Take a deep dive in one of Latin America’s most fascinating but often overlooked countries – Ecuador
Day 1- 5 Colonial Quito and Andean Trekking
Welcome to Ecuador! Arriving in Quito, you’ll settle into your hotel to rest before the following day, which sees you explore the World Heritage Site of Colonial Quito with a private guide, discovering cobbled streets, historic 15th century churches, the San Francisco Monastery constructed in 1534 and La Ronda – a street buzzing with local charm and artisan handicrafts. View the city from the ‘Panecillo’, the hill that dominates the south of the city.
On the following three days, you will explore the Toachi River Canyon, southwest of Quito. Each day will you will trek four-to-six hours, immersing yourself in the dramatic mountain scenery, traversing the canyon and river, crossing farmland and passing preserved traditional homes. You’ll spend evenings at cosy lodges where you’ll receive a traditional Andean welcome and luxuries like Jacuzzis, fireplaces and local dining.
Day 6-8 Incan Ruins, Crafts and Colonial Cuenca
Heading south, discover the well-preserved ruins of Ingapirca – an Inca observatory, temple of the sun and fortress. It’s the most important Inca site in Ecuador, significantly because it was here that the emperor would rest on his journeys north, and it was also known for its symbolic ceremonies and Cañari (pre-Inca inhabitants) rituals. Learning more about the Cañaris, you’ll visit the traditional settlements of Gualaceo and Chordeleg set in beautiful Andean landscape, where families use 500-year-old techniques to make textiles, plus meet artisans who create straw hats, jewellery and guitars.
The next part of your journey reveals Cuenca, a picturesque colonial city whose skyline is characterised by gleaming church domes. Enjoy the scene: winding rivers, graceful ironwork balconies and beautiful gardens whilst you wander around this easy-to-explore city. You’ll also spend time in El Cajas National Park, a diverse natural space typified by cloud forest, lunar landscapes and over 200 lakes. Spot the 200-year-old quina tree, wild llamas, hummingbirds, Andean condors and perhaps the elusive puma.
Day 9 -16 Cruise the Galapagos
Fly from Guayaquil to the Galapagos and be welcomed aboard your vessel by your friendly staff. The next week will be filled with adventurous and in-depth exploration of the Galapagos Islands and its captivating wildlife. Each day you will explore different islands and beaches, each with its own unique set of endemic creatures. On your first few days you’ll hike Darwin Bay, heaven for birdwatchers with its plethora of red footed-booby, masked boobies, wandering tattlers, lava gulls and whimbrels. On the east of Santa Cruz Island is Plazas, where some of the most interesting and outstanding species of the Galapagos are found here such as land iguanas.
The island of Santa Fe is home to a number of endemic species like the Galapagos hawk, Galapagos snake and Galapagos mockingbird and in the clear waters you will see sea lion colonies. At Kicker Rock natural monument, flocks of sea birds gather here including tropical birds, frigates, and boobies; snorkel at Lobos Island to see juvenile sea lions, manta rays and sea turtles. As well as incredible wildlife, you’ll see the conservation efforts here in the Galapagos at the Giant tortoise breeding centre and the Charles Darwin Station.
Day 16 – 18 Cloud Forest Immersion
Now for a total change of scenery and testament to Ecuador’s diverse landscapes, you will be transported to a humid cloud forest, a pristine environment which is the location for remote eco hotel Mashpi Lodge. Surrounded on all sides by greens, the modern-luxe hotel has floor-to-ceiling windows allowing you to feel immersed in the misty rainforest, brimming with biodiversity. The hotel has on-site naturalists who will take you into the cloud forest on a guided tour. There are several different trails to discover including waterfall treks and the ‘Howler Monkey’ which winds through primary forest dominated by ancient trees, and is popular with all kinds of animals, plus interesting plants which have medicinal use.
You’ll also experience the forest early morning to see and hear jungle life plus enjoy the unique experience of ‘air bicycle’, a 200-metre-long cable, 30 metres above the ground where you’ll have an unrivalled view of the treetops, river and ravine. The interesting Life Centre is the place to come to observe different species of birds and mammals that visit fruit feeders. Sadly, your time in Ecuador now comes to a close, and armed with myriad memories, you will begin your journey to Quito, and onwards home.