From the Andes to the Pacific Coast – Ecuador Tour
This Ecuador tour takes you on an unforgettable journey from the Andes mountain range to the Pacific Ocean, taking in a kaleidoscope of natural and cultural highlights along the way. After exploring the cobbled streets and colourful plazas of Quito, you will travel through the grand ‘Avenue of Volcanoes’ into the mountains of the Northern Sierra. Here you’ll get to know some of Ecuador’s fascinating cultural and natural diversity, visiting traditional handicraft workshops and farms. Then, plunging into the pristine cloud forests around Santo Domingo, you’ll walk through a lush nature-lover’s paradise and visit cocoa and coffee plantations. Finally, it’s on to the warmer climes of the Pacific Coast where you’ll relax on deserted beaches and take in the rich diversity of the wildlife. You’ll finish this incredible journey in the ‘Pearl of the Pacific’, Ecuador´s biggest city, Guayaquil.
- Marvel at the fascinating colonial architecture of Quito’s Old Town
- Go on a journey to the centre of the world at Mitad del Mundo, the Equator monument
- See Latin America’s largest craft market in Otavalo and visit artisan workshops
- Get authentic insights into indigenous culture during a stay in a rural village
- Spot dozens of species of colourful birds in the cloud forests of Mindo and Santo Domingo
- Relax and enjoy a tropical cocktail watching the sunset over the Pacific
- See the fabulous Isla de la Plata and its diverse coastal and marine wildlife
- Enjoy the atmosphere and nightlife of Guayaquil, ‘the pearl of the Pacific’
This is a private tour and you will be accompanied by an English-speaking local guide throughout. The price displayed is per person based on two people sharing. All tours can be tailor-made to suit your interests and requirements.
If you are a true chocolate lover, you should not miss out on the 6 day Cocoa Tasting tour! And for those wanting to undertake the challenge of a lifetime, we also offer climbing tours to both Cayambe and Chimborazo volcanoes. Don’t forget to read about Guardian travel writer, Kevin Rushby’s attempt at reaching both summits.
We can also organise a visit to the Galapagos Islands (cruise and/or island hopping) before or after this tour. There are direct flights to the Galapagos both from Quito and Guayaquil.
Few countries in the world boast such natural and cultural diversity as Ecuador. Despite its diminutive size, it offers so much, from climate and ecosystems to ethnic groups and indigenous people, cosmopolitan cities and isolated rural hamlets. It has a rich history too, encompassing pre-Columbian times, the Spanish conquest, and its struggle for independence. Today it is a modern and multi-cultural society that couldn´t be more welcoming and optimistic.
This Ecuador tour offers an in-depth journey through this fascinating country, beginning and ending in two distinct cities, Quito and Guayaquil. Set in the cool Andean highlands amidst massive volcanoes, Quito’s old town has a maze of cobblestone streets to explore with some of the finest colonial architecture in South America. Then there’s Guayaquil, Ecuador´s vibrant economic centre, nestled on the shores of the mighty Guayas River that carves its way through the steamy hot lowlands of the Pacific coast.
Between these two cities, and opposing poles of Ecuador, you will pass through the wonderful landscapes of the Northern Sierra, marvelling at snow-capped volcanoes, Andean mountain lakes and dense cloud forests with dozens of colourful species of birds and butterflies. You’ll make your way from the mountains to the lowlands and on to the serene beaches of the Pacific Coast. On this journey you will have several opportunities to explore these wonderful places on hikes and leisurely walks, by boat, and even by train along a restored section of the old railway line between the Andean highlands and the Northern Pacific Coast.
Just as fascinating as the change in nature, vegetation and wildlife are the cultural changes along this route, especially in more rural areas where certain ethnic groups and indigenous people maintain their traditional dress, arts, music, dance, and often language. For some days on this trip you will stay at a rural family lodge in an indigenous community close to Otavalo, where you’ll experience authentic Andean culture and the warm hospitality of the people.
Day 1: Quito (-/-/-)
Upon arrival at Quito airport, you will be welcomed and driven to a well located hotel in the colonial centre.
Day 2: Quito (B/L/-)
We’ll begin the day exploring Quito's old town – the World’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site – walking through cobblestone streets and numerous plazas, marvelling at the beautiful churches and grand buildings from centuries past. After lunch, we’ll visit the Equator line from which Ecuador got its name. The famous Mitad del Mundo monument is north of Quito and we’ll also visit the Inti Ñan museum, where through some odd experiments (e.g. balancing eggs on nails) you will learn what’s so special about the Equator. Free evening back to the hotel. Optional: Instead of the Mitad del Mundo, we can take a trip up the Teleferico (to 4,100 meters) with amazing views of the city below.
Day 3: Quito to Otavalo (B/L/D)
You’ll be picked up at your hotel for the journey to Otavalo. On the way out of town, we will stop in Quito's northern suburb, Calderon, and visit a marzipan workshop (and of course try the final product). Driving out of town we will pass the volcanoes of Cayambe (the third highest in Ecuador with a mighty glacier) and Imbabura. Below the latter is the beautiful Lake San Pablo, surrounded by vast stands of totora reed. In the village of San Rafael we will visit a family who will show us how to make floor mats, furniture and figures using this reed. Later, we arrive in the indigenous village close to Otavalo that will be your home for the next couple of days. Your host family will give you a warm welcome and invite you to share a delicious dinner with them before you get a good night’s sleep in your private room.
