Pocket-sized Ecuador packs a wide range of topographies, environments, wildlife and people into a smallish place – at least compared to some of its giant and sprawling neighbours. In this compact country, the traveller can experience the Andean mountains, the sierra, the low-lying coastal area, the costa, and the Amazon jungle, in La Amazonia region to the east of the country. The capital Quito is up in the sierra and Guayaquil, Ecuador’s main port and commercial centre, is down in the costa. Everything is here: Spanish colonial architecture and heritage, Amerindian culture, the Amazon rainforest, tropical cloud forests and, way out west in the deep Pacific, the unforgettable Galapagos Islands. With their unique birds and animals, the islands produced a moment of inspiration for the writing of what is arguably the single most important book of the 19th century: Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species.
There are many memorable Ecuador tours you can take, fitting in 2300-year old churches and monasteries, Andean Indian villages with colourful textiles and sprawling markets, volcanoes and rivers inviting you to trek, kayak, and ride horseback. And for those of you who want to take on the challenge of a lifetime, you may like to find out about our Chimborazo and Cayambe climbing tours. Chimborazo volcano is Ecuador’s highest, peaking at 6268 metres, which makes it the peak the furthest from the earth’s centre anywhere in the world. Cayambe volcano boasts Ecuador’s third highest peak, at 5790 metres, and perhaps the country’s most beautiful glacier. The add-on tours to both Chimborazo and Cayambe volcanoes include acclimatisation hikes, full equipment hire and certified guides.
You can check our exciting Ecuador tours:
– Natural Selection – Amazon & Galapagos Tour: Quito, the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon
– From the Andes to the Pacific Coast – Ecuador Tour: Quito, Otavalo, Mindo, Santo Domingo, Puerto Lopez, Guayaquil
– Southern Highlands and Amazon Jungle Ecuador Tour: Quito, the Amazon, Cuenca, Guayaquil
If you are a lover of chocolate, you should check out our Cocoa add-on. On this 6-day tour you will have the opportunity to learn how chocolate is made from bean to bar, and indulge your senses during several tasting sessions. You will have the chance to interact with the indigenous and farmer communities behind some of the country’s most delicious and world famous chocolate.
A journey along the boarder of the Amazon Rainforest will take you to the plantations of some of Ecuador’s best cocoa. Here you will learn how chocolate – a delicacy we often take for granted in our home countries – is made. Chocolate dates back to 1900 BC and is still a favourite for many. When it comes to transforming the humble cocoa bean into something truly delicious, the indigenous communities of the Ecuadorian Amazon are real experts. Check out the itinerary below for more information on our 6-day chocolate discovery tour.
Tasting Ecuador’s Chocolate
Day 1: From Quito to Tena
After breakfast, private transfer to the cocoa producing community of Carlos Arosemena Tola (approx. 4.5 hours), right outside of Tena. Accommodation in a community-run inn. Free afternoon and evening. En route: optional visit to the gorgeous hot springs complex of Papallacta.
Day 2: Tsatsayaku Community Tour
After breakfast, you’ll join in with the cocoa harvest of the neighbouring farms. Tsatsayaku is made up of 140 Kichwa and mestizo families from 13 different communities, and its mission is to produce quality cocoa that provides a fair price for its members. The communities are involved in many environmental sustainability projects, including reforestation programmes, reducing the fragmentation of natural habitats, and conserving biodiversity. These initiatives all help to ensure food and economic security for the member families. After lunch with the community, you’ll have a presentation about how the community works, as well as the opportunity to participate in activities such as: making traditional beer (chicha); smoking fish/meat; extracting palm oils; or preparing a local stimulant drink (Ilex guayusa) or traditional chocolate. Free evening back at the inn.
Day 3: Tsatsayaku Cocoa Harvest
After breakfast, you will have the opportunity to join in with day-to-day life in the community, helping out with or observing agricultural work in the chakra or gardens. If weather permits, you’ll be able to participate in activities such as planting, cutting weeds, harvesting food or pruning cocoa trees. After lunch, transfer by taxi to Tena, where you will stay the night in a well-located hostel. Free evening.
Day 4: Cocoa harvest with Kallari
After breakfast, we will go by car and then canoe to the Kallari community on the Rio Arajuno. There will be the opportunity to get to know more about community life, the importance of cocoa for these communities, and to join in with harvesting activities. In the afternoon, you’ll either be able to: learn more about local culinary practices and join in with activities such as making the traditional beer (chicha), smoking fish/meat, extracting palm oils, preparing a local stimulant drink (Ilex guayusa) or traditional chocolate; or hike through the small gardens in the rainforest and learn about medicinal plants, wild fruit, edible palm nuts and hardwoods. That evening there will be a presentation about hallucinogenic practices and shamanic apprenticeship. If possible, we will also try to coincide your stay with a trip along the river to collect the cocoa harvest from the smallholder farmers in the area. Accommodation for the night will be at the hostel back in Tena.
Day 5: Return to Quito via Pacari / Santa Rita community
Today, we will go to the community of Santa Rita, where Pacari get their cocoa. Pacari is a family owned Ecuadorian chocolate company. They have won several international prizes for their high quality, fair-trade, kosher and certified organic chocolate. You will be able to enjoy a welcome drink of guayusa tea and a presentation about the agricultural systems of the area and the characteristics of cocoa production following the chakra model. You’ll also be able to observe cocoa trees of varying ages. After a traditional, locally sourced lunch, you will see the post-harvesting process in action. That evening you will head back to Quito (approx. 3.5 hours) and check into your centrally located boutique hotel.
Day 6: Quito – Pacari
The morning will be spent taking part in a chocolate tasting session in the Pacari offices. For lunch, you’ll enjoy a meal at the Kallari Café in Quito, an excellent place to savour the last chocolate flavours of your cocoa tour. You’ll then have the rest of the day free to explore Quito at your leisure. You can go for a walk in the historic centre, or visit the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) museum and monument, or any of the countless other museums Quito has to offer.
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