Quito’s World Heritage-listed Old Town is best explored on foot. Wander through its streets and plazas to discover old churches, colonial architecture and vendors selling local delicacies. A walk through the Amazon Jungle with an expert guide reveals valuable extraordinary wildlife and insights into the area’s importance to the local community. Staying within a remote rainforest community in the Amazon is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is truly off the beaten track. Enjoy plenty of free time in the chilled out town of Banos, which is set into the foot of an active volcano. Hike to nearby waterfalls, get active with a range of optional adventure activities or soak up the mineral goodness of the town’s thermal springs
Get an insight into the wonderful South American country of Ecuador on this week-long journey. Discover the culture and charisma of the famed Otavalo Markets, explore the incredