Welcome to Ecuador! Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to our joining hotel. The first day of your tour is simply an arrival day with no pre-organised activities. In order to allow time to relax and see some of the sights you may wish to add pre tour accommodation. On arrival please ask at the reception for information on when the pre departure meeting will be held.
At 2,850 metres above sea level, Quito is the second highest capital city in the world after La Paz. It was founded in 1534 by the Spanish and was originally an Inca stronghold. As the headquarters of the recently formed Union of South American Nations (which was modelled on the European Union) Quito is also considered the capital of South American integration. It is situated in a hollow at the base of the live Volcano Pichincha and the whole length of the city can be seen from atop Panecillo Hill where the enormous Statue of the Virgin of Quito stands. The city has two main sections – the old and the new. The new is the main commercial area with lots of good restaurants and bars, whereas the old city is the colonial area in the centre, with steep calles (cobblestone streets), busy plazas and indigenous markets. The Equatorial Monument is just 23 kilometres north of the city, and also houses an excellent museum that displays clothing, other wares and photos of the varied and colourful Ecuadorian people.
Quito - Otavalo. We begin our journey by heading north to visit the famous market town of Otavalo and its surrounding area. From here you can visit Laguna Cuicocha, an extinct volcano famous for the deep lake in its crater. At certain times of the year you may be able to go for a short boat ride on the lake. There are also nice walking trails around the lake. On the return from Cuicocha you could visit Cotacachi, where you can buy inexpensive leather goods.
The market in Otavalo is a great place to stock up on souvenirs and gifts for friends back home. The local people of Otavalo, who come from their villages to sell livestock, produce and textiles are distinct in appearance. The men wear calf length white trousers and sandals and have their long hair braided, while the women wear white frilly blouses, black skirts and have gold coloured jewellery twirled around their necks. It's a wonderful place to shop for all kinds of handicrafts and great for photographs.
Descending into the steaming Amazon Jungle, the next three nights will be in thatch-roofed bungalows on the shoreline of the Arajuno River. The grounds surrounding the cabins have lots of native trees and flowers attracting hummingbirds and toucans. Your local guide will take you trekking in the jungle, explaining the different birds and the incredible variety of plants and trees and their medicinal value. The terrain is dense jungle and marsh with giant ferns and flowers – a true wilderness. You’ll also have a chance to meet and learn about the communities that live in the jungle which may include a visit to a local shaman, learning about the local crafts such as pottery and weaving, shooting arrows from a blow pipe and learning how they catch animals and fish. For a spot of relaxation enjoy the sounds of the jungle from a hammock back at lodge, or float down the river in an inflatable tube and take a swim to cool off.
Overnight: Amazon | Breakfast x 2, Lunch x 2, Dinner x 3
We continue by bus through spectacular scenery to Baños, a spa town famous for its hot thermal springs. Besides soaking in the pools, there are pathways to walk into the surrounding mountains and the chance to go horseback riding in the hills (optional). The less energetic can spend their time relaxing in cafés and shopping for souvenirs. Baños is the best place to buy beautifully painted balsa wood animals and try taffy, a local sweet.
Overnight: Banos | Breakfast x 1
We travel onto the old colonial market town of Cuenca (kwen -ca) - Ecuador's third largest city. Cuenca is the home of the Panama hat and you will have the chance to visit a factory. Cuenca's beautiful colonial air of cobblestone streets, open plazas and whitewashed buildings with ironwork balconies has earned it the UNESCO World Heritage Site status. You have the option to visit the celebrated Inca ruins of Ingapirca, the country's most important archaeological site. The fortress complex has a central platform where the Incas worshipped the Sun. The Cañari people built the original structures and you can still see the place where these pre-Inca folk worshipped the moon
Departing Cuenca we head south, crossing into Peru at Tumbes where the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro first landed in 1532. You will have plenty of time to relax and enjoy the attractive coastal town of Máncora. This resort town has the unique characteristic to seem private and empty when relaxing on the beach, while brimming with people late into the night at the many nightclubs in town.
Our next destination is Huanchaco where fishermen still ride the surf in reed boats. You have the opportunity to rent one of these boats for a paddle or race through the waves. From here you have the option to visit the largest mud city in the world at Chan Chán, which was built by Chimú Kings. Other nearby sites which you can visit include the Moche-built pyramids known as Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna (temples of the sun and moon). Don't miss the excellent Cassinelli Museum in Trujillo which houses one of the best private collections of pottery (including some interesting erotic pottery) as well as a mummified baby in a bell jar.
Lima was founded by the Spanish Conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535 after he eradicated the Incas and made the city his capital. Lima has many fine colonial buildings and some of the best museums in South America including the Gold Museum, Museum of the Inquisition and the Catacombs below the San Francisco Church. Peru's capital has much to offer and many of the sights, including the city's two main squares the Plaza de Armas and Plaza San Martin, are within easy walking distance The Plaza de Armas houses the Cathedral, Municipal Palace and Presidential Palace where the changing of the guard can be seen every day at 12 noon. There are also many markets in Lima, possibly the best being in the central district.
Your adventure of a lifetime comes to an end today. If you have a late flight or have lengthened your stay by adding post tour accommodation you will have more time to explore the sights