Ecuador Highlands Explorer

Exquisite equatorial wonders from high Andes volcanoes to indigenous craft markets
Overview

overview

This journey through the aptly-named “Avenue of the Volcanoes” offers breathtaking views of the dramatic peaks, scenic lagoons, extensive moorlands, and mysterious cloud forests from Quito to Cuenca. The combination of spectacular scenery, charming colonial architecture, traditional country villages, and indigenous communities, known for their colorful folklore and remarkable weaving abilities, is an unforgettable experience.
Eight of Ecuador’s ten highest summits are found in this area, and your itinerary can be modified to include more hiking and trekking. Ecuador also boasts an enormous concentration and variety of bird species – we can arrange for a birding guide and extended visits to lodges in wildlife-rich areas if that is your passion. Please inquire about other custom itinerary options to fulfill your particular interests.

itinerary

itinerary

  • Day 1: Arrive Quito (Tues, Thur, Sat)
    Colonial architecture in Quito

    Upon arrival in Quito, you will be met and transferred to your colonial-style hotel, where you will stay for the next two nights.

    Lodging
    Hotel Fuente de Piedra or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 2: Colonial Quito / Equator/Otavalo
    The Middle of the World

    A visit to Quito’s old town takes you back to the time of the Spanish Colonial Period, where the mixture of European and indigenous influences is evident in the paintings, sculptures and carvings. Admire architectural monuments, monasteries, the Parliament Building and the Panecillo Hill on a short sight seeing tour of the city center.

    En route to Otavalo, you will find yourself directly between the northern and southern hemispheres during your visit to Cayambe. Here you will see the Globe of Guachala monument and be able to stand on two hemispheres at the same time.

    Next, have lunch and continue on to Otavalo in the Andean Highlands. Enjoy your stay at a loacl hacienda.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging
    Hacienda Las Palmeras or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 3: Otavalo

    This morning visit "Huarmi Maqui", a women's community where you will be introduced to their weaving process. Following the demonstration you will help prepare lunch using typical Andean ingredients. 

    After lunch visit Otavalo market which is sure to be one of the highlights of your trip. For more than 4,000 years, Otavalo's market has served as the social and economic heart of the region.  Today, it is Ecuador's most popular destination after the Galapagos Islands.  On Saturdays, the usually-sleepy town awakens to a cacophony of chickens, cows, and sheep, and trading of hemp, saddles, vegetables, grains, and textiles among the brightly-dressed Otavalenos Indian population.  Although there are plenty of tourist trinkets to be had, visitors come primarily for the authentic local atmosphere.  The market winds down by early- to mid-morning, so you will be sure to arrive early and well ahead of tour buses that arrive around this time.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging
    Hacienda Las Palmeras or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 4: Otavalo/Papallacta
    The volcanos are stunning

    Famous for its thermal springs and lush vegetation, Papallacta is a small village located about 10,500 feet above sea level. Enjoy the day exploring the town, relaxing in the thermal springs, or hiking in the area. Have lunch at a local restaurant where you can sample the freshly caught trout.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging
    Papallacta Hot Springs Hotel or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 5: Papallacta/Cotopaxi

    This morning, depart for Cotopaxi National Park. Cotopaxi is one of the world’s highest active volcanoes and the central feature of the park. The volcano offers climbing experiences to suit all skill levels. You can explore the Andean moorlands (páramos), hike up to the snow line (15,800 feet), or drive around to enjoy the landscapes provided by other close volcanoes like Rumiñahui, Sincholagua, and Quilindaña. The park is home to deer, pumas, condors, wild horses, llamas, highland foxes, and rabbits, though these highland creatures can be difficult to spot. The plant life you will see is diverse and unique, having adapted to the harsh conditions of the strong sun, fierce winds, and cold weather.

    Have lunch at Tambopaxi lodge, which offers amazing views over the Volcano on clear days and then a short hike through the highland plateau.

     

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging
    Hacienda La Cienega or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 6: Cotopaxi/Patate

    Continue south on the Avenue of Volcanoes driving through farmlands, towns and possibly some local markets. Visit Ambato and the Juan Leon Mera House who was the author of Ecuador's National Anthem.

    Have lunch and then drive to Patate enjoying great views of the landscape.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging
    Hacienda Leito or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 7: Banos/Riobamba
    Meet the locals

    Drive to Banos located on the edge of the cloud forest and the foothills of the Tungurahua.

