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Ecuador Uncovered

High Andes to Amazon | View photos »

Beautiful cloudforest birds, timeless Andean highlands. Hot springs and snowcapped volcanoes. This in-depth journey through Ecuador’s diverse landscapes includes a stay with a remote Amazon community.

17 day trip described, guide price £3,020pp i

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Map of the area

"Went like clockwork"

"Went like clockwork"

We cannot thank you enough for a really fantastic itinerary that you put together for us. At every stage everything worked well. There was always someone to meet us at the appointed time and the trip went like clockwork. Mark M

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Sample itinerary

Travel to Ecuador

Fly from the UK to Quito today.You should arrive in the Ecuadorian capital early this evening. The city is quite high, so take it easy and drink plenty of fluids, and you should be fine by the morning. Transfer to your comfortable hotel, located in one of the quieter parts of the city.

Beautiful Quito

Your guide comes to the hotel this morning to take you for a full day tour. Quito is positioned on the flanks of the Pichincha Volcano, and is home to perhaps the best-preserved colonial centre in Latin America (now UNESCO-listed). Explore the historic centre to learn about the city’s colonial past, perhaps dropping into the Government Palace en route.

Travel to the cloudforest

After a relaxed morning you are collected by your guide for the two-hour drive up to the cloudforest. Mornings are spent exploring, afternoons tend to be relaxed affairs as you rest at the lodge. From the lodge you can watch birds come and go. These include such species as the Golden-headed Quetzal and Choco Toucan.

Take in the wildlife

A normal day here starts early with a guided walk to observe the cloudforest canopy as it comes to life. If you are lucky you will see toucans, parrots and maybe the beautiful Andean cock of the rock. Relax this afternoon on a hammock enjoying the sights and sounds of the forest.

Travel to the highlands

This afternoon, you and your guide will head off for the drive to the Imbabura region. Arrive at your hotel on a mountainside about ten minutes’ drive from the colourful market town of Otavalo. Stay in your own adobe cottage with beautiful views of the countryside. Relax on the terrace or have a dip in the hot tub before dinner.

Walk around a crater lake

Today you might stretch your legs with a walk around Cuicocha Lake; an impressive crater lake of the Cotacachi volcano half an hour’s drive from Otavalo. On a clear day you can see the snow-capped peaks of Cayambe and Cotopaxi volcanoes. Visit the world famous Otavalo market en route back to the hotel. It is touristy but full of local textiles, ponchos, blankets, hats and wall hangings.

Andean food and markets

If you like your food then you might choose to spend today in the kitchen. Start in the lodge’s garden to harvest what you can. Carry on to one of the local markets to buy the remaining ingredients. This is a unique opportunity to learn about Andean cuisine and ingredients, many of which are likely to be quite unknown to you. Enjoy all your hard work this evening.

Travel to hot springs

Travel east into the foothills of the Andes to the east of Quito to stay in a comfortable hotel at the hot springs of Papallacta. Stay in a hotel set on the side of the valley just above the village of Papallacta. The hotel has its own outdoor hot springs with spectacular views up the mountains.

Relax in hot springs

Spend today relaxing in the hot springs or you can venture out to explore some of the surrounding mountains. Leading directly from the hotel are some self-guided trails or you can join a formal guided excursion into the mountains if you are feeling more active.

Travel to Cotopaxi

Set off south towards the Avenue of the Volcanoes. You may have time to visit the Pasochoa Reserve en route. Walk a trail to the collapsed crater of the extinct volcano. Arrive at Cotopaxi and stay in a friendly hacienda close to the entrance to Cotopaxi National Park. On a clear day you can see the volcano from the dining room.

Visit Cotopaxi national park

At nearly 5,900m Cotopaxi is the world’s highest active volcano. The national park which covers the skirts of the mountain are home to a wide variety of birds including condor, as well as llama, wild horses and deer. You can arrange tours locally through your hotel.

Travel to the Amazon

You will be picked up after breakfast for the 3-4 hour drive down to Shell (named after the oil company) through the Avenue of Volcanoes to catch your flight into the Amazon. Continue by dugout canoe to Huaorani Ecolodge. On arrival you will be greeted by your guide and given a brief introductory talk about the Huaorani tribe before dinner.

Canoe to clay lick

Visit a salt-clay lick, a popular haunt for a variety of animals and birds who use it as a valuable source of nutrients. This evening enjoy a night safari - since most rainforest animals are nocturnal this is your best opportunity to see some of these elusive creatures, or at least hear them climbing through the trees or digging for food.

Visit the local village

Today you learn the secrets of survival in the rainforest. You are taught how to set traps, make fire without matches, build a shelter in minutes, use a blowgun, practice the perfect swing of the machete, and catch fish in small creeks. Your guide may also show you edible insects, medicinal plants, the right clay to make pottery, and honey produced by stingless bees.

Camp in the jungle

After breakfast, wave goodbye to the lodge and set off punting down the Shiripuno River in traditional Huaorani style. This six hour journey takes you close to the Huaorani village of Nenkepare where you camp for the night. If the weather holds, have dinner around a campfire this evening.

Leave the Huaorani

After several days enjoying pristine jungle, today brings the plight of the rainforest and the Huaorani tribe into stark reality as you reach the border between the traditional Huaorani territory and that of the petroleum companies. The effects of deforestation are extremely vivid. Arrive at the small but growing town of Coca from where you catch a flight back to Quito.

Travel home

You will probably have the morning at leisure for a final bit of shopping or looking around Quito. Transfer to the airport later for your overnight flight home.

About this trip


Beautiful cloudforest birds, timeless Andean highlands. Hot springs and snowcapped volcanoes. This in-depth journey through Ecuador’s diverse landscapes includes a stay with a remote Amazon community.

