farm and marvel at the many varieties produced! The host family will give you very interesting insights into this flourishing Ecuadorian industry, as well as their social projects. You can also explore the plantation where the many rose varieties are grown and marvel at the rose exhibition held on an old farm.
The Quitsato Sundial is the only monument in the middle of the world located exactly over the equatorial line. Here you will find a huge sundial of 54 m/177 ft in diameter, made with a large stone mosaic with marks for the solstices and equinoxes, as well as the time of the day. These are marked by the projected shadow of a 10 meters-high gnomon located exactly at the center of the circular platform. The monument works both as a huge calendar as well as a clock, becoming the best place on earth to quickly learn about the apparent movement of the sun, how the stations work, the agricultural calendar, and the different geographical and astronomical aspects that make this place so special.
You will end the day with a visit to Mishky Huarmy. This project is relatively new and has rescued the ancestral tradition of harvesting the agave nectar using traditional methods that are less known and more sustainable than the ones used in Mexico. and the elaboration of its many different derivatives. The project has also partnered with local indigenous women to keep this tradition alive and offer them a secure and reliable income while at the same time helping the people to be proud of their identity and heritage.
Quito City Tour and Mitad Del Mundo
One of the highlights of the tour is the 3,016 m/9,895 ft high hill Panecillo, which offers panoramic views of Quito, its incredible location, and surrounding volcanoes. The impressive statue on top is a replica of Quito’s Madonna. You can distinguish the tiny, century-old center with its tiled roofs at your feet, and farther north the downtown parks and high rises of the business district.
Another great spot you will visit is the Jesuit church of La Compañia de Jesús, the first and best example of Latin American baroque architecture. Behind the elaborate façade, masterly carved out of volcanic rock, you will probably get overwhelmed by its ornate and completely gold-leafed interior. This is a fusion of Spanish, Moorish, Italian, Flemish, and indigenous influences.
After this, you will head to the last visit of the day. Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, (in English, City in the Middle of the World), is located just 25 km/16 mi north of Quito’s historical center. In this historic place, Earth’s circumference was first determined scientifically. Although modern survey techniques have become much more precise, this tourist complex and the neighboring private Inti Ñan museum meet everyone’s demands. Optionally, you can get certificates or stamps to prove that you have been on latitude 0’00”.
Cotopaxi National Park
The easily accessible Cotopaxi National Park is Ecuador’s most visited mainland reserve, as well as an Important Bird Area. No wonder, because the lovely symmetrical and glaciated cone of Cotopaxi volcano belongs to the most prominent peak of the entire Andean range; it looks very similar to Mount Fuji. With its elevation of 5,897 m/19,347 ft, Cotopaxi is also one of the highest active stratovolcanoes worldwide (its latest eruption happened in 2015) and is the second-highest peak of Ecuador, after Chimborazo.
At the picturesque postglacial Limpiopungo lake (3,840m/12,600ft), Cotopaxi’s majestic cone reflects into the water on clear days; though windy, cloudy, or even foggy conditions occur as well. Optionally, you can stroll to a viewpoint/bird hide-out and observe different species of waterfowl and unexpected migratory birds such as; Andean gulls, and Andean lapwings. The quiet hike around is rewarded with different angles of the striking cone of Cotopaxi, extinct Rumiñahui, native paramo vegetation, and more birdlife around this important highland lake.
After leaving the lake, you will head up the slopes of the volcano, where even tundra vegetation becomes scarce while driving in sharp zigzags straight up the cone. From the parking area, at 4,630 m/15,200 ft, you can hike a short sandy trail to the recently (2015) renovated mountaineer’s refuge (4,860 m/15,950 ft, about 45 min-1 hours walking), knowing that the descent will be far less strenuous.
Quinua Project and Ingapirca
Your guide will take you to a small indigenous community, living in the mountains surrounding Guamote; a traditional Andean village. Here, you will learn more about the planting and harvesting process of quinoa, a popular grain in South America. The local women will take you to the quinoa plantations for you to see the process for yourself.
Following this, you will visit the most famous ruins in Ecuador. The elliptical Inca Temple of the Sun is the eye-catcher of the archaeological site of Ingapirca (which means “Inca wall”). It is a true masterpiece, though modest in comparison to the monuments in their native Cuzco area (Peru). Therefore, the Inca occupation of Cañar lasted only a few decades. You can admire the fine Imperial Inca characteristics such as inclined walls, trapezoid entrances, niches, and channels. There also remain fundaments of storehouses and a part of the famous Inca royal road.
The Inca Temple of the Sun crowns a rocky hillock that was considered a sacred place for centuries by the local Cañari people. Following an easy circuit, you can compare the finest building styles of both cultures next to each other. The crescent fundaments and tombs are silent witnesses of the previous Cañari religious center that was dedicated to the moon before the fierce submission by Inca occupiers.
