Premium Andes and Amazon Multisport Tour
DAY 1: CLOUDFOREST ZIPLINE & HORSEBACK RIDING IN COTOPAXI
We depart in the morning from Quito due south through the famed Avenue of the Volcanoes, en route to Hacienda El Porvenir. On the way, we enjoy spectacular views of the Pita Canyon River Gorge in the foothills of the Pasochoa Volcano. We reach a cloud forest reserve where our adventure begins.
After a short guided hike through the cloud forest we reach the edge of a scenic highland canyon. Here we begin a spectacular zipline crossing over the canyon. A total of 7 lines bring us back to the starting point as we learn about this rich ecosystem. We continue on to Hacienda El Porvenir, a 3000-hectare, family-owned hacienda rich in history and representative of the Chagra (Ecuadorian cowboy) culture. El Porvenir has been in the same family for 7 generations, and was the first hacienda in Ecuador to raise fighting bulls. After a traditional welcome tea, our lunch features gourmet, locally-produced Andean foods.
In the afternoon we gear up Chagra style, and don ponchos, chaps, and cowboy hats to explore the expansive grounds of the hacienda on horseback (hiking is optional). The hacienda produces potatoes, lima beans, quinoa, and other crops that grow at altitudes over 10,000 feet (3,000 meters), all with a backdrop of spectacular volcano scenery. Our Chagra guide share his knowledge of local plants, birds, and fauna, and help us to safely admire the brave fighting bulls. We spend a relaxing evening at the hacienda. (L, D)
DAY 2: MOUNTAIN BIKING AT COTOPAXI VOLCANO & EXPLORE BAÑOS
After breakfast, we drive towards the base of the Cotopaxi Volcano, where we start out with a hike to pre-Incan ruins. Along the way, we cross highland plateaus and observe typical highland wildlife and vegetation – all with stunning volcanic scenery as a backdrop.
We then mount bikes and begin a breathtaking downhill descent of Cotopaxi. Along the way, we visit Limpiopungo Glacier Lake. This crystal-clear lake often paints mirror-like reflections of the snowcapped Cotopaxi in its azure waters only to be interrupted by ripples from Andean waterfowl. Before exiting the park through its southern gate, we visit the Interpretation Center to learn about Cotopaxi’s wildlife and natural history.
We continue by vehicle through the scenic green valley of Patate bursting with wildflowers. We have lunch en route at a traditional Andean Hacienda. In the afternoon we take a short hike through the cloud forest amongst epiphytes and wild orchids. We dine and spend the evening at a beautiful Hacienda eco-lodge with stunning views of the often fuming Tungurahua Volcano.
(B, L, D)
DAY 3: BIKING TO THE AMAZON & VISIT SHIRIPUNO INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY
In the morning, we drive to the edge of Llanganates National Park, gaining altitude until we reach an area with one of the best views of Tungurahua, Ecuador’s most active volcano. Here, we set up our mountain bikes for a scenic ride through highland paramo, which gradually melds into mountain cloud forest, and then into the fringes of lowland rainforest. We pass through a dry basaltic gorge that is a great spot to look for wild orchids.
We continue our ride along the Pastaza River Gorge, one of the principal waterways that feed into the Amazon Basin. This is an especially scenic route, with high rock walls giving way to deep cloud forest canyons. Our bike ride ends in the colorful town of Baños, known for its hot springs and rugged landscape.
After lunch, we hike and take two sets of cable cars across gorges to explore the trail of waterfalls. Cable cars and footpaths are the only way to reach these waterfalls, and we explore some of the area’s most scenic including Pailon del Diablo (Devil’s Cauldron) and Manto de la Novia (Bride’s Veil). We then continue by vehicle to the Amazonian town of Tena. Here, we will enjoy a peaceful evening surrounding by sounds of the rainforest. (B, L, D)
DAY 4: JUNGLE RAFTING ON THE JATUNYACU RIVER
After enjoying breakfast in our lodge, we head to Llanganates National Park, which extends from the high Andes down into the Amazon basin and is part of an area declared a Biosphere Zone by the United Nations. The water that collects in this area forms the Jatunyacu River, which is regarded as one of Ecuador’s best one-day river runs.