How adventurous?

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1 2 3 4 5
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Best time to go i

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Level of activity

Though primarily a cultural journey through Ecuador, an important part of this trip is spent outdoors at fairly high altitudes of around 3,000m.

In the cloudforest, you will tend to walk into the surrounding areas on bird watching excursions, nothing too demanding. There are other activities available such as mountain biking or horse riding in order to be more active but most are happy to really just enjoy sit back and enjoy nature here. The lodge here is built entirely along sustainable lines but is very comfortable indeed.

Around the Imbabura area and down in Cotopaxi the days are spent exploring the high crater lakes and mountains. Because you have a private guide, you can set the pace which best suits you.

As well as comfortable lodges and inns really throughout this trip, you get to relax in hot springs for a couple of nights before moving into the Amazon.

The journey into the Amazon to stay with the Huaorani people is something of an adventure in itself, a small plane ride to the village landing strip and then off into the remote jungle by dugout canoe. Leaving the Amazon you can kayak downriver and out of the Huaorani lands.

The lodge you stay in is comfortable, cabins are well separated to give privacy and a sense of remoteness. The last night in the jungle is spent at a permanent camp where conditions are more basic. This in addition to the inevitable heat and humidity makes this a potentially physically draining part of the trip. The incredible cultural interactions of this experience more than compensate for that.

The weather in Ecuador’s highlands is at its rainiest in February, other than that, this trip works well at any time of year – after all, Ecuador is on the equator and therefore fairly steady in terms of weather. In the Amazon, you should expect rain, heat and humidity at all times of the year.

Level of culture

Ecuador is a melting pot of a country, almost bewildering in its diversity. For that reason, the first thing we do with you when you get there is give you a day with our guide in Quito. He takes you into the heart of the city and then up onto the mountain next door to give you a sense of the place from all different perspectives.

Up in the cloudforest, the lodge we use is built entirely of materials sourced from the surroundings. It could hardly be more integrated into its surroundings, both physical and community. The staff, cooks, guides are all dedicated to this precious cloudforest ecosystem.

Imbabura is a region well known by tourists – Otovalo market is here. However, staying just a few miles away, you experience a very much lesser- known Ecuador. Villages, communities working the land, schools set up on shoestring budgets, artisans skillfully carving and weaving to make a living. Your stay up here is an opportunity to meet ‘ordinary’ people living in beautiful surroundings.

Travelling south of Quito brings you to traditional markets, Andean villages and the occasional 17th century hacienda. Throughout this part of your journey, your private guide is a fantastic resource for you to really understand and appreciate Ecuador.

The Huaorani Lodge is one of the most innovative cultural experiences in South America. Genuinely community based tourism guided by experts in international travel has led to a blue print for constructive interaction. The Huaorani lands are under constant threat from loggers and oil prospectors. It is this threat that has led them to reach out from their previous isolation. The better people understand the threats the Huaorani face, the greater their network of advocates and therefore their protection.

For this reason, this Amazon experience is not simply about seeing the flora and fauna, it is about meeting and interacting with the people who call this part of the jungle their home. This runs the risk of sounding overly ‘worthy’ and therefore dull. It isn’t. Well, it is very worthwhile but it isn’t ‘worthy’, it’s fun. We’re talking about learning how to use a blow-pipe, swimming in the river, sheltering from the rain under a massive palm leaf, sitting with the villagers sharing a joke, or a tune, whatever it is that happens to happen that day.
The most common reaction on arriving in the community is for visitors to feel some degree of pity for people who, materially, have very little indeed. The most common feedback on leaving is something along the lines of ‘the Huaorani have got it right’.

Please note that the final day of this part of the trip is a drive along the ‘toxic highway’ which services the oil pipeline to the city of Shell. After a few days in the depths of the Amazon, to emerge onto a stinking, polluted road illustrates dramatically the challenges faced by the Huaorani. It is very effective but this is a political experience to a degree and one which can be very challenging, culturally, for the visitor.


We have a detailed itinerary for this trip, as set out above. If you would like a copy, please get in touch and we can email it over to you.

Ultimately though, this is a tailor made trip so we would love to have time to talk to you in order to send the most appropriate proposal to you.

In the form set out above, the holiday price includes internal flights, very good quality hotel accommodation, guiding, activities, excursions and entrances as per our detailed itinerary. Naturally, on each and every one of our holidays, we include Pura’s expertise, local contacts, support and advice throughout, along with the reassurance of our financial protection and safety auditing.

Flights are quoted separately for this holiday. Best flight routings are to fly in and out of Quito (airport code: UIO).


Departs on a date to suit you, March through January.

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The described itinerary is just a taster of what this trip could involve. We would work with you to tailor your personal trip.


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The beautiful Cuicocha Lake in the Ecuadorian Andes The colonial heart of Quito The cable car up to the heights above Quito Guide leading a visit to the cloud forest of Mindo At the El Monte Lodge in Ecuador's cloudforest Looking out from Casa Mojanda in Ecuador's Imbabura area Beautiful walking around the Mojanda lake in Ecuador Fruit and vegetables for sale in Saquisilli market The Papallacta hot springs in the Ecuadorian Andes The lake high above the Papallacta hot springs, Ecuador Looking out over the Cotopaxi volcano A rare clear day at Cotopaxi volcano, Ecuador Beautiful rainbow over the Huaorani lands in Ecuador Community guides show you their jungle Cheeky Huaorani boy proving that it's also fun here A community guide and an English speaking guide are always with you Flying over the Amazon towards the Huaorani lands, Ecuador Blue and yellow macaws in the Tambopata Reserve