Ecuador: Culture & Nature
The best of Ecuador including Quito's historic district, the Avenue of the Volcanoes, indigenous cultures of the north, and the Amazon in a short time and at a relaxed pace.
From: $3,750 | 9 DAYS | ECUADOR
Ecuador: Culture & Nature Trip Highlights
- Explore colonial Quito and its UNESCO World Heritage architecture
- Stay at a historic hacienda in tranquil countryside and visit off-the-beated-path villages
- Barter for wares with colorfully dressed artisans from varied indigenous groups in South America’s most vibrant market
- Watch for condors while walking among Andean landscapes and exploring the Avenue of Volcanoes
- Discover the Amazon and its diverse wildlife with relaxing evenings in a luxurious jungle lodge
This relaxed nine-day, privately-guided Ecuador tour is an in-depth exploration of the diverse landscapes and people comprising that comprise Ecuador. Spot hummingbirds while walking a volcano crater, stay at a historic hacienda, be a part of Ecuador’s indigenous heritage in South America’s most famed market, and explore the Amazon’s flora and fauna while staying in a luxurious jungle lodge.
DAY 1 • Quito
Arrive Quito. Transfer to hotel in historic district (most flights arrive late).
DAY 2 • Quito
Explore Quito’s colonial heritage visiting popular and lesser-known sites, neighborhoods from historic to bohemian while learning about the nation’s history and people.
DAY 3 • Otavalo
Heading north visit two historic haciendas lunching at one, as well as a rose plantation en route to Otavalo – a northern outpost for a variety of indigenous peoples from the nearby countryside. Explore South America’s most culturally intriguing market. Overnight in a charming hacienda.
DAY 4 • Otavalo Countryside
Setting out into the surrounding countryside, take a rejuvenating walk around volcanic crater lake Cuicocha spotting myriad humming bird species. Experience a luxurious lunch at 200-year old La Mirage Hacienda before visiting small towns known for leather and wood works before relaxing back at your hacienda.
DAY 5 • Antisana Volcano
Being driven south along the ‘avenue of the volcanoes’ arrive to off-the-beaten-path Antisana Volcano. Enjoy a scenic walk along Antisana Gorge watching for Andean condors before a gourmet lunch and unwinding at Hacienda Santa Ana in the countryside.
DAY 6 • Amazon Jungle – Napo Wildlife Center
Short jet flight to Yasuni National Park in the Amazon Basin. Adventure by motorized and traditional dugout canoe through the Amazon arriving to Napo Wildlife Center – a deluxe lodge pioneering cultural and environmental sustainability. Sip a welcome drink, relax in your private cottage, dine on gourmet meals from fresh, local products, and choose from a variety of excursions during your stay. Start off with a caiman search tonight.
DAY 7 • Amazon Jungle – Napo Wildlife Center
Visit a clay lick to see parrots, parakeets and macaws. Hike to the Kichwa community of Anangu sharing with villagers learning of their culture and traditions. Picnic lunch while spotting flora and fauna before returning to the lodge.
DAY 8 • Amazon Jungle – Napo Widlife Center
A morning walk on a jungle trail takes you to a 120-foot canopy tower. Ascend through different forest levels emerging to see the jungle as only the birds do and spot wildlife amongst the canopy. Hike in the afternoon or go by dugout canoe looking for wildlife.
DAY 9 • Amazon Jungle – Quito – Home
Watch for giant otters, monk saki monkeys and rare birds while canoeing back to the Napo River. Continue by motorized canoe and onward for your flight back to Quito and onward home.
Is It For Me?
An ideal Ecuador trip for those looking for a relaxed, comprehensive and inspired exploration of mainland Ecuador’s wide-ranging cultures and landscapes.
Knowmad has vast knowledge and operating capacities in Ecuador: this is a private trip and we are happy to modify excursions, accommodations, and the flow of the itinerary to perfectly suit your travel style and interests.
Have questions? Talk to an expert: 612-315-2894
Listed prices are approximations. All Knowmad trips are custom and exact pricing is provided in your trip proposal.
- From $3,750 per person / 2 travelers
TYPEFlexible Date Private Departures
LIGHT TRIPActivities include cultural opportunities, wildlife viewing, history, shopping, light hiking.
DEPARTUREsYear round; can be set up to match your dates.
