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Classic Andean Highlands of Ecuador Tour

10 Days | From $2,490 per person


Highlights

  • Observe snowcapped volcanoes
  • Visit colorful indigenous communities
  • Bargain at the Otavalo artisans' market
  • Ride the Devil's Nose train down the Andes
  • Hike in Cotopaxi and Cajas National Parks
  • Explore Inca ruins of Ingapirca

Our Classic Andean Highlands trip allows you to experience the most intriguing highlights in the Andes mountains of Ecuador. Explore quaint indigenous villages and picturesque Andean valleys as you travel down the Avenue of the Volcanoes. Horseback ride on the flanks of an active volcano and bargain with local people at colorful, outdoor markets.

Pricing

  • TRIP LENGTH10 days
  • SUPERIOR LAND ONLY$2,890 (4/5-star hotels)
  • STANDARD LAND ONLY$2,490 (3-star hotels)
*Prices based on 4 travelers

Included
  • Private tour with professional Andean Discovery guides
  • Accommodations based on double occupancy
  • All activities, transfers, and entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Most meals as per the itinerary
Not Included
  • International round-trip airfare to Quito
  • Fees for passport and travel insurance
  • Gratuities

Itinerary
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Detailed Itinerary >>

Arrive at Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport, where Andean Discovery staff will greet you for your transport north to Imbabura, The Province of the Lakes. The scenic drive makes its way though green valleys and dramatic plateaus, and you may even catch a glimpse of the snowcapped volcanoes Cotopaxi and Cayambe. This fascinating area is home to the Otavaleños, Kichwa-speaking Indians famous for their traditional garments, ancient handicrafts, and expansive outdoor markets. Arrive in Imbabura and transfer to Hacienda Cusin, the historic 17th-century estate converted into a charming, boutique guesthouse.

Overnight: Hacienda Cusin

The morning begins with a visit to Otavalo’s legendary outdoor market, one of the largest and oldest in South America. This indigenous market has been a communal, cultural, and commercial hub for farmers and artisans in the surrounding areas since long before the arrival of the Spanish. Visit the nearby Peguche Waterfall, one of the most important ritual places in northern Ecuador. After lunch, transfer to Laguna Cuicocha for the afternoon. This stunning lake sits in a volcanic crater 10,072 feet above sea level, and is known for its emerald-green waters and the pair of islets at its center that resemble cuis, or guinea pigs. Take an easy hike around the crater wall and enjoy spectacular views of the lake below. A short boat ride provides access to the islets in the center of the lake, where you may observe endemic birds and even get a glimpse of volcanic sulfur gas bubbling to the surface. Stop in the small village of Cotacachi on your way back to Hacienda Cusin and get a feel for the leatherwork for which the town is famous.

Overnight: Hacienda Cusin (B, L, D)

Spend your morning getting to know some of Ecuador’s iconic Andean Condors. Visit Parque Condor, a raptor rescue and rehabilitation center set on a dramatic hilltop with views of Imbabura volcano. Marvel at a live flying demonstration with harpy eagles, bald eagles, and hawks. After lunch, head south toward the capital city of Quito. At once historic and modern, this major South American metropolis extends out of a stunning Andean valley at 9,350 feet above sea level. It is the second highest capital in Latin America and enjoys a wonderful spring-like climate throughout the year. Check into your room at Patio Andaluz and enjoy an evening exploring the city and eating on your own.

Overnight: Patio Andaluz Boutique Hotel (B, L)

After breakfast, meet with your guide for a private tour of Quito’s colonial center. This lovingly preserved UNESCO World Heritage site includes the striking La Compañia church, the Church of San Francisco, and some of South America’s most renowned museums with art dating back to the 1600s. The Virgin of Quito (El Panecillo), an enormous statue of an elegant winged woman, watches over the city from an impressive vantage point atop a 650-foot peak. A visit to El Panecillo affords sweeping panoramic views from Quito’s historic center to the peaks of the mountains that surround it. After lunch, travel with your guide to zero degrees latitude for a visit to the Mitad del Mundo equatorial monument. Snap a photo with one foot in each hemisphere, and marvel at a series of interactive experiments that demonstrate the unique gravitational forces surrounding the site. Return to your hotel in the afternoon and enjoy an evening on your own in Quito.

