16 days

Highlights of Ecuador Tour

Casa del Arbol in Baños EcuadorEcuador is a beautiful country to travel around. There is no Machu Picchu and there are no Nasca Lines, but Ecuador has its own attractions. This small country is like the whole world in a nutshell. The tourist highlights of Ecuador include of course the Galapagos Islands. But Ecuador also a hidden beauty which is difficult to describe and that you will have to discover for yourself during this tour.
During this 16-day tour through Ecuador you will travel through the Andes mountains, past snow-capped peaks, active volcanoes, through the mighty Amazon rainforest, past cultural villages and colonial cities such as Otavalo and Cuenca and into the valley of Longevity! The new national slogan to promote Ecuador is “Ama la Vida!” Freely this will translate in: “Ecuador, love and enjoy live”. A visit to this fertile country, filled with natural and cultural highlights will make you understand why Ecuadorians love their country and invite you to do the same.

Short Travel itinerary Highlights of Ecuador Tour:

Basilica in Quito Ecuador tourDay 1, Friday: Quito – Otavalo (2560 m altitude)
Day 2: Saturday Market Otavalo – Equator – Quito (2850 m)
Day 3: Quito – Overnight bus
Day 4, Monday: Overnight bus – Lago Agrio – Cuyabeno Amazon Reserve
Day 5: Visiting the Siona community, wildlife spotting and looking for caimans
Day 6: Hiking through the rainforest and cruising Laguna Grande
Day 7: Siona Lodge – Cuyabeno Bridge – Baños (1800m)
Day 8: Baños (Casa del Arbol and/or Pailón del Diablo)
Day 9: Baños – Chimborazo (5000m) – Riobamba (2750m)
Day 10: Riobamba – Cuenca (2450m)
Day 11: Cuenca (optional Parque Cajas)
Day 12: Cuenca – Vilcabamba (1500 m) – Izhcayluma Eco Lodge
Day 13: Vilcabamba (Yoga and relax)
Day 14: Vilcabamba (horseback riding or visiting Podocarpus)
Day 15: Izhcayluma – Cuenca – Guayaquil
Day 16, Saturday: Guayaquil -> home or…

Optional: to extend this tour with a 5 or 8 days visit to the Galapagos Islands.


Day 1, Friday: Quito – Otavalo (2560 m altitude)

Travel Ecuador panflute OtavaloAfter arriving at Quito airport, you will be met by our private driver and taken to your hotel in Otavalo. Travel time just under 2 hours. Otavalo is one of the few places in Latin America where the natives are openly proud of their heritage and culture and they have every reason to be. The inhabitants of this region have been known for thousands of years for their special weaving techniques, the very high quality of their woven products and their keen commercial spirit. It seems that even the Incas made use of the skills of the inhabitants of Otavalo. Since a few years the Otavalenios even have their own shops spread over much of the world, including New York and Amsterdam!

Day 2: Saturday Market Otavalo – Equator - Quito (2850 m)

Equator in Inti Nan MuseumIn the morning you can explore the village of Otavalo and/or the beautiful rural surroundings. If it is Saturday today, it is definitely recommended to spend a few hours walking around the colorful Saturday market, checking out souvenirs and taking beautiful pictures. Please do respect people who don’t want to be in your picture.
In the afternoon you will travel by private transport from Otavalo to Quito. On the way you visit the amusement park around the French monument on the Equator, called Mitad del Mundo. You will also visit the adjacent much smaller Inti Ñan museum, through which the real Equator runs. At Inti Ñan you will also find more information about the different indigenous cultures still living in Ecuador. Depending on the traffic, it is another hour’s drive from Inti Ñan to your hotel in the center of Quito.

Day 3: Quito – Overnight bus

Quito city tour EcuadorToday you have the whole day at leisure in the bustling city of Quito. In 2011, Quito was chosen by UNESCO as the cultural capital of Latin America, because of its impressive colonial center. It is therefore certainly worth a visit to Plaza de Armas, Plaza de San Francisco and the very impressive Gothic Basilica. The towers of this special Basilica offer a beautiful view of the city and the nearby volcanoes. Check out our short video with a virtual city tour in Quito. Visiting El Ejido and Alameda Park will give you a small impression of city-life of the locals. In the modern center of Quito (Mariscal), you will find many restaurants, bars and souvenir shops within walking distance (beware of pickpockets in the evening). The hotel room remains available until the evening.
11:15 PM – Departure of the Treasure overnight tourist bus to Cuyabeno from your hotel, or other designated location.

