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Small Group Tours

The Highlands of Ecuador

Ecuador

10 days

Summary

On this Small Group tour, travel from Quito to Guayaquil through the highlands of Ecuador. This 10-day tour will show you why Ecuador is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful destinations in Latin America. We start in Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre full of history and charm. You will also travel to the bustling and fascinating market of Otavalo where you can interact with locals.

Continue travelling south through the Avenues of the Volcanos in the highlands of Ecuador. Here, not only you will have fantastic views of the Andes but will be able to explore the towns of Patate, Baños, and Riobamba. You will also travel by train on “one of the world’s most difficult railroad” due to the geographical obstacles that had to be faced during its construction. The train will take you to the famous “Devil’s Nose”, descending 800 meters in a zigzag through a rocky formation. The descent allows us to experience the different climate zones from the highlands towards the coast vast open valleys. Then visit the Ingapirca ruins where you can learn about the Cañari & Inca civilisations before arriving into Cuenca. The red-tiled roofs, flowery plazas and colonial architecture of Cuenca make it one of the prettiest cities in the Americas. Lastly, travel to the beautiful Cajas National Park on your way to Guayaquil.

Join us on this adventure-packed small group tour! This fully escorted tour departs on Saturday, June 27, 2020, and has limited seats. Book now!

If you are thinking about also travelling to Peru, have a look at our Small Group tour, we’ll be celebrating the Inti Raymi!

Highlights

  • Visit Otavalo, one of the most famous indigenous markets of South America
  • A train journey to the “Devil’s Nose”, a thrilling 800-metre descent via zigzags cut into the rock
  • Overnight in UNESCO World Heritage Listed city of Cuenca
  • Drive along the Pan-American highway known as “The Volcanoes Avenue” towards one of the world’s highest active volcano, Cotopaxi (5,897 m.a.s.l.)
  • Immerse in the waterfalls and hot springs nearby Baños and visit the famous waterfalls “Manto de la Novia” and “Pailon del Diablo
  • Explore Ingapirca Inca Ruins, one of the best-preserved ruins in Ecuador
  • City tour of Cuenca and visit traditional ‘Panama hat’ factory
  • Visit El Cajas National Park, with more than 200 lagoons, a very important water resource for Ecuador

Inclusions

  • Accommodation in mentioned hotels with daily breakfast and 2 Lunches
  • Expert English-speaking local guides and tour director
  • Ground transportation in private A/C vehicles
  • All entrance fees to local sights mentioned on the itinerary
  • Unique hand-crafted travel wallets & luggage tags made in Bolivia exclusively for Contours Travel
  • 24 hour assistance by our local offices in South America

ITINERARY

Day 1 Quito

Upon arrival into Quito Airport, you will be transferred to the hotel by our local representative.
Overnight at Casona de La Ronda (First Class)

Day 2 Quito

Depart on a guided tour of the colonial centre of UNESCO Heritage Listed Quito, one of the America’s best-preserved historical cities. Visit the El Ejido and Alameda Parks, the monument of Simon Bolivar, the impressive Gothic Basilica of the Heart of Jesus and the huge Plaza de la Independencia. Stroll out of the plaza along the Street of Seven Crosses to arrive at the Jesuit Temple, La Compañía de Jesús, perhaps the most important example of baroque architecture in Ecuador.
Meals: B

Day 3 Quito

Depart Quito driving north towards Otavalo, enjoy an exciting trip by tasting exotic fruits in the Guayllabamba valley. We will cross the Equator Line at Cayambe, where on a clear day, it is possible to admire its majestic snow-capped mountain (5,790 m.), the world’s highest point where the Equator Line crosses. Here it is an ideal spot to try its famous salt biscuits with leaf cheese, a tradition of this region not to be missed. At the foot of Imbabura mountain enjoy the picturesque view of San Pablo, Ecuador’s largest lake.
Afterwards, we will visit Peguche Wasi, a gallery where the ancestral knowledge of the kichwa town is conserved. Here we will find a workshop where they hand-make and sell indigenous handicrafts. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more in-depth about these craftworks. Additionally, there is an exposition with wood, spinning, crocheting, and murals that retell the history and magic of the Kichwa Otavalo. Before continuing the trip, we will visit another local workshop called “Taita Gundo” where we can see how the traditional Andean musical instruments are made.
Later, it will be time to visit the famous Otavalo Indigenous Market, the biggest in South America. Here is where vendors proudly offer a stunning variety of weavings such as the famous ponchos, among other textiles like rugs, mittens, and scarves. We’ll then drive to one of the region’s beautiful haciendas for lunch before returning to Quito in the afternoon.
Meals: BL