We begin the day with a short walk through rainforest scenery to reach naturally-formed swimming holes and waterslides. After our return and a safety briefing, our whitewater rafting adventure begins. A trip down the Jatunyacu River offers crystal-clear water and glimpses into indigenous communities that live along the shores in small bamboo and wood houses. The Jatunyacu is famed for its big waves, fun holes, and high water volume (Class III - III+). We’ll spend the day navigating the Jatunyacu, whose waters carry us through breathtaking rainforest landscapes full of bird life.
In the afternoon, we will visit a Kichwa Amazonian Indian community to learn about their traditional way of life. It is truly an honor to have them bestow on us some of their ancestral knowledge of medicinal plants, balsa wood carving, and Chica (manioc beer) brewing. We may even be able to participate in a traditional cleansing ritual and/or visit ancient petroglyphs. It becomes quickly evident how much the Kichwa rely on the forest in their everyday lives, and their harmonious relationship with their environment inspires us.
We then continue our adventure back up into the Andes, climbing from 1,500 to 10,000 feet (500 to 3,000 meters) in altitude and passing through a national park and nature reserve until we reach Papallacta Hotsprings Resort & Spa. In the evening, we relax in the therapeutic alkaline-rich thermal waters of Papallacta while nestled in a fantastic cloud forest setting. Optional spa services such as massages, aromatherapy, and other treatments can also be arranged in advance. Lodging at Papallacta Resort. (B, L, D)
DAY 5: PARAMO HIKE, CATEQUILLA MONUMENT, & OTAVALO INDIGENOUS MARKET
In the early morning, we visit the highland interpretation center and go for a guided nature hike in a private cloud forest and paramo reserve, where we seek out birds, highland plants, and other Andean wildlife species.
Afterwards, we drive to a Middle of the World monument shaped as a star of eight points, representing pre-colonial and Incan indigenous beliefs that 0º latitude was the center of time and measurement. Here we learn about Ecuador’s geographic position and how its location on the equator influences its many cultures, climates, and biological diversity.
After this visit, we enjoy lunch on the waterfront of San Pablo Lake. We spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the towns of Otavalo and Peguche, where Ecuador’s indigenous culture and heritage is visible in their famous markets full of colorful textiles, traditional handicrafts, and more. We spend time one-on-one with local weavers who share the secrets of their craft that have been passed down for generations, and visit the Andean Music Museum to hear the traditional instrumental and vocal sounds of the Andes. The evening is spent at a traditional colonial hacienda. (B, L, D)
DAY 6: HIKING AROUND CUICOCHA CRATER LAKE
After breakfast, we drive up to Cuicocha Crater Lake, located 10,000 feet (3,068 meters) above sea level within the Cayapas-Cotacachi national park. Cuicochoa Lake is the freshwater-filled caldera of a dormant volcano, located at the foot of a volcano of the same name, and surrounded by stunning cloud forest scenery. We hike around the shore of the crater lake, admiring the lava dome islands in the center and keeping an eye out for birds and other interesting wildlife.
We enjoy a picnic lunch on the lake before departing for Quito in the afternoon. Upon our return, we have the evening free to explore the landmarks and night life of Ecuador’s capital city. (B, L)
2018-2019 Price per person in US$: $2280 each for 2, $1789 each for 3, $1682 each for 4, $1525 for 5. Single supp. = $322
INCLUDED: Accommodations in first class and tourist superior hotels; private land transportation; all meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily); all adventure and protective equipment (including front-suspended Deore mountain bikes, rafting equipment, gloves, helmets, water bottles, and dry bags); and professional English-speaking guide.
NOT INCLUDED: National Park entrance fees; hotel & restaurant beverages, tips, or gratuities; guide tips; and personal expenses.