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'Day walks in the Andes'

What makes this trip special?

Condors, snow-capped volcanoes & wild moors

Condors, snow-capped volcanoes & wild moors

Antisana Reserve

There are some beautiful walks on the open moors of the Antisana Reserve, with views of Cotopaxi and Antisana volcanos, often Condors can be spotted cruising the sky.

Thermal pools amongst the mountains

Thermal pools amongst the mountains

Papallacta

Termas de Papallacta is a delightful lodge with spa and outdoor thermal pools high in the Andes mountain range.

Picturesque Valley Lodge

Picturesque Valley Lodge

San Isidro

Cabanas San Isidro nestled in a valley at 2,000m above sea level has a number of self-guided trails varying in length and difficulty through various habitats.

The Guinea Pig Lake

The Guinea Pig Lake

Cuicocha circuit - Otavalo region

Cuicocha (literally Guinea Pig Lake in Quechua) is a deep-blue crater lake in a dormant volcano. Hike around the rim of the crater for truly spectacular views.

Avenue of the Volcanoes

Avenue of the Volcanoes

Cotopaxi NP & Avenue of the Volcanoes

With over 50 volcanic peaks, the Avenue of the Volcanoes makes a stunning drive down from Quito. Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world and its National Park is a good spot for walking.

Remote farming communities

Remote farming communities

Quilotoa Loop

Visit your second crater lake at Quilotoa, walk amongst family run farms, rural hamlets and witness the sheer beauty of the Quilotoa Loop.

Visit the last remaining Icemen

Visit the last remaining Icemen

Los Hieleros

Still retaining the tradition of walking up to the glacier on Mount Chimborazo to cut blocks of ice to sell at market, experience for yourselves their daily work.

Itinerary map for Ecuador & Galapagos 'Day walks in the Andes' holiday

Itinerary

  • Day      Overnight
  • 1 Quito
  • 2 Quito
  • 3 Papallacta
  • 4 Papallacta
  • 4
  • 5
  • 5 San Isidro
  • 6 San Isidro
  • 6 Santo Domingo Valley
  • 7 Otavalo
  • 8 Otavalo
  • 9 Otavalo
  • 10 Cotopaxi
  • 11 Cotopaxi
  • 12 Chugchilan
  • 13 Riobamba
  • 14 Riobamba
  • 15 Quito
  • 15 Riobamba
  • For the detail of each day click the ‘Day-by-day’ tab above.

Day-by-day itinerary for 'Day walks in the Andes'

DAY 1

Quito

You will be met on arrival at Quito airport and transferred to a 3* hotel.

DAY 2
BL

Quito

Morning tour of the Old City, including lunch, and a visit to the Equator in the afternoon.

DAY 3
BD

Papallacta Hot Springs

The morning is free for sightseeing in Quito, or perhaps a ride on the cable car up Pichincha volcano. In the afternoon you are collected for a short visit to the bohemian suburb of Guápulo, which has a very pretty church, then driven to Papallacta (1½hr) where you stay 2 nights at a 3* hotel and spa on the Andean páramos at 3,300m (10,800ft). Outside each room is a thermal pool—perfect for a dip beneath a starry sky.

DAY 4
BLD

Antisana Ecological Reserve

Today you can choose a leg-stretching day walk over the páramos in the Antisana Ecological Reserve, where it is possible to see Andean Condor. Or take the easier short trail behind the hotel (a good place for hummingbirds) before indulging in the optional treatments available at the hotel’s spa. These include five open air thermoludic pools kept at different temperatures some with pressured water or hydrojets, plus massages, treatments and body wraps.

DAY 5
BLD

San Isidro

Today you are driven down to Cabañas San Isidro lodge in a picturesque valley at 2,000m (6,800ft), your base for the next 2 nights. The lodge is set in large tracts of subtropical forest with clea ly marked, self-guided trails from 1 to 6 km. Some lead through a forest of large hardwood trees draped with lush mosses that support great numbers of different orchid and bromeliad species. Others pass through vast bamboo stands and river edge forests. Each habitat supports its own complement of flora and fauna: one trail leads to an Andean Cock of the Rock lek. Rarities such as Spectacled Bear, Mountain Tapir, Oncilla and Puma are reported from time to time.