Day 4: Otavalo (B/L/D)
After breakfast, we take a short walk to the waterfall of Peguche. Along the way we will visit a family of traditional Andean musical instrument makers, as well as learn about their craft we will also hear a song or two. After lunch in Otavalo and a visit to the famous handicraft market we will visit one of the last families in the region that works with sheep wool. They work right through from processing the raw material to weaving it by hand – something very rare to see in the 21st century. Later on, we will visit a project in the community of La Calera, where local women get together to produce jewellery from natural materials such as seeds and wood. Part of the profits go towards a local scholarship system that enables children from poor families to attend school. Last, but not least, you will learn about Andean crops and medicinal plants in an ethno-botanical garden, before enjoying dinner with your hosts.
Day 5: Laguna Cuicocha (B/L/D)
Visit the beautiful Cuicocha Lake within the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve. You will have plenty of time to marvel at its beauty during a loop hike (approx. 4 to 5 hours) around its perimeter at altitudes between 3,100 m.a.s.l. and 3,500 m.a.s.l. Along the trail we will see several orchid species, hummingbirds and other wildlife, and enjoy views over the picturesque lake and islands, and the panorama of Cotacachi, Imbabura and Cayambe Mountains. Your guide will also explain the importance of Cuicocha Lake in the mythology of indigenous people. After the hike we will go to Cotacachi, where you will have lunch and some free time to explore this beautiful town famous for its leatherworkers. The late afternoon and evening are yours to relax or to help your host family in their daily activities.
Day 6: Otavalo, Ibarra, Salinas (B/L/-)
Today we will take a journey back in time on board of the Liberty Train between Otavalo and Salinas (Fri-Sat-Sun only), a restored stretch of the old railway line. With seven tunnels dug with pick and shovel and tall bridges across steep canyons, the Liberty Train offers a unique journey starting from Otavalo and passing through Ibarra, the “White City” to reach the warm Salinas, where we are received to the tune of la “bomba”. From the train we get to enjoy breathtaking scenery, passing numerous tunnels and bridges along the way. The small town of Salinas is a centre of Afro-Ecuadorian culture, and after a traditional dance show we will learn about its past. In Salinas you’ll discover colorful murals commemorating the history and culture of Afro-ecuadorian people, visit its museums and enterprises and enjoy the local cuisine in a trip full of memorable experiences. In the afternoon, we head back to Otavalo and continue on to Quito, where there is a transfer to a well located hotel.
Day 7: Cloud Forest (B/L/D)
Today we’ll depart early in the morning to the Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge, a beautiful but rustic lodge situated in a private primary cloud forest reserve (approx. 1 hour). We’ll have a delicious breakfast when we arrive, then spend the day doing short guided hikes to observe the remarkable diversity and ecology of the mystical cloud forest. Numerous bird species, beautiful butterflies, and much more can be observed here in this relaxing environment with its stunning views across the mountains. Free evening.
Day 8: Cloud Forest to Santo Domingo (B/L/D)
Optional early morning bird walk (not included), then a delicious breakfast at the lodge. After breakfast, we’ll hike to a beautiful hidden waterfall. Lunch at the lodge, then in the afternoon we'll depart for the town of Santo Domingo (approx. 2 hours), a centre for cocoa and coffee production in Ecuador, and home to the indigenous Tsachila culture. During a visit to a community tourism project, Shinopi Bolon, you will learn about the customs and traditions of the Tsachila people and find out how they make colourful dyes used for hair, clothes and handicrafts. We will have a traditional dinner with the community, then you’ll stay in a comfortable hotel in town.
Day 9: Santo Domingo to Puerto Lopez (B/L/-)
Today we will travel down to the peaceful fishing town of Puerto Lopez on the Pacific Coast (approx. 5 hours). Before we get there, we will learn about part of Ecuador's history and cultural heritage in the town of Montecristi. Not only is Montecristi the true home of the Panama hat (we will visit a workshop there, see how they are made and find out about the misleading name), it is also the hometown of one of Ecuador's most eminent historical figures: former president Eloy Alfaro. The huge museum complex Ciudad Alfaro, which also housed Ecuador's last constitutional assembly, bears his name and tells about his achievements in modernising Ecuador in the early 20th century. The afternoon is free to relax on the beach of Puerto Lopez before dinner and a good night’s sleep at your hotel.
Day 10: Puerto Lopez (B/L/-)
After breakfast, we explore Machalilla National Park, a coastal protected area with swathes of dry forest. This area was home to the ancient Manteña culture that inhabited the coastal region of Ecuador some 1500 years ago. Remains of that culture can be found at the archaeological site of Agua Blanca, where we also visit the small anthropological museum. Agua Blanca (White Water) got its name from a nearby lake where sulphurous volcanic groundwater forms a thin white layer on the surface every morning. The water and the mud of the lake is said to have medicinal properties and you are welcome to take a bath in it. We continue to what is probably Ecuador's most beautiful beach: Los Frailes. We'll hike past small, stunning beaches before arriving to a tranquil bay with impressive rock formations and dry forest vegetation. This long stretch of beach removed from town is typically very quiet and perfect for swimming, so you will have the beach and its crystal-clear waters pretty much all to yourself. Free evening back in town.
