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Beautiful cloudforest birds, timeless Andean highlands. Pristine Amazon rainforest and snowcapped volcanoes. This in-depth journey through Ecuador’s incredibly diverse landscapes is designed to take you into the most fascinating landscapes and cultures of the country.
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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.
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.
Take a short morning flight into the Amazon basin. From the airstrip in town you will be collected to board the 3.5 hour motor boat downriver. Depending on water levels you may need to hike half an hour through the forest to transfer to a dugout canoe which takes you across the lake to your remote eco-bungalows, set on the lakeshore. You are guided all the while so as you travel, you are being introduced to your surroundings.
Your lodge is unique in being situated on the shores of such a large lake, located in the northern reaches of the Yasuni National Park, just south of the Rio Napo. The remoteness of the lodge has helped preserve in an incredible species diversity intact. During the day guests are divided up into small groups, each led by a Kichwa guide and an Ecuadorian naturalist and interpreter. What you are learning about is therefore a combination of the natural world and the human interaction with the environment such as the biology of the rainforest, including medicinal plants.
Rise early to see and hear the rainforest come to life as you walk into the terra-firma forest looking for white-faced Capuchin monkeys and three-toed sloth or even a tapir. At the end of the day as night falls, you'll see a whole new cast of animals emerge.
The small scale of the lodge means that there is much greater autonomy and flexibility over each day's activities, and fewer numbers of course mean better wildlife spotting opportunities. You will almost certainly see several of 11 species of monkeys which live here. If you are lucky you might also see a giant otter. The birdwatching around the lodge is world class, with approaching 600 species recorded.
After a final hike in the forest you are collected by your guide for the return journey by river and air to Quito, from where it's a two-hour drive up to the cloudforest. Settle into your simple, though rather charming, lodge this afternoon and rest after your journey. From the lodge you can watch birds come and go. These include such species as the Golden-headed Quetzal and Choco Toucan.
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. For more activity, there's biking and river tubing available, you can sign up locally. Relax this afternoon on a hammock enjoying the sights and sounds of the forest.
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.
Head into the park with your private guide today. 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.
Today is yours to explore as you please. You can arrange activities locally through your hotel depending on your mood and local conditions. Head back into Cotopaxi Park today, either on foot along the self-guided trails, or by hiring a mountain bike or horse to get around. Alternatively, you could hire a driver to take you south to the crater lake of Quilotoa and the surrounding villages.
Assuming an evening departure, you can afford a leisurely start, or head out for another hike this morning, before your transfer north to Quito later. You are collected at the appropriate time to arrive at the airport and check-in for your homeward flight.
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
Beautiful cloudforest birds, timeless Andean highlands. Pulsing Amazon rainforest and snowcapped volcanoes. This in-depth journey through Ecuador’s incredibly diverse landscapes is designed to take you into the most fascinating landscapes and cultures of the country.
This holiday is not overly demanding physically though being tailor made, we can tweak the level of exertion on mainland Ecuador to some extent – longer walks, horse rides and hiking Cotopaxi National Park are always possible. However, the journey has been conceived to introduce you to the landscapes, wildlife and people of Ecuador at an enjoyable pace.
Though primarily a cultural exploration of Ecuador, you should be aware that the altitude of your overnight stays in Quito and the Avenue of the Volcanoes ranges from 2,800m-3,000m above sea level, going much higher on certain days. Acclimatisation is factored into our itinerary, but if you have a history of difficulty at altitude, please let us know in order that we build in extra time for you.
In the cloudforest, you will tend to walk into the surrounding areas on bird watching excursions, nothing too demanding. You can rent mountain bikes here or even ride an inflatable down the river in order to be more active. Down in Cotopaxi, you stay in some comfort at night but 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.
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.
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 to give you a sense of the place from an insider's perspective.
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.
In the Amazon people expect the wildlife but generally forget the human aspect of the rainforest. Our favourite lodge is owned and operated by the Kichwa community of the region, so most of your guides are indigenous to the area, and therefore able to interpret and translate an environment impenetrable to the average outsider.
Travelling south of Quito brings you to snow-capped volcanoes, Andean villages and the occasional 17th century hacienda. It's hard to imagine a more contrasting way of life than these surroundings with the first part of your trip in these surroundings.
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 good quality hotel accommodation, guiding and transportation, 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 into and out of Quito (airport code: UIO).
Departs on a date to suit you, March through January.
Contact us today to start planning your own personal adventure
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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