Day 1: Arrival in Quito. Arrival in Quito. Transfer from the airport to the hotel. Quito is set in a hollow at the foot of the volcano Pichincha and in addition to its gorgeous landscape, surrounded by hills and several snow capped mountains, Quito is known for its treasures of Colonial churches, monasteries, paintings, sculptures and carvings and the magnificent blend of Spanish, Flemish, Moorish and pre-Columbian architecture. Therefore in 1978 it has been declared by UNESCO "Patrimony of Mankind".
Altogether the city has to offer 86 churches and monasteries of the 16th and 17th century. This attractive city is surrounded by ice-capped volcanoes and is located only 22 km away from the "Middle of the World", the Equatorial Line. Due to its beautiful churches and monasteries, Quito is called and known as the "Convent of America". Overnight at Grand Hotel Mercure Alameda Quito.
Day 2: Quito. Buffet breakfast. Today, we will have a sightseeing-tour of the city of Quito to give you a first impression of the variety there is regarding religious and cultural sights. During our stay in the old part of the city, you can still breath the colonial history of Ecuador. As the excursion leads you through the interesting streets of Quito, the local culture welcomes you with beauty and intrigue. Your guide will take you for a walk through the culturally diverse history of Quito.
Visit the Church of San Francisco - which is said to be the first religious building constructed in South America by the Spanish. On the way we will pass the church of La Compañia, which has the most ornate and richly sculptured façade and interior. Have a closer look at the heart of the city of Quito: the Independence Square with the Government Palace and the Cathedral (outside).
On the modern part of the city we will see the stone-carved front of Ecuador’s House of Congress, this façade shows the history of Ecuador, since our first natives passing through the conquest of the Incas and then the Spaniards, the Independence and the new Republic. We lead you to Guapulo, a natural terrace where we will learn about the location of the city, on the foothills of the Pichincha Volcano, admire the spectacular views to the Valleys of Cumbayá and Tumbaco and of the Eastern Chain of Mountains.
On a day with clear sky, we can see the Cayambe, the Antizana and Puntas Volcanoes. Our tour goes on to the Equatorial Line Monument called “Middle of the World”. Here you get a truly rare experience to stand in both, the Northern and Southern Hemispheres simultaneously. The Equatorial Monument, located as focal point of the park, marks the spot where an 18th century French scientific expedition established the exact position of the Equator. The area has been built as a typical colonial town, with restaurants, gift shops and Post Office with philatelic sales. Visit the monument and the Ethnographical Museum, which shows the history of the Indian cultures of Ecuador. Overnight at Grand Hotel Mercure Alameda Quito.
Day 3: Quito – Otavalo. Buffet breakfast. On the bus ride to the well known spot Otavalo we will visit the small town of Calderón, where the typical miniature bread figurines are made. After Calderón the road descends into the spectacular same-time arid and fertile Guayllabamba gorge and village. With some luck, a few minutes later you can enjoy the opportunity of looking out the snow-capped Cayambe.
The Ecuadorian Line goes directly through the glacier of the immense volcano, which shows the highest worldwide point on the Ecuadorian line. On the way through this wonderful landscape you can see the Lago San Pablo with its great background – the rock massive Taita Imbabura. After arriving in the famous town Otavalo, which consists of rather functional buildings and is not able for its textiles, you will discover the worldwide known Indian handicrafts market.
These indigenous residents of the area have achieved economic prosperity as a result of their skill in weaving a tremendous variety of designs in belts, tapestries, ponchos and other clothing items. Community residents have a long tradition as artisans and traders. They commonly travel to Europe and other countries in the Americas to sell their wares. This typical indigenous city where tourists can see families wearing their colorful cloths and speaking Quichua as their first tongue and Spanish as their second, you will enjoy the unique variety of handicrafts that offers this giant colorful market and certainly, carrying some new souvenirs with you.
Before continuing to Cotacachi, the group can visit Laguna Cuicocha, which is a crater lake on an altitude of 3000 meters above sea-level with an diameter of about 3 km. Two islands emerge from the center, both of volcanic origin, covered with vegetation and rimmed with totora, a type of reed. The small town Cotacachi itself is Ecuador’s center of leatherworks. Here you can stroll through the small streets choosing one of the various shops as your favorite. Return to Quito. Overnight at Grand Hotel Mercure Alameda Quito.
