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'Ecuador Odyssey'

What makes this trip special?

The kingdom of Quito

The kingdom of Quito

Quito - old city

Quito's historic centre of cobbled streets and white washed colonial buildings is one of the most important in Latin America. Wander through the narrow streets, watch lively events in the plazas and visit historical landmarks.

The middle of the world

The middle of the world

The Equator

Quito sits directly on the Equator line. A sturdy monument marks the location, whilst the Inti-Nan museum next door provides some humour with spiralling water and balancing eggs on a nail.

The mighty Amazon Rainforest

The mighty Amazon Rainforest

Amazon rainforest

A short hop from Quito by plane followed by a trip down the river by dugout canoe takes you into the Amazon's basin for a stay at a wildlife lodge.

Craft traditions, indigenous communities & beautiful scenery

Craft traditions, indigenous communities & beautiful scenery

Otavalo

A small market town deep in the Andes, one of Otavalo's main attractions is its Saturday market, widely reckoned to be the best for textiles and traditional handicrafts in all of South America.

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.

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.

Descend a precipitous rock face by train

Descend a precipitous rock face by train

Devil's Nose Train

An outstanding accomplishment of engineering, the Devil's Nose railway descends an impossibly steep rock face. One of the world's great railway experiences.

Romance, colonial heritage and the Panama hat

Romance, colonial heritage and the Panama hat

Cuenca

Cuenca is one of Ecuador's most attractive colonial cities and surprisingly home to the Panama hat. Explore the city, its museums and be sure to buy a hat before you leave!

Beautiful highland landscapes

Beautiful highland landscapes

Cajas National Park

Dramatic mountain scenery with unusual elfin forests of paperbark trees, lakes and misty moorlands

Ecuador's largest city

Ecuador's largest city

Guayaquil

A large bustling city and port, Guayaquil has a distinctly tropical atmosphere in comparison to Quito. Walk along the riverfront promenade or visit the picturesque Santa Ana hill area.

Itinerary map for Ecuador & Galapagos 'Ecuador Odyssey' holiday

Itinerary

  • Day      Overnight
  • 1 Quito
  • 2 Quito
  • 3 Napo Wildlife Centre
  • 4 Napo Wildlife Centre
  • 5 Napo Wildlife Centre
  • 6 Otavalo
  • 7 Otavalo
  • 8 Otavalo
  • 9 Papallacta
  • 10 Cotopaxi
  • 11 Riobamba
  • 12 Riobamba
  • 12 Ingapirca
  • 13 Cuenca
  • 14 Cuenca
  • 15 Guayaquil
  • 16 Guayaquil
  • For the detail of each day click the ‘Day-by-day’ tab above.

Day-by-day itinerary for 'Ecuador Odyssey'

DAY 1

Quito

We meet in Quito in the early evening at our preferred hotel in the Old City, where we stay 2 nights. You will be met on arrival at the international airport and driven to the hotel.

DAY 2
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After breakfast we explore the Old City on foot. Today is Sunday and traffic is banned. Church bells ring out as we stroll around impressive plazas, convents and monasteries contained within a few streets. On sunny days the whitewashed buildings sparkle like sugar in the clear mountain air. A religious procession may pass while onlookers throw rose petals in its path. Street vendors ply colourful wares—watermelon slices, ice creams, sticky meringues, bunches of roses, party balloons and piñatas (brightly painted containers full of sweets). Shopkeepers display sacks of corn, quinoa, beans, cinnamon, annatto and cumin. Between services we visit ornate churches with rich oil paintings, gilded altars and aromas of candles and wood incense. We drive to El Panecillo where the statue of the Virgin of Quito stands above the Old City. There are great views across the city to the surrounding volcanoes, given clear skies. After lunch we visit the Equator, passing the monument to the 1736 French expedition’s line, to the true line 200m away. We visit the small Inti-Ñan museum (rickety but fun) which straddles the true line and presents an eclectic mix of folk exhibits and ‘scientific’ demonstrations.

DAY 3
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Amazon

This morning we fly to Coca in the Amazon to board a covered river boat for the 2 hour trip to the Napo Wildlife Centre’s 82 square mile reserve. To minimise disturbance to wildlife, and maximise our chances of seeing it, we switch to dugouts seating 4-6 people. We are paddled along a blackwater creek, stopping to watch wildlife on our way to the lodge, our base for three nights. Resident naturalist guides take us on safari each day, introducing us to the life of the rainforest. We visit two parrot clay licks, have good chances of seeing giant otters in the lake and streams, several of the eleven species of monkey found here, and much else besides. There is a small chance of finding more elusive animals such as jaguar, puma, tapir, giant anteater and giant armadillo. The bird life is remarkable with over 550 species recorded. All rooms have private bathrooms, hot water, 24hr electricity, ceiling fans, insect screens and balconies facing the lake.