Day 11: Puerto Lopez (B/L/-)
Today we visit Isla de la Plata, about 1.5 hours from Puerto Lopez, considered the “poor man’s Galapagos” for its population of blue footed boobies and good snorkelling. On the Island we do a little loop hike and our guide tells us more about its geological origins, wildlife and vegetation. Later, we will see that the underwater world is just as fascinating while we snorkel in the clear waters around the island, looking out for tropical fish, marine turtles and sea lions. If you visit June - Sep we will be able to see whales during the journey to the island, as hundreds of humpback whales and other whale species migrate from the Antarctic along the Pacific coast to give birth to their calves in warmer waters. This is also the mating season and the whale bulls will put on a spectacular show trying to impress the females. Free evening back in town.
Day 12: Puerto Lopez to Guayaquil (B/L/-)
After breakfast, we will travel along Ecuador's famous coastal highway – the Ruta del Sol (Sun Route) and stop at scenic fishing villages and beach towns along the way (approx. 4 hours). We will also pass several banana plantations. Ecuador is one of the world´s largest producers of this tropical fruit and nowhere do they grow better than in the hot and humid Pacific Lowlands. We are headed for Ecuador's largest city and economic centre - Guayaquil, known as the ‘Pearl of the Pacific’. The importance of the city is due to its port on the mighty Guayas River, which meanders slowly towards the ocean, forming a labyrinth of mangrove islands and oxbow lakes. After checking in at your hotel you’ll explore the historic centre of the city and the picturesque suburbs of Cerro Santa Ana and Las Peñas. Later on we will get to see some iguana lizards in the middle of the city at Parque de las Iguanas. Free evening.
Day 13: Guayaquil - Pearl of the Pacific (B/L/-)
Depending on your flight time or other onward travel arrangements, you can choose from optional activities in and around Guayaquil, such as a tour into the Churute Mangrove Reserve or to Guayaquil's botanical gardens. Finally, we will take you to the airport for your flight home, or perhaps a direct flight on to the Galapagos Islands. End of tour.
- Trip duration: 13 days
- Countries visited: Ecuador
- Level of difficulty: Low
- Accommodation: 2 nights in a hotel in Quito, 4 nights in a rural lodge in indigenous community close to Otavalo, 1 night in a hotel in Mindo, 1 night in a hotel in Santo Domingo, 3 nights in a hotel in Puerto Lopez, 1 night in a hotel in Guayaquil
- Transport: Private mini-van/car, boat, 4x4, train
- Meals included: 12 breakfasts, 13 lunches, 11 dinners
You will be greeted at the airport on arrival by a local guide who will take you to your hotel and will be able to answer any questions, make any additional arrangements and generally ensure everything goes smoothly.
No minimum number of passengers is required and you will not be travelling with a group of people you do not know. Prices quoted are per person and based on at least 2 people travelling. You should expect a cheaper price for a bigger group.
Your passport details are required at the time of booking. For detailed information on visa requirements and health formalities, visit the FCO Travel Advice website (for UK citizens) and US Travel Advice website (for US citizens). You will need a Yellow Fever vaccination for travel to the Amazon.
Information on money changing in each destination, as well as what it is customary to tip for various services, will be provided.
This Ecuador tour, like most of the adventures through Latin America, has a low level of physical difficulty and participants can choose to do as much or as little as they like.
What to bring: Travel insurance, passport, binoculars, alarm clock, walking shoes, water bottle, daypack, sun protection, insect repellent, sun glasses and hat, swimwear, flip-flops, torch with extra batteries (headlamp), wind and waterproof jacket, a thermal shirt for layering, fleece, gloves, light synthetic/fast drying shirts and pants (for the Amazon), plastic ziplock bags, plastic bags for your luggage in case of rain.
- Best time to travel: June to October (less rain in the highlands, whale-watching season along the coast)
- Extra budget recommended: Around £150 / $200 pp to cover meals and all other expenses not included in the itinerary.
- What is included: Welcome reception at the airport. Transfers (some may be shared). Overland transport. Accommodation. Entrance fees to sites of interest, museums and national parks mentioned in the itinerary. Guided activities and excursions with English speaking guides or driver (some private, some as part of a small group). Meals as stated in the itinerary (B= Breakfast, L= Lunch, D= Dinner). Contributions to the social projects visited. Donation to help in preserving the Amazon rainforest through agro-forestry and education.
- What is not included: Flights. Travel insurance. Alcoholic drinks. Additional meals or snacks. Travel within and around each town. Visa fees (if any). Tips. Souvenirs.
There is no minimum duration and you can take only the activities or destinations you want. To start creating your ideal, tailor-made tour to Ecuador, please complete and send this form. Our Ecuadorian partner will be in touch shortly: