While Quito’s main cathedral is perhaps more famous, the baroque masterpiece of La Compania de Jesus rivals any church in the world for beauty and architecture. Relax in the company of hummingbirds in the unique cloud forest of Bellavista. This is one of the most unspoiled places in the world. Pick up indigenous Otavalenos handicrafts at the artisan market in Otavalo. You won’t find these intricate creations anywhere else. After days of travelling through Ecuador, unwind under the gaze of imposing mountains in the hot springs of Papallacta
Nestled high up in the Andes, Ecuador may be small but it’s brimming with sights. On this independent journey through the country’s highlights, discover the colonial streets of Quito and enter the mysterious world of the cloud forest, packed with rare flora and fauna. Explore the traditional markets that play an important part in the social and economic lives of indigenous people and journey to the Avenue of Volcanoes, where the active Cotopaxi dominates the skyline.
Independent travel, without the stress. This tour has been specifically designed for independent travel for 1-3 people. It departs on any day and comes accompanied by a Peregrine guide in each location and 24/7 support from the local Peregrine office.
Please note the services in the Cloud Forrest are not private. You may share services with like minded travellers who have booked through other companies.
Breakfast Included: 8 Lunches Included: 2 Lunches Included: 5
Welcome to Quito, Ecuador. On arrival to the airport, take a complimentary transfer to your Peregrine joining hotel. In the afternoon (approx 2pm), there will be a welcome briefing at the hotel with your local guide. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. If you're going to be late, please inform hotel reception. Later in the day embark on a walking tour around the charming Old Town, known locally as ‘Centro Historico’. Declared a World Heritage site in 1978, there's much to discover by meandering through the narrow, cobblestone streets and exploring the lively Plaza Grande and Plaza San Francisco.
Continue on to visit the Church of the Society of Jesus (La Compania de Jesus). With its ornate facade and intricately decorated and gold-gilded interior, this is Ecuador’s most impressive church. Exploring further afield, head for one of the many viewpoints over the city. ‘El Panecillo’ (The Little Bread Loaf) offers sensational views of the city’s white houses and surrounding volcanoes. The 30-metre-high statue of ‘La Virgen de Quito’ sits atop this small hill and can be seen from all over the city. Your evening is then free to do as you wish.
Notes: Due to the high altitude of many of places we visit and some people can suffer altitude sickness, regardless of age, gender or fitness. Please see the 'Is This Trip Right For You?' and 'Fitness' sections in the trip notes for detailed information.
Leaving Quito in the morning and descend a scenic mountain road with forested mountains and great views. Reaching the turn to Bellavista (approximately 2.5 hours from Quito), climb to the top of the mountain where Bellavista lodge is perched. On arrival, settle into your room, enjoy a special breakfast and admire the surrounding hummingbirds. You'll then be invited to join the first hike into the forest. After a tasty lunch, take a guided hike with a Bellavista naturalist or explore on your own. A guided hike will acquaint you with the exuberant vegetation (orchids, bromeliads, ferns, trees, etc.) of the cloud forest, its bird life, and the fascinating adaptations to life in this special environment.
The evening is as relaxed as you want it to be. Possibly take time to admire the incredible variety of moths, many of which are unknown to science. You can also look for night birds such as the common potoo.
After a refreshing night’s sleep, take a worthwhile early morning bird hike in the new light. At around 8 am, a special Bellavista breakfast is served. Afterwards, perhaps explore the area on your own or head out with a guide to a nearby waterfall. The beauty of this trip is that every hike reveals something new, even for those who are fortunate enough to live in the forest every day. Lunch will served around 1 pm and then your afternoon is free. Choose to take part in a short hike, or just relax and enjoy observing the activity of the hummingbirds in flight. Today can be as peaceful or active as you choose.
This morning make your way to Otavalo, which should take around three and a half hours. During your journey, visit ‘La Mitad del Mundo’ – a monument commemorating the line of the equator. The 'Middle of the World' monument was built during the 17th century, when a French expedition defined the precise location of the equatorial line. After exploring the inside of the monument, head across to the Inti Nan local museum - claimed to be located on the true equatorial line. While here, partake in various experiments that seek to prove that you are indeed on the equator. Soon afterwards, arrive at the indigenous town of Otavalo. This town is famous for its market and is known to be one of the most significant indigenous markets in Ecuador. Your evening is then free to explore your surroundings.
Today is the day that you'll visit the famous Otavalo Market. Villagers from the surrounding area travel to Otavalo each week to sell their wears. You'll find everything from handmade goods to fruit and vegetables, to livestock. Many of the regional indigenous communities still wear traditional dress of intricately woven fabrics and the men often tie their hair into long ponytails. Later in the day head out on an included visit to the 18-metre high Peguche Waterfall, which is just five minutes from Otavalo. The walk is only around 30 minutes each way, but it's still important to wear comfortable footwear as the terrain can be unpredictable.
After breakfast this morning, travel along the spectacular Avenue of the Volcanoes to Papallacta (approximately three hours in total). On the way, make a stop at the Cotacachi leather market to browse the stalls brimming with leather jackets, luggage, shoes, hats and much more. Continue onto Papallacta and, on arrival, perhaps use the remainder of the day relaxing at the hot springs and enjoy stunning views of the snow-capped Antisana Volcano.
If you didn't head to Papallacta's hot springs yesterday, then you'll be new to them on your included visit this morning. This is a great way to start your day and soak your muscles after previous days of travel and hikes. Later in the day travel south for around three hours, again passing along the Avenue of the Volcanoes to reach a local lodge where you'll spend the night.
This morning, head into the immense Cotopaxi National Park. As the highest active volcano in the world at 5,897 metres, Cotopaxi is a monster of the Andes Mountains. The excursion to Cotopaxi National Park includes a hike around Limpiopungo Lake, whose typical vegetation allows us to observe certain species of birds that live at high altitudes. If time and weather conditions permit, continue to climb by means of a 4WD vehicle and then by foot to the base camp - located at an elevation of 4,800 metres above sea level. Later in the afternoon, return to Quito for your final night of the trip.
Your independent journey of the highlights of Ecuador comes to an end this morning. Departure flights can be booked for anytime today, as there are no more included activities. You're free to leave the accommodation when you're ready.