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Ecuador – from the South to the North

Travel through the Andes of Ecuador towards the Equator Line

When traveling over land from Peru north to Ecuador, this travel provides you with the perfect travel in Ecuador. You will meet you guide in one of the three border crossings between Peru and Ecuador and travel slowly through the country, your guide will share his vast knowledge about the country with you while you explore its nature and culture along the route. From the border you are going to travel north through the Andes, passing through Loja, Cuenca and Baños and visiting the biggest volcanoes of the little country: Cotopaxi and Chimborazo. You also take your time for a visit of the rainforest, relax in the hot thermal springs of Papallacta and visit South America’s most famous Indian market in Otavalo.

Day 01 Ecuador:
Today you meet with your guide at the frontier between Ecuador and Peru.

La Balsa/Zumba: You will meet with your guide in the morning at the border in La Balsa/Zumba and from here drive on the little road north, passing the villages of Palanda and Valladolid to Vilcabamba in the south of Ecuador. The little village of Vilcabamba lies in a wide valley some 45Km from Loja. Vilcabamba is famed as the village of longevity with a reputation for a healthy climate and complete relaxation. In the afternoon you get to know the village during a walk. Accompanied by a welcome cocktail at the hotel bar in the evening, your guide will give you an introduction to the next days’ activities and answer any questions about your travel. L/D

Macara: You will meet with your guide in the morning at the border in Macara and from here drive through the southern Andes north, passing the villages of Cariamanga, Gonzanama and Catamayo to Loja, the capital of the province of the same name. In the afternoon you get to know the city on a walk. Loja is a friendly, pleasant city laying at 2063m altitude near the Oriente. It was founded on its present site in 1548 by the Spanish captain Alonso de Mercadillo and so is one of the oldest towns in Ecuador. Though being rebuilt twice after earthquakes none of the earliest buildings have survived, although houses from the 18th century can be found. Accompanied by a welcome cocktail at the hotel bar in the evening, your guide will give you an introduction to the next days’ activities and answer any questions about your travel. L/D

Huaquillas: You will meet with your guide in the morning at the border in La Balsa/Zumba and from here drive from the coast up the Andean slopes, passing chaguarpamba and Catamayo to Loja, the capital of the province of the same name. In the afternoon you get to know the city on a walk. Loja is a friendly, pleasant city laying at 6768 ft of altitude near the Oriente. It was founded on its present site in 1548 by the Spanish captain Alonso de Mercadillo and so is one of the oldest towns in Ecuador. Though being rebuilt twice after earthquakes none of the earliest buildings have survived, although houses from the 18th century can be found. Accompanied by a welcome cocktail at the hotel bar in the evening, your guide will give you an introduction to the next days’ activities and answer any questions about your travel. L/D