Overnight: Patio Andaluz Boutique Hotel (B, L)

Depart from Quito in the morning and head south to Cotopaxi National Park along the famed “Avenue of the Volcanoes,” thus named for the way the route connects some of the Andes most iconic snowcapped volcanoes. Cotopaxi Volcano is a breathtaking geographic wonder, towering over the National Park at 19,349 feet above sea level. It is one of the world’s highest active volcanoes, and the second highest mountain in Ecuador. Arrive at the historic base lodge and enjoy a delicious Andean lunch. Don traditional ponchos and explore the park on horseback, or relax at the lodge and enjoy the striking views.

Overnight: Hacienda San Agustin de Callo (B, L, D)

Spend your morning getting to know the unique landscapes and climate zones of Cotopaxi National Park. Take a short hike and observe Cotopaxi’s receding glacier cap and walk around Limpiopungo lake to observe endemic plants in the fragile Paramo ecosystem. Continue out of Cotopaxi National Park and further south to Riobamba where you’ll prepare for a delicious dinner at Hacienda Abras Pungos.

Overnight: Hacienda Abras Pungos (B, L, D)

All aboard! After breakfast, set out for Alausa­ where you will board the Devil’s Nose round-trip train to Sibambe, inaccessible by road. The route, which includes a series of hair-raising switchbacks through the Andes mountains, is Ecuador’s most famous railway and a triumph of engineering. After lunch, continue your journey south with a visit to the meticulously constructed Inca ruins of Ingapirca. The largest known ruins site in Ecuador, Ingapirca is a testament to the ancient wisdom, genius, and aesthetic of the Inca. An entire stone complex constructed in perfect harmony with the sun, the walls stand perfectly smooth without a speck of mortar. Late afternoon arrival in the enchanting colonial city of Cuenca, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

Overnight: Mansion Alcazar (B, L)

Spend the whole day exploring Cuenca, a charming South American gem that combines influences from Spanish, Inca, and Cañari cultures. The Cañari inhabited the region for thousands of years, before the Inca conquered it and then shortly thereafter the Spaniards arrived. Learn about the influences of all three cultures on a guided city tour, making your way through opulent churches, flower and handicraft markets, art galleries, and workshops. Gaze up at the historic homes perched on cliffs high above the rushing Tomebamba River, and take a ride up Turi for an incredible vantage point of greater Cuenca. Past guests have enjoyed visits at ceramic art galleries, workshops with artists’ and a tour of a Panama hat factory.

Overnight: Mansion Alcazar (B, L)

This morning journey down the Andes to the coast and visit Cajas National Park along the way, one of the most important natural reserves in Ecuador boasting hundreds of glacial lagoons and a rich diversity of Andean flora and fauna. Afternoon arrival in Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador.

Overnight: Hilton Colón Guayaquil (B, L)

This morning depart or extend your trip to the Galapagos Islands. (B)



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  • Mercure Hotel Quito

    The Mercure Hotel Quito is located in the heart of the bustling Mariscal district with easy access to shop and restaurants.

  • Hacienda Cusin

    Hacienda Cusin is a historic 17th-century estate converted into a boutique guesthouse.

  • Termas de Papallacta

    The main attraction at Termas de Papallacta is its natural thermal baths and hot springs, available exclusively to hotel guests.

  • Hacienda San Agustin de Callo

    Nestled in the foothills of the Andean mountains aside the tallest active volcano in the world, Cotopaxi, stands the magnificent, historic, and majestic Hacienda San Agustin de Callo.

  • Samari Spa & Resort

    The Samari Spa & Resort is located near the beach in Banos. It provides numerous amenities to ensure that guests experience the most comfort and relaxation possible.

  • Hacienda Abras Pungo

    Hacienda Abras Pungo is named after a glacial valley which is situated between the Chimborazo Volcano and Carihuairazo, in the exact center of Ecuador.

  • Mansion Alcazar

    The Mansion Alcazar is a colonial mansion restored into a luxurious boutique hotel. It is located in Cuenca, Ecuador, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • Hampton Inn Guayaquil

    The Hampton Inn is located in the heart of Guayaquil, Ecuador. The hotel is near many restaurants, boutiques, botanical gardens, and more.



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  • Napo Wildlife Center - 4 days from $1,083

    Complement your Ecuador experience with a trip to the Amazon rainforest, one of the most ecologically diverse regions on the planet.

  • Mindo Cloud Forest & Equator

    Just 90 minutes west of Quito, the Mindo Cloud Forest is one of the world’s biodiversity “Hot Spots” and home to the world's finest chocolate plantations.



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