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.
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.
Meals included: 1 breakfast
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.
Meals included: 1 breakfast
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.
Meals included: 1 breakfast
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.
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.
Vaccinations may be required for this trip. Please talk to your doctor about the up-to-date information for this region. We're travel experts, not doctors and defer to the medicos when it comes to inoculations.Visas and Permits
Please ensure that you have all required visas for your trip – this is your responsibility. Rules and regulations governing the issuance of visas are constantly changing, and vary for different nationalities and you should check visa requirements with your travel agent or relevant consular authority well before travel.
Australians, New Zealanders, Americans, Canadians and British do not currently require a visa for Ecuador. For all other nationalities please reconfirm your visa requirements with your travel agent.
You are required to have travel insurance before heading off on a Peregrine trip. Insurance can be organised by your Peregrine representative or your travel agent.Responsible Travel
Our Responsible Travel ethos is at the heart of everything we do, from getting the basics right like respecting local cultures and the environment, to initiating projects that make positive contributions to communities, to our staff’s fundraising efforts and offsetting our carbon emissions.
Please visit our Responsible Travel (http://www.peregrineadventures.com/rt) page for more information.
Our Pre Departure Information or Travel Dossier (provided upon booking a trip) provides tips on how you can show respect for the local customs and culture in the country you are travelling in. Your leader will also help steer you though the complexities of local cultural norms.
Pre Departure Information
The information listed above is a brief description of some things you may need to consider when booking a trip. Once a tour is booked you will be provided with a link to your Travel Dossier which will contain detailed Pre Departure information.
Ecuador - A Fragile Democracy-Corkill & Cubitt The Panama Hat Trail-T Miller Galapagos - A Natural History Guide-M Jackson
On this trip you may be joined by other travellers who have been on a Peregrine Galapagos cruise.
Public Holiday Inconveniences
Please be prepared for the inconvenience of sights such as museums and churches being closed to tourists on public holidays (ie. Christmas Day and New Years Day). Throughout Latin America, most museums also tend to be closed on Mondays.
Groups Less than 4
Please note that for groups less than 4 passengers this tour will operate with a Driver Guide.
The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please keep this in mind when you read it and check with us if you want to be sure about something. The document was correct at time of printing, but you can check online for the most up to date version. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!
3 May 2013