Ecuador's mainland is a playground of different landscapes and cultures. While the Galapagos Islands are definitely a must see, too many travelers ignore the natural treasures. Add the fact that Ecuador's mainland is compact and easy to travel around, and you have yourself the perfect adventure destination. This itinerary begins with a multi-day program living and interacting with the Huaorani Tribe of Ecuador's Amazon rain forest, learning the indigenous lifestyle of these fascinating people while staying in their locally managed ecolodge. Next, launch up into the Andes mountains, to explore the peaks and villages that make up the Avenue of Volcanoes. On this trip, you'll explore on foot, train, plane, canoe, and car through the most beautiful parts of South America.
Welcome to Ecuador! On arrival at the Quito airport you will be met by your Spanish speaking private driver and transferred to your hotel. Check in and enjoy the rest of the day free.
Quito a World Cultural Heritage site nestled high in the Andes. Ecuador's capital and largest city offers a combination of colonial architecture and Andean culture. Highlights include the Main Square (Plaza de Independencia), where you can see the Presidential Palace and the Cathedral. Wandering through the city's old down you can find some of the city's most spectacular churches, all built around the XVI and XVII centuries, including the monastery of San Francisco, started only 5 days after the founding of the Spanish city in 1534.
Your journey to the Amazon begins at 6:00 am in the morning after being picked up by your jungle guide at your hotel. Leaving the bustling metropolis of Quito, you will be treated to the beautiful scenery of the Ecuadorian countryside as transportation heads south, transitioning from the Andes to the Amazon (locally known as the Oriente). The excursion winds along the impressive Avenue of Volcanoes—a strip of 14 active, semi-active and dormant volcanic mountains. Baños (bah-nyos), named for its thermal baths that draw thousands of visitors per year and known for its adrenaline-pumping adventure sports and melcocha taffy, will be the first major town on the way. Your journey will continue into its surrounding green landscapes punctuated by beautiful cascading waterfalls, riding adjacent to the Agoyan River (which changes name to Pastaza once it crosses into the province of the same name) while passing under several tunnels. Heading onward to the jungle, you’ll start to notice changes in vegetation, with Spanish moss, bananas and tropical palms beginning to dominate the countryside.
Four or five hours later, you will arrive to the town of Shell, named after the oil company. Around noon, you will depart in a light aircraft to the Huaorani community of Quehueri’ono (keh-werioh- noh), only to be warmly greeted by your guests after a short 35-minute flight. From here, you will start your expedition downstream in a shallow dugout canoe called a quilla (kee-yah). Your luggage will be taken ahead separately, so be sure to keep your camera, binoculars, sunscreen and hat on-board with you. Rubber boots and rain ponchos will be distributed at this point.
Finally, you will arrive at Huaorani Ecolodge, your intimate and comfortable home for the next few days. You’ll have the chance to settle in, have lunch listen to an introductory briefing about the Huaorani culture and their relationship with the rainforest at the discovery trail. After dinner, feel free to rest up for day two of your Amazonian adventure, or if you have an urge to start exploring, ask your guide to lead you on a night walk. (This service is on a group basis.)
The award winning Huaorani Ecolodge is situated at the headwaters of the Amazon and run by the Huaorani, one of the most isolated ethnic groups on earth. This is a life changing experience where you will learn how to use a blowgun, climb trees, smear your face with red achiote, and take a two day meander down the Shiripuno river in kayaks or dugout canoes watching tropical birds and monkeys and listen to an indigenous leader relate the tribe’s fight against oil exploration and with luck meet Moi Enomenga a conservation hero honored by National Geographic and the Buffett Foundation.
Today is hunting day! After breakfast, a Huaorani guide will accompany you on a long nature hike into the forest. The local guides are also experienced hunters and they will teach you the secrets of rainforest survival without killing any of the creatures that live there. You’ll learn how to set traps, make fire without matches, build a shelter in minutes, use a blowgun, practice the perfect swing of the machete and catch fish in small creeks. Your guide may also point out and let you taste edible insects, identify and explain the uses of medicinal plants, and show you which clay is used to make pottery.
Afterwards, you’ll have time to change into your swimsuit and take a dip in the fresh river water, swimming beside the creatures of the Amazon. Do not worry, though, the animals won’t bite; humans are the only true threat in the jungle! Most likely, members of the Huaorani community will join you for the swim; the river plays a central role in their lives and they love to play in the water! Shortly after, you’ll fill up on a hearty lunch near the community.
