Travel through Ecuador and find out for yourself why their national slogan is "Ama la Vida!". Freely this will translate in: "Ecuador, love and enjoy life". Joining this complete tour, filled with natural and cultural highlights, will make you understand why.
Traveling through Ecuador is less known that traveling through Peru, but we can guarantee that you will never forget a visit to this beautiful country! Everyone who has been in Ecuador will agree on this statement, but if you ask us what it is that makes Ecuador so special we find it difficult to tell. There are simply no words to describe the beautiful nature, turquoise lakes, great views of snow capped mountains, colonial cities and colorful Andean cultures.
Our 3 weeks tour program in Ecuador is very complete and diverse and includes visiting the Cuyabeno Amazon Reserve, a hike to the popular Laguna Quilotoa the option to visit the indigenous market of Guamote, overnight in the colonial city of Cuenca and in the amazing country side from the fertile valley of Vilcabamba!
For more comfort and because public transport in Ecuador isn't yet as well organized as in Peru, we organize this tour standard with private transport all the way. Optional, to bring the price down and also to make your experience more authentic, it is also possible to travel partly with public transport. This can be a great experience, but it is recommendable to speak a few words of Spanish if you want to travel this way.
Short travel itinerary:
Day 1 - Saturday. Arriving in Quito.
Day 2 - Free day in Quito to visit the historical center. Optional to visit the Equator.
Day 3 – Flight to Lago Agrio and start of Cuyabeno Amazon Tour
Day 4 - Cuyabeno Amazon Tour
Day 5 - Cuyabeno Amazon Tour
Day 6 - Cuyabeno Amazon Tour
Day 7 – Cuyabeno – Lago Agrio – Short flight to Quito and private transfer to Otavalo.
Day 8 – Visit the famous the famous Saturday market and private transport to Quito.
Day 9 – Private transport to Tigua, where you stay at a small Hacienda.
Day 10 – Guided hike towards Laguna Quilotoa and transfer back to Tigua
Day 11 – Private transport to Baños (2 nights)
Day 12 – Free day in Baños
Day 13 – Private transport to Riobamba (2 nights), incl.: visiting the indigenous Thursday market of Guamote.
Day 14 – Riobamba. Optional to visit Chimborazo.
Day 15 – Private transport from Riobamba to (optional Ingapirca) Cuenca (3 nights).
Day 16 – Free day in Cuenca. Optional to visist some local villages.
Day 17 - Free day in Cuenca. Great option to visit Parque Cajas.
Day 18 – Private transport, or optional shared tourist transfer to Vilcabamba (3 nights).
Day 19 - Free day in Vilcabamba.
Day 20 – Free day in Vilcabamba. Optional to visit Parque Podocarpus,
Day 21 – A private taxi to the airport outside of Loja and a plane back to Quito.
Day 22 - End of the tour.
Optional: to extend this tour with a visit to the famous Galapagos Islands.
Day 1: Saturday - Arriving in Quito.
The impressive city of Quito was elected by UNESCO as the American Capital of Culture 2011, because of its impressive colonial centre. Your hotel is in the modern centre, but it is a pretty walk or short taxi ride towards the old historical centre.
Day 2: Quito - Option to visit the Equator
Today is a good time to stroll through the colonial center, but you can also choose to visit the real Equator at the Inti Nan museum, about 30min. away from Quito. Here you can stand at the same moment with one feet in the Northern hemisphere and one feet in the Southern hemisphere. On Sundays there are also live bands and folkloric dancers at the French monument next to the Equator.
Day 3: Quito - Lago Agrio and start of Cuyabeno Tour
Upon arriving in Lago Agrio starts your tour through the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. This reserve is situated in the north-eastern Amazon region of Ecuador, between the San Miguel and Aguarico rivers, and close to the Colombian and Peruvian borders. The reserve is made up of 605,000 hectares of primary forest, rivers and lakes, and is home to an incredible variety of animal and plant life. Five different ethnic groups live within the reserve: the Siona, Secoya, Cofán, Kichwas and Shuar, each of which has its own culture and language.