DAY 6
BLD

At Cabañas San Isidro lodge.

DAY 7
BLD

Otavalo

Towards late morning you will be collected and driven to Otavalo, to stay at Hacienda Las Palmeras—your base for the next 3 nights. This 150 year old hacienda is set among towering palm trees and features garden cottages with log fires. The ‘perpetual spring’ climate ensures a continual flowering of hibiscus, bougainvillea, other flowering plants and fruit trees, attracting hummingbirds, vermilion fly-catchers and a profusion of other native birds to the grounds.

DAY 8
BLD

A short downhill stroll in the early morning to Otavalo’s animal market. Return for breakfast. You will then be driven into town for the main market, now in full swing selling crafts, fruit and vegetables, and traditional clothing for local Quichuas.

DAY 9
BLD

Cuicocha circuit

Cuicocha (‘Guinea Pig Lake’) is a deep blue-green crater lake in the caldera of a dormant volcano. Make an early start for the best views on an exhilarating 5hr circuit around the crater’s rim. As well as great views of the lake’s two islands there are panoramas of nearby Cotacachi and Imbabura volcanoes. The circular walk is 12km (7½ miles) at an altitude of 3,070-3,400m (10,000-11,300ft). There are steps on steeper parts of the trail and handrails on the more precarious sections.

DAY 10
BLD

Cotopaxi

This morning you will be driven south to Hacienda La Ciénega for 2 nights. This route takes you on the first section of the Avenue of the Volcanoes. Rest of the day free to relax at the hacienda or in its gardens, or go horse riding (optional).

DAY 11
BLD

A full day exploring Cotopaxi National Park. Visit Limpiopungo Lagoon at 3,800m and enjoy the high páramos vegetation with miniature asters and crocus-like flowers nestling amid lichens and mosses. If you are responding well to the thinness of the air there is the option of walking up to touch the ice of the volcano’s glacier. You could ride back down on a mountain bike (let us know in advance if you will want to do this and check your travel insurance cover).

DAY 12
BLD

Lake Quilotoa to Chugchilán

With an early start you are driven to Lake Quilotoa, a second crater lake which is the starting point of today’s walk. The trail down the outside of the volcano leads through a remote rural area of subsistence farming, canyons, and rivers to reach the Quichua-speaking village of Chugchilán. Goats, sheep and llamas graze, and crops include potatoes, corn, broad beans, lupins, squash, and quinoa. Local crafts include primitivist paintings on leather, and wooden masks. The trail is 12km (7½ miles), starting at 3,900m and ending at 3,200m (12,800 – 10,500ft ). The final section makes an abrupt 800ft descent into the Río Sigüi Canyon and back up the other side before arriving in Chugchilán village. This can be avoided by curtailing the walk in Guayama, about 6 miles from the start. Stay overnight in Chugchilán at a simple guest house with private bathroom.

DAY 13
BLD

Saquisilí Market and Riobamba

A visit to Saquisilí Market this morning. One of the largest in the highlands, it fills seven plazas, each specialising in different merchandise. You will then be driven south via Salasaca (where you can stop to see back strap loom weavers at work) to Riobamba where you stay for 2 nights at a 3* tourist lodge. Riobamba is close to Chimborazo, an extinct volcano which rises 6,310m (20,703ft) above sea level. It is the highest mountain in the world if measured from the centre of the earth. (The bulge in the planet at the equator gives Chimborazo an advantage over Everest.)