Day 4, Monday: Overnight bus – Lago Agrio – Cuyabeno Amazon reserve

Siona Cuyabeno Amazon LodgeAfter a journey of about 9 hours, the bus arrives around 8:30 am at the so-called Cuyabeno Bridge. This is a bridge over the Cuyabeno River and the main entrance to the Cuyabeno Amazon Reserve. This national nature reserve is located in the northeast of the Ecuadorian Amazon Forest, between the San Miguel and Aguarico rivers and not far from the Colombian border. The reserve consists of 605,000 hectares of primary rainforest, rivers, lakes and an incredible variety of flora and fauna species.
At least five indigenous peoples live in the reserve, including the Siona, Secoya, Cofan, Kichwas and Shuar, all with their own language and customs.
During this tour you will stay in the Siona Lodge, or a similar accommodation, from where various day tours and activities are organized. The program below gives an example of the daily excursions.
After registering with the park rangers, we get into large motor canoes and the adventure begins! As we navigate down the Cuyabeno River to Laguna Grande we can enjoy the lush nature around us while our guide will explain more about the special flora and fauna in the Cuyabeno reserve. If you pay close attention, it is possible to see toucans, parrots, herons, anacondas and even monkeys along the way! Depending on the weather, we will have a picnic lunch on the river bank, in the canoe, or later at the lodge. The rustic, cozy Siona Lodge enjoys a picturesque location on the shores of Laguna Grande, making it a good base for excursions across the lake and into the Cuyabeno Amazon reserve. After arriving at the Siona Lodge, the manager will give a short briefing about the lodge and the area and there will be time to relax and explore the lodge at your leisure.Tamarin monkeys Siona Amazon Lodge Ecuador
At the end of the afternoon, we make a short walk through primary rainforest, while our guide explains more about the flora and fauna around us and their function in the rainforest. Along the way we will also encounter many colorful insects and reptiles and you may even spot monkeys and parrots in the treetops. Returning to the Siona Lodge, we can enjoy a cocktail at sunset over Laguna Grande. Then it’s time for dinner and a good night’s rest.

Day 5: Visiting the Siona community, wildlife spotting and caiman spotting

Cuyabeno Amazon tours birdAfter breakfast we depart downriver towards Puerto Bolivar, the main village of the indigenous Siona Amazon community. Along the way you will encounter many different bird species and there is a good chance of spotting monkeys, snakes, turtles and maybe even pink freshwater dolphins!
In Puerto Bolivar, its inhabitants will explain to us more about their daily life, habits and traditions. We can also help make chichi (Amazon beer) and Casabe. Casabe is made from Yucca and is the main source of nutrition for the Siona people. We bring our own picnic to eat in the village hall.
In the afternoon, if the shaman of the village has time, he will explain to us more about the medicinal properties of the different plants in the Amazon. He will also explain more about the traditional rituals and healing methods of the Siona people. Later on our guide will point out the different important plants in the jungle.Cuyabeno caiman amazon tour
At the end of the afternoon, we arrive back at the Siona Lodge, where we can relax and take a dip in the lake before sunset and dinner.
After dinner we get into a large canoe and we look for caimans with strong flashlights. Although these animals have a dark color and lie still in the water while waiting for their prey, it is not impossible to spot them. It are their eyes that betray them. These eyes glow orange/ red like charcoal in the light of our flashlights.

Day 6: Hiking through the Amazon rainforest and navigating Laguna Grande

Sunset Laguna Grande CuyabenoAfter breakfast we go for another interesting walk of 3 to 5 hours (depending on the weather and the group) through primary rainforest. Along the way, our guide will explain more about the ingenious tropical ecosystems in the Amazon and in particular the Cuyabeno Reserve. Try to keep your eyes and ears open while hiking, because behind every rustling leaf a shy jungle inhabitant can be hiding… After a late lunch at the Siona Lodge we take a boat trip along the shores of Laguna Grande in search of waterfowl, reptiles and mammals that come to drink water. We stay on the water until sunset and whoever wants can also take a dip in the large lake. Dinner and overnight at the lodge.