Day 4: Quito – Riobamba. Buffet breakfast. We lead to the south, along the "Avenue of the volcanoes" which got its name from Alexander von Humbold. Using the Panamericana Sur, which winds its way through the Andean mountain chain you will have a spectacular view of the perfect formed snow-capped Cotopaxi Volcano, one of the highest volcanoes of the world. We lead you to a very typical and original market where you learn about the life of indigenous people. The market offers a colorful variety of handicrafts, a variety of fruit and herbs as well as authentic tools and household articles.
You will meat Indians wearing their typical dress, which varies from one community to the next, selling their products and animals. Beginning at dawn, they come down the mountains on foot or mule-back or, at times, in trucks. The atmosphere is very colorful and festive and you will see people exchanging goods, carrying heavy bags, eating special food and making their business here as well as jokes. You may test your negotiating skills in the traditional bargaining and get original crafts, including tapestries, belts, baskets and a whole range of clothing and jewelry. Transfer on to Otavalo. Overnight at Hostería El Troje.
Day 5: Alausi with train ride "Devil’s Nose" – Cuenca. Continental Breakfast. After the early breakfast we take you to Guamote. Our destination is the train-station to board the "autoferro" or train for a ride along the legendary "Devils Nose". This is certainly one of the highlights of a journey through Ecuador and a very special way to get to know the country! Either inside the train wagons or just on the roof of the train, you will enjoy the spectacular descent to the coastal plain.
You will be amazed about the fascinating landscape and the technical mastery performance, that makes possible that since the very beginning of the 20th century, the topographic obstacles could be get over. In 1908 president Eloy Alfaro’s dream of a connection between the coast and the highlands became true and after only a short time this line was called the most beautiful track. We begin the approximately 3 hours drive to the City of Cuenca. Overnight at Hotel Crespo Cuenca.
Day 6: Cuenca. American breakfast. After breakfast, we will visit the sights of Cuenca, the third largest city of Ecuador. In Cuenca, founded in 1557 on an Inca settlement valley, you still breathe the colonial air of Ecuadorian history. For most Ecuadorian inhabitants – and also for travelers – this center of art, ceramic, panama hats as well as products of silver and gold is the most beautiful city in Ecuador.
Due to the special atmosphere and early 19th century architecture Cuenca was declared "Cultural Patrimony of Mankind" in November 1999. During the city sightseeing we will show you the historical buildings, located along the Tomebamba River, the "Todos los Santos" ruins, the flowers market and the main square with the old and new Cathedral. There is still enough time to visit some typical towns around Cuenca as well as a Panama hat factory. The afternoon will be at leisure. You may walk around the narrow cobble stoned streets with the whitewashed houses and noble facades to explore the beauty of this town on your own. Overnight at Hotel Crespo Cuenca.
Day 7: Cuenca – Ingapirca – Guayaquil. American breakfast. This day, our first destination are the Inca ruins of Ingapirca, the most important monument of pre-Spanish culture in Ecuador. The ruins are located on a grass-covered hill in an altitude of about 3100 meters. Even before the construction of the sun-temple (1450-1480) this place had an important spiritual significance for the Incas. In 1470, Yupanqui, the king of the Inca subjugated the local Cañari tribe and presumably built the town of Ingapirca.
On a walk through the former place where the Incas lived and hold their ceremonies, you will learn about their beliefs and rituals as well as about the way they constructed this ordination place, which is formed like a puma. The ruins rest on a moonlit high plateau that falls in its three sides to a deep, clear and wide valley. We continue to Guayaquil. In a very short time you will feel how weather, vegetation, architecture and also the people change. During a short panoramic tour along the biggest city of Ecuador, you will get an impression of the "economic and financial center" of the country. Overnight at Hotel Unipark.
Day 8: Guayaquil – international flight. Buffet breakfast. Transfer to the airport and return flight or continuation on another tour through South America.
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South America Ecuador Local Culture Cultural Journey