LENGTh9 days – 8 nights comfortable hotels
BEGIN / END Quito, Ecuador
INTERNATIONAL Airfare is not included in the land cost of our trips. You may arrange your international airfare independently, or we are happy to offer our feedback and assistance in helping you book it.
regional If booked by Knowmad Adventures, internal airfare for this trip (Quito/Coca/Quito) averages $200, however this is an approximation and the airfare is subject to change upon booking. If you would like to arrange your own regional flights, please consult us prior so we can verify the departure and arrival times.
Ready for the trip of a lifetime? Signing up is easy. Call us at 612-315-2894 or email [email protected] and reserve your spot. Or simply download our registration form, fill it out, and send it back to us along with your trip deposit. Please refer to registration form for terms & conditions.
Weather & When to Go to Ecuador
As Ecuador is located on the Equator, there is little seasonal differentiation and it is a great year-round destination. Although there is a slightly wetter season and a slightly drier season, there is little predictability and these variations differ from region to region, as Ecuador is so geographically diverse.
Quito and the highlands enjoy comfortable temperatures, usually in the 60s F (15-20 C) during the day and occasional showers. The Amazon regions are hot (85-90 F, 30-32 C), humid and it can rain year-round. The rainy season is from April to June, but a nice rain is often welcomed in the warmth.
Prior to your departure, you are provided a detailed pre-trip information packet including a recommended pack list, information about the regions you’ll be visiting, suggested readings, up-to-date health information including any recommended vaccinations and more.
Our trips feature comfortable accommodations that complement their surroundings. We seek out intimacy and character, but never sacrifice cleanliness and security. We also find the best value for quality. In general, our physically moderate to vigorous trips feature hotels classified as 3+ to 4 stars, while less physically demanding trips feature 4+ to 5 star hotels.
As South American travel specialists, we’re experts and have inspected hundreds of properties. Knowmad is happy to suggest upgrades and alternative hotels based on your preferences to ensure your trip is perfect for you. Photos below are from this itinerary’s preferred accommodations. For more specifics, call or write to request more info.
Accommodations featured in this itinerary are the following:
Day 1 Quito
Upon arrival (most international arrivals will be late at night) you’ll be met at the airport by a Knowmad Adventures representative and taken to your accommodations centrally located in a historic Quito neighborhood.
Day 2 Quito
Head out with your guide to explore Quito following breakfast. Explore the historic Basilica before taking in the architecture of the Calle de Siete Cruces (street of the Seven Crosses), which was an Incan route to their center of worship, and consequently the avenue most transformed by conquering Christians and reflective of their architectural influence. The seven crosses erected were an effort to convert indigenous peoples. Walking along the avenue takes you to the Plaza de la Independencia where you visit one of the oldest cathedrals in South America: La Catedral de Quito where a plaque marks the spot where a former president was killed. Stop in at the Metropolitan Cultural Center and visit the Plaza de San Francisco and its church, which was the Tiaguez, or main market place, dating back to pre-Incan times. The church’s museum houses thousands of Latin American art which reflect the mix of indigenous and European styles.
Enjoy a delicious lunch at Plaza Grande, visit a typical sweet shop, and enjoy great people watching. Continue along historic Bolivar Street and La Ronda, said to be the first street built in Quito and a haven for artists and poets. Here you can visit artisan families, one specializing in candles for religious processions and another of hatmakers.
Day 3 Otavalo
Following breakfast you will make the two-hour drive north to Otavalo. En route stop at a historic hacienda and an adjacent rose plantation learning of their cultivation and worldwide exportation. Arriving in Otavalo, enjoy a traditional lunch at Hacienda Pinsaqui. Following lunch continue on to the Otavalo Market, the biggest and most important indigenous market in all Latin America. The colorful main handicraft and textile market spills into the streets from the central Plaza de Ponchos, the colorful produce market impresses by sheer number, and the cacophony of the animal market is to the outskirts of town. The friendly Otavalenos are more than happy to talk about their crafts and traditions. After exploring this feast for the senses, head back to your charming accommodations at Hacienda Cusin.
Day 4 Otavalo Countryside
Following breakfast at the hacienda, you will set out into the surrounding countryside. Arrive to the active volcanic crater lake of Cuicocha taking a leisurely hike around the rim of the crater while spotting unique flora, myriad humming bird species and other birds and wildlife. Following a nice hike enjoy a luxurious lunch at La Mirage on the grounds of a lavish 200-year old hacienda. From there visit the small town Cotacachi, known for its leather goods, and also visit the village San Antonio de Ibarra known for its woodworkers.
