4 days

A Taste of Ecuador

A Taste of Ecuador

Cotopaxi - the highest active snow-capped volcano in the world

Papallacta’s thermal springs

Otovalo Markets

Trip rating
  • Straddling the equator with a foot in each hemisphere Ecuador is a small country, but also one of amazing colour and incredible diversity. On this short tour we are introduced to the many facets of this vibrant place. As well as having a rich cultural and artistic heritage, Quito is one of the best-preserved colonial cities in South America and a walk in the Centro Historico is akin to a stroll back to a bygone era. A notable highlight is the splendid La Compania Church, with its interior all gilded in gold. Heading down the ‘Avenue of Volcanoes’, we make an early start to Cotopaxi National Park and the perfectly conical-shaped Cotopaxi (5897m). After braving the chilly winds as we view this very impressive volcano, there is nothing better than soaking in the thermal hot springs at Papallacta. We then make a stop at a temperate mountain forest and enjoy a walk to spot of some of Ecuador’s incredible birdlife, especially the amazing hummingbirds, before continuing to the world famous indigenous market of Otavalo. All manner of local goods and wares are on sale, but it will be hard not to be dazzled by the colourful textile and intricate jewellery. This is an ideal place for buying souvenirs and handicrafts before heading back to Quito.


    Day 1 - Quito - Lasso

    Our tour begins at the Rio Amazonas Hotel, Quito at 8 am. Due to the early start we recommend that you book one night pre-tour accommodation at this hotel. Quito sits at 2850 metres above sea level and is not only the capital of Ecuador, but it also has one of the most impressive and well-preserved ‘old town’ areas in South America. In the morning we embark on a walking tour around the charming and evocative ‘Centro Historico’. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, there is much to discover, meandering through the narrow, cobblestone streets and exploring the lively Plaza Grande and Plaza San Francisco. The city is filled with Baroque art and architecture, as exemplified by magnificent churches, monasteries and public buildings. We visit the beautiful Church of the Society of Jesus (La Compania de Jesus). With its ornate facade and intricately decorated and gold-gilded interior, this is undoubtedly Ecuador’s most impressive church. Exploring further afield we head for one of the many viewpoints over the city. ‘El Panecillo’ (The Little Bread Loaf) offers sensational views of the city’s white houses and surrounding volcanoes. The 30-metre high statue of ‘La Virgen de Quito’ sits atop this small hill and can be seen from all over the city. We then drive north of the city to visit ‘La Mitad del Mundo’ (The Middle of the World). This monument marked the spot that was claimed in 1736 to be the line of the equator. We also visit another smaller complex nearby called Museo Solar Inti Nan, which is supposedly where the equator actually runs through since re-measurements were made. This is an entertaining little place where supposed experiments are conducted before our very eyes. We then depart Quito and drive south to our overnight stop in the town of Lasso in the Latacunga district.

    Day 2 - Cotopaxi National Park - Papallacta Hot Springs

    Staying at Lasso enables us to make an early start into nearby Cotopaxi National Park. As we are travelling in a much higher altitude and the air is quite thin, you may possibly experience some dizziness and a shortness of breath. If this is the case we recommend that you walk slowly and avoid overexerting yourself. After entering the park we drive to a lagoon called Limpiopungo – a haven for birds. Here we can enjoy a great view of the very impressive, conical-shaped Cotopaxi. At 5897 metres, this volcano is the highest, active snow-capped volcano in the world. From the lake we continue driving to the car park, located at 4500 metres. Those feeling energetic can walk 45 minutes uphill to the José Ribas refuge (4800m), after which there it is a relatively easy walk to the snow-line and the glacier. The air will be even thinner here, but the views are superb! Please note that if you are planning to climb all the way, you should arrive earlier in Quito and spend a few days acclimatising to the altitude before visiting Cotopaxi. Inside the perimeter of the park we may find a plethora of wildlife including Andean condor, carunculated caracara and Andean gull. In the afternoon, we drive to the eastern mountain range and cross a pass at 4065 metres before descending to the village of Papallacta, where we stay overnight. Papallacta is renowned for its hot springs, so we have the chance indulge ourselves and enjoy a soak in a thermal bath.

    Day 3 - Guango Wildlife Lodge - Otavalo

    Today we visit a private natural reserve that showcases Ecuador's natural beauty. Ecuador is a bird watcher’s paradise as it is home to over 1600 species of birds. Guango Lodge is only a short drive from the tree-lined forests and treeless paramo zones (high altitude, neotropical ecosystems) and is a place where we see completely different species to what we’ve seen so far. This area is classified as humid, temperate forest, characterised by its more stunted trees (and thicker canopy) and cooler climate. The birds we may see include Andean guan, mountain toucan, turquoise jay and various species of hummingbirds. Later in the day we return to our vehicle and drive past scenic and diverse landscapes to the town of Otavalo.

    Day 4 - Otavalo Market - Quito

    Otavalo is famous for its weaving and music culture. Because of the success of the market, which attracts travellers from all over the world, the people of Otavalo people are now some of the most prosperous in Ecuador. These days we find their handicrafts and music all over Ecuador and also on sale in other parts of the world. However, the heart of the culture is still here in the town of Otavalo, where it is still possible to find all sorts of souvenirs at cheap prices in the marketplace. Join in and witness the bartering taking place between the indigenous people of Otavalo. Popular buys for travellers include clothing, bags, belts, wallets and sandals. (Note: if this is a Saturday, you have the option of getting up very early and visiting the interesting animal market, which takes place just outside town) In the afternoon we also visit some sights in the surroundings of Otavalo, as well as the town of Cotacachi, which is famous for its leather products. Afterwards we visit the Lake of Cuicocha, situated in an old crater of a still-active volcano. There is the chance to take an optional boat ride across the lake and watch the fumaroles (holes in a volcanic area from which hot smoke and gases escape). Alternative we can go for a walk around the lake and enjoy beautiful views of the Imbabura and Cotacachi volcanoes, as well as the surrounding valley with the cities Otavalo and Ibarra. Drive then drive back to Quito for the end of our short taste of Ecuador.
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • Peregrine tour leader, activities in jungle with guide, transport, sightseeing, entrance and park fees.

    Not Included

    • International flights, airport departure tax, visas where required, meals not included in the itinerary, insurance, laundry, any optional tours or activities during free time, tips and items of a personal nature.

    Safety Information

    Active Volcanoes
    This tour passes through volcanic areas.  In the instance that a volcano becomes potentially dangerous and authorities declare nearby towns unsafe for travel, the itinerary will be re-routed. Where possible, Peregrine will provide advance notice of such changes. At short notice, when this is not possible, your tour leader will provide up to date information on behalf of Peregrine.

  • Map Itinerary

  • Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments

    At the end of each trip, we ask our travellers to provide feedback. We publish the positive, negative and neutral feedback on this page to give you an overall idea of what to expect on this trip.

    A Taste of Ecuador

    Janine - Australia, 26 Jun, 2013
    Overall Rating

    I had a ball, and I want to come back. The great accommodation was really unexpected. I loved the trip, especially cotapa I, guango lodge and. Cayambe. I always felt comfortable even though I was travelling solo. It would have been good to have alternative dinner options at the haciendas.

    A Taste of Ecuador

    JOHN - Australia, 5 Dec, 2012
    Overall Rating
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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PSTE
Group size 2 - 15
Start City: Quito
End City: Quito

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