DAY 14
BLD

Los Hieleros (The Icemen)

An early start to join Baltasar and Gregorio, the last of ‘Los Hieleros’, who each week maintain their family’s tradition of walking up to the glacier on Chimborazo to cut blocks of ice to sell in Riobamba. This is a wonderful hike offering great views of this impressive mountain and across a wide expanse of the central highlands. Baltasar and Gregorio earn very little from the ice they collect, so your walking with them helps to keep alive this extraordinary way of life. At first you drive up through fields of maize, potatoes, carrots and lima beans. At the end of the track the walk takes you on hillsides covered with mixed clumps of cushion plants and tussock grasses—enough to supply a thousand years of garden make-over programmes. This area is home to vicuñas, llamas and alpacas. Around 3,380m Baltasar and Gregorio use scythes to cut some of the longer grasses which they deftly twist together to make 6ft lengths of rope. Armfuls of grass to insulate the ice are then cut and tied to their mules using the rope. The trail continues to ascend. Vegetation gives way to volcanic scree before you eventually arrive at the snow line. It takes around 4hrs to reach the glacier, at around 4,500m. You should find that your time in the highlands has acclimatised you sufficiently to cope with this altitude if you walk fairly slowly. At the face of the glacier, Baltasar and Gregorio use axes and spades to hack out large blocks of ice, as they have done from this spot for the last 50 years. They wrap the ice in the grass and tie it to their mules with their handmade ropes. Their descent starts around midday and lasts 2 hours. You rejoin your vehicle while they continue to their home in the village, where they store the ice in underground pits to preserve it for Saturday’s market in Riobamba.

DAY 15
B

Riobamba Market

Make a short visit to Riobamba’s San Alfonso market this morning, where you can try Baltasar and Gregorio’s ice mixed with fruit in snow cones called ‘raspados’. Then you are driven back to Quito (4hr) for your chosen overnight flight home.

Guide prices for 'Day walks in the Andes'

options based on all year low season mid season high season peak season other season
Guide price 2 people sharing £3,620
Prices are per person and include:
  • all travel in Ecuador
  • all accommodation
  • meals as indicated B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner
  • all excursions as described
Prices do not include:
  • international flights
  • travel insurance
  • airport and departure taxes
  • items of a personal nature such as drinks, tips, laundry, etc
  • any optional excursions you may buy locally

Customer reviews for 'Day walks in the Andes'

Recent reviews are shown here from holidays based on this initial design. In each case the itinerary may have been modified (a little or a lot) to suit the individual traveller.

Average customer rating 100%

rating

rating

Seasonal information for 'Day walks in the Andes'

Along this route in January

Day Location Max °C Monthly rainfall
1 Quito 15°C rainfall 117mm
2 Quito 15°C rainfall 117mm
3 Papallacta 12°C rainfall 84mm
4 Papallacta 12°C rainfall 84mm
5 San Isidro 22°C rainfall 110mm
6 San Isidro 22°C rainfall 110mm
6 Santo Domingo Valley 31°C rainfall 48mm
7 Otavalo 19°C rainfall 90mm
8 Otavalo 19°C rainfall 90mm
9 Otavalo 19°C rainfall 90mm
10 Cotopaxi 9°C rainfall 83mm
11 Cotopaxi 9°C rainfall 83mm
12 Chugchilan 16°C rainfall 89mm
13 Riobamba 20°C rainfall 37mm
14 Riobamba 20°C rainfall 37mm
15 Quito 15°C rainfall 117mm
15 Riobamba 20°C rainfall 37mm

Typical weather for January

rainchart

Max °C figures are the average daily maximum temperatures for the month. Rainfall is the average precipitation for the month.

Hotels for 'Day walks in the Andes'

Days 1 - 3

Plaza Sucre, Quito

historic quarter

Hotel Plaza Sucre is a good functional mid-range B&B  located in Quito's historic quarter, four blocks back from its main sights and squares.

There are 25 comfortable guest rooms each with TV and private bathrooms.

The 4th floor rooftop breakfast room has wonderful views out to the Panecillo monument which stands guard over the city.

No lift.

For other meals there are several restaurants in easy walking distance in the well policed historic centre.

