14 DAYS CULTURAL TRAVEL IN ECUADOR
As varied as the landscapes of the Andes and in the rainforest through which the journey leads, as versatile are the people you will find there. From the Otavaleños and Afro-Ecuadorians in the north to the Quichua and Shuar in the tropical jungle and the Kichwa in the central Andes at the foot of the mighty Chimborazo volcano! Experience the diversity of the fascinating cultures in Ecuador!
Upon the arrival of your flight to Quito, you will be greeted at the airport and transferred to your hotel in the center of city.
The journey begins in the morning with a meeting of the participants. After packing your ‘backpack’, you will start in the colonial old town of Quito (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) where you will discover the beautiful squares and colonial churches as you walk through the narrow streets of this part of the town. In the afternoon you will visit the monument of the "Middle of the World". There you can stand with one foot in the northern and the other in the southern hemisphere and learn more about the cultures of Ecuador in the neighboring Intiñan Solar Museum. In the afternoon, we continue north to Otavalo. At a gathering dinner you will have the opportunity to get to know each other while the tour guide gives you an introduction about the trip you will make the next few days.
In the morning we head to the Cuicocha lake, which is located 3200 m on the slopes of Mount Cotacachi. A 4 to 5 hour hike will take you through the flora of the Andean highlands around the lake, which features open pastures and small tropical cloud forests. In the city of Cotacachi, and after a local lunch, you will visit the small museum of cultures where you can learn about the cultures of this multi-diverse country. In the afternoon, stroll through the Otavalo market and observe the variety of fruits and vegetables and, depending on the season of course, you can taste the exotic fruits such as Physalis (Cape gooseberry), Chirimoya, Pitahaya (also known as dragon fruit) and Andean berries.
A train journey full of contrasts that takes you through Imbabura, the most versatile Andean province in northern Ecuador. In Otavalo, home to the most famous indigenous group of the Andes, the journey by train begins through the Andes that will take you from Salinas de Ibarra, where you will experience the culture and history of the Afro-Ecuadorians. Along the way, the train stops at the stations of San Roque, Andrade Marín, San Antonio, Ibarra, Hoja Blanca and Salinas de Ibarra to give you an idea of the history, music, gastronomy, craftsmanship and, especially, the spectacular scenery of the northern Andes.
Otavalo, home of the Otavaleños, known around the world for their handicrafts. In the morning, take the opportunity to stroll through the streets of this Andean village, observe the activity of the market in the Plaza de los Ponchos and get to know the Andean culture of the Otavaleños. You can simply wonder or take advantage to purchase handicrafts and souvenirs to take back to your home. Afterwards, your route will take through the Andes (at an altitude of 4050 m) about 80 kilometers to the east in an Andean valley at 3300 m on the slopes of the Andes Mountains. Along the way you will reach the thermal springs of Papallacta which have facilities that are considered the most beautiful in the country. In the afternoon, you will finally arrive at Hakuna Matata, the cozy hostel in the middle of a private protected forest. Overnight at the hostel.
This morning, you will go on a walk through the lodge's protected forest. The secondary forest is a little up, but after a short walk you will reach the primary forest where you can enjoy the unspoiled nature of it. Your guide points out the peculiarities of the road, from the medicinal plants still used by locals to the animals that hide in dense vegetation.
Then we will drive to the small village of Santa Rita, where a delicious lunch awaits you in the jungle. For dessert, there is a small event where Pacari experts will show you how to make chocolate from local cocoa beans and, of course, you end up trying the final product that has been prepared. Back to the hostel, the rest of the afternoon is at your disposal. Relax with a swim in the pool, enjoy the hammock or explore the hostel's signposted trails.
Today you have to get up early: at 5:30 am, your guide will take you to the small Arajuno River. In the canoe you will pass along the high and densely covered banks of the river to discover the numerous birds; There are herons, kazike, tangaras and many more. The goal is to reach a clay lick area to observe hundreds of parrots and parakeets (depending on the weather) that come down to this place to eat/lick the mineral-rich salt of this clay. Continue canoeing to the Quichua indigenous community of Santa Barbara, home to 23 families with a total of approximately 120 people. Here are typical products of the sector; you can try products such as: Carachama and Bagre - both catfish, Bocachico - a fish similar to salmon, cassava, bananas maduras, palm salad, Guayusa tea, fruits and cocoa. Everything is homemade and freshly caught or harvested (but we also have sandwiches and fruit for you!). Later, we drive to the small jungle town of Misahualli, where you will be served a typical lunch in a small restaurant. After a short walk in the afternoon we return to the hostel.
