Day 1: Arrive in Quito (-/-/-)
A friendly face will be at Quito’s airport awaiting your arrival with a sign. Quito is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the western hemisphere, separated into the old colonial centre, where your hotel is located, and the newer more commercial centre. The long, skinny city sits almost directly on the equatorial line, nestled among volcanoes, at over 2,800 meters (almost 10,000 feet) above sea level. You may feel the altitude a little right away, so take the opportunity to acclimatize. The natural remedy of coca tea is at your disposal in the hotel lobby, as needed. The old city is full of beautiful historical buildings, squares, and churches, many of which are a very short walk from the hotel.
Day 2: Old Quito’s Squares & Towers (B/L/-)
Enjoy breakfast in your hotel with a view of the city’s iconic statue, el Panecillo. Then it’s time to put on some sunscreen before heading out to explore some of Ecuador’s capital city’s most beautiful sites. You guide will be joining you at 10:00 a.m. to give you an overview of everything the next ten days have in store for you, allowing you an opportunity to ask any questions. Stroll through Plaza Grande (also referred to as Independence Plaza) and through the Archbishop's Palace to try some traditional candy. From here, walk about 800 meters uphill to reach the Basilica del Voto Nacional – where we would strongly encourage you to daringly explore the church from the top towers for incredible views and photos opps. Finally, walk to La Ronda Street (the pedestrian walkway close to the hotel), passing by La Compania de Jesus and San Francisco Plaza along the way. You will make a stop for a delicious traditional lunch when the timing is right. Later this afternoon was left open to allow you to either rest, explore a little independently, or to fill in with a museum or other activity. Dinner is on your own this evening, and your guide will point out some lovely options within very close reach of the hotel.
Day 3: Travel to the Cloud Forests of Mindo with a Stop at the Equator (B/L/D)
After breakfast, it’s time to pack up and head to the lush valley of Mindo, with some wonderful stops on the way. Your first stop will be at the equatorial line, where they have built an open-air museum called Intiňan. Here you will be able to do some interesting experiments that only work when you are right on the actual Equator line, and you will also be able to learn about some of the cultural diversity found in the country. You will also have your first of three unique chocolate tours of the day – this being the history of chocolate in Ecuador. Next stop is just a few kilometres up the highway, where you will be able to see a village built in a volcanic crater, called Pululahua, which also offers great souvenir shopping opportunities. Take all the time you need in the little shops there to find some wonderful gifts – textiles and otherwise. Then it’s on to the picturesque valley of Mindo, where you will be staying for the next three nights. You will settle into your rooms before joining the 5:00 chocolate tour at our next-door neighbour, the Quetzal, which explains how Artisanal chocolate bars are made with great care. Then you get to try all of their offerings, including the famous brownie. Just be sure to leave some room for dinner.
Day 4: Butterfly Gardens, Canopy & Tarabita Ride to Hike to Waterfalls for a Picnic (B/L/D)
Start your morning as the birds are waking with breakfast by the river. Then head to the Mariposario (Butterfly Gardens), where you will be able to see butterflies at every stage of life – from eggs to when they emerge as adults from their chrysalis to dry off their wings – including Monarchs, Morphos (the big, iridescent blue butterfly) and several other species. Be sure to take time to enjoy the birdwatching towers and hummingbird feeders in the back gardens. Afterwards, you will take the Teleferico (a chairlift) cascading over the forest canopy for twenty minutes to get to the Tarabita – the cable car that crosses a valley and over the Nambillo River for access to the Sanctuary of Waterfalls, including the famous Nambillo Waterfall and several others you can either choose to hike to or not. You will have a delicious picnic lunch prepared for you to enjoy while you relax at whichever waterfall you choose. When the timing is right, we will head to Alison’s family’s restaurant, Fuera de Babylonia, offering possibly the best thin crust wood-fired oven pizza you have ever tried.
Day 5: Free Day in Mindo (B/-/D)
We will talk through the various options to fill your day in advance, which may include repelling through waterfalls, white water tubing down the Mindo River, a Tarzan swing, mountain biking, or a combination of different activities. There is also the ability to just be lazy in a hammock today, enjoy some spa services, or do some shopping in the small shops lining the downtown strip of the village. You can decide when you arrive in Mindo what you feel up to and arrangements will be made accordingly.
Day 6: Travel to the Amazon Basin (B/L/D)
This will be a long day of travel with amazing scenery along the trip, with your guide leading the way. After an early breakfast in Mindo, it’s time to pack up and catch a bus to the Amazon! We will send you off with a lunch that you can snack on throughout the day, which first takes you high up over the Papallacta Pass before you plunge into much warmer climes. Once you get into the town of Tena, you will be picked up in a private vehicle and arrive in a jungle lodge – a comfortable place from which you will be able to experience the amazing sites and sounds the jungle offers. Dinner will be at the lodge once you have settled into your room and following a short briefing with general information about your stay at the lodge. Walking through primary and secondary forest trails, you will be able to observe distinct species of birds and insects as well as a great variety of trees and medicinal plants. Your native Kichwa guide will be able to explain how such plants are used not only in medicine, but also in construction and other local activities. Along the trails, there are several opportunities to up the adventure factor with vines for swinging from tree like Tarzan or walking under towering trees through untouched forest to observe the giant Ceibo tree and the Strangler Fig Tree, feeling the presence of innumerable creatures filling every corner of the forest. Tonight will include a special welcome dinner.
