Ecuador Amazon, Hot Springs & Volcanoes
Day 1 Quito
Arrive in Quito at any time, and transfer to the hotel. There are no planned activities, so check in and enjoy the city. A G Adventures CEO will hold a briefing at the hotel to review the various aspects of the tour. If you are not able to attend this welcome meeting, our representative will leave all important information at your hotel’s reception, indicating what time to be ready on Day 2 of our trip. If there is any confusion on arrival, please do not hesitate to call the contact number listed in these trip details. Located 9,348 ft (2,850 m) above sea level, the Ecuadorian capital of Quito enjoys a wonderful spring-like climate, despite the fact that it is only 14 miles (22 km) south of the Equator. Nestled in a valley flanked by mountains, on a clear day several snow-capped volcanoes, including nearby Pichincha, are visible from the city center. Add to its beautiful location a rich history and well-preserved colonial district, and you begin to understand Quito’s appeal to thousands of tourists every year. In 1978, UNESCO declared Quito a World Heritage site, and any new development in Quito's old town is now strictly controlled. Life in Quito tends to be peaceful, though the drivers are fond of using their car horns! There are approximately 2 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area, but the pace is relaxed and the residents hospitable. Since pre-Columbian times, the site of Quito has been inhabited by the Quitus, the Shyris and the Puruhas. The Inca reached this city before the Spaniards, but leveled it to the ground rather than give it up to the Spanish. The present capital was founded by the Spanish on December 6, 1534. Quito is separated into two basic sections, the old and the new cities. The old city is full of historic buildings and churches. One of the more noteworthy is the Catedral de Quito, located on the Plaza de la Independencia. Built between 1550 and 1562, it was one of the first neoclassical works in Quito. La Compañía de Jésus Church is considered one of the most beautiful in the Americas. The decorations in the Compañía contain approximately one and one-half tons of gold, and construction of the church took 170 years (1605-1775). There are several excellent museums scattered throughout the city. The Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana has an interesting display of traditional musical instruments and Ecuadorian traditional dress, a large art collection, and a small natural history museum. For archeology, the best museum to visit is the Museo del Banco Central with its well displayed pottery, gold ornaments, skulls showing deformities and early surgical methods, a mummy and many other objects of interest. The small, rounded hill dominating the old town is El Panecillo, the Little Bread Loaf, a major Quito landmark. From here there are marvelous panoramic views of the entire city and surrounding volcanoes. Tourists can easily take a trolley (streetcar) or a cab between the Old Town and New Town. Quito’s large foreign population and steady stream of travelers have given it a varied and vibrant nightlife, and salsotecas and other dance clubs abound. For a real Ecuadorian experience though, be sure and drop by a peña if you can; these are great places for meeting locals and dancing, as well as enjoying local cuisine. Just a few hours south of Quito is Parque National Cotopaxi, home to Cotopaxi Volcano at 19,342 ft (5897 m). The beautiful cone-shaped, snow covered volcano is Ecuador’s second highest peak and the highest active volcano in the world. This is a great spot for day hiking up to the refuge on the glacier’s edge or mountain biking (downhill all the way). True enthusiasts attempt the climb to the summit on an overnight excursion. Allow yourself an extra day or two in Quito, before or after your trip, if you want to conquer Cotopaxi.
Day 2 Otavalo (1B,1L)
Drive to the highlands with a stop at the community of San Clemente. interact with locals in this traditional Andean community and enjoy an included lunch. Continue to Otavalo and visit the famous handicraft market and watch local artisans at work and enjoy some shopping. Stay tonight at a historic, highlands hacienda. Spend 1 night in the Otavalo area and visit its world famous handicrafts market, the largest in South America. Villagers from the surrounding countryside come here every week to sell handmade goods as well as livestock, fruits and vegetables. There are three main market plazas in town, with the overflow spilling out onto the streets linking them. The Plaza de Ponchos is where we will find most handicraft items. We will find colorful wollen goods such as ponchos, gloves, hats, blankets, scarves and sweaters, as well as fine tapestries and a variety of embroidered blouses and shirts, shawls, string bags and rope sandals. This market gets underway at dawn and continues until early afternoon. Remember, bargaining is expected for every purchase! A good negotiator should be able to get at least 20% off the starting price. The food market sells produce and household goods for the locals, and there is an animal market beginning in the predawn hours on the outskirts of town. Although these are not designed for visitors, they are cultural experiences to see and are definitely worth a visit. One of the most obvious signs of the Otavaleños' cultural integrity is their traditional dress. This is not just put on especially for the tourists at the Saturday market, but is worn throughout their daily life. Otavalo is justly famous both for its friendly people and its Saturday animal market. The market dates back to pre-Inca times when jungle products were transported from the eastern lowlands and traded for highland goods. Today's market has two different functions: the local market for buying and selling animals, food and other essentials, and the crafts market for the tourists and other interested people.
Day 3 Papallacta Hot Springs (1B)
Continue by private transportation to the Papallacta Hot Springs resort for onsite hot springs, optional spa treatments and hiking excursions. Plenty of time to soak, relax and enjoy the mountain views. The village of Papallacta sits 60 km (37 miles) southeast of Quito, over the Andes and on the outer rim of the Amazon Basin. This small village, surrounded by cloud forest on the road between the highlands and the Oriente, has arguably the best thermal springs in all of Ecuador. It is the perfect place to spend a relaxing evening soaking in the mineral hot springs, while enjoying the great natural beauty of the area with views towards the snow-capped Antisana Volcano.