Day 7: Siona Lodge – Cuyabeno Bridge – Baños (1800m)

Travel Ecuador Baños TungurahuaOptional: this morning it might be possible to take part in a birdwatching tour at sunrise and experience how the Amazon awakens. After breakfast we navigate back to the Cuyabeno Bridge. From here starts your eight to nine hour drive along a beautiful route from the Amazon Rainforest to the edge of the Andes Mountains. Especially the last hour and a half along the Pastaza River offer beautiful views of the river, volcano peaks and waterfalls! After this long ride, it is wonderful to relax in the evening in one of the hot water baths in Baños. This friendly tourist town is located in a green valley, almost at the foot of the still active Tungurahua (literally means: Little Hell) volcano. It is to this volcanic activity and the natural warm water baths formed by it, that Baños (baths) owes its name. Short virtual impression of Baños.

Day 8: Baños (Casa del Arbol and/or Pailón del Diablo)

Pailon del Diablo waterfall tour EcuadorOn your free day in Baños you can optionally visit the famous Casa del Arbol at an altitude of 2600 m (so about 800 m higher than Baños!). La Casa del Arbol’s tree house and swing were once made by an old man who oversaw the active Tungurahua Volcano that lies behind Baños. The tree house with swing should make it more attractive for his grandchildren to visit him more often. 1 Photo in National Geographic with a tourist on this swing and a smoking Tungurahua volcano in the background, however, has now led to many more visitors. Not only his grandchildren, but children and adults from all over the world include a visit to Casa del Arbol in their Ecuador trip! Another beautiful excursion goes to the most famous waterfall in Ecuador, El Pailón del Diablo (loosely translated ‘The Mouth of the Devil’). This impressive waterfall can also be seen in the movie Proof of Life.

Day 9: Baños – Chimborazo (5000m) - Riobamba (2750m)

Refuge on Chimborazo VolcanoToday you travel from Baños with your own driver/guide via Chimborazo to Riobamba.
The Chimborazo is not only the highest volcano in Ecuador, the top of the Chimborazo is also the highest point on earth, at least if we measure from the center of the earth. This is because the Chimborazo is close to the equator and the earth around the equator is slightly thicker. So even though the snowy peak of the Chimborazo Volcano is ‘only’ 6263 m above sea level, this peak is higher than Mount Everest when measured from the center of the earth. On the way back to Riobamba there is a good chance of spotting wild Vicuñas.

Day 10: Riobamba - Cuenca (2450m)

Cuenca Ecuador toursToday you will  travel in around 8 hours by public bus along a beautiful scenic route from Riobamba to Cuenca. The first part of the route follows the rail track of the train that used to run over the so-called ‘Devil’s Nose’.
Optionally, it is also possible to take this route with private transport visiting the archaeological site of Ingapirca along the way. This site includes 1 of the northernmost Inca ruins, but also remains from pre-Inca cultures.
Cuenca is the third largest city in Ecuador, but fortunately you won’t notice much of this while walking around its historic center. The city was built on the remains of what must once have been a city of the Incas. However, this city, Tomebamba, was already demolished by the Incas themselves, so that the Spaniards could not take it. Cuenca is considered by many Ecuadorians to be the most beautiful city in Ecuador and is now best known for compiling and selling the famous ‘Panama hats’. For a pleasant evening there are many nice restaurants and entertainment venues in Cuenca.

Day 11: Cuenca (optional Parque Cajas)

Hiking in Parque CajasOn your free day in Cuenca we can recommend you to book a beautiful hike through Cajas National Park. With a humid climate, unexpected fog banks and more than 200 lakes, this special national nature reserve has a little Scottish feeling to it, but then with a gem. altitude between 3500 m and 4200 m. Try to cross one of the small fairytale forests on your walk. These are relatively small forests, full of large ferns, moss, fairy benches and trees with a papery bark that do not grow straight up, but in curious twists! These forests also form the habitat of various hummingbird species.

Day 12: Cuenca - Vilcabamba (1500 m) – Izhcayluma Eco Lodge

travel Ecuador and Relax in VilcabambaAfter a free morning in Cuenca you will leave today around 13:30h by direct tourist bus to the Izhcayluma Eco Lodge in Vilcabamba. According to various studies, life expectancy in the beautiful valley of Vilcabamba and the village with the same name is one of the highest in the world. The main reasons are the absence of industry, community life, fertile soil, a green environment and fresh air. The scenic ride from Cuenca to Vilcabamba goes through a rolling landscape and offers beautiful views. With a bit of luck, you will arrive just before sunset at the Izhcayluma Eco Lodge with the most beautiful viewpoint over the Vilcabamba Valley!

