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 drive from Quito, 25 km north to the Mitad del Mundo (literally middle of the world) where the Equatorial Line Monument is located. The monument is testament to the French-Spanish expedition of 1763-1744, which, under the leadership of Charles de la Condamine, determined the position of the equator. Here you can stand with one foot in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern. You will visit the adjacent park with a variety of leisure facilities, which feature a typical Spanish style colonial village and an ethnological museum
Following this we will visit the Museo de Sol where you will get to learn about ancient Ecuadorian cultures and the Incas.
Afterwards you continue your way to the nature sanctuary Mindo-Nambillo on the western side of Volcano Pichincha at an altitude of 1,400 to 4,700 meters. With such a wide range of altitudes you’ll find an incredible diversity of ecosystems; from the treeless páramo, through cloud forests and down to subtropical and tropical rainforests. This region is especially interesting for birdwatchers and botanists with a vast array of birds and plants and is one of the world’s biodiversity hot spots. Finally you will arrive at Mindo Gardens Lodge, at around 1,100m, tucked away from Mindo town in a quiet spot engulfed by cloud forest. -/L/D
Day 2: Orchids & Butterflies
Today you will drive down into Mindo where you will visit the orchid garden and the butterfly farm. In the latter, you will see the process of development of 10 species of butterflies – from eggs through the larval stage and finally to the birth of a vividly coloured butterfly.
Afterwards you will drive through the cloud forest and the old Andean pass onto the highlands, where you will follow the Panamericana north to the volcano lagoon San Pablo, continuing on to the Hacienda Cusin. This is the best hotel in the Otavalo region (about 10km southeast of the city); a converted hacienda with rooms furnished with antique Spanish paintings, wooden armchairs and candelabras, to retain its centuries-old ambience. The hotels gardens are of equal splendour with elegant flower beds complementing a series of ponds. To round off the most luxurious of stays, the local and international cuisine is widely recognised as some of the best in Ecuador. B/L/D
Day 3: Otavalo Indigenous Market
In the morning you will visit the Otavalo Indian Market. For centuries, regional markets have played an important role in Indian life, providing regular gathering places for trade and socializing. The colourful local markets of the Andean Valleys are renowned for their fine handicrafts and the Otavalo market, South Americas most famous, dates back to pre-Inca times and has a reputation for its textiles woven on back strap and shuttle looms. Otavaleños barter in silence (!), in marked contrast to the raucous noise of other markets.
You will have time to visit the famous market and stroll along the narrow cobblestone streets filled with Otavalo Indians wearing blue ponchos, white trousers and long braided hair. Furthermore the trip includes a short drive to a beautiful lake district, home to the Otavaleños.
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 where you will follow the slope of volcano Imbabura, returning to the Hacienda Cusin where you will have dinner. B/L/D
Day 4: Snow at the Equator
Today you will drive through the 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 Indian farmers in the traditional clothes will make this route unforgettable.
Around midday you will arrive at the Hacienda Shungu Huasi from where you will have a good view onto the volcano Cayambe. This volcano is situated directly on the equator and its south slope is the highest point on the equator as well as the only place with snow. After lunch you will go further south until you reach the transoceanic route from where you will drive over the Andean pass of Papallacta (4,050m) to the village of the same name.
A few hundred meters under the pass are the hot springs of Papallacta (3.700m), the most beautiful thermal baths in the country. Here you can relax bathing in the hot springs, keeping an eye open for the glacier of the volcano Antisana to the south. You will spend the night in the Termas de Papallacta complex, lodging in exceptional bungalows, which open on to numerous thermal pools; the best place to pass a night conversing with travelling companions. B/L/D
Day 5: Papallacta – 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
USD 998, - per person with 2 people
With 1 person: US$ 1695.-
Single supplement $135.-
All transfers, all activities and excursions mentioned in the program, accommodation in the mentioned hotels or hotels of the same category (double room with private bath), all meals mentioned in the program, English-speaking guide and entrance fees.
International flight, beverages, airport charge Quito for international flights, personal expenses, tips and travel insurance.
Monday and Friday