Days 4-5 Banos (2B)
Take one last dip in the hot springs before continuing along the 'Avenue of Volcanoes' to Baños where there are numerous optional activities such as hiking, horseback riding, hot springs and mountain biking. Baños is one of the most popular and important tourist spots in the country and you will find many Ecuadorian families vacationing here. One look at this delightfully green mountain town and you will know why. Surprisingly, it is pleasant and unspoiled. Baños means 'baths' and that is precisely what the town is famous for. Some are thermal springs from the base of Tungurahua Volcano, which means 'little hell' in Quichua. Other baths have melt water running into them from Tungurahua's glaciated flanks. Locals swear that the baths are good for your health; it’s definitely worth rising early to watch the dawn creep over the mountains from a hot spring vantage point. The town is the perfect setting for outdoor pursuits, including horseback riding, canyoning, hiking, mountain biking, climbing and rafting in the surrounding mountains and on the River Patate.
Days 6-7 Amazon Lodge (2B,1L,2D)
Private transportation from Baños to Coca to travel into the rainforest by motorized canoe to the luxurious La Selva lodge. Explore the Amazon jungle with a local guide, activities can include jungle walks, canopy tower, wildlife viewing, canoeing and photography. In the evenings enjoy dinner and a drink by candlelight, listening to the sounds of the jungle, before retiring to stylish cabanas. An amazing fluvial journey of approximately two and a half hours in a motorized canoe will be the beginning of a great experience in the tropical rainforest. A delicious boxed lunch will be provided. At the end of the motorized canoe ride, you will be dropped off at La Selva's main dock. After using the facilities and putting mosquito repellent on, a short 15 minute jungle walk will lead you to a creek where a small canoe will be taken to enjoy an unforgettable 20 minutes paddle canoe ride across “Garzacocha” (the heron´s lagoon) in order to reach the lodge area. Do not forget that the only thing you must take care of is your carry-on and camera equipment. Your other luggage will be transported by our lodge´s staff. Approximately 15 minutes later, the resident manager will greet you with a delicious welcome cocktail. From there you will continue on to relax in the bar area with a fresh tropical fruit snack and a short briefing with general information about the lodge and activities, provided by one of our bilingual naturalist guides. La Selva has been in successful operation for about sixteen years. One of the first Amazon rainforest lodges in Ecuador, the award winning La Selva was completely remodeled and reopened in July of 2012, and has become the premier eco lodge in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The cabanas are inspired by native bamboo design: authentic, airy and comfortable with unexpected amenities including private bathrooms, hot showers, electricity, ceiling fans, and are immaculately cleaned daily. The cozy private bungalows are made entirely of secondary growth rainforest materials and designed to blend with the surroundings. Each one has a private bathroom, a hammock and mosquito netting for each bed (although you will be surprised at what little need you will have for this item due to the lack of insects). There are 12 thatched cabanas of varying sleeping configurations and several public gathering spots, including the spacious dining room with a rooftop lookout point, an open-air combined bar and a lounge with a wrap-around view of the lake. In an effort to conserve the authentic Amazon experience and for ecological reasons, please note that there is no air conditioning in the rooms at La Selva. However, for your convenience and comfort there are fans for use 24 hours a day, and after a short period you will be surprised at how quickly your body will adapt to the change of climate. The open design of the rooms allows you to listen and enjoy the sounds of the jungle, while maintaining an genuine jungle experience in maximum comfort. See the canopy of the rainforest from a tower, 43m in height (141 ft), and choose from dozens of walks of varying lengths and difficulty; several routes can only be accessed by canoe. Choose from a variety of activities: wake up early for some bird watching or stay up late and go out on a boat to view caimans by flashlight. Learn about the environment and wildlife from your naturalist guide, who accompanies you to ensure you get the most out of your excursions. The opportunities for birding, botany, hiking, herpetology, canoeing, photography, entomology, fishing, relaxing and swimming at La Selva Lodge are boundless. You decide which paths to explore and which adventure to experience, according to your own ability and interests. In the 16th Century, Spanish conqueror Francisco de Orellana ventured from Quito into the eastern jungle, in search of El Dorado, a mythical stash of Inca gold hidden away in the jungle. While he didn't find gold, he did discover Ecuador's Rio Napo which, along with Peru’s Marañón, combines to create the mighty Amazon. He followed the Napo into the Amazon mainstream and travelled all the way through the dense jungle to the Atlantic Ocean on Brazil’s coast. Consider the variety of mammals living in Ecuador's Amazon: armadillos, honey bears, sloth, 60 varieties of bats, tapirs, peccaries, jaguar, monkeys, manatees and much more. Birds are the richest group of Amazon vertebrates, at approximately 1000 species. Visitors will see hummingbirds, toucans, macaws and tanagers on land, and darters, herons and gulls on water. If fortunate, you may catch a glimpse of the prehistoric looking Hoatzin, with its brightly coloured feathers and sharp talons. Over 500 species of trees per acre have been recorded in the jungles of the upper Amazon. If this doesn’t seem particularly astonishing, consider that this is ten times greater than either Europe or North America, and you will begin to appreciate the significance of the conservation of this area and others like it. The rainforest is also the traditional home of many indigenous communities, whose traditional homelands and way of life are threatened by the encroachment of 21st Century industries like mining, petroleum exploitation and large-scale cash-crop farming.
Day 8 Quito (1B)
Travel by boat back to Coca and catch our flight Quito. Enjoy some shopping before returning to Quito for our final evening.
Day 9 Quito (1B)
Depart at any time.