Day 1: 90 km north of Quito we have the most interesting and biggest Indian market in South America. En route We visit Calderon, well known for the manufacture of bread-dough figurines, then continue northwards through dry Andean valleys until we reach Otavalo, where we can see the Ecuadorian Indians trading and selling their handicrafts. After lunch we go to Cotacachi, a small town which is famous for the manufacture of leather goods. Overnight in a Colonial Hacienda.
Day 2: Today we visit some of the most important Indian villages around Otavalo where we can see our Indians living in the countryside the way they did centuries ago. We will witness our Indians operating back-strap as well as Spanish looms, making wall hangings, sweaters, scarves, etc. We will also see how they make their typical musical instruments before they play some of the Andean instruments and perform music for us. After lunch we drive south-east to Papallacta thermal spring waters, well known for their curative powers, and stay overnight there.
Day 3: After an early bathe in the thermal waters and a healthy breakfast, we head down to the Amazon rain forest. On arrival at La Punta, a canoe will be waiting to take us down to our lodge on the banks of the Napo River. After lunch we take a little siesta in this warm and humid environment. Then we go for a walk to visit a local Quichua house where we can see the way the Quichuas live. They are famous for making a drink called chicha de yucca that they drink for special occasions. There will also be the chance to try the blowpipe used by local hunters. In our walk back to the lodge we visit the house of a Quichua lady who manufactures local pottery. Overnight stay and dinner in our lodge.
Day 4: After a canoe ride on the Napo river, we are ready to go for an unforgettable walk in the rain forest, learning about the flora and fauna of the most important ecosystem in the world. We go back to the lodge for lunch and in the afternoon we have other activities like tubing or visiting the animal reserve, or we can just enjoy sitting by the swimming pool, watching the magnificent jungle.
Day 5: After a big breakfast we are ready to leave our lodge and head back to the highlands. We return to La Punta by canoe. Our driver will then take us to Baños to visit The Devil's Caldron, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country where we have lunch in an exotic restaurant set in the middle of the vegetation. Once we get to Baños we have a tour of this charming town, famous for its thermal spring waters and the Holy Virgin that protects the town from the volcano. Overnight stay in a delightful hotel.
Day 6: Free morning in Baños where you can go hiking, biking, or just walking around the town. After lunch we drive up to Riobamba. We stop along the way to visit the Salasaca market, famous for its handicrafts. Then we go through empty back-roads, just enjoying the wonderful sights of the Andes. On arrival at Riobamba, we take a tour of the city where we can see how the local people work the tagua (vegetable ivory). Then we book our tickets at the train station for the following day's departure. Overnight stay at another charming hotel.
Day 7: We leave very early in the morning for the train station to begin one of the top ten train rides in the world. The train weaves its way through indian villages and patch fields, while we enjoy the sights of the spectacular Andes and its delightful people. Once we get to Alausi we start our descent through the Devil's Nose; a pass where in an extraordinary feat of engineering, the train track has been built into the side of the mountain. When we return from this stunning ride, we have lunch in Alausi before continuing southwards towards the Inca fortress at Ingapirca and the old colonial city of Cuenca. Overnight stay at hotel.
Day 8: Cuenca is a lovely old colonial city located in the south of the country. We start our tour in the morning visiting churches, plazas, markets and museums before a visit to the Ecuadorian 'Panama' straw-hat factory; one of the leading industries for both the city and the country. Overnight stay at hotel.
Day 9: Today we drive up to the high southern paramos of "El Cajas National Park", where we can enjoy not only the typical vegetation of this ecosystem, but can discover several lakes and spectacular scenery. We then make a two hour descent through the cloud forest, to experience the change of climate as we reach the lowlands with their hot and humid tropical weather. We drive through huge banana, coffee and cocoa bean haciendas until we reach Guayaquil. Afternoon at leisure. Overnight stay at hotel.
Day 10: Guayaquil is the largest city and the most important port of Ecuador. Although the city lost a great deal of its colonial architecture due to major fires that occurred in the past, some areas have been restored. One example is "Las Peñas" street which has been restored to its former glory and provides an excellent example of fine architecture. We then walk along the Guayaquil pier "Malecon 2000" with its beautiful modern decoration. After lunch in a fine restaurant we visit "El Parque Historico"; a very interesting living museum of the city. Overnight stay at hotel.
Day 11: Today we are ready to continue our trip to Galapagos; take an extension to Machalilla National Park for whale watching or diving, or just fly back to Quito. Our staff will assist you at the airport.
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South America Ecuador Local Culture Cultural Journey
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