The afternoon will be spent with the community, when you’ll get to know the members personally. The relaxed, informal visit may lead you to share a bowl of chucula (a sweet drink made of ripe bananas) under the filtered light of the thatched houses, or admire the beautiful handmade artifacts, including woven hammocks and bags, blowguns, traps and necklaces. You’ll also have the chance to visit the Bi-cultural Ecology Education project and learn how to harvest manioc, also known as yucca or cassava.
You return to the lodge by canoe at the end of the afternoon to relax and have dinner, then your naturalist guide will offer a half hour discussion, or charla, on a subject of interest. Like the day before, if you’d like to extend your day and continue observing, ask your guide to bring you on a short night hike. (This service is on a group basis.)
After breakfast, you set off canoeing down the Shiripuno River in traditional Huaorani style, or you can choose to kayak instead at an additional cost. Today the day starts extra early in order to catch a glimpse of the many different birds out at these hours. The tranquility of the morning will allow you to appreciate the true peace and calm of the rainforest, and is the perfect time to relax and engage in intimate conversations, reflect on the past few days of the journey, or to learn some Huaorani vocabulary.
Next up is a stop at the Apaika community, which lives inside the Yame Reserve, a 55,000-hectare protected area managed by the Huaorani Association, who leads the region’s ecotourism initiatives. Here you will enjoy a quick snack and visit Apaika’s mini interpretation center, where you can learn more about Yasuní National Park. To complete the afternoon, you’ll be able to join the community in some of its daily activities and share in its history, myths and magic.
Afterwards, the group continues a couple more hours downriver near the Huaorani village of Nenquepare. You will spend the night here, camping out along the Shiripuno River, sleeping with the sounds of the Amazon’s animals. The well-constructed and comfortable campsite is part of a community initiative, so you will really get to participate in and support community tourism at its finest. (This service is on a group basis.)
Before the return journey and after being treated to a delicious breakfast, you will have the opportunity to hike the community trail to visit an impressive waterfall, one that has special importance for the Huaorani. Once there, you can take a dip in the energizing waters to recharge for the trip back to Quito. The fairly easy walk is three hours altogether, and your naturalist guide will be sure to point out any special plants and animals you may come across. Once back at the campsite, the group will bid farewell and start the return journey downstream in canoe.
This will begin the “toxic tour,” an introduction to how the oil industry has impacted the Huaorani lands. The group will head to the border between traditional Huaorani territory and that of the petroleum companies, though it all used to belong to the Huaorani. Here you will see the road built by oil companies in the early 1970s, which crosses the river, and transitions from forest to “civilization.” Roads are symbols of modern deforestation, providing access and means for human populations to grow at a rapid rate.
On this short tour, you will witness the crude reality of our collective thirst for oil as you ride alongside miles of pipelines, which go from the Huaorani community of Tihuino to Lago Agrio, the oil hub of el Oriente, to be pumped across the Andes to the port of Esmeraldas.
This brief journey through oil territory illustrates the reality of the threat facing the rainforest and the Huaorani people. You will also realize why your visit to Huaorani Lodge was so important! After a 2 hour overland ride on the auca road, you will reach the banks of the Río Napo and the town of Coca, where you will catch your departing flight to Quito. (This service is on a group basis.)
On arrival, you will be picked up at the airport and transferred to your hotel.
This morning you will embark on the start of your Avenue of Volcanoes excursion.
Just one hour south of the historic colonial city of Quito, in the region of Mt. Cotopaxi, the world’s highest active volcano, we offer the traditional mountain hospitality with a dose of adventure. We drive south from Quito and from Thursday to Sunday ride by train! We will visit Cotopaxi National Park. From here, weather permitting, you will be able to see the snow capped summits of both the Cotopaxi and the Antisana volcanoes. You will also enjoy horseback riding if you choose.
Visit Cotopaxi Interpretation center to learn about the history of its major eruptions as well as the local flora and fauna. Later, you will go to Limpiopungo Lake and discover the area by walking around it.
Enjoy lunch at Tambopaxi, a mountain refugee based in the northern side of the National Park. Optionally, if you feel like walking, you can take a 2 hour hike where you will arrive at Cotopaxi’s J. Ribas refuge (4,800 m) and you will have a nice view of the volcano and the Andes.
The Highlands of Cotopaxi National Park are located in the Southern mount region of Ecuador that continues to fascinate hikers from around the world. Here you will discover a region of the Andes full of high mystical peaks, spectacular scenery, plants and animals, waterfalls, forests and great walking trails. If you are interested in outdoor challenges, this is not to be missed.
Today you will visit a Rose Plantation as well as an Indian market in the village of Saquisili, Pujili or Latacunga. These markets are as authentic and non-tourist as you can find in Ecuador today. They are important for the local indigenous people because the markets are the center of their social and economic worlds. Afterwards, you will head to Riobamba where you will spend the night.