DAY 4
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At Napo Wildlife Centre

DAY 5
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At Napo Wildlife Centre.

DAY 6
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Otavalo

Today we fly back to Quito and drive north to Otavalo, where we stay for two nights in either Hacienda Cusín or Hacienda Pinsaqui. We may be able to visit a rose nursery en route where we also have lunch.

DAY 7
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The people of Otavalo and surrounding villages are masters of artisanal crafts. During the day we visit weaving workshops in the village of Peguche, and may stop to visit a family of pan-pipe players and workshops where the pipes are made—with enthusiastic demonstrations. We visit the beautiful crater lake of Cotacachi volcano, and continue to Cotacachi itself, an entire town dedicated to leather goods. Dozens of small shops and smart boutiques offer everything from skilfully made handbags, wallets and jackets to equestrian items for local farmers

DAY 8
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Today being Saturday three distinct markets take place in different parts of Otavalo. You can join an optional pre-breakfast trip to watch farmers trade cows, pigs, sheep and hens at the livestock market. It’s an evocative scene, but is not for everyone (there are terrible squeals from young pigs having their teeth examined by sturdy ladies in billowing skirts, and worse). We re-group for breakfast, then visit the other two markets. At the Mercado de Ponchos you will find every kind of handicraft including wall hangings, naïve art, ceramics, costume jewellery, woven agave knot-less bags, Panama hats, hand-knitted sweaters, woollen scarves and gloves, rag dolls, masks, wood carvings, and musical instruments—and, of course, ponchos. The domestic market sells fruit, flowers, vegetables, groceries and meat, and expands on Saturdays to sell the traditional Otavaleño clothes that are worn with great pride. Watch the interplay between traders and their clients: by custom they haggle in silence. We lunch at a restaurant on the shore of Lake San Pablo at the foot of Imbabura volcano, then drive to Antisana for two nights at Termas Papallacta, a comfortable mountain lodge around thermal springs.

DAY 9
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Antisana and Papallacta

Today is a free day to relax and enjoy the mountain setting and the hot springs. There are short trails for those who just want to stretch their legs, and longer ones for more dedicated walkers. Birdwatchers will particularly enjoy the abundance of hummingbirds. The hotel’s many thermal pools, steaming and bubbling in the open air, are free for hotel guests and there are optional steam rooms, massages, mud wraps and other spa treatments at reasonable extra charges.

DAY 10
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Cotopaxi

We drive south along part of Humboldt’s ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’ to Cotopaxi National Park. On a clear day the views of volcanoes are spectacular. Cotopaxi is the highest active volcano in the world, and one of the most beautiful. Its perfectly symmetrical cone is topped by a gleaming snow cap. We drive up to 4,500m, with wonderful views when the weather is clear. If you are responding well to the altitude you might walk (slowly) the short distance to the mountain refuge at 4,800m, and maybe a little further to touch the lowest tongues of the glacier’s blue-white ice. Many prefer to stay behind enjoying stunning views. We visit the beautiful Limpiopungo Lagoon where herds of wild horses and llamas come to drink. There are vestiges of Incan stone walls and the ruins of the Incan fortress of Pucara. We descend by road to spend a night at the delightful Hacienda Hato Verde.

DAY 11
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The Avenue of the Volcanoes

There will be time this morning to appreciate the hacienda’s gardens, 19th century furnishings and chapel, before we continue south along the Avenue of the Volcanoes to Riobamba. Pausing in the village of Salasaca we visit a simple workshop where mama chumbi (belts) and wawa chumbi (hair braids) are woven in intricate patterns on back-strap looms using wools stained with dye from the agave cactus. Each belt can take 15 days to make. We make a short tour of Riobamba and its market where local Purhuá women wear white bowler hats and red ponchos. We stay for one night in a good quality hotel in a converted hacienda just out of town.

