Pint-sized Ecuador is a South American country that packs a punch with the diversity of its of peoples, landscapes and cultures. Your tour of the Ecuadorian Andes begins in Quito, the capital city, nestled beneath Pichincha Volcano at 2,900 meters above sea level. Here you will find the best preserved colonial town of the Americas, which in 1978 became the first UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site. A short drive from Quito lies the equatorial line, where it’s possible to stand with one foot in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern half of the planet. Quito is of course situated in the Andes, which run down the center of the country and are home to some of the most colorful ethnic communities – each with their own traditional dress and customs. To the north of Quito is the town of Otavalo, where indigenous people gather at the country’s most famous handicrafts market. In addition, in this region is found the Afro-Ecuadorian town of Salinas, which will give you a look at yet another group that makes up this vibrant and diverse nation. And while in that area, you will also go on the romantic “Wines and Roses” excursion to a local rose farm and a winery.
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Upon your arrival in Quito — the capital of Ecuador, situated in a dramatic mountain setting at 1.7 miles (!) above sea level — you will be welcomed by our guide and driven to your hotel to rest.
On this one-day tour, we will visit the historic district of the Ecuadorian capital, enjoying this urban jewel and its artistic and architectural treasures. One of the largest and best preserved colonial centers in South America, Quito’s “Old Town” area was declared the first “World Heritage Site” by UNESCO, in 1978.
The visit to the historic center begins with the Basilica del Voto Nacional, one of the largest churches in Ecuador and one of the most important works of Ecuadorian neo-gothic architecture. While the outside of the building stands out for its stone carvings that represent plants and animals of the country, the inside consists of 24 chapels. Beneath the structure are crypts in which lie the remains of several former presidents of the Republic, and on top of the 100-meter-tall church is a beautiful gazebo that also serves as a small cafe.
We will continue on to the always vibrant Plaza Grande (“Independence Square”), which is surrounded by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishop’s Palace. We will then visit the church of the “Compañia de Jesus” to find its impressive interior inlaid in gold.
Your tour of historic Quito will end with a birds-eye view of the city from the panoramic “Virgin of Quito” monument atop El Panecillo Hill, which overlooks the capital. This will give us a chance to appreciate Quito from above, and – if the weather permits – to catch a view of the spectacular “Volcano Avenue,” two parallel mountain ranges containing eight of the country’s ten highest peaks.
From here, we will continue our journey 15 miles north of Quito to the Mitad del Mundo (“Middle of the World”), the monument on equator that was built to commemorate the French scientists who in the 1830s made history by determining the shape of the planet thanks to their studies at this location.
Next to the monument is “Middle of the World City,” a village built in a colonial style – with a main square, a church, a post office, a bullring, restaurants and many souvenir and crafts shops.
The highlight is the equatorial line running along latitude of 0° 0’ 0.” Here, you will be able to stand with one foot in each of the earth’s hemispheres – a great photo op!
We will also visit the Intiñan Solar Museum, where you will have the opportunity to perform various unusual experiments like balancing an egg on a nail, losing weight in a second, or straddling the equatorial line that separates the two hemispheres.
After the visit, we will drive you back to your hotel.
In the morning we will begin this trip from Quito, heading north along the Pan-American Highway and making a brief stop in the town of Miralago for a superb view of Lake San Pablo. During this stop, you will also have a chance to taste delicious bizcochos, a type of cookie or bread baked in a clay oven and covered with local cheese or caramel sauce.
From there we will head to the town of Otavalo, home to Ecuador's largest indigenous market and one of the best known in all of Latin America. The market sets up every day, allowing you to spend a few hours wandering through this bustling handicrafts center, in addition to its food stalls.
Later, it will be up to you if you'd like to go for a short hike around beautiful Cuicocha Lake or do a bit more Otavalo shopping and people watching.
We can also visit a family of weavers who not only have amazing wares but will actually demonstrate how they weave on their traditional back-strap looms and show you how they make striking colors from local plants. Around the corner from there lives a family of musicians, where you’ll get a feel for Andean music and watch as perfectly tuned Andean flutes are crafted in minutes.
After a delicious breakfast at your hotel in Otavalo, you will be driven to the town’s train station. This will be the beginning of today’s journey to the Salinas area.
The train’s route, allows travelers to visit places near Otavalo to learn about this region’s customs, history, crafts and textiles.
The train will take you through striking landscapes to reach the predominantly Afro-Ecuadorian town of Salinas. There, travelers will be welcomed with a cultural presentation by a local traditional dance group. After touring the city and learning about its traditions, you will return to Otavalo in a private vehicle or train.
Note: The train travels on Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Discover exquisite aromas and a tremendous variety of colors on one of the most exclusive excursions for discerning people who love nature and fine wine. Owing to the quality and variety of its roses, Ecuador is a major exporter of these fragrant and colorful flowers. And, precisely because of the attractiveness of these roses, many rose nurseries have also become involved tourism activities, showing off the more than 300 varieties of roses grown here – some with stems extending more than six feet!
On this trip, you will have the opportunity to visit one of these rose-growing companies in the Ecuadorian Andes. During this excursion, you can arrange your own bouquet, possibly finding yourself in the middle of a field filled with these colorful flowers or posing next to ones taller than you.
Continuing this day of romantic activities, you will visit the most important vineyard in the area to see for yourself how wine is made. To cap this off, you will be able to sample those delicious equatorial wines and homemade cheese.
In the afternoon, you will be driven back to your airport-area hotel in Quito.
After breakfast at your hotel, we will be driven to the airport for your international flight home or for a trip extension to the enchanted Galapagos Islands.
|16 Person(s)||4 - 7 Person(s)||2 Person(s)|
|First Class||US$ 970|
|Tourist||US$ 1,150||US$ 1,431|
|Quito||Fuente de Piedra||Patio Andaluz||Casa Gangotena|
|Otavalo||Las Palmeras de Quichinche||Hacienda Pinsaqui||La Mirage|
|Quito (Airport)||Rincon de Puembo||Casa de Hacienda La Jimenita (Standard)||Casa de Hacienda La Jimenita (Suite)|
“The trip was excellent from beginning to end. The Isabella II was a fine ship and the crew and guides were all of the highest quality. I would recommend them to others. For us, the ship was the perfect size – not too small and not too large”