After breakfast, we leave the hostel and head south towards Puyo. In the "Yanacocha" Rescue Center you can see some of the tropical animals, including Ocelots, Parrots and Alligators. With your visit, you will support the important work of this project and, at the same time, observe some of the most beautiful rainforest animals that would otherwise be difficult to detect in the dense jungle. Then we head east in the rainforest towards the jungle town of Macas. There you can end the day in a pleasant rainforest Inn where you will spend the night.
Early in the morning, you will visit the traditional Andean market of Guamote. This market is today one of the last authentic markets of the Andes, where farmers from the surrounding mountains gather to exchange products and news. Guamote and the surrounding communities are still inhabited by approximately 95% indigenous Kichwa population, descended from the local tribes of Puruha.
After a morning walk through Guamote Market, we drive to the small train station of Alausí, from where the famous train journey will begin. You will travel on the world's steepest railway line, which was completed in 1902, a true technical masterpiece. Here, the train takes the most difficult passage, the so-called "The Devil's Nose", where a zigzag path of few minutes and more than 100 meters will get you to Sibambe. After a short stay, you will return to Alausí and drive back to Guamote to meet again with the group and drive to Riobamba.
Today the journey will take you from Riobamba to the heights of the powerful Chimborazo volcano. Due to the oval shape of the earth and the equatorial position of The Chimborazo, this mountain is measured from the center of the earth, the highest mountain in the world. Along the way, you'll stop at one of the indigenous Kichwa communities that live here at heights of more than 3000 m. From here we continue along the wide plateau to the mountain refuge Hermanos Carrel at 4800 m of altitude. With a good acclimatization, adventurous people can walk from here to the Whymper cabin at more than 5000 m of altitude, which is in the true sense of the word; the highlight of the trip! We continue driving through a picturesque Andean landscape to see llamas, alpacas and shy vicuñas; the last ones live that here in the Chimborazo animal reserve. In late afternoon you reach the small town of Latacunga.
A short drive takes us to the community of La Victoria. In the municipality, known for the traditional production of ceramics, to visit one of the many small art workshops in which ceramics are still made by hand. We will continue to the Andean market of Zumbahua. Experience the noisy and chaotic market events before heading to Quilotoa Crater lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in Ecuador and South America. A short walk will allow you to enjoy the changing views of the lake and the surrounding Andes. Depending on the light, the lake glows greenish, turquoise or blue which offers a nice contrast to the mountains. Overnight in the nearby community of Chugchilan.
In the morning, we drive from the Cordillera Oriental (eastern Mountain range) back to the Andean upper basin, towards the hacienda La Cienega, approximately 400 years old that offers its visitor a noble colonial building and a flower garden surrounded by ancient trees and a colonial chapel paralyzed in time. Enjoy a cup of coffee (or tea) in this nostalgic atmosphere before driving through the Pan-American to Cotopaxi National Park to the "Limpiopungo" lake, situated on the wide plateau about 3800 m in altitude. During an easy walk around the lake you will learn the typical vegetation of the Andes, you will also be able to spot the native birds; such as the condor and the Andean hummingbird. With a little luck if the weather favors you, you can take some wonderful photos of the Cotopaxi volcano, which at 5897 m of altitude is among the highest active volcanoes in the world. At the nearby Tambopaxi mountain lodge you can enjoy a delicious lunch with marvelous views overlooking Sincholagua and Cotopaxi mountains (when the weather is nice) before returning to Quito via the Pan-American to the north. Overnight at the hotel.
Free time in the morning until your transfer to the airport. Flight back home.
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Requirements: For such a trip through nature and culture, it is necessary to be in a good physical shape to be able to enjoy hikes of approximately 2 hours (depending on the conditions, perhaps a little longer) in heights of up to 5000 m and in tropical climate (tropical forest). Technical experience is not necessary for excursions. Hiking boots are recommended.
NB: Read all routes only as a guide. All routes and programs are subject to change without prior notice due to national park regulations, weather conditions, natural events, seasonal changes or for safety reasons. Flexibility is the key to the success of each tour. The safety and interest of our passengers is our top priority.