DAY 12
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Devil's Nose Train and Ingapirca

Early this morning you are driven down the avenue of the volcanoes to Alosi. The scenic drive takes you parallel with the railway tracks. Tthere are spectacular views of five volcanoes-mighty Chimborazo, Carihuayrazo, Altar, Tungurahua and Sangay (weather permitting, of course). The drive takes you alongside fields of corn, potatoes, carrots and lima beans, across grassland and alongside lakes to the small town of Alausi. From Alausi you set out on an exciting ride on the Devil’s Nose train, The engineers who constructed the Trans-Andean Railway between Guayaquil on the coast and Quito in the mountains faced incredible challenges of terrain. Their most outstanding accomplishment was the section completed in 1902 known as the Devil’s Nose, where the track descends an almost perpendicular wall of rock in a tight switchback—one of the great railway journeys of the world. You descend on the train, then come back out to the top by train. You will be met back in Alosi by your driver/guide and taken to visit Ingapirca - Ecuador's principal Incan ruins. Ingapirca is an important classic Inca site on the Royal Highway from Cusco to Quito. We visit the ruins and stay nearby at a small hotel in pretty gardens.

DAY 13
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Cuenca

If you are up early today, there is the option of a dawn walk above Ingapirca. After breakfast we drive to the craft villages of Chordeleg, Gualaceo and Sigsig, where a strong tradition of skilled handicrafts can be traced back to pre-Incan cultures. We arrive in the historic city of Cuenca with its flower-filled plazas, cobbled streets and ornate colonial buildings with ancient wooden doors and ironwork balconies. The period of prosperity brought by the export of quinine and ‘Panama’ hats is reflected in the French and neoclassical style influences in the architecture. Several mansions of that period are now characterful well-appointed hotels, such as the one we will stay in for the next two nights.

DAY 14
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We tour the city of Cuenca today, including the principal sights such as the new and the old cathedrals, but also taking the time to explore some of the characterful lesser buildings. There will be an opportunity for some shopping, including a visit to one of the best Panama hat stores.

DAY 15
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Cajas National Park

This morning we visit Cajas National Park, with its beautiful mountain landscapes of dramatic rock outcrops, glacial lakes, moorland and forest. We take a nature walk, perhaps around a small tarn, and explore unusual elfin forests of paperbark trees. After a picnic lunch in the national park we drive to Guayaquil, on the Pacific coast, where we stay one night at a 4* city centre hotel near the ‘iguana square’ by the Cathedral.

DAY 17
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Guayaquil

Ecuador’s largest city and main port is undergoing quite a transformation. We take a morning walk along the revived Malecon - a smartly decked promenade fronting the river, then explore the stepped streets of Santa Ana Hill. In the mid afternoon we drive to the airport for flights home, or onwards to the Galápagos Islands for optional extensions.

Starts in Quito, ends in Guayaquil.

Departure dates and prices

tour code starts ends price per person single supplement
£call £call
EO 19/1 26-Jan-19 10-Feb-19 £3,950 £905
EO 19/2 23-Feb-19 10-Mar-19 £3,950 £905
EO 19/3 04-May-19 19-May-19 £3,950 £905
Prices are per person and include:
  • all travel in Ecuador
  • services of an English speaking local guide throughout
  • all accommodation x 15 nights
  • most meals (except for 2 lunches and 6 dinners)
  • all national park and entry fees
Prices do not include:
  • international flights
  • travel insurance
  • airport and departure taxes
  • items of a personal nature such as drinks, tips, laundry, etc

Customer reviews for 'Ecuador Odyssey'

Average customer rating 95%

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Sacha Lodge and snorkelling in Galapagos

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Rainforest and Galapagos

Seasonal information for 'Ecuador Odyssey'

Along this route in January

Day Location Max °C Monthly rainfall
1 Quito 15°C rainfall 117mm
2 Quito 15°C rainfall 117mm
3 Napo Wildlife Centre 30°C rainfall 229mm
4 Napo Wildlife Centre 30°C rainfall 229mm
5 Napo Wildlife Centre 30°C rainfall 229mm
6 Otavalo 19°C rainfall 90mm
7 Otavalo 19°C rainfall 90mm
8 Otavalo 19°C rainfall 90mm
9 Papallacta 12°C rainfall 84mm
10 Cotopaxi 9°C rainfall 83mm
11 Riobamba 20°C rainfall 37mm
12 Riobamba 20°C rainfall 37mm
12 Ingapirca 15°C rainfall 51mm
13 Cuenca 18°C rainfall 67mm
14 Cuenca 18°C rainfall 67mm
15 Guayaquil 31°C rainfall 172mm
16 Guayaquil 31°C rainfall 172mm

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 'Ecuador Odyssey'

Day 1

Patio Andaluz

Quito historic quarter
rating

Average rating 4.5 (40 ratings)

A sensible, Upper-range hotel that has recently been sympathetically converted from a colonial mansion and is arranged around three internal courtyards. Well located just a few steps from the Plaza de la Independencia, it is extremely convenient for sightseeing among the impressive colonial buildings, museums, ornate churches and romantic plazas of the Old City. The rooms are very spacious with heavy dark wood furnishings and ecclesiastical overtones. There is a restaurant on-site, though many more options on the doorstep in the city.

