Ecuador cultural and natural tour
14 days – 13 nights
With a population of approximately 14,500, Ecuador possesses an astounding level of cultural and social diversity within its borders. Ecuador is located in the area which formed the northern Incan Empire prior to Spanish conquest in 1533. The region’s indigenous roots and the influences of various pre-Incan civilizations remain evident in present-day society in food, religious customs, music and dress.
The mixtures of cultures in Ecuador has also been influenced by later immigration, and one of the most vibrant and dynamic cultural groups to be found in Ecuador are the Afro-Ecuadoreans, descendants of African slaves brought in the 16th century for work on sugar plantations. This tour shows you the rich culture as well as the wonderful natural highliths.
Day1: Arrival to Quito
After the arrival at Quito’s Mariscal Sucre Airport, our helpful guide will meet you. Moreover, it will serve as a translator, and assist with the private transfer to your hotel.
Day 2: City tour and Middle of the world
After an early morning breakfast, the tour will depart towards the city center of downtown Quito, or Centro Histórico, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.
We will start with a panoramic view of Alameda Park and the Basilica, followed by a walk down the street of the Seven Crosses. The trip will continue with a walking tour, starting at Independence Square. From here, we will visit the presidential palace, the main cathedral, the gold-plated La Compañía Church, San Francisco Church and San Francisco Plaza.
Around midday the tour will head north to the equator for a trip to the monument at the Middle of the World. You may choose to visit either the Ethnographic or the Inti Ñan Museums, both located near the site of the monument. Along the way we will stop for a traditional Ecuadorian lunch (optional). After seeing these incredible sites, the tour will head back to Quito, where you will return to your hotel.
Day 3: Otavalo and its rich culture
This morning, after breakfast, you will leave Quito with your tour guide, heading to Otavalo, the town famous for its weekly artisanal market. On route on the Pan-American Highway we will stop at Calderon, a town where the famous Masapan dolls are made, continuing on through Guayllabamba town where you can sample its typical fruit the chirimoya. We will also stop on the highway to admire the beautiful landscape and snow-capped mountains in the area. We continue on, making a short stop at San Pablo Lake before arriving in Otavalo. Here we will visit the textile market located at the “Plaza of Ponchos”; this is one of the most famous markets in South America. You will find all kinds of handcrafts including tapestries made on the Spanish weaving loom as well as the indigenous backstrap loom. After which you will enjoy short free time for bargaining and buying with the friendly Otavaleños. Then, we will have lunch at a restaurant in one of the communities we will visit.
Day 4: Quito ``Six Senses”
After arriving from Otavalo, we will experience Six Senses Tour Quito. It is a unique and innovative program that is fixed with psycho-sensory experiences in which every perceptive human senses are involved. The Six Senses Tour Quito was born as an innovative experience program by Latin Trails, which Psychology and sensitive methods are combined; giving to our guests a complete life experience on ancient places and typical meals in the marvelous City of Quito. Enjoy a city tour of Quito combined with this wonderful experiences. You can check out the options in Quito Six Senses Tour
Day 5: Horse riding with the “chagras”
Horse riding Cultural Experience with the “chagras” (local cowboys) and sheep shearing.
Riding is one of the best ways of getting to know the Andes, their culture and the surrounding wilderness. This morning we will depart from the hotel after breakfast for a 3 hours horse riding trip to the heights of Rumiñahui.
Following a brief lecture on horseback riding, we will dress up in the “chagra” attire. Then we will begin our ride through the majestic “páramos”, along trails filled with rich legend and history. We can admire wild bulls and horses, native birds (It’s not uncommon to see a condor!) and fauna, all in the marvelous landscape of the Ecuadorian highlands.
You will experience the Andes at their maximum intensity, discovering the charisma of its people, the diversity of its natural settings and the adrenaline rush of living a lifetime adventure. You will get personalized service in a welcoming environment while helping nature conservation and sustainable development in local communities.
The horses we use are called “criollos parameros”. They have adapted to the arduous conditions of the páramo, losing height in the process but gaining strength and stamina to endure the harshness of the surroundings.
We provide riding accessories in the form of a woolen poncho, waterproof poncho, saddle bags, riding helmets and zamarros (sheepskin chaps) in the style of the chagras (Ecuadorian cowboys).
After relishing the freedom of nature at its wildest, we return to the farm house, where a warm fireplace and a hot drink will be ready to welcome us together with our lunch at Hacienda Porvenir or similar.
In the afternoon, we will go to an hacienda to have the opportunity to see how local people practice the llamas shearing and then to your hotel.
Day 6: Cotopaxi Volcano and Indian Market
After breakfast we will departure for a short visit to the National Park. The Cotopaxi Volcano is one of the most important landmarks in Ecuador because it is the highest active volcano in the world. Lush endemic flora and fauna of the area can be observed, including: one of the most representative species is the Chuquiragua (also known as the mountaineer’s flower) wild horses, deers, llamas, and more. Whilst in the National Park you can also see Limpiopungo Lake, located near Rumiñahui volcano (4757 meters).
Then, we will visit the renowned market of Pujili. For many, a visit of Ecuador is not complete until visit a traditional market where you can barter and trade with people from surrounding villages and towns gather together on a regular basis to sell their crafts and trades and to purchase new supplies. Supporting such a market goes a long way to supporting the local economy and helping countless families to survive from year to year. Pujili market has a more authentic feel than certain other markets in Andean region and has fewer tourists. The variety of goods here is often more beautiful and carefully crafted than those found in more easy-to-reach places where stock goes quicker and they have to produce more.
