Imanalla! That’s hello in Kichwa. Pint-sized Ecuador is a South American country that packs a punch with the diversity of its of peoples, landscapes and cultures. Talking about diversity, the greeting in Kichwa above? It’s in Imbaburean dialect (there are dozens of dialects). In this journey, we invite you to experience the Ecuadorian region. Its proximity to a major city (as a matter of fact, it is one of the most popular things to do near Quito), variety in activities and authenticity of both the haciendas and communal visits make this small yet dynamic land a perfect setting for immersing into an authentic Andes cultural experience – definitely, a unique tour in Ecuador.
Your journey 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. Though the largest market takes place every Saturday morning, do not worry, in other days, there are plenty of things you can still see. Here, by the way, we encourage some travelers to “bargain” for a one-time experience; it is a very common practice among this community. If you need an extra-help, you can always request us a Kichwa-speaking guide (wink). Additionally in this region, there is 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. Though our wines may not be globally-renowned, our roses definitely are. Try the rose jam – very aromatic and subtle in taste. It is also a perfect opportunity to select your own “eternal rose” for an impressive souvenir to take back home.
All these, while you stay in the most authentic luxury haciendas in Ecuador. Many of them are historically important edifices. You will stay in haciendas with three centuries of history, another owned by the local indigenous community, one that has been specializing in the production of cheeses for generations – you can actually participate in a workshop – and much more. Most of them use their own organically-grown ingredients for their meals; some of them even offering “super foods” such as the amaranth and quinoa. If you would like to add a more adventurous experience, you can always go out mountain biking or horseback riding! Thus, Ecuadorian Andes tours are perfect options for those looking what to do besides the Galapagos.
“My wife and I just completed a 5-day tour around the Cotopaxi volcano and the stunning Quilotoa loop – overall an excellent trip and wonderful experience.”