Patio Andaluz
Standard room
Days 3 - 5

Napo Wildlife Centre

Napo River
rating

Average rating 4.9 (30 ratings)

Napo Wildlife Centre is located within its own 82 square mile reserve area within the Yasuni National Park–a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with the highest documented tree diversity in the world. The Centre was created and built by the Añangu community in partnership with charitable foundations.

The fast boat from Coca drops you by a beautiful creek that meanders into the forest. Here you are met by the lodge staff in small dug-out boats who slowly paddle you along, introducing you to the plants and wildlife of the forest as you travel (the journey can last 1½—2½ hours) . You emerge into a very beautiful oxbow lake with the lodge buildings nestling together on the opposite shore.

The Napo Wildlife Centre lodge offers individual adobe style cabins, spacious and well-screened, with 24hr electricity, fans and gas-heated hot water in en suite bathrooms. There are comfortable bar and dining areas in an large and airy main lodge building, which also offers a roof level viewing platform. Facilities include a canopy platform set in a 120ft ceiba tree. There is a good network of trails and a selection of excellent river excursions. The lodge is well run by experienced managers who are training local people to assist in (and eventually take over) its operation.

The terrain around the lodge (terra firma and varzea forest) is similar to the others on the north side of the Napo but accompanied by small hills which provide a variation of habitat that adds to the range of species that can be seen. An excellent range of wildlife, birds, plants, trees is almost guaranteed and the lodge’s recorded lists of birds, mammals, etc are top rate.

Napo Wildlife Centre
Lodge
Days 6 - 7

Hacienda Cusin

Otavalo
rating

Average rating 4.8 (16 ratings)

Hacienda Cusin is a restored 17th-century Andean hacienda. It is located close to Otavalo, next to the San Pablo Lake, and has attractive and extensive gardens. All rooms have private bathrooms some with their own fireplaces, whilst there is Wi-Fi throughout. In reception there are hot-water bottles available and there are over 20 activities, tours and expeditions available including horseriding to book locally.

Hacienda Cusin
Side wing
Days 8 - 9

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
Day 10

Hacienda La Cienega

Lasso
rating

Average rating 4.1 (17 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 11

Abraspungo

nr Riobamba
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Average rating 4.5 (20 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
Day 12

Posada Ingapirca

Ingapirca

A converted farmhouse, enviably situated just a few hundred yards from the Inca ruins at Ingapirca. The 22 rooms are modest but with lots of character and are spacious, carpeted and have private bathrooms. Hot water bottles are provided at night.

Posada Ingapirca
Lounge area
Day 13

Hotel Santa Lucia

Cuenca centre

This well located boutique-style hotel is a restored republican house dating from 1859. It is  in the centre of town, close to Parque Central. It has 20 bedrooms each with private bathrooms, hairdryer and plasma TV.

Hotel Santa Lucia
Restaurant
Day 14

Santa Lucia

downtown Cuenca
rating

Average rating 4.3 (9 ratings)

Built by the provincial governor in 1859, this mansion is set around three internal courtyards and in the manner of the best houses of that time was beautifully restored and converted into a first rate hotel, opening in 2002. The style is traditional and opulent with polished wood floors, luxurious fabrics and period furnishings, with the courtyard layout bringing a sense of quiet spaciousness. Hostería Santa Lucia has 20 bedrooms, each well furnished and generously sized and is conveniently located for independent city sightseeing.

Santa Lucia
Internal courtyard
Day 15

Hampton Inn, Guayaquil

downtown
rating

Average rating 5.0 (2 ratings)

The Hampton Inn is a functional hotel located close to Parque Bolivar where local families take their children to feed the resident iguanas. It is a few blocks away from the malecon which can be easily reached on foot and the hotel comprises of 95 rooms and has a gym and an indoor swimming pool. You can choose from Ecuadorian or International food at the restaurant on site, including a sushi restaurant. Internet access is in all guest rooms and public areas.

Hampton Inn, Guayaquil
King room