In the afternoon we will head to the city of Riobamba for a short city tour and if time permits, visit the Indian communities’ projects and the handicrafts before going to the hotel.
Day 7: Devil nose and Ingapirca
After breakfast we will depart from Riobamba on the Nariz del Diablo train ride. This train ride is the most famous in Ecuador. It is a journey between Riobamba and Alausi and is the most sought after tourist attraction in the country. Known as the “most difficult railway in the world” due to the problems in constructing the railway line through the rough terrain of the Andes, the construction ran into a problem when it hit the vertical rock known as the “Nariz del Diablo”. They got around the problem by carving zig zags out of the rock allowing the train to climb the ascent.
The train, once used by the public was shut due to financial difficulties and only re-opened recently as a tourist service.
The train ride offers spectacular views of the Ecuadorian landscape. On clear days you will be lucky to see Chimborazo volcano.
Finishing the train ride we will visit Ingapirca. These ruins are the most important architectural legacy of the Incas in Ecuador, dating back to the 15th century they are a significant part of Ecuador’s pre-hispanic legacy. They are located in the province of Cañar, about an hour and 45 minutes from Cuenca. You will be taken on a guided tour of the ruins, which is believed to be both a religious and administrative center, as well as a fortress. The vast archeological complex includes a roofless fortification, courtyards, terraces, temples, houses and a ´castle’ possibly the Temple of the Sun.
A museum is now open at the site, with both archeological and ethnographic displays. There are also exhibitions of ceramics and jewelry.
After the tour of Ingapirca we will then head to our hotel located at the historical city of Cuenca.
Day 8: City tour Cuenca
Today after breakfast we will enjoy a city tour of Cuenca. Cuenca is Ecuador’s third largest city; yet it still retains its pleasant provincial air. Its red tiled roofs, cobblestone streets, flowery plazas and museums make it very special and the city is considered by many the most beautiful in all of Ecuador. Today we will enjoy a half day city tour to discover, at a leisurely pace, the beauty and charm for which Cuenca has been recognized as a World Cultural Heritage Site. This is a walking tour in the colonial downtown area of Cuenca, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the warmth and hospitality of its people, the colourful parks and plazas, religious monuments and handcraft shops, plus an explanation of Cuenca’s history. If time permits, we will visit a workshop where Panama straw hats of the best quality are made and then drive up to the hill of Turi to admire the city.
After an optional lunch, we will departure to Guayaquil, in our route we will admire the landscape at Cajas National Park and we will arrive in our hotel.
Day 9: Guayaquil city tour and Salinas
After breakfast your guide will take you on a full day tour of the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city. The city tour in Guayaquil consists of various panoramic visits and walks through the city. Our first stop will be the Administration Plaza, around which you will observe the City Hall, the Monument Sucre and finally the Seminario Park, also known as Iguana Park.
After, we will take private transport to the Southern Malecon 2000 where you will appreciate the Integration Plaza with its famous Southern Marketplace and then continue on to the Olmedo Plaza, very important for its monument to Jose Joaquin Olmedo, a recognized poet of Guayaquil and ex president of Ecuador. After the visit in Guayaquil, we will travel to Salinas.
Day 10: Beach day in Salinas
This day is to relax and enjoy this pacific beach
Day: 11: Spondylus Route
This is the day to travel to the “Spondylous Route”, this road has many kilometers next to the beach. The Spondylus route has some of the country’s most beautiful natural areas, as well as elements of its culture, history and pre-Columbian archeology. Here you can feel the importance of Ecuadorian culture, the route takes its name from the spectacular Spondylus shell which had significance to the ancient Valdivia culture in Ecuador. Evidence of this ancient culture and others has been uncovered in the archeological excavations that you can find on the route, which also includes spectacular beaches, tranquil nature reserves, wildlife, majestic mountains, and breathtaking scenery all along the way.
Overnight: Puerto Lopez
Day 12: Isla de la Plata, the small Galapagos
Navigation to Isla de la Plata from Puerto Lopez by boat, this ride takes approximately 1 hour 15 minutes. From June to September you can watch the marvelous humpback whales during the ride. After landing, you will take a hike around the island for approximately 3 hours, on this hike you will be go to Punta Machete or Punta Escalera. Here you will see blue footed boobies, red footed boobies, nazca boobies, frigate birds, albatross, and other tropical birds and if you are lucky you also will see sea lions.
After this observation, you will return to Drake Bay where the boat is waiting for you to take you to the snorkeling place. Box lunch will be served on board. After this, you will snorkel for approximately 30 minutes, where you might see tropical fishes and sea turtles. After this you will start the return trip to Puerto Lopez.
Overnight: Puerto Lopez
Day 13: Flight to Quito
After breakfast, we will drive to Manta, where you will take a flight to Quito. In Quito, somebody will be waiting for you at the airport to take you at your hotel.
Day 14: Transfer out
- Privates transfers and transportation
- Meals detailed in the itinerary
- Hotel accommodation
- English speaker guide
- Additional meals and drinks (soft & alcoholics)
- International flights and airport taxes
- Tips and personal expenses
- Travel and medical insurance
Contact a Galapagos & Ecuador Specialist