You stay at the Jamu Lodge or a similar facility that offers an endless possibility of activities. From educational hiking to, trekking through the Terra Firme forest, experiencing the muddy swamps or the Hormiga River, swimming in the lagoon, watching the pink river dolphins, bird and wildlife watching, and visiting the native community, the list goes on. A Bilingual guide is always along for the activities to answer all your questions. In addition, guests can relax at the hammock lounge, or enjoy a beer or cocktail at the bar. The Jamu Amazon Lodge does not use electricity all the time; candles are use part of the time, in order to preserve energy and the jungle. There is a small plant in which batteries can be reloaded as well.
After arriving in Lago Agrio you meet with your guide and other new guests of the lodge around 09:00am, depending on the flight schedule and with them you will take private transport to the entrance of Cuyabeno. Lunch is on the way. Then you take a motorized canoe down the Cuyabeno River for two and a half hours. During the canoe ride you will get a first look at the jungle and will be able to observe different kind of birds like Caciques, Oropendolas, Greater Anis and the prehistoric bird “Hoatzin”. You may also be able to see a variety of monkeys and other jungle animals, depending on the time and weather conditions. We will arrive at the “Cabañas JAMU” around 4:30pm. At that time you will be shown to your rooms and you can relax a little. After a siesta you can leave the camp for a swim in the lagoon and to watch a beautiful sunset in the middle of the Laguna Grande. You will then return to the camp for dinner, and can finish your first day in the jungle relaxing in a hammock or having a drink at the bar.
Day 4: Cuyabeno Amazon Tour
After breakfast we will take a hike in the primary forest for 3 to 4 hours, where your guide will explain how a tropical rainforest works. You will be able to learn about medicinal plants and might be able to see some exotic birds or monkeys. Then you return to the camp for lunch and a siesta. In the afternoon you can go piranha fishing, have a swim in the lagoon and watch the sunset. With a little luck you can observe the pink river dolphins or an anaconda sunbathing in a tree. You will return to the camp for dinner, and take a night canoe ride to look for caimans.
Day 5: Cuyabeno Amazon Tour
For those of you who are willing to see the sun rise, you can go for an early morning bird watching canoe ride at around 6 o’clock. You will return to the camp for breakfast, then depart in native, dugout canoes, called “quilla”, to visit a family of the community of Tarapuy. You will see how Casabe is prepared, traditional bread made from Yucca (Manioc). You can help prepare the Casabe and see how only material from the jungle is used in making the bread. You will then visit the Siona community and your guide will explain the customs and traditions of the Sionas. You will be able to see what traditions have been lost and what has been maintained. After that we return to the lodge to have a late lunch. At night, you can go on a short nocturnal hike through the primary forest in search of insects, spiders, geckos or scorpions, and listen to the night sounds of the jungle.
Day 6: Cuyabeno Amazon Tour
After breakfast you depart in native canoes again to visit smaller lagoons such as Pato Cocha, and Caimán Cocha. While paddling you have a better opportunity to see more fauna and flora, and you can get a good idea of what an igapo (flooded) forest looks like. You can observe a variety of different birds and monkeys. Because this activity is about 4 – 5 hours long, you will be provided with a good box lunch.
Day 7: Cuyabeno – Lago Agrio – Quito - Otavalo
Today is a long day with many changes. The day starts after a good breakfast by taking the motorized canoe to head back to the entrance of Cuyabeno from where you will be transferred to Lago Agrio. You take a flight back to Quito and private transport towards Otavalo.
Otavalo is one of the very few places in Latin America where its citizens are proud to be indigenous and with reason. Already for thousands of years the people of Otavalo are known for their special high quality weaving techniques and commercial skills. The Inca’s supposedly used their weaving skills and now the Otavalenios have shops in several places over the world, even in New York.
Day 8: Saturday market and private transport back to Quito
In the morning you can explore the small town, visit the famous local Saturday market, visit a rescue centre for birds of prey, or go on a hike. It is also possible to join an excursion to visit several small communities in the surroundings of Otavalo. During this tour you get good views of the country side of Ecuador and you will learn about the different ancient handicrafts that are still practiced in these communities. These handicrafts include leather work, weaving and making flutes.