Day 7: Activities in the Amazon Jungle (B/L/D)
After Breakfast, you board a dugout canoe and navigate one hour down the scenic Napo River. Be sure to keep your eyes open for wildlife the whole way. You will be going to visit a wonderful animal rescue sanctuary, where volunteers work to take in animals that have been injured either in the wild or due to illegal trade practices, with the hope of reintroducing them into the wild again when strong enough. You will never get closer to a jaguar, ocelot or tapir than you will at this rescue sanctuary for Amazon creatures. Here you will be able to see coatis, capybara, tapirs, several species of monkeys, snakes, boas and a variety of macaws, toucans, parrots, or colourful birds, many of which wander around freely in their natural habitat at close range. Your visit to this sanctuary helps to protect these creatures. After a picnic lunch, you will continue on to spend some time with a Kichwa family, who will show you how to call the caimans on the lake. You may also be able to observe the prehistoric bird “Hoatzin”, woolly monkeys, and squirrel monkeys in the wild, just to mention a few. You will be able to learn about this culture’s farming habits, medicinal plants, as well as the ancestral way of hunting with blowguns (cerbatana) and handmade traps in the forest. After dinner tonight you will be able to enjoy a night hike (don’t forget your flashlight, or better yet, a head lamp for this tour). Fascinating frogs and spiders abound in the jungle, among other wildlife you may be fortunate to catch a glimpse of.
Day 8: Explore the Napo River & onto Baños (B/L/-)
This morning after breakfast, you will have the opportunity to learn interesting aspects of cocoa and chocolate, participating in all the production process, from the harvesting of the fruit, drying and grinding of the seed, also the developing of the traditional drink, and of course enjoying a high quality organic chocolate. Next it’s time to pack up to move onto your next destination, the spa town full of adventure sports, Baños. Part of the journey will be by private transfer and part on a public bus. Overall, this is a much shorter travel day then getting here, and almost entirely through the Amazon, as you loop up through Puyo from here. After settling into your hotel room (with great & well-priced spa services right on site), take the opportunity to head downtown and book any activities you might want to include on days 9 & 10. Two suggestions of offices you may want to visit include: Fly Niton to book directly for paragliding with the school itself (located at Calle Enrique Mideros y Ambato in Baños) or head to a travel agency called Geotours that can both book the paragliding and explain other options for you in coming days, such as white water rafting. Geotours is located at Ambato y Halflants in downtown Baños). Then head back to the hotel where you will be picked up to take you high up in the mountains for a view of the whole town below. Dinner is on your own tonight, and feel free to eat it right at the Café del Cielo for the view if you want. Otherwise, travel back down to the area around your hotel to find one of many national and international options.
Day 9: Swing at the end of the World & Avenue of Waterfalls (B/L/-)
This morning after breakfast, you will start out by heading to the “Swing at the End of the World”, followed by a trip down the Avenue of Waterfalls, a dramatically beautiful highway that boasts 19 waterfalls in total. You will get out to hike the most beautiful of them, called the Pailon del Diablo (the Devil’s Cauldron) – the place where the Rio Verde joins the Rio Pastaza (pictured on the right). At a waterfall a little further down the river, you will also get out to cross a deep valley by cable car to see another spectacular waterfall, the Manto de la Novia. The evening is yours to explore the town at your own pace, including dinner at your choice between a variety options within close proximity of the hotel. Prior to heading out for dinner would be a good time to book any spa services you may want to take in the next day – right in the hotel. The best hot springs in town are very affordable and less than five minutes walk, so feel free to go whenever you want (just be careful of sunburns). You may have arranged for some other more extreme activity this afternoon too. That’s why we left dinner on your own this evening, so that you can take your time doing whatever you end up planning, including wonderful massages and other spa services right on site. The hotel is in the centre of the fun of this little tourist town.
Day 10: Free Day & Return to Quito (B/-/-)
Starting the day soaking in the medicinal hot spring water here is a great way to go! Take the day wherever you wish – your guide will follow your lead. This is the day that you may have already made arrangements at one of the local travel agencies to go paragliding. Again, you will need to book this activity or any other extreme sport on your own if that is what you choose to do, as per suggested contacts on Day 8. So do some thinking about this on your way here from your stay in the Amazon. Then later in the day you will be making your way back to the hotel in Quito, reading to fly home in the morning.
Day 11: Return Flight Home (B/-/-) … or add on a day to climb Cotopaxi Volcano?
If breakfast will fit in before you flight, it is included at the hotel this morning before your transfer to the airport for your flight home.
We hope this was a trip of a lifetime for you, and if you would like us to add on an extra day or two, that would be our pleasure. The following are all options, and would include staying in the same boutique hotel in the heart of Old Quito, as well as breakfast, the activity with a guide, and transportation:
+ADD+ ON ANOTHER DAY WITH A DAY TRIP (your pick!)
• Day Trip to climb the highest active volcano in the world, Cotopaxi (Price $180.00 CAD)
• Day Trip to Quilotoa to hike down into the gorgeous green water caldera (Price $180.00 CAD)
• Day Trip to the markets of beautiful Otavalo (Price $160.00 CAD)
Ask us for more details or information about any of the above. This is all about creating the best possible trip for YOU!