Day 13: Vilcabamba (walking, Yoga and relax)

Yoga class at IzhcaylumaAfter waking up to the sound of birds, you can choose to join the free yoga class for beginners with a view of the eccentric Mandango Mountain. Breakfast is served in Izhcayluma’s spacious open-plan restaurant, with panoramic views over the Vilcabamba valley. The breakfast consists of fresh fruit, yoghurt, homemade muesli, homemade bread, fruit juice and as much coffee and tea as you can drink!
After this healthy and hearty breakfast, you can choose to take a stroll through the area and/or visit the village of Vilcabamba. The massages at Izhcayluma’s are also very good and very reasonably priced. In the evening, Izhcayluma’s bar offers a good option to have a drink and exchange travel stories with other international travelers.

Day 14: Free day in Vilcabamba (horseback riding or visiting Podocarpus?)

Podocarpus hiking EcuadorFor today it is a nice option to book a horseback ride through the area of Vilcabamba, or to the Palto Waterfall. The horses in Vilcabamba are well cared for and are very good climbers. It is also an option to visit the nature reserve Parque Podocarpus. This reserve owes its name to the Podocarpus tree, originally the only coniferous tree species that existed in Ecuador. You can take several beautiful hikes through the cloud forest of this reserve. Always be prepared for the mystic and humid climate.

Day 15: Izhcayluma – Cuenca – Guayaquil

Cerro Mandango VilcabambaAfter your last breakfast with a view over the Vilcabamba Valley, you will depart at 8:00 am with the tourist shuttle from Izhcayluma to Cuenca. From Cuenca to your hotel in Guayaquil we will organize private transport.
Optionally, it is also possible to travel between Cuenca and Guayaquil by public transport, or to travel all the way from Izhcayluma to Guayaquil by private transport.

Day 16, Saturday: Guayaquil -> home or Galapagos

Guayaquil traveling EcuadorAt a convenient time, our private transportation will take you from your hotel to the airport of Guayaquil for your flight back home, or to the Galapagos Islands.

Note: The description of the excursions in the jungle are a general indication of a program. They might be slightly different depending on the location where you stay and weather conditions.

Optional: To extend this tour with a trip to the Amazing Galapagos Islands: Galapagos Tour Selection.

Inclusive and recommended to bring on this Ecuador tour:

This tour includes:

– Private transfer from Quito Airport to hotel in Otavalo
– Overnight with breakfast in hotel in Otavalo
– Private transport with English speaking driver from Otavalo to Quito, inclusive visiting Mitad del Mundo and Inti Ñan
– Overnight with breakfast + day-use of hotel room in Quito
– Overnight bus from Quito to Lago Agrio
– 4d/3n Amazon tour from the Siona Lodge in Cuayabeno, incl.: 3x lunch, 3x dinner, 3x breakfast and daily excursions in the rainforest with an English-speaking nature guide
– Private transport from the Cuyabeno Bridge to hotel in Baños
– 2x Overnight with breakfast in hotel in Baños
– Private transport from Baños to Riobamba, with English speaking driver, inclusive visiting the Whymper refuge (5000 m) on the Chimborazo Volcano
– Overnight with breakfast in a hotel in Riobamba
– Private transfer from hotel in Riobamba to bus terminal
– Private transfer from bus terminal in Cuenca to hotel in Cuenca
– 2x Overnight with breakfast in hotel in Cuenca
– Tourist shuttle transfer from Cuenca to Izhcayluma Eco Lodge
– 3x Overnight with breakfast in the Izhcayluma Eco Lodge
– Tourist shuttle transfer from Izhcayluma to Cuenca
– Private transfer from Cuenca to hotel in Guayaquil
– Overnight with breakfast in hotel in Guayaquil
– Private transfer from hotel in Guayaquil to airport
– 24/7 English speaking local emergency contact

– International flights
– Travel Insurance
– Around 10 US$ p.p. for local bus between Riobamba and Cuenca
– Drinks and meals that are not clearly described in the itinerary above
– Everything that isn’t clearly mentioned in the itinerary above, incl. personal spendings
– Optional, tips for the locals when the service was good
– International banking fees

We recommend you to bring at least with on this tour:
– Valid identification and travel documents and when needed a valid visa
– The information of your travel insurance
– Valid vaccinations, ask you countries health center 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
– Swimming clothes
– 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.

Park Cajas Ecuador tour
Hiking in Podocarpus National Park
Travel Ecuador panflute Otavalo
Vicuña on the Chimborazo
Hiking in Parque Cajas
Refuge on the Chimborazo Volcano
Pailon del Diablo Waterfall

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