Gualaceo, Chordeleg, and Cuenca
At Gualaceo you can admire the facades of colonial-style private mansions while walking to the central park and the proud church. On the local food market (especially Tue-Fri-Sun) typical dishes are prepared, such as cuy (roasted guinea pig), hornado (whole baked pork), tortillas (potato cakes), sweet drinks like Rosero (made from corn and fruits), and morocco (made from corn and milk).
The next step in your trip is Chordeleg, a town that stands out for its famous jewelry workshops with ultra-fine filigree masterpieces in gold, silver, and white gold, soldered by dozens of local goldsmiths. Also, local potters keep the ancestral Cañari culture alive in artistic ceramics. Their refined techniques are based on the typical Chordelense style characteristics. If present in their workshop, the potters can proudly show their craftsmanship.
Lastly, you will explore Cuenca, declared a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site. Its monuments and dozens of churches date from Inca, colonial, and republican times. After Guayaquil and Quito, this provincial capital has been the third-largest town in Ecuador for centuries. You will visit San Sebastian square, where the asymmetrical whitewashed San Sebastian church can be found at the western entrance of Cuenca’s historical center. Following this is a stop at San Francisco square, with its famous church of the Franciscan. At the adjacent small daily flower market, wonderful roses, orchids, and arum lilies compose a cheerful palette of colors and smells. This street market is aside from the largest architectural masterpiece of Cuenca, the New Cathedral of Immaculate Conception.
Cajas and Cacao Tour
Ranging between 3,000-4,500 m/10,000-15,000 ft, El Cajas National Park is an alluring outdoor paradise, close to Cuenca. On a clear day, you can marvel at breathtaking views of jagged rocky peaks, outstretched paramo moorlands with about 250 scenic lakes. Otherwise, you can still enjoy the mysterious paper trees (polylepis) fairytale bushes, waterfalls, and crystal-clear streams full of trouts!
The central starting point for the activities in the national park is the visitors center Toreadora (3,982 m/13,064 ft). There are a cafeteria, bathrooms, a small mountain refuge, the ranger’s station, and a permanent exposition about the geology and ecology of this reserve. This rich ecosystem counts with 150 species of bird, including carunculated caracaras, giant hummingbirds, and the emblematic Andean condor, besides 19 unique species of flower, the endemic Cajas water mouse, and elusive deer, foxes, porcupines, mountain tapirs, pumas, ocelots, and spectacled bears.
There will be one more experience waiting for you before returning to the hotel! After arriving at the Guayas Province, you will go through rural roads surrounded by gorgeous nature to the farm of a local family that uses sustainable tourism as an aid to making their farm prosper. Here you will enjoy a typical local lunch, and then get an introduction to their lifestyle, show the different natural products they harvest, and participate in an interactive demonstration of the process for transforming the fresh cacao pods into delicious chocolate!
The tour begins in the French-style Parque Seminario, popularly known as Iguana or Bolivar Park. In this bizarre downtown park, iguanas crawl everywhere, from right at your feet to the treetops! A statue of liberator Simón Bolívar dominates the park pointing at the Municipal Cathedral. It used to be Guayaquil’s main square in colonial times before its administrative buildings were demolished, about a century ago.
After walking a few blocks, you arrive at the vibrant riverfront promenade named Malecón Simon Bolivar 2000, which stretches along the River Guayas. This pedestrian zone contains viewpoints, monuments, gardens, recreational areas, bars, restaurants, and exhibitions. Following this, at Santa Ana Hill, the picturesque neighborhood of Las Peñas breathes a traditional aristocratic atmosphere mixed with a cozy feeling, thanks to many ateliers, lively bars, and restaurants. This National Cultural Heritage site is located in the very same place where the city was founded. Some of its colorful wooden houses are well over a century old and have been spared by city fires that burned large areas of Guayaquil.
After the last eventful morning, your driver will take you to Guayaquil Airport for you to catch your flight back home.
Starting from $2,050 per person
Price per person in double occupancy
The rate is based on Superior accommodation
Price excluding international flights
This trip is customizable for your private travel.
Request a quote for a trip fully customized to your preferences.
- 8-Night in DBL/TWIN rooms in Superior hotels
- 8 Breakfast – 2 Lunch
- Excursions & entrances as specified in the program
- The services mentioned in the program
- Transportation as specified
Sightseeing Highlights Included
- Day tour to Otavalo and the surrounding countryside
- Visit to a rose farm, Quitsato and Mishky Huarmy project
- Quito city tour and Mitad del Mundo visit
- Cajas National Park tour
- Visit to a cacao hacienda
- Quinua project visit
- Ingapirca ruins visit
- Gualaceo market visit
- Chordeleg visit
- Cuenca city tour
- Cajas National Park tour
- Visit to a cacao hacienda
- Guayaquil city tour
10 Days , 7 Cities