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The North of Ecuador

A journey round the north of Ecuador will reveal the incredible diversity this small country has, as you journey from arid highlands, into tropical cloud forests, on to rugged paramo, absorbing the sights, aromas and cultural wealth of this beautiful country.

Day 1: From the Equator to the cloud forest

In the morning you will drive from Quito 15,5 miles (25 km) north to Mitad del Mundo (literally middle of the world) where the Equatorial Line Monument is located. The monument reminds the Frensh-Spanish expedition from 1763-1744, which, under the leadership of Charles de la Condamine, determined the position of the equator. Here you can stand with one foot on the Northern and with the other one on the Southern hemisphere. You will visit the adjacent park with leisure facilities, which feature a typical Spanish style colonial village. Following you will visit the Museo de Sol where you will get to know a lot about the culture and the knowledge of the Incas. Afterwards you will continue your way to the nature-sanctuary Mindo-Nambillo on the western side of the Pichincha vulcano in a height of 1,400 to 4,700 meters. You will find diverse ecosystems in this region: from the treeless Páramo to the cloud forest as well as subtropical and tropical rainforest parts. This region is especially interesting for birdwatchers and botanists. You will stay the night in a typical lodge of this fascinating region.B/L/D

Day 02 The Cloud Forest:
The cloud forest is located at the southern edge of the Choco/Andean hotspots of biodiversity - that stretches from south western Colombia to northwestern Ecuador. And equally important, the Mindo Area of International Importance for Birds, is the first area so designated in South America, by Bird life International in 1997. The New York Botanical Gardens wrote that the diversity of epiphytes ("air plants" that grow on other plants) is higher in the cloud forests of Ecuador, Colombia and Peru than anywhere else on the planet. Within this enchanting green kingdom a profusion of life awaits your discovery, including botanical treasures such as bromeliads and orchids, as well as the fascinating families of Gesneriaceae and Melastomataceae. Since the region is located on the equator, flowers are in bloom year round. The Tandayapa Valley boasts over 330 recorded species of birds, and the list continues to grow! The Tanager-finch, Giant Antpitta, Swallow-tailed Nightjar, Plush-capped Finch, Beautiful Jay, and White-faced Nunbird are all found here. Birders and nature lovers alike thrill to the sight of brightly colored tanagers and the Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, and everybody loves to admire the multitude of hummingbirds hovering around here. Enjoy this day exploring this fascinating nature paradise on one the many path that lead through primary and secondary forest and to hidden waterfalls. B/L/D
Day 03 Otavalo Indian Market:
In the morning you leave the Mindo area and return into the highlands in order to travel north along the Panamerican Highway through astonishing mountain scenery crossing the equator line 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 indigenous market dates back to pre-Inca times and is famous for its textiles woven on back strap and shuttle looms. Otavalo is South America’s most famous Indigenous fair. 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 Otavaleños 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 pass small villages still with Adobe houses inhabited by Indio farmers and art craftsmen. Clear mountain air and the wonderful sights on the landscape with the many small bird-rich side valleys as well as the enormous Cayambe in the background make this trip a genuine experience. You stay the night in a hotel near Otavalo. B/L
Day 04 Papallacta Thermal Baths:
From Otavalo you will follow old Inca Streets hardly used nowadays. The little known but impressive route is one of the highlights in the northern part of the Andeans. The green pastures, the fields, the horses, the cows and the clay houses with the red tiled roofs and the Indigenous farmers in the traditional clothes will make this route unforgettable. The route leads you to the village of Cayambe where you visit Quitsa-To, the equator monument with an adjacent museum about the cultures that worshipped the sun at the equator. Later you will continue to Pifo, and on the transoceanic highway on to Papallacta. This village is situated at 12139 ft (3.700m) in the midst of an evergreen Páramo landscape. The area is renowned for its hot springs. Relax in the scenic pools and see if you can spot the ice giant Antisana at 18891 ft (5.758m). 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. B/L
Day 05 Papallacta Thermal Baths – Quito:
In the morning you will enjoy a breakfast and maybe another dip in the hot springs before returning to Quito for around midday. B

B: Breakfast / L: Lunch / D: Dinner

Departures Thursday (or any other day visiting a smaller Otavalo market)

Prices 2018 per person (minimum 02 people):

3* Hotels in a double room: US$ 976,-
Single room supplement: US$ 72,-

4* Hotels in a double room: US$ 1107,-
Single room supplement: US$ 146,-

5* Hotels in a double room: US$ 1367,-
Single room supplement: US$ 398,-
(NB: Where no 5* hotel accommodation is available, accommodation will be in the best available rooms)

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 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.

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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