Northern Ecuador Bicycle Tour
Explore Northern Ecuador through carefully selected biking venues rich in experience, culture, and scenery. This area, inhabited for centuries by the Imbayas and their descents, is still alive and wonderfully diverse. This tour delivers exceptional riding with stunning volcanic scenery, crater lakes, cloud forests, ancient ruins, and Indian and African-Ecuadorian rural villages. Discover an extraordinarily diverse country, both in terms of its ecosystems and cultures. The biking adventure is further accentuated by stays at fine colonial haciendas, a scenic train ride, and a visit to one of the largest indigenous markets in the world.
DAY 1: BIKE TUMBACO VALLEY AND PRE-INCA RUINS
Just 20 minutes outside Quito, we find the trailhead of a fantastic biking route. A former railroad track that transported goods out of Quito and into Ecuador´s more rural northern territories, this trail gives us a perfect introduction to Ecuador. The trail, lined with flowers and hummingbirds throughout, passes under a series of tunnels, over a river, and through rural communities. While the trail is slightly uphill, it is very easy and will help us build endurance. Furthermore, it is a perfect opportunity to grow familiar with our bikes with the comfort of knowing that our support vehicle can help us at any time (the trail is bisected by over a dozen roads). We enjoy a picnic lunch along the way.
Weather and energy dependent, we head towards Quito Loma in the afternoon. Quito Loma is one of the world´s largest pre-Inca complexes but is largely unresearched and unexcavated. We hop back on our bikes once more and begin with a brief but hard climb on a single track trail before descending 1,050 meters (3,500 ft). Along this high-adrenaline downhill ride, we are rewarded with spectacular views of Cayambe, “the mountain of light”. Furthermore, this ride provides our first glimpse into the lives of the people of the high Andes. To cap off our day, we end our bike ride at the equator, where we learn about the mythology and meaning of the equator to pre-Inca cultures. We will have dinner and spend the night at Hacienda Miraflores. (B, L, D)
DAY 2: BIKE TO OTAVALO MARKET
After a delicious breakfast with views looking out to the snowcapped Cayambe Volcano, we head to the nearby village of Zuleta. Here, we visit the most renowned indigenous cloth embroiders in Ecuador. As we appreciate the work of these fine artisans, we also sample the area´s fine cheeses before beginning our bike ride. Riding through indigenous farmland down the slopes of Imbabura Volcano, we admire magnificent views of San Pablo Lake and the surrounding peaks. We then continue down a narrow path past the town of Peguche and eventually to the Otavalo market. Otavalo is one of the largest indigenous markets in Latin America. Your senses will be delighted with delicious aromas, vivid bright colors, and mesmerizing Andean music. You will have an opportunity to bargain for handmade crafts including sweaters, woolen tapestries, panama hats, paintings, ceramics, jewelry, and other treasures. In the late afternoon, we arrive at Hacienda Pinsaqui, a 320 year-old hacienda rich with history. (B, L, D)
DAY 3: BIKE THE CHOTA VALLEY AND RETURN BY TRAIN
This morning, we head to the town of Ibarra, where we begin our day´s journey. Today, we cycle through a very different ecosystem – a dry forest filled with cacti and elongated acacia trees. Fun single track trails take us down into the Valley of the Chota River, whose fertile riverbanks serve as contrast to the surrounding dry forest. Eventually, we trade bikes for a train ride back up into the higher lands of Salinas de Ibarra. The train allows us to relax, while admiring the scenic land filled with fruit plantations and Afro-Ecuadorian culture. We continue to the Polylepis Lodge in the province of Carchi. (B, L, D)
DAY 4: EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE
In the morning, we explore one of Ecuador´s best preserved Polylepis forest – a strange tree species related to the rose that grows above the natural treeline and has multi-layered paper-like bark. Here, we learn the legends of this this enchanted forest. Along our hike, we ford a river and climb a waterfall before arriving at another endemic ecosystem, giant speletia (Frailejon) paramo forest. With their long hairy leaves, giant speletia bushes are the main attraction of El Angel Ecological Reserve. After lunch at Polylepis Lodge, we drive across the reserve and begin biking amongst this giant speletia ecosystem. Our route also brings us past classic Andean scenery and authentic rural villages (Eloy Alfaro, La Libertad, Inguesa, La Libertad and San Isidro) which seem suspended in the past. We continue our journey back to Hacienda Pinsaqui for our last evening in Northern Ecuador. (B, L, D)
2017 Price per person double occupancy in US$: $1992 with 2 people, $1538 with 3 people, $1305 with 4 people, $1168 with 5 people. Single supplement = $224
Beverages at restaurants or hotels, tips
TRAVEL TIME: 1-3 hours per day
BIKING TIME:3-5 hours per day based on skill
ALTITUDE: 1,600 to 4,000 meters (5,300 to 13,300 ft)
AVERAGE TEMPERATURE: DAY 4-31 C
SUGGESTED: Warm layered clothing, biking gear, rain shell, sunglasses, hat, sunblock, mosquito repellent.
DAY 5: BIKE THE MOJANDA LAKES AND VOLCANO
This morning, we head to Mojanda, a set of three beautiful crater lakes. Climbing up to 3500 meters, we drive over some rough terrain to reach the beginning of our bike route. Descending 2,000 meters (6,600 feet), we pass through high mountain cloudforest down to the dry forest and the village of Collagal. In Collagal, the locals are always surprised to see bikers riding throu gh this corn economy based village. The sweeping vistas are absolutely stunning, and you will soon realize that we saved the best for last. Lunch will be served at Guayllabamba, where the best potato soup in Ecuador is found. We return to Quito in the afternoon. (B, L)
Accommodations: Colonial Hacienda Hotels and Mountain Lodge