Day 5 Antisana Volcano
Head south back towards Quito this morning along the ‘avenue of the volcanoes’ arriving to the off-the-beaten path Antisana Volcano. Enjoy a light hike along the Antisana Gorge for an hour or so to the base of Chuzalungos (the name comes from an indigenous legend that speaks of mountain goblins), three peaks formed by an ancient horseshoe shaped crater. Watch for Andean condors while hiking through the gorgeous landscape. Following your hike, enjoy an exquisite gourmet lunch at a nearby restaurant before returning to the nearby Hacienda Santa Ana to enjoy the solitude of the Ecuadorian countryside.
Day 6 Amazon Jungle – Napo Wildlife Center
Getting an early start to the day, after a hearty countryside breakfast you will be taken to the Quito airport for a short flight (by jet) to Yasuni National Park in the Amazon Basin. After arriving to the dock, board a large, motorized canoe for a scenic two-hour trip downriver. Transfer to smaller dugout canoes and be paddled up the black water creek to the Napo Wildlife Center – an environmentally friendly lodge that offers a luxurious experience deep in an isolated setting perfect for spotting the flora and fauna the Amazon is famous for. Along the way it’s possible to see a variety of monkey species as well as large birds like toucans, parrots and macaws. After an hour or so the creek opens to an overwhelming view of the Anangu Lake where perched along the banks is the Napo Wildlife Center. Enjoy a welcome drink and briefing while your luggage is transferred to your private jungle cottage. After dinner you may choose to go on an excursion around the lake to spot caimans.
Your stay at the lodge includes gourmet meals and a variety of excursions to choose from according to your interests and preferences. The following is a sample itinerary.
Day 7 Amazon Jungle – Napo Wildlife Center
Rise early to reach one of Ecuador’s best parrot clay licks. A total of 11 species of parrots, parakeets and macaws can be seen at the naturally created feeding ground. Later, hike along a forest trail to visit the Kichwa community of Anangu meeting villagers and learning of their culture, customs and traditions. Return to the creek and hike through the forest for half hour until arriving to the second parrot clay lick where you can find different bird species. Enjoy a tasty picnic lunch at the observatory before a late-afternoon return to the lodge.
Day 8 Amazon Jungle – Napo Wildlife Center
A short morning hike on a jungle trail takes you to a 120-foot canopy tower. As you ascend the 12-floor tower pass through different levels of the forest emerging on top of a huge ceiba tree. Cross onto a platform built into the tree and view the Amazon as only the birds do. Flocks of colorful tanagers pass right through the canopy, blue and yellow macaws soar past, spicer monkeys search for fruit in nearby trees, two species of toucans make regular early-morning visits, and the life of the forest canopy opens before you. Birds virtually impossible to see from the forest floor are suddenly right beside you, oblivious to your presence. Have a gourmet lunch full of fresh local products back at the lodge, and enjoy an afternoon hike through primary forest watching for a variety of lizards and amphibians, colorful manakins and endemic golden mantle tamarin monkeys. Explore the lake and creeks by dugout canoe with great possibilities of seeing a giant otter (an extremely endangered species) and take in an Amazonian sunset.
Day 9 Amazon Jungle – Quito – Home
Watch for giant otters, monk saki monkeys and a variety of other rare birds while canoeing through the lake and black water creek to the Napo River. After using the restrooms return by motorized canoe and onward to the Coca airport for your flight back to Quito and onward home.
Extend Your Adventure
After a thorough exploration of mainland Ecuador, fly west to the Pacific for a Galapagos adventure cruise.
This incredibly vast archaeological site – lost to the world until well into the twentieth century – is perched amidst Andean peaks and lush cloud forest making it as breathtaking as it is intriguing. Arrive by train or by a day’s hike on the Inca Trail.
Let The Journey Begin
Planning a trip to South America might seem a little overwhelming at first. Knowmad offers door-to-door trip planning: first, we listen, and then we help you navigate the seasonal differences and itinerary options, resulting in a holistic, seamless, and custom-crafted experience, all at a guaranteed best value.
The simplest way to get started is to give us a call at 612-315-2894or to fill out this short form so we can learn more about your travel preferences.