*Markets take place in the following days: Pujili: Sunday and Wednesday Saquisili: Thursday Latacunga: Saturday and any day.
At 8:00am in the morning we will transfer to Alausi and catch the Train to the Devil’s Nose. Available daily except Mondays.
Arrival in Alausi, with box lunch on route, and then the drive south to Ingapirca, where we visit the impressive Inca Ruins. In the afternoon we move south to Cuenca a beautiful colonial town recently declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.
Today you will transfer to Guayaquil visiting Cajas National Park en route. On arrival in Guayaquil, check in to your hotel and enjoy your last night in Ecuador at your leisure.
Cajas National Park is located 30 km west of the city of Cuenca, capital of the province of Azuay. Has an area of 28.544 hectares and has over 250 small lakes and ponds. It was declared a National Park on 5 November 1996 on the archaeological value of the area and rich in flora and fauna. The Banks is home to many endemic and endangered animals from extinction.
Today, at the appropriate time, you will be met by your Spanish speaking driver and transferred to the airport for your departing flight. We hope you enjoyed your experience in Ecuador and we wish you a pleasant flight home.
Situated in the heart of the Historic Center of Quito - surrounded by churches, museums, and national monuments - El Hotel Patio Andaluz Quito is a marvelous old building full of Quiteno history and ambience. It is walking distance (490 feet) from Quito's main square, known as the Independence Plaza, and extremely short walking distance from several of this UNESCO World Heritage City's highlights. With only 11 suites and 21 standard rooms, it is an intimate and elegant hotel with capacity for just 63 guests. The hotel features a delicious restaurant, a cava bar, library, internet, and plenty of nooks in which to relax and take a siesta.
The award-winning Huaorani Ecolodge is situated at the headwaters of the Amazon and is run by the Huaorani, one of the most isolated ethnic groups on earth. This is a life-changing experience where you will learn how to use a blowgun, climb trees, smear your face with red achiote, and take a two day meander down the Shiripuno river in kayaks or dugout canoes watching tropical birds and monkeys and listen to an indigenous leader relate the tribe's fight against oil exploration. With luck, you may even meet tribe member Moi Enomenga, a conservation hero honored by National Geographic and the Buffett Foundation. The Huaorani are high energy, fun-loving people and they expect you to immerse in their culture and customs. Visit, learn, act, share and inspire!
On the slopes of Rumiñahui Volcano in a truly remote and stunning location, you will find the rustic Hacienda El Porvenir. El Porvenir is surrounded by 4 volcanoes (including Cotopaxi) and is at an altitude of 3600 m. The farmhouse is made from local materials, with the colors and style typical of this part of the country. It remains a working farm owned and operated by local people. Hacienda El Porvenir is the ideal base from which to explore Cotopaxi, get to know the Andean way of life first hand. And enjoy thrilling adventures. It is located just 90 minutes from Quito, in the foothills of Rumiñahui Volcano, and 4 km from the northern entrance to Cotopaxi National Park.
The Mansion Santa Isabella is a beautifully restored colonial house in the center of Riobamba. It is the inspiration of an English/Ecuadorian couple and their family. The hotel places an emphasis on warm personalized service, modern comfort in classic surroundings and making sure that all of its guests enjoy Riobamba and its stunning surroundings as much as possible.
Victoria Hotel is a first class hotel located in The Barranco area of the city of Cuenca, specifically on the banks of Tomebamba River. Its facade is a beautiful building mixed of bourgeois aristocrat brick and marble, its interior is decorated with elements typical of local culture. Its spacious areas and corridors allow you to enjoy of a peaceful and pleasant stay. The hotel has two entrances, one from the historical side of Larga Street and the other by the banks of Tomebamba River, as well as a spacious parking lot and a beautiful garden facing the river.
Conveniently located in Guayaquil, Hotel Oro Verde Guayaquil is a great base from which to explore this vibrant city. From here, guests can enjoy easy access to all that the lively city has to offer. Also within easy reach are Chasquitur Tours, Ecuadorian Tours, 9 de Octubre. At Hotel Oro Verde Guayaquil, the excellent service and superior facilities make for an unforgettable stay. This hotel offers numerous on-site facilities to satisfy even the most discerning guest. Experience high quality room facilities during your stay here. Some rooms include shower, soundproofing, desk, wake-up service, hair dryer, provided to help guests recharge after a long day. Throughout the day you can enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of the outdoor pool, massage, hot tub, sauna, steamroom. When you are looking for comfortable and convenient accommodations in Guayaquil, make Hotel Oro Verde Guayaquil your home away from home.