Day 1: The adventure starts in Quito with a bus ride to the neighboring Valley of Sangolquí, for a visit to its interesting market with many stalls with bright colored produce and interesting fruit. The specialty of this market: whole roasted pigs, decorated with an apple on their mouth and chili peppers coming out of their ears are a must-see. Stop for a snack at a dairy hacienda with cows, horses and llamas. Then the road advances up and down the slopes of Cotopaxi volcano on to the fertile Valley of Latacunga for a visit to a rose plantation and a taste of the products of the land (potatoes and broccoli picked that same morning). Continue by bus to Urbina and at the foot of imposing Chimborazo volcano, to visit a Tagua nut workshop and warm up with a canelazo by the fireplace. Arrive to Riobamba for dinner and overnight.
Day 2: After an early breakfast, transfer to the train station to board the "Chiva Express" a colorful one coach train, like a bus on tracks. A highlight of the trip is to "ride the roof" with a panoramic view of the stunning Andean region of Ecuador. You will leisurely enjoy the ever-changing scenery as the "Chiva Express" advances along the ancient tracks in an astonishing ride, twisting and turning over the Andes, along bridging ravines and river gorges. Stop at Guamote, an Indian town, for a short visit to an Educational Center for Adults’ Development and Sustainability. Continue aboard the Chiva to Alausí, and prepare to go down the Devil’s Nose switch backs, one of the most impressive feats of rail engineering in the world, and back to Alausí, where a snack is served. Continue south along the Andes by motorcar to Cuenca, visiting the Inca Ruins of Ingapirca to arrive at dusk, with a stop for lunch. Accommodations and all meals at the hotel in Cuenca.
Day 3: Today guests will enjoy a full day to discover, at a leisurely pace, the beauty and charm for which Cuenca has been recognized as a World Cultural Heritage Site. Its red tiled roofs, cobblestone streets, flowery plazas and museums make it very special. Lunch is served at a cozy restaurant. Late afternoon transfer to the airport to take the flight to Quito. Air ticket Cuenca/Quito is not included.
Day 4: Flight from Cuenca to Quito. Arrival in Quito and transfer to your hotel. Overnight in Quito, with buffet breakfast included.
Day 5: A visit to downtown Quito to relish in this urban jewel and its treasures of art and architecture. Quito’s colonial quarter, the largest and best preserved of South America, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The stroll starts at the Independence Plaza, flanked by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishop’s Palace. Visit the temple of La Compañía de Jesús and its awesome gilded interior. Continue on to the Monastery of San Francisco, one the of great religious buildings of the New World; its impressive façade and atrium that lead to its Baroque interior influenced by Moorish style, with the winged Virgin of Quito at its main altar.
Then continue to the Equatorial Monument, 25 km (16 miles) North of Quito, which marks the exact Middle of the World, latitude 0º, where you can stand with a foot on each hemisphere. Visit the Ethnographic Museum inside the monument, which shows the different Native American groups living in Ecuador. Beside the monument there is a colonial-style town, complete with main square, church, post office, bullring, cafeterias, restaurants and many gift shops with postcards and souvenirs. You will get a certificate for having crossed the Equator. Dress in layers (T-shirt, blouse, sweater, coat). Take a sweater even if the day is warm and sunny. Rain protection advised in the afternoon. This tour includes walking at an altitude of 2800 meters (9200 feet) and climbing stairs. Sun protection (SPF 40). Good walking shoes. Entrance fees are included. Overnight in Quito, with buffet breakfast included.
Days 6–8: Transfer out to take the flight to Coca. Depart from Quito in the morning (11:00), flight to Francisco de Orellana (Coca), arriving to Coca at around 12:00. Transfer to the Napo River port then the motorized canoe ride downstream will be approximately one hour and 30 minutes. Once aboard the Manatee Amazon Explorer will start navigating downstream. The courteous crew will attend to your needs and the guides will introduce you to the surprising Amazon world, its people, more than 600 species of birds, and hundreds of botanical wonders. The Manatee sails along different ecosystems and important natural reserves such as the Yasuní National Park and the Limoncocha Biological Reserve.
Parrots and the Limoncocha Biological Reserve Early departure by motor canoe to visit a very special corner of the jungle, the clay banks of the river where different species of parrots gather daily to eat this clay that helps them digest the seeds they feed on, it is quite a sight, colorful and noisy! Then, back aboard the Manatee to sail upriver and reach one of the tributaries of the Napo to observe the flora and fauna, the surprising pygmy monkeys and then a trek to the facilities of what used to be South America's Summer Institute of Linguistics in Limoncocha, currently the only Biological Reserve of Ecuador. Upon reaching the Limoncocha Lake, we will board a canoe and travel along the banks of this marshy ecosystem, where over 470 species of birds have been recorded. There is a possibility to fish for piranha, and for a short walk. At night, it is possible to observe the black caimans that inhabit the lagoon; quite an experience. Late return to the Manatee for dinner and overnight.
Culture/The Amazonian man/Giants of the Forest The adventure today begins with a visit to the Museum of Pompeya, a small archaeological sample with Amazonian funeral urns that date back several centuries, as well as utensils and ways of life of the ancient denizens of the rain forest, which can still be seen today. We will also have the opportunity to see the giant trees of the Amazon, like the kapok, which rises over the forest canopy to more than 80 meters high, with huge, protrading roots. Guests can also try rowing the canoes on a tranquil tributary of the Napo River up to the house of a native family, to share a moment with them and learn their ways of life. The Return While the Manatee navigates upriver, the guides wrap up our knowledge of the great Amazon region. Then transfer to the airport for the flight to Quito. Note: Every night there will be additional activities such as conferences, review of the flora and fauna and night outings. This itinerary is subject to change for safety and technical reasons.
Day 9: Flight from Cuenca to Quito. Arrival in Quito and transfer to your hotel. Overnight in Quito, with buffet breakfast included.
Day 10: Transfer out from the hotel to the airport to take the international flight.
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