Late in the afternoon we will bring you back to Quito.
Day 9: Quito - Latacunga - Tigua
Private transport will drive you out of the big city, along a scenic route with views on the impressive Cotopaxi Volcano. Your destination is a small indigenous village named Tigua. On your way you visit the gallery of Tigua where you can admire the original primitivists indigenous paintings. You will sleep tonight at a small Hacienda which is also still a working dairy farm.
Day 10: Tigua - Quilotoa - Tigua
Today starts with an early good breakfast, before you go on a guided walk towards the famous Crater Lake, Laguna Quilotoa. After admiring the view over this high altitude lake you can take a transfer back to Tigua.
Day 11: Tigua - Baños
Today it is only a short journey with our private transport to the friendly town of Baños, at the feet of the grumpy volcano Tungurahua (means Little Hell). At night you can sometimes even see a bit of lava coming out of its mouth.
Day 12: Baños
A free day in Baños, to enjoy the hot springs were the town received its name from. Because of these hot springs it has developed into a friendly tourist town with lots of activities for local and foreign tourist. These activities include: Rafting, biking, abseiling, quad riding, hiking, spa treatments, visiting the Tree House, with a "Swing to Heaven" and more.
For who wants to do something more active, it is a recommendable tour to bike the road downhill from Baños to Puno along the Pastaza River. Along the way you will see steep cliffs, several waterfalls and great views!
Day 13: Baños - Riobamba (Inclusive vitist to Guamote Market)
In less than two hours we can drive to Riobamba, the most central city of Ecuador and a connection point towards all four compass points, the Andean, Jungle and coast of Ecuador. But if it happens to be a Thursday, we will be able to visit the traditional local Thursday market of Guamote. People from all nearby villages come here on Thursdays to sell their sheep, cows, pigs, vegetables, fruits and handicrafts. Most villages have their own traditional clothes, which makes the market very colorful.
Day 14: Riobamba (optional: Chimborazo)
Today it is possible to make a short walk over the slopes of the Chimborazo. You drive to an altitude of 4800m above sea level and then you can walk by yourself the last 200m to a refuge at 5000m altitude. On the way you have great views and possibilities to see the most elegant Andean camel, the Vicuña.
Adventures people can choose to drive their way down on a high quality mountain bike. This option allows you to stop anywhere you want and appreciate more of your surroundings.
If you like nature and hiking, please check the following link: hiking options in Ecuador
Day 15: Riobamba - Cuenca
In about 6 hours you will travel with private transport towards Cuenca. This is a very scenic route and on the way it is an extra option to break the journey with a visit to the archeological site of Ingapirca, one of the most Northern found Inca remains.
Day 16: Cuenca
Cuenca is the third biggest city of Ecuador, but being in the city centre, it feels almost like being in a colonial town. The city is built on the remains of one of the most northern Inca City’s Tomebamba. Now it is one of the best known places for assembling Panama Hats and also the city’s new silhouettes are good for taking pictures, especially late in the afternoon.
On Sundays the city seems to sleep in. You can do the same or optional take the local bus towards the local markets in the nearby villages. These villages are called: Gualaceo (animals and household things), Chordeleg (textiles and jewelry) and Sigsig (Panama hats) and all have their own specialties.
For the evenings Cuenca has lots of restaurants and a great nightlife.
Day 17: Cuenca (optional: Parque Cajas)
On this free day in Cuenca it is a great option to join a hike through Parque Cajas. This nature reserve contains more than 200 lakes and some call it ‘The Scottish highlands of Ecuador’ because of its green hills and unexpected fogs or rain showers. However this reserve is located between 3500m and 4200m altitude, which gives it a total different and surprising vegetation!
Day 18: Cuenca - Vilcabamba
Today your destination is the village of Vilcabamba. According to several studies this village has some of the highest live expectations rates in the world. Main reasons for this are the absence of industry, the fertile grounds, fresh air and green surroundings. Backpackers already know it for a few years, but other tourists are only just starting to discover this great place to relax, enjoy nature and/or make long hikes.
