Day 1 Arrive Quito
Arrival into Quito, Ecuador’s capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Quito has one the best-preserved colonial centres in South America and your hotel, the historic Plaza Grande, is set right on the main square.
Overnight: Hotel Plaza Grande
Day 2 Quito
Explore the Old City. Here, the narrow cobbled streets and picturesque plazas are lined with some of the most charming colonial and independence-era architecture in all of the Americas, set against a majestic Andean backdrop. Spanish explorers loved the cacao from Ecuador so much they called it the ‘Food of the Gods’ and you will have the chance here to sample some of the country’s most delicious chocolate.
Overnight: Hotel Plaza Grande
Day 3 Quito to Otavalo
Set off for the Andean market town of Otavalo, two hours’ drive north of Quito. This is one of the most fascinating towns in Ecuador and where the local Quichua indigenous culture is not only palpable, but in the ascendency. The town´s weekly market dates from pre-Incan times and is famous for its brightly coloured textiles which are still weaved locally. You’ll stay at a characterful 17th century Andean estate with beautiful gardens.
Overnight: Hacienda Cusin
Day 4 Otavalo to Cotopaxi
Drive to Cotopaxi National Park following the line of the Andes, stopping en-route to visit the striking Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve. Continue your journey to the sleepy town of Cotopaxi, surrounded by rose farms and haciendas (local estates). Spend the night at the intimate Hacienda San Agustin del Callo, built on the site of an Inca palace.
Overnight: Hacienda San Agustin del Callo
Day 5 Cotopaxi-Riobamba
Explore the beautiful Cotopaxi National Park, where, weather permitting, you will be able to see the snow-capped summits of both the Cotopaxi and the Antisana volcanoes. From here you can walk up to Cotopaxi’s J. Ribas refuge (4,800m), where you will have an incredible view of the Andes. Continue south to Riobamba.
Overnight: Hotel Hacienda Abraspungo
Day 6 Riobamba to Cuenca
Today you will have the chance to experience community tourism, spending time with the indigenous population of Palacio Real who live from grazing llamas and sheep. Visit Ingapirca, an Incan astronomical fortress where the king and his entourage rested on their way to the northern part of the Inca empire. Continue to Cuenca, where you will spend the next two nights. You’ll stay at a former presidential mansion, full of 19th century charm, with rooms overlooking a pretty courtyard or the fragrant gardens.
Overnight: Hotel Mansión Alcázar
Day 7 Cuenca
Cuenca, with its magnificent skyline of domes and steeples, is a UNESCO World Heritage City and is arguably even more beautiful than Quito. Explore the city’s winding rivers and beautiful gardens before visiting the ‘new’ cathedral, completed in 1975 after nearly a century of construction. This is also the place to buy a Panama hat, known hereabouts as the Cuenca hat.
Overnight: Hotel Mansion Alcazar
Day 8 Cuenca to Guayaquil
Drive east to Guayaquil via El Cajas National Park. Here you will be able to spot wild llamas, reintroduced in the late 1990s. The park’s other inhabitants, including spectacled bear, puma and tigrillo, usually prove more elusive. Arriving into the port city of Guayaquil in the early evening.
Overnight: Wyndham Guayaquil
Day 9 Depart Guayaquil
Bid farewell to this spectacular Andean country as you board your flight home.