Day 02 Podocarpus – Loja
In the morning you drive to the Cajanuma park entrance of the Podocarpus National Park. Created in 1982, this is the only national park in the southern Andes of Ecuador. Its 146,280 hectares comprise of a wide range of habitats including highlands with lake covered mountains and even rainforests in the lowlands. The biological diversity of the area is remarkable and animals include the Andean spectacled bear, mountain tapirs, puma, two species of deer and the Andean fox. Following different trails (“The spectacled bear trail”, “The cloud forest trail”, “The trail of the viewpoints”) your trekking leads you from ca. 9022 ft up to 1006 ft . In the afternoon you return to Loja, on the way making a stop at the botanical garden where more then 900 different plants of the area are shown, including the Cascarilla ( ) which bark has been used in the 18th and 19th century as a medicine to treat  yellow fever. B/L
Day 03 Saraguro – Cuenca
Today you will drive south from Loja to Cuenca, visiting Saraguro on your way. The Saraguro Indigenous were forced by the Incas from Bolivia to settle in this small Ecuadorian town, which was a typical political movement of the Incas in order to control conquered cultures and maintain the occupied ones installing themselves in their new home. Cuenca is considered as both the cultural metropolis and the arts and crafts centre of Ecuador. The city and its surrounding countryside are fantastic places to buy ceramics, embroidery, leather goods and woven baskets. On arrival you will check into you Hotel. After a short break you will start with a visit of the Panama hat factory for which the city is famous. Afterwards you will explore the colonial part of the city where you will encounter historic churches, many art and craft shops and a colourful flower market. Set amongst beautiful old colonial houses, the area has a charming atmosphere for which UNESCO declared Cuenca as World Heritage Site in 1999. At midday you will feast on local cuisine in a typical town restaurant, after which you will have a pleasant stroll along the river to aid digestion! B/L
Day 04 Cajas National Park – Ingapirca
The Cajas National Park is considered a paradise for hikers due to its ecological conservation and natural beauty. You will drive 9,3 miles West of Cuenca to the Cajas National Park entrance where you will start a moderate hike for about 3 hours admiring the moorland vegetation (high Andean grassland, like moors at high altitude) with amazing micro flora, some patches of Quinoa primary forests and spectacular rock formations. Here you will find around 200 lagoons left over from the ice age, today forming an extensive recreation area at a height of 1957 ft to 2765 ft Small rivers connect the series of lakes and these eventually flow into both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. In the afternoon you continue to the little Andean town of Cañar. In the afternoon you will reach the famous ‘Ingapirca’ ruins (Quechua for “wall rocks of the Inca”) the most important and well preserved of Ecuador’s Inca ruins situated to the North of Cuenca. There you can wander around the beautiful site and imagine the scenes prior to the Spanish conquest. A visit to the museum will reveal further details of life there at the end of the 15th Century. Your will stay the night in a small local hotel (Posada). B/L/D
Day 05 Riobamba
The rising morning sun will surely shine a mystic light on this ancient place and provide an impressive photo motive. Later you leave Ingapirca and follow the Pan-American Highway north traveling into the Andean highlands. Passing the Laguna de Colta you reach the little chapel of La Balbanera, the earliest church in Ecuador dating from August 15, 1535. The road keeps climbing up the Andes giving great views of Volcano Chimborazo (6310m) in the horizon long before you reach Riobamba, the capital of Chimborazo Province at 2750m altitude. In the afternoon you explore Riobamba, especially its colourful and lively markets where you will have the chance to taste some of the tropical fruits like Granadilla (yellow passion fruit), Guaba fruit or Taxo. B/L/D
Day 06 Volcano Chimborazo
In the morning you will visit the local markets in the centre, a great opportunity to get to know the many exotic fruits that the country offers. Later you will drive from Riobamba north up the slopes of Volcano Chimborazo, that not only is the 20702 ft ( 6310m ) extinct Volcano Chimborazo the highest mountain in Ecuador, but its peak is also the farthest point from the center of the earth due to the earth’s equatorial bulge. There are two refuges; your transport will bring you up as high as to the first refuge at 15748 ft (4800 m) of altitude ! According to your acclimatization to the altitude, your physical fitness and the climate you can hike up to the second refuge and reach a massive 16404 ft (5000 m)!! Later, traveling through a picturesque landscape; the road winds itself down, passing fields, valleys and the volcano Carihuayrazo, from the wide high plain at the slopes of Chimborazo down to Ambato, the capital of Tungurahua Province. Most of the time you see llamas, which are still common useful animals in this region. With a little bit of luck you also might see some alpacas and even vicuñas; the latter live in a wide reserve near Chimborazo. Later you will follow the Panamerican highway south passing the cities of Ambato, Latacunga, Salcedo and Pelileo before entering the valley of Patate. The valley of Patate is located right at the entrance to the Llanganates National Park where the Incas hid their treasures from the Spanish conquerors and is known for its picturesque location on the Patate River. Here you will stay the night in a typical Andean Hacienda. B/L/D
Day 07 The waterfall route – Puyo
You continue driving on to the east through the “Avenue of the Waterfalls”, that follows the Rio Pastaza on its way through the valley of the same name. In the village Rio Verde besides the river you will stop in order to visit the well-known waterfall El Pailon del Diablo. Then you continue your journey passing a number of waterfalls until you reach Puyo, known as “The Gateway to the jungle”, that has sprung to life as a trading post for jungle communities. Near the town you visit the foundation “Los Monos Selva y Vida” where you can meet many of the monkey species that inhabit the rainforest. At the Yanacocha rescue center you can observe many more species of tropical animals including ocelots, parrots and caimans. With your visit you support the important work of these institutions while at the same time getting the great chance to observe and get close to some of the beautiful animals of the rainforest that otherwise are very hard to spot in the dense green of the jungle. In the afternoon you return to the Hacienda. B/L/D
Day 08 Quilotoa Crater Lagoon
Today the journey starts early, leading further north over the Panamerican Highway to Latacunga where you leave the highway and enter the western Andes. After passing the small Andean villages of Pujilí, Collas, Casa Quemada, Tigua you reach the small picturesque village of Zumbuahua. Only 60 families live in the environs. A short 6,2 miles (10 km) drive north you encounter the brilliant turquoise waters of the Quilotoa volcano lake. This lake is one of the most beautiful volcano lakes in the Ecuadorian Andes. From the crater and on a clear day you can see the different snow topped volcanoes. Once again if weather permits you will have the chance to admire some of Ecuador’s most spectacular volcanoes including: Illinizas, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo hiking around the lagoon (ca. 5 hours). Afterwards you will continue to an Andean Hacienda. B/L
Day 09 Cotopaxi National Park:
This day heading south down the "Avenue of the Volcanoes” will bring you to the Cotopaxi National Park. You will make a stop at the visitor centre "Campamento Mariscal Sucre" to visit the natural history museum. After that you will drive to Limpiopungo lagoon crossing the wide high plateau at the slopes of Cotopaxi Volcano. During an easy hike around the lagoon you will get to know the typical vegetation of the Andean highlands and watch out for the local birds as the Andean humming bird and the condor. After the hike you wil continue to the rustic mountain refuge Tambopaxi on the high plateau. Here you will have lunch with simply stunning of the glacier of Cotopaxi Volcano and the wide plains of the nature park. In the afternoon you will cross the high plain to an old ritual place of the Incas, from which you have an excellent view on the surrounding mountains Ruminahui, Sincholagua and of course the Cotopaxi Volcano. In the late afternoon you are going to cross the Panamerican highway returning to the Andean Hacienda. Enjoy the typical flair of this hacienda where you will spend the night. B/L
Day 10 Papallacta Hot Springs
After breakfast you will walk from the hacienda to a nearby flower plantation and see the wide fields of flowers and enjoy the smell of thousands of roses. Afterwards you will continue the journey north-east to Pifo and on the transoceanic highway on to Papallacta. This village is situated at 3.700m in the midst of an evergreen Páramo landscape. The area is renowned for its hot springs. Termas de Papallacta SPA, Resort and Convention Centre is located 40 miles east of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador balanced on the rim of the equator.  Perched on a high Andean valley at the entrance route to the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle, the spa resort offers its visitors health, recreation, adventure and rest. Whether relaxing in the thermal baths, indulging in pampering spa treatments, or embarking on relaxing walks at the Rancho del Cañón (Canyon Ranch), you are sure to enjoy the Papallacta experience complemented by the restaurants which serve a range of culinary delights to tickle your tastebuds. Relax in the scenic pools and see if you can spot the ice giant Antisana at 18891 ft of altitute (5.758m). B/L
Day 11 Otavalo Indigenous Market – Quito
From Papallacta you will drive north-west to Cayambe to visit Quitsa-To, the equator monument with an adjacent museum about the cultures that worshipped the sun at the equator. Later you will continue north along the Panamerican Highway through ann astonishing mountain to visit the Otavalo Indigenous Market. For centuries, regional markets have played an important role in Indigenous life, providing regular gathering places for trade and socializing. The colourful local markets of the Andean valleys are famous for their fine handicrafts. The Otavaleños market dates back to pre-Inca times and is famous for its textiles woven on back strap and shuttle looms. Here Otavaleños barter in silence, in marked contrast to the noise of other markets. You will have time to visit the famous market and stroll along the narrow cobblestone streets filled with Otavalo Indigenous wearing blue ponchos, white trousers and long braided hair. After lunch you will walk from Otavalo to the waterfall of Peguche which is in a small sanctuary, and from there you will continue on to the San Pablo Lagoon. This area around the lake below the Imbabura volcano is the home of the Otavaleños. Following the ridge of the lake on an old cobblestone road through pastureland and fruitful fields you will pass small villages still with Adobe houses inhabited by Indio farmers and art craftsmen. In the afternoon you cross the equator line again back to the south and travel to Quito, the capital of Ecuador that is located at 9186 ft (2800m) of altitude in the middle of the Andes. B/L/
Day 12 Quito
In the morning we will meet you at your hotel in Quito and start the city tour. This city tour covers the major colonial churches and monasteries in Quito such as La Catedral, El Sagrario, La Compañia and San Francisco. Visit Independence Plaza flanked by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishop’s Palace. Continue to the Church of San Francisco, one of the greatest religious buildings in South America. Its impressive façade and atrium lead to an opulent gold interior, a Baroque influence with the winged Virgin of Quito at its main altar.You visit the historic colonial quarter of Quito, resplendent with its churches, gilded altars and religious sculptures and paintings dating from the 17th; 18th and 19th centuries. The tour continues through narrow streets, ancient colonial houses with Moorish-style arches and mysterious patios to El Panecillo, a neutral vantage point for an overwhelming view of the city. From here you drive to the northern modern part of Quito to the city park “La Carolina” in order to visit the botanical garden of Quito where you will get a good impression of the great diversity of the Ecuadorian Flora. La Carolina Park is also a good place to watch the national sport, Ecua-volley. B/L
Day 13 Transfer out or extension (Galapagos or Rainforest)

According to your travel plans we will accompany you to the airport to take your international flight or a flight to the Galapagos Islands or to the rainforest). Gladly we also help you with any desired individual extension. B

B= breakfast; L= lunch/box lunch; D= dinner

Contact Ecuador Travel

Prices 2018 per person (minimum 02 people)

3* Hotels in a double room: US$ 2628,-
Single room supplement: US$ 232,-

4* Hotels in a double room: US$ 2918,-
Single room supplement: US$ 362,-

5* Hotels in a double room: US$ 3480,-
Single room supplement: US$ 976,-

(NB: Where no 5* hotel accommodation is available, accommodation will be in the best available rooms – in Vilcabamba and Ingapirca accommodation will be in typical local Posadas)

Prices include: All transfers in private transportation, excursions and overland tours as mentioned in the program, accommodation based on double rooms in hotels & haciendas of the chosen category, meals according to the itinerary description (B: breakfast, L: Lunch/Box Lunch D: Dinner), entrance fees, bilingual guide (Spanish/English – other languages upon request) during the round trip.

Not included in the price: Beverages, extra charge for single rooms, international airport tax (Quito ca. US$ 43 / Guayaquil ca. US$ 28), personal equipment and items, tips, travel insurance and luggage, anything not mentioned in the program.

Please note that according to the day you start the tour, we will have to revise the program and changes may be necessary.

Please note that the category-stars given for the accommodations are estimated as local categories do not fit international standards. Local categories are in all cases equal or higher then the ones given above. Accommodation in Vilcabamba and Ingapirca will be in typical local Posadas.

NB: Please read all itineraries as a guide only. All routes and programs can change without notice due to National Park policies and regulations, weather conditions, seasonal changes, safety reasons and the wildlife encountered during the travel. Flexibility is the key to the success of any tour. Nevertheless the safety and the interest of our passengers is always our first priority.

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