Your day-by-day itinerary
One of the highest capital cities in the world, and almost on the equator, Quito’s mountain location is something to behold. The city itself has lots of Latin charm too, with colonial buildings and impressive cathedrals, as well a youthful edge which you’ll see in the street art and bars. You’ll be picked up from the airport by our local partner, will spend a couple of nights in the trendy Mariscal district, and explore the UNESCO-listed Old Town and markets with a local guide. Welcome to Ecuador!
You’ll be picked up by a private driver who’ll take you from Quito to Mindo. The usual drive time is around 2.5 hours, but you’ll break up the journey with a stop at Mitad del Mundo – a monument and surrounding park which marks the Equator. Admittedly it’s a little touristy, but how often do you get the chance to stand with one foot in each hemisphere? Your driver will wait for you whilst you head into the park to explore and get that classic Equator photo, and there’s also an interesting museum where they’ll demonstrate the different effects of gravity only metres apart.
Cloud Forests of Mindo
Mindo is in the heart of the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest – a tranquil, almost mystical, area full of lush green vegetation, waterfalls and hiking trails, as well as a huge variety of butterflies and birds. You’ll be staying in a cosy, rustic bungalow surrounded by tropical gardens. During your stay we’ll arrange a visit to a spectacular butterfly house. There are also plenty of more adventurous activities on offer here like ziplining, along with hours of rural trails to explore.
High times at the Cotopaxi Volcano
You’ll spend the evening in a peaceful hacienda set on a farm in the beautiful Cotopaxi National Park, surrounded by cattle, horses and alpacas grazing on the grassy plains. You first afternoon is free to relax and get used to the altitude, or perhaps take a walk through the countryside, before you head to the volcano cone the following morning. Your driver will wait whilst you take on the 300m scramble up the volcanic ash, to a viewpoint not far from the top where you’ll get a spectacular panorama of the National Park and surrounding volcanoes.
Villages and Volcanoes - Quilotoa Loop
Over the next few days you’ll explore the beautiful Quilotoa region, visiting indigenous villages which have remained largely unchanged over the years along the way. Beginning with an overnight stay in a mountain lodge in Isinlivi, you’ll then set out on foot with a local guide for a full day of trekking through lush green hills and deep gorges, all against a backdrop of snow-capped volcanoes.
After a night at a locally-run lodge in Chugchilan, you’ll be driven up to the huge, colourful crater lake of the Quilotoa Volcano, where you can walk around the rim, head down to the water, or just take in the spectacular view. Afterwards, your driver will be there to take you to your next destination.
The trek requires a moderate level of fitness, and all meals will be included, as well as a driver and guide.
Wheels and Waterfalls in Banos
Tucked away amongst the forests, gorges, hot springs and waterfalls of the Central Highlands, Baños serves as perfect base to explore nature and get active in the great outdoors. The town itself is pleasant, if a little touristy, but real reason to come here is the setting. During your stay, we’ll arrange mountain bikes and a route map so you can see what the region has to offer, and there are plenty of adventure activities you can arrange locally too!
Edge of the Amazon
On the western edge of the Amazon Rainforest, Tena is an easy-going and welcoming town where you can experience part of this mighty jungle. You’ll stay in a lodge on the Napo river, surrounded by nature and feeling a million miles from civilisation. You’ll have a comfortable bed with your own bathroom and porch, and all your food is provided. You’ll also head out with a native guide to explore the wildlife and learn about life in the jungle.
Hot Springs of the Andes
Amongst the fresh air, beautiful Andean scenery and thermal springs, you’ll find the mountain village of Papallacta. This is a place to recharge your batteries and pamper yourself a little. Once you’ve settled into your comfy cabaña, you can jump straight into the lodge’s private thermal pools to soothe your muscles whilst looking out across the mountains. If you’d like even more pampering then spa treatments can be booked on-site, and there’s also a restaurant and bar here, so you can have a truly lazy evening.