DAY 1-3 QUITO
On arrival you will be met at Quito Airport and transferred to your hotel. Explore Quito on a guided city tour, visit the old colonial quarter, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest and best preserved of South America. The tour begins at the Independence Plaza, flanked by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishop’s Palace. Visit the temple of La Compañía de Jesús and the Monastery of San Francisco.
The following day enjoy an excursion to the land of the Otavaleños. Located north of Quito the town of Otavalo is set amongst terraced farmlands, lakes and snow-covered mountains. Its famous Indian market dates back to pre-Inca times and is best known for its textiles woven on backstrap and shuttle looms. Stroll along the narrow cobblestone streets filled with Otavalo Indians wearing their typical blue ponchos, white trousers and long braided hair.
DAY 4 COTOPAXI NATIONAL PARK
Drive via the Avenue of the Volcanoes to Cotopaxi National Park, the park is an ecological sanctuary of 36,000 hectares surrounding the highest active volcano in the world (5,897m) the area is especially attractive for nature lovers, with the treeless vegetation of the Andean moorlands or ‘paramo’. Lunch is served at the restaurant of a hosteria or hacienda nearby. Continue the journey, descending to the town of Patate (2,245m) to spend the night at a 300-year-old hacienda hidden among the mountains. There is a magical ambience as the afternoon mist settles around the hacienda, and stories are told of those who left here in search of the ‘treasure of the Incas’ said to be hidden in the 16th century in the nearby Llanganates mountains – and never returned.
DAY 5 BAÑOS
Visit the town of Baños (baths) located right at the foot of Tungurahua volcano whose thermal waters are the reason for the town’s name. Baños attracts people from all over the world that make a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Holy Water. Continue to the impressive ‘Devil’s Cauldron,’ a waterfall surrounded by subtropical vegetation and orchids. Take a stroll up to the lookout point which provides impressive views. From Baños, the route to Riobamba ascends the mountains alongside Chimborazo (6,268m), the highest mountain in Ecuador. Enjoy the picturesque drive where land is still worked with a plough, one might think the farmer’s true objective was to paint the hills in patterns, not just to till the dark and fertile soil. Drive on through Urbina and continue to your hotel on the outskirts of Riobamba (2,750m).
DAY 6-7 CUENCA
Today travel south through picturesque indigenous villages and arrive at the small town of Alausí, the heart of the Ecuadorian Railway Company’s. Enjoy a ride on the Devil’s Nose train ride, a thrilling 800-metre descent of the ‘Devil’s Nose’ switchback, one of the most impressive feats of rail engineering in the world. Arrive at the bottom at the newly renovated station of Sibambe where there is time to visit ‘Condor Puñuna’ a museum built and run by the Nizag community. The train whistle calls passengers back aboard for the return journey up the switchback to Alausí where a light snack is served. Continue exploring the world of the Andes as you drive further south stopping en route to visit the complex of Inca ruins of Ingapirca before arriving at the colonial city of Cuenca.
Enjoy a guided city tour of Cuenca, the prettiest colonial city in the country. Located in the valley of Guapondelig at 2,550m, it is Ecuador’s third largest city, yet it still retains its pleasant provincial air. Home of the Panama hat, Cuenca has excellent Indian markets, handicrafts and silver jewellery. Spend the afternoon at leisure before a late transfer to the airport.
EXTENSIONS – GALAPAGOS ISLANDS CRUISE OR AMAZON RAINFOREST
This itinerary works very well in conjunction with a Galapagos Island Cruise or a visit to the Amazon Rainforest. Contact our expert travel consultants to arrange an itinerary perfect for you.