Day 4 Quito/Patate

Depart Quito heading south and travel along the Avenue of the Volcanoes to Baños. We’ll drive between two parallel cordilleras with snowcapped summits and the mystical beauty that, in times past, nourished the mythology of early cultures. We’ll drive past Cotopaxi VolcanoOthers dormant volcanoes but equally stunning are Pasochoa, Rumiñawi and Illinizas. Two of the other volcanoes, 5,300m Sangay and 5,023m Tungurahua, are generally cited as being among the ten most active in the world. Now an inactive stratovolcano, the most prominent of these is Chimborazo at 6,263m, the highest mountain in the world when measured from the centre of the earth, owing to the Earth’s equatorial bulge! There will also be a stop at the Arenal of Ambato, a valley where you can see the local flora and fauna, including llamas.
Overnight at Hacienda Leito (Boutique hotel)
Meals: B

Day 5 Patate

Continue touring around this beautiful city. Baños is a town located in a valley with waterfalls and hot springs nearby. One of the main attractions is the Tungurahua volcano. Today’s tour will begin by visiting the famous Baños waterfalls “Manto de la Novia” and “Pailon del Diablo”, later go to a lookout point to see the Tungurahua active volcano.
Meals: B

Day 6 Baños/Riobamba

Our trip then continues heading south along the Pan-American Highway. The vibrant green Ecuadorian countryside is one of the main attractions of this trip; you’ll enjoy stunning views of valleys and mountains covered in a patchwork of multi-coloured fields, llamas meandering along hillsides and indigenous people going about their daily lives.
We’ll arrive at Urbina Train Station, at the foot of the imposing Chimborazo Volcano. Visit a Tagua nut workshop and warm up with a canelazo and biscuits by the fireplace and, if the Chimborazo is clear, a fantastic sunset can be expected. Then continue to Riobamba.
Overnight at Hacienda Abraspungo (Boutique)
Meals: B

Day 7 Riobamba/Cuenca

Today will be a full-day tour to the Devil’s Nose train, an Andean Community followed by a visit to Ingapirca ruins before arriving in Cuenca. Depart early to Alausi, a small and iconic town in the Ecuadorian Andes. Arriving at the train station, we will board “The Devil’s nose train”; this is an emblematic train ride in Ecuador due to the land topography and infrastructure. This train ride is considered by engineers as a “railway masterpiece” and commonly described as “one of the most challenging railroads”. The ride will not be an ordinary one as we will start this journey at an altitude of 2,346 meters and go down to 1,860 meters in just 30 minutes through zigzag-carved railway tracks to Sibambe.
Once in Sibambe, you will be able to take pictures with the train and the Devil’s nose mountain. Afterwards, we will continue by car to a nearby local community, Tolte’s Community, where we will enjoy time with locals from an isolated small town and have a closer look at their lifestyle.
Traditional Andean dancers from the community will welcome you, and then you will enjoy a typical lunch at the restaurant. After lunch, you will be able to choose among different activities during your visit to the community. You can descend 330 stairs to a viewpoint, which is a perfect place to appreciate the zig-zag from Devil’s Nose and take fabulous pictures. Aside of this, you may also choose between horseback riding or a biking tour in the surrounding area. Alternatively you can visit a local organic farm to see how the community develops agro-tourism. In case you are more of an adventure person, there is an option of riding horses (additional cost) from the Train station up to the Restaurant in Tolte. It is a beautiful ride through amazing landscape.
After this visit, we will drive to Ingapirca Ruins, where a walk through this place will take you back to the past. These are the best-preserved and unique Inca ruins in Ecuador. Continue to Cuenca.
Overnight at Victoria (Boutique)
Meals: BL

Day 8 Cuenca

Take a tour of the city’s historic centre, a picturesque and traditional neighbourhood of Cuenca. Here, you will visit the main attractions, including the church of San Sebastian, Calderon Park, the Flower Plaza and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, considered as of the biggest churches in Latin America. Afterwards, visit “El Paja Toquilla” Hat Factory, where you can observe the process of making the famous Panama hats. The route continues to the “El Barranco del Río Tomebamba,” and the tour will finish at “Mirador de Turi” (scenic viewpoint) to enjoy views over the red-tiled roofs and church domes of Cuenca before returning to your hotel.
Meals: B

Day 9 Cuenca/Guayaquil

After breakfast we will travel to Guayaquil. On the way, we will visit “El Cajas National Park”; it consists of over 200 lagoons and has a surface of 28.544 hectares. It is an essential water resource for Cuenca and Ecuador. The rivers and tributaries that originate here flow into the Pacific and Amazon. We visit the high part of the park at approximately 4.000 m.a.s.l. (45 minutes walk). Then we move toward the Toreadora Lagoon before arriving at your hotel in Guayaquil.
Overnight at Oro Verde (First Class)
Meals: B

Day 10 Guayaquil

Today you will be transferred to the airport for your onwards flight. Consider a Galapagos Cruise or Island hopping program; or an Amazon Jungle expedition.

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