Day 19: Vilcabamba
On your free day in Vilcabamba you can choose to relax, get a great masage, join one of the free Yoga classes at Izhcayluma and/or to go hiking along one of the various trails in and around Vilcabamba. Two of the most recommendable hikes are: the Izhcayluma Loop and the Waterfall Hike. Note: the Izhcayluma Loop is not for people with vertigo... Another option could be to visit the small, but interesting Rumi Wilco Nature Reserve.
For everyone who likes horseback riding or who wants to give it a try, Vilcabamba offers one of the best horseback riding tours of Ecuador. Best of all is that the horses are very well taken care of. Especially at Holgers Horses.
Day 20: Vilcabamba (optional: Parque National Podocarpus)
For today it could be an option to visit the impressive cloud forrest within the national Park Podocarpus. This nature reserve is home to the only native Conifer of Ecuador and great place for (humming) bird watching!
Day 21: Vilcabamba - Loja - Quito
A private taxi will bring you to the airport just outside of Loja (Catamayo), from where your flight leaves back to Quito or Guayaquil. Overnight in Quito or Guayaquil
Day 22: End of this tour.
Optional: to extend this tour with a trip to the Amazing Galapagos Islands, check our selection.
Note: For more comfort and because public transport in Ecuador isn't yet as well organized as in Peru, we organize this tour standard with private transport all the way. Optional, to bring the price down and also to make your experience more authentic, it is also possible to travel partly with public transport. This can be a great experience, but it is recommendable to speak a few words of Spanish if you want to travel this way.
Note: The description of the excursions in the jungle are a general indication of a program in the jungle. They might be slightly different depending on the location where you stay and weather conditions.
This tour includes:
- 21 Nights with breakfast, 17 of which you sleep in well located mid range hotels and hostels and four nights in basic lodges in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve including full pension.
- A return flight to Lago Agrio and back
- Several interesting excursions in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve.
- All private transfers in Quito
- A private transfer to Otavalo on day 7
- A private transfer to Tigua on day 9
- Inclusive is a private transfer from Cuenca to Vilcabamba, optional, cheaper, you can choose for a shared direct tourist shuttle service from Cuenca to Vilcabamba
- Taxi service to airport in Loja
- A guided walk to Laguna Quilotoa
- A flight from Loja to Quito
- A 24h emergency number from some-one who lives in Ecuador, speaks English and Spanish and on request Dutch
The price doesn’t include:
- Optional excursions;
- International airport tax (41 US$ p.p., depending on the flight)
- International flights
- Entrée’s, (exit) taxes, food and other personal expenses;
- Tips (in restaurants, for guides, cooks, drivers and more) during the tour
- Additional price for one person a room (625 US$)
- All things not mentioned in the tour above
- Obligated travel and health insurance
We recommend you to check the local visa and vaccination obligations.
Also important for our stay in the jungle is the following information:
- If you have special requests towards the accommodation: Twin rooms/double bed room
- Rubber boot (welly) size
- Special food requests (if vegetarian please specify if fish, eggs, etc are ok)
Optional: This tour could be managed by a tour leader who speaks English and Spanish Price: On request.
Optional: To do this whole tour with public transport, this will cost you 300 US$ to 400 US$ p.p. less.
We recommend you to bring at least with:
- Valid identification and travel documents and when needed a valid visa
- The information of your travel insurance
- Valid vaccinations, ask you countries health centre for more information
- A good backpack, or big sport-bag, preferable no hard suitcase
- A comfortable day backpack
- Good shoes
- Sandals (maybe also a pair of tennis shoes)
- A warm jacket/ fleece
- A rain jacket/ poncho
- Two warm sweaters
- Three light trousers (cotton or linen)
- 4 T-shirts
- 2 long-sleeved shirts
- 2 shorts
- A flashlight for each person, incl. spare batteries
- Biodegradable soap and shampoo (they sell handmade soap at little cost at agency in the jungle)
- Small dollar bills (or try to collect them in Quito)
- Something to be able to back-up your photos
- Protection against the sun and mosquito’s (you can also buy locally)
Be aware that Ecuador is not a Third World Country anymore, so most common things are available. If you do have any doubts about what to bring, please feel free to ask us.