    Then make your way to Riobamba, enjoying the many sites along the way. En route take a short hike to a charming restaurant to have lunch close to the Pailon del Diablo waterfall. Continue on to Riobamba, the first city founded by the Spanish in Ecuador. At 9,000 feet the city is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes at sits at the foot of the Chimborazo Volano where you have the world's highest view from the center of the earth. Riobamba's street life and cultural traditions are a testimony to this strong and diverse indigenous presence. 

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging
    Hacienda Abraspungo or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 8: Devil's Nose Train/Cuenca

    Start your day early with breakfast and then you'll be off to the Riobamba train station by 5:45 am.  For 5 hrs you will experience the adventure of going from the high Andes to the lowlands through the Devil's Nose, with its impressive descent down the steep cliff. Head to Ingapirca where you'll visit this important archeological Inca site and have lunch at a local restaurant. Continue your drive to Cuenca for an overnight stay at a charming, centrally located hotel.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging
    Hotel Victoria or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 9: Cuenca/Guayaquil

    To most visitors, Cuenca is the prettiest colonial city in the country. UNESCO declared it a World Cultural Heritage City in 1999. Let Cuenca’s cobblestone streets, graceful wrought-iron balconies, and flowered plazas captivate you. Its marketplaces and handicrafts are living testimony to the region's rich indigenous and artisan heritage. The handsome sunlit domes of the cathedral, the quiet convents and museums, and the city's romantic Tomebamba River flanked by overhanging houses are part of an experience that no one should miss. The architectural remains of Pumapungo include walls, channels, and cobblestone corridors surrounded by agricultural terraces once used by the Canari people. A visit to the archeological complex is complemented with an informative walk through gardens of native plants and a small aviary of indigenous birds. Have lunch at a local restaurant.

    Transfer to the airport this afternoon for your short flight to Guayaquil. You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. Then enjoy a city tour, of "The Pearl of the Pacific".  Drive through the colorful streets of one of Ecuador’s most important port cities. Visit the Public Market, the waterfront and the docks, and Simon Bolivar Park, which is famous for its tree iguanas. Also, admire the watchtower, La Rotonda, Old Santa Ana Fort, and Las Penas, a charming colonial section of town that is occupied by artists.  (You may also return to Quito if you prefer another afternoon to explore on your own and enjoy a night tour of the old town.)

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging
    Hotel Macaw or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 10: Onward

    You will be transferred to the airport for your onward flight.

    Meals
    Breakfast
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Price and Date Details

Price and Date Details

Privately on Request
Land Cost:
$3,595
The cost quoted is the Land Cost and is subject to change. This covers accommodations, transfers, activities, touring, guide services and meals as described in JOURNEYS' Trip Notes. The quoted Land Cost will apply when group size falls in the specified range and when travel is on the indicated dates.
Single Supplement:
$500
The single supplement is applicable if a roommate is not available or if single accommodation is specifically requested. While single accommodation is not available on all trips, we will try and honor this request whenever possible.
Need to Know

Need to Know

Duration:
10 days
The number of days, or duration, in a destination corresponds with the itinerary as published. This is the time period covered by the land cost. The total number of days includes the time required to travel between the USA and the destination country.
Comfort Level:
2
delightful hotels and traditional-style haciendas
Group Size:
2-6
The stated range indicates minimum required for guaranteed departure and maximum accepted on the scheduled dates. Exceptions can often be made for private departures.
Activity Level:
2
delightful hotels and traditional-style haciendas

Resources

Trip Extensions

Trip Extensions

Amazon Rainforest Lodge

Duration: 4 days

Explore the rainforest habitats accompanied by native guides while staying at a charming lodge, designed to offer comfort while preserving the environment and ambiance of the rainforest.

Otavalo Off the Beaten Path

Duration: 3 days

This in-depth exploration of the scenic area north of Quito, including a trip to the famous Otavalo market, as well as visits to some of the smaller towns known for a variety of crafts.

Guayaquil City & Optional Tours

Duration: 1 days

Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city, and with its low elevation and coastal location, it is an ideal point to fly to and from Galapagos. Options include a tour of the city and the Botanical Gardens or the new Historical Park.

Cloud Forest

Duration: 1 days

Escape to a cloud forest paradise. Bellavista is a perfect day trip to see the subtropical rainforest during your stay in Quito. Why spend a spare day in the city when you could be hiking in a forest reserve, or relaxing in a hammock admiring the hum... read more

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