Plaza Sucre, Quito
Inner courtyard
Day 4

Termas de Papallacta

Papallacta
rating

Average rating 4.4 (39 ratings)

Situated high on the paramos (moors) 40  minutes drive east from Quito this is a delightful lodge with outdoor thermal pools and spa. It has a total of 32 rooms dotted about in its garden, including 13 cabins which also have living rooms and fireplaces. Accommodation is about 300m from the main block which houses the restaurant and spa. Guests have thermal pools, never more than a few footsteps from their room. Here on a clear night it is lovely to slip into the warm water after dinner and admire the moonlit snowcapped summit of distant Antisana volcano. All rooms have private bathrooms and there are self-guided hiking trails on the paramos behind the hotel where there are opportunites to see hummingbirds. There are also much larger thermal pools which are open to the public which are very popular at weekends when day-trippers visit from Quito. Room prices are higher at weekends when the lodge is busiest so aim to stay mid-week.

Termas de Papallacta
Thermal pools
Days 5 - 6

San Isidro Lodge

20 mins south of Baeza
rating

Average rating 4.6 (14 ratings)

Birders and walkers lodge in the eastern foothills of the Andes at 2,000m above sea level in a zone still mostly blanketed by exensive humid forest. It has 10 wooden cabins all with private bathroom and small private porch with a private hummingbird feeder, coffee maker, sitting area. Thre is WIFI in the communal dining room, a pool table, white light for insect observation and a book exchange. It’s a great place for butterflies, birds (310 species) and other wildlife including large mammals. 30 species of hummingbird come to the feeders including Long-tailed Sylph and Gorgeted Woodstar. There is an Orchid garden with over 100 species around the cabins, Antpitta feeding station. The lodge's trails pass through habitats from 2,400m all the way down to 1,850m i.e. from the lower reaches of the temperate zone down into the subtropical zone.

San Isidro Lodge
Cabin
Days 7 - 9

Hacienda Las Palmeras

edge of Otavalo

This delightful lodge is situated on the edge of Otavalo town, 10 mins walk from the Saturday animal market, 30 mins walk from the town centre. The attractive, individual guest bungalows are dotted about the lovely flower filled garden of the 150 year-old hacienda. The lodge gets its name from the towering palm trees, whilst the cabins are prettily furnished, with private bathrooms and log fires. Hotwater bottles are also provided from reception for the colder nights. There is a restaurant and Wi-Fi in the main building, whilst it is possible to organise massages, Spanish classes and horseriding. This hacienda is a sister property to the nearby Hacienda Cusin.

Hacienda Las Palmeras
Garden cottage
Days 10 - 11

Hacienda La Cienega

Lasso
rating

Average rating 4.1 (16 ratings)

Hostería La Ciénega is a characterful hotel converted from one of Ecuador’s oldest haciendas, dating from 1580. Set in extensive grounds it is approached along an avenue of fragrant eucalyptus trees. Its well regarded restaurant, 34 guest rooms and suites are set around a series of attractive courtyard gardens, some of which are recent additions. La Ciénega offers rooms with colonial and 19th century furnishings and has many other reminders of its past, including a private chapel. Horse riding is usually available for guests.

Hacienda La Cienega
Suite
Day 12

Mama Hilda's Guest House

Chugchilan

A delightful locally owned and run guest house with a personal welcome from the owner, Hilda. This very homely hotel has some rooms with private facilities and wood fire places, and some more basic with shared bathrooms. There is hot water 24hrs a day and there is a small garden with good views from the decks outside each room from the hammocks made availble to guests. There are cosy dining facilities in the main room, whilst there is also the option to do laundry. Whilst the accommodation is basic this is a favourite with many clients and the warmth of the hospitality sets it apart from many other lodges.

Mama Hilda's Guest House
Lodge entrance
Days 13 - 14

Abraspungo

nr Riobamba
rating

Average rating 4.4 (19 ratings)

Abraspungo is a renovated and much extended hacienda just outside Riobamba and set in pretty rose filled gardens. The hotel has 38 spacious and well-appointed en suite rooms, smartly decorated with samples of Ecuadorian art and weaving. The hotel has an good restuarant run by a Peruvian chef, who cooks up Peruvian influenced cuisine as well as Ecuadorian and internatinal dishes.

Abraspungo
Bedroom