Arrive in Quito at any time. Your Chief Experience Officer (CEO) will hold a general briefing in the evening, normally between 7pm and 8pm (a note will be posted in the arrival hotel with details). When you arrive in Quito, you will likely feel the effects of the altitude. Symptoms include shortness of breath, headaches, general lethargy and a reduced appetite. This is no cause for alarm; it is simply your body’s way of coping with the altitude. It may take a little time to acclimatize, but before long you probably will not even notice it. Take it easy for the first day or two, and reduce alcohol and cigarette consumption to minimize the effects. Be sure to drink plenty of water and do not attempt too much in any given day. Located 2850m (9348 ft) above sea level, Quito, the Ecuadorian capital, enjoys a wonderful spring-like climate, despite the fact that it is only 22 km (14 miles) south of the Equator. It is in a valley flanked by mountains, and on a clear day, several snow-capped volcanoes are visible. As well as its beautiful location, it is rich in history and much of the Colonial Old Town is well preserved. 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 2,000,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area, but the pace is relaxed and the residents hospitable. Quito is separated into two basic sections, the old and the new cities. The old city is full of interesting historical buildings and many churches. Some of the more interesting ones include 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). The small, rounded hill that dominates the old town is called El Panecillo or 'the Little Bread Loaf', and is a major Quito landmark. Marvelous panoramic views of the entire city, as well as views of the surrounding volcanoes stretch out at your feet. You can take a trolley (streetcar) or a cab to the Old Town from the New Town. Quito has a large population of foreigners and is a popular destination for travellers, resulting in a varied and vibrant nightlife where 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 cooking. 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.
Today we travel by bus down to the Amazon basin. Watch the scenery change dramatically as you travel through towering green mountains, pass by waterfalls, and deep river valleys arriving in the jungle town of Tena. En route to Tena, watch the scenery change from towering mountains to lush jungle. On day 3, navigate the wild Jatunyaku River in the surrounding lush cloud forest. The cool water and air make this an excellent change from the tropical Amazon climate. Return to Tena for the night.
Travel by bus to Baños, surrounded by lush cloud forest. 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.
On day 5 we will transfer by private vehicle to the start point of the trek down into Sangay National Park in the area of the enormous and active Tunguragua Volcano. Spectacular scenery abounds while trekking into the park through lush cloud forest with views towards the volcano. Spend the night camping under the stars and if conditions are right the volcano may offer a light show from the activity. Continue trekking after breakfast on day 6 to the refuge located on Tunguragua Volcano itself where we will take a break and savour the views. Return by foot to the entrance of Sangay National Park and transfer back to Baños for the night. Optional visits to the hot springs to rest the aching muscles.
Enjoy a free morning in Baños to explore the area on foot or take one of the many optional activities that the region has to offer. After lunch the group will travel by public bus through spectacular Andean scenery arriving to the town of Lasso, near the base of Cotopaxi Volcano, where we will spend the night. Free evening to explore the area on foot before the following day's activity.
First thing in the morning we will meet our local guides who will give the group a briefing on the biking excursion ahead on Cotopaxi Volcano. Travel in a private van into the National Park and to the start of the descent, all the way up at 4000 metres above sea level! The guides will give another briefing and will test the equipment before embarking on the adrenaline rush of the bicycle decent down the volcano! A box lunch will be waiting at the bottom while we catch our breath before transferring back to the capital city of Quito for a final night out on the town.
Depart at any time.