SOUTH AMERICAN GEM
9-day Tour of Ecuador
February 4 - 12, 2019
(Inquire for additional dates)
Join us below the Equator in beautiful and temperate Ecuador! Following the route of the Andes, we’ll explore Ecuador’s colonial cities, cloud forests, and ancient history, with culture, color, and natural wonders.
Ecuador is a bountiful sampler platter of all that South America has to offer! From energetic Quito, Ecuador’s culturally rich colonial capital, to its more sedate and refined southern city, Cuenca, our tour immerses you in authentic Ecuadorian culture. This is Ecuador as the locals would like you to see it. We’ll explore UNESCO World Heritage cities and Incan ruins. We’ll fly over volcanoes and drive through cloud forests. We’ll straddle both sides of the Equator simultaneously. We’ll experience Ecuador’s vibrant (and still very much alive) indigenous culture first-hand – and watch how it changes as we travel the length of the country. We’ll meet some of Ecuador’s talented artisans and see how they make ikat weavings, leather goods, silver filigree jewelry, and more.
And if you thought good chocolate only came from Belgium…you’re in for a pleasant surprise! Ecuador is believed to be the birthplace of chocolate (sorry, Mayans), and it now produces some of the highest quality cocoa in the world. We’ll have plenty of opportunities to sample Ecuador’s chocolate offerings and even see how it’s made. Leave room in your suitcase – you’ll want to take some home.
Actually, you’ll take a lot of things home with you – memories of authentic Ecuador included.
Throughout this luxury tour, you’ll enjoy the comforts of four and five star boutique hotels and private transfers. You can relax in the knowledge that our exceptional tour directors will make your trip as easy as it is enjoyable. There is simply no better way to explore Ecuador.
To get a taste of what Ecuador offers, check out our blog posts from our recent reconnaissance mission here.
THE GREATER GOOD
A portion of the proceeds of this tour will be donated to Fundación Tierra Nueva and its US-based partner, Timmy Global Health, which provides health services to underserved and indigenous populations in Ecuador. You can read about their work here.
Ecuador has made sustainability the focal point of its tourism industry. It recognizes the tangible and intangible value of its natural assets, and it has committed to protecting those assets while developing a tourism infrastructure that will promote economic growth.
DAY 1: U.S. TO QUITO
Arrive at any time, with a private transfer from the airport, and get settled into your exquisite hotel in the heart of colonial Quito. (Hotel: Casa Gangotena or similar)
DAY 2: QUITO
After breakfast, meet your tour director and fellow travelers, and get ready to start exploring! A local tour guide will lead us on a walking tour of colonial Quito and its beautiful churches, followed by a visit to the iconic “Virgen de Quito” statue that keeps watch over the city. After lunch, we’ll visit a community health center in the south of Quito operated by Fundación Tierra Nueva, which will receive a portion of the proceeds from the tour. We’ll cap off the day with a welcome dinner at the top of Itchimbia hill, giving us sweeping views of the glittering city below.
DAY 3: MINDO
Today we’ll take a day trip to Mindo, a small town tucked in the cloud forest north of Quito and a haven of biodiversity. In the morning, you’ll get up close with nature: either with a thousand butterflies at a butterfly garden or with waterfalls and forest life on a short hike. At lunch, we’ll visit a small chocolate factory where you’ll see how chocolate is made from bean to bar and sample some of the local varieties. In the afternoon, your optional excursions include zip lining through forest canopy or being mesmerized by dozens of hummingbirds and other birds at a sanctuary. We’ll return to Quito for dinner.
DAY 4: QUITO
This morning we’ll take a walking tour of some of Quito’s lively food markets, followed by a cooking class featuring traditional Ecuadorian cuisine. In the afternoon, you can join us for a trip up the TeleferiQo, a cable car that takes you above 10,000 feet to the top of the Pichincha Volcano (try the coca tea if the altitude makes you dizzy!), or spend the rest of the day exploring Quito and its museums at your leisure.
DAY 5: OTAVALO
Today we leave the frenetic energy of Quito behind and head north to the serene Andean highlands. We’ll stop at the “Middle of the World” monument, where we’ll straddle the Equator and try to balance an egg on its end. Then it’s on to the village of Cotacachi, famous for its fine leatherwork, and Laguna Cuicocha, a stunning crater lake at the foot of the Cotacachi Volcano. Finally we’ll arrive at our hacienda home for the weekend. Accommodations are a bit more basic here than our swish Quito digs, but crackling fires, home-cooked organic meals, and a clear view of the stars more than make up for it. (Hotel: Hacienda Cusin or similar)
DAY 6: OTAVALO
It’s market day in Otavalo! This famous market – one of the largest indigenous markets in South America – fills the town of Otavalo with remarkable handicrafts and eye-popping color. You’ll be free to explore the market (and try your hand at haggling), and later you can relax at our hacienda or go hiking or horseback riding.
DAY 7: CUENCA
Time to fly! We depart Otavalo in the morning and fly south along the Avenue of Volcanoes to Cuenca, Ecuador’s beautiful southern city. In the afternoon, we’ll take a walking tour of the city’s historic center with a local guide. Then we’ll visit the Homero Ortega Panama hat factory, where we’ll see how authentic Panama hats are made and learn why Panama gets all the credit for this Ecuadorian creation. You might want to try on a few for yourself. (Hotel: Mansion Alcazar or similar)
DAY 8: CUENCA
This morning we’ll drive through the rolling southern Andean highlands to Ingapirca, the largest known Incan ruins in Ecuador. A local guide will help us explore this remarkable archeological site. In the afternoon, you’ll have a choice of two excursions: an artisan tour of the area to visit traditional ikat weavers, silver filigree jewelers, and an orchid farm; or a hike in Cajas National Park. Tonight, we’ll have a special farewell dinner.
DAY 9: CUENCA TO U.S.
Sadly, today we part ways. You can extend your stay in Ecuador or connect through Quito for your flight home.
$ 4,795 per person, based on double occupancy.
Single supplement: $ 1,495 per person.
9 days escorted by a certified tour director
8 nights in first class boutique hotels
8 breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 4 dinners
Flight from Quito to Cuenca
Private coach transportation for all excursions and from Quito to Otavalo
Admission fees for group activities
A private tour director and local guides
Price does not include international air to and from the start of your vacation, excess baggage fees on Quito-Cuenca flight, optional excursions and activities, vaccinations, travel insurance, gratuities, meals other than those listed above, and all other personal expenses.
Minimum 6, maximum 12 travelers
ACCESSIBILITY AND PHYSICAL DEMANDS
Unfortunately, this tour is unable to accept travelers who require accessibility accommodations. Many public buildings in Ecuador are not handicap accessible. In addition, most hotels in Ecuador do not have elevators or accessible rooms. We cannot guarantee ground-flour rooms. Hotel staff will assist you in carrying luggage to your rooms, but you should be able to climb at least one flight of stairs. This tour involves light-to-moderate physical activity, including walking and standing for extended periods and uneven terrain.
All of our destinations in Ecuador are above 6,500 feet and are not considered a high-risk area for Zika, malaria, or other mosquito-borne diseases. Routine vaccinations are always recommended for all international travelers. Additional information about health, safety and other travel logistics will be provided after booking.
Still have questions? We have answers! Contact us to discuss.