This tour leads you through the most magnificent landscapes in Ecuador. You visit the biggest indigenous market in South America, cross beautiful lagoons, see great volcanoes, stunning waterfalls and the most exciting train route.
You explore all this with the best guides, food and activities, which will make your experience unique and unforgettable.
Our first stop will be in Cayambe where we will taste the town’s famous bizcochos, traditional biscuits cooked on an open fire. From there we head toward Otavalo whilst admiring the beautiful scenery of San Pablo Lake. Once in Otavalo you will discover the most famous indigenous artesian market in Ecuador. You will have free time to explore and purchase local handicrafts and the guide will provide an explanation of the local indigenous culture. We continue to the town of Cotacachi, famous for its leather goods then onward to the beautiful Cuicocha lagoon.
Ever growing in popularity and understandably so, Quilotoa is a must-see when visiting Ecuador. This volcanic crater is filled with crystal-blue water and holds a special place in local indigenous mythology for being bottomless. Along the drive to reach the crater you will pass by local markets in Saquisili (Thursdays) or Pujilí (Sundays) where you will gain an appreciation for the indigenous way of life. You’ll also pass through the canyon of Zumbahua which makes for a great photo opportunity and close to there you will visit an indigenous family. When you reach Quilotoa itself you can walk down from the rim to the waters edge and appreciate its beauty up close for yourself. The hike back up is rather steep however there is always the option of renting a mule for a few extra dollars.
Your horseback riding tour begins by being matched with an appropriate horse for your skills and experience. Following this your guide will give you instructions on how to control the horse and you will have time to get to know your horse in a safe enclosed area before you embark on your journey. All of our horses are well cared for and are trained for this type of riding so they are ideal for riders with little experience or for experts.
During the tour you will have amazing views of the Valley of the Volcanos as it is known. The trail begins along a cobble stone road where you will pass the local rose farms and head towards the pastoral lands. Along the way you will gain a feel for the local agricultural life against the backdrop of snowcapped volcanos.
As one of the highest active snow-caped volcanoes in the world, Cotopaxi’s (5,897m) symmetric cone rises up from a vast plain that is home to llamas, condors and herds of wild horses. Cotopaxi National Park tour is an exciting day that begins with spectacular views of the unique Andean landscape in the “Avenue of the Volcanoes”. Inside the national park we hike up to the refuge, which is situated at 4,810m on the Cotopaxi snowline.
Depending on conditions we will then hike up to 5,000m where it can be possible to see the glacier. This tour goes to a height of 4,810m, it is important that you are prepared for this kind of altitude. We recommend acclimatizing at least two days around 3,000m.
In the morning we will take the bikes and helmets and begin the journey down the road to Puyo. During the tour we will see the Agoyan Hydroelectric Dam and we will cross tunnels. We will continue on the path and arrive at Ecuador’s longest cable car. En route we will see the cascades of Agoyan, Manto de la Novia, San Jorge and at the end we will walk to the Pailón del Diablo waterfall. We will return by car.
Another of the adventures that we will do is the rappelling waterfalls. In the afternoon you will be provided with the necessary equipment (wetsuit, waterproof jacket, helmet, harness with tools) and you will get a security instruction. Tourists do not need any experience or special physical condition. Then we will continue to get to the waterfall (10 minutes) and begin canyoning at the Chamana waterfall. First, we will descend a waterfall of 15 meters height. Second, we will descend one of 10 meters height and finally, we will descend a stunning cascade of 45 meters. Afterwards, we will return to the city of Baños.
Overnight in Baños
Beautiful waterfalls and lush forests surround the tranquil town of Baños. It is known as the ‘Gateway to the Amazon’ as it is located on the Pastaza River in the High Amazon Basin. Also a major religious centre with Catholics believers saying that the Virgin Mary appeared near the waterfalls to protect the city from natural disasters. This is because the city is overshadowed by the highly active Tungurahua volcano. During your day in Baños you begin by visiting the magical waterfalls of Pailón del Diablo and you will use a cable car across a ravine to see Manto de la Novia up close in person.
Alausí is a small charming town in the south of the Ecuadorian Andes. It is from here that you begin your journey on the Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose) train which has been named the ´most difficult railway in the world´ due to the zigzagging track along the side of a steep mountain in order to descend down to the town of Sibambe, at the bottom of the valley. Here you will be greeted by indigenous people and have the chance to learn about their customs and traditions as well as of the history of the railway which used to be the only section of railway that connected coastal Ecuador to the highlands.
The most impressive and important pre-Columbian ruins in Ecuador are the Ingapirca ruins, meaning ‘Inca stone wall’. At the complex you will find stone foundations structured in the famous Incan style without the use of mortar. The Temple of the Sun, also known as The Castle, is well preserved and serves as the main highlight. Without a doubt you will be impressed by the Inca´s architectural skills and abilities. You will also learn about the spiritual and cultural history of one of the world’s most powerful and successful empires.
The tour begins with a visit to the city’s historic center: San Sebastian, a picturesque and traditional neighborhood of Cuenca, houses the Modern Art Museum, where the famous International Biennial of Painting takes place permanently. Also, you will visit the Calderon Park (Central Park), the Flower Plaza and the Church “del Carmen”. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, better known as the “New Cathedral”, is considered to be one of the biggest churches in Latin America. The Cathedral “El Sagrario” was the city’s first cathedral and is therefore commonly known as the “Old Cathedral”. Afterwards, you will visit a Panama Hat Factory, where you will observe its elaboration process. Continuing the tour, you will visit the “Barranco”, a communion that build their houses by integrating them into the natural environment, meaning that they are attached to the incline, displaying their majesty and charm. We finish the tour at the “Mirador de Turi”, a scenic viewpoint to see the landscape of a valley full of red roofs and church domes is framed by imposing mountains.
You can add an optional day. You can either fly back to Quito or go for a trip to the Cajas National Park with transfer to Guayaquil (not included).
Option 1: Flight Cuenca – Quito
Option 2: Cajas National Park and transfer to Guayaquil
With dramatic rolling landscape and jagged rocks, Cajas National Park, is a unique and impressive area. The park lies on the continental divide so rivers run to both the Amazon in the east and the Pacific Ocean in the west. It’s the perfect place for a hike with 232 lakes and a range of fauna including spectacled bears, pumas, hummingbirds and condors.
After your tour to Cajas National Park you will have a transfer to Guayaquil.
Gulliver Expeditions is a local operator that organizes Ecuador Tours to travelers that like to experience Unlimited Adventures like climbing to the closest point on earth to the sun in the Chimborazo Volcano or travel along the deepest landscapes in the Amazon Rainforest to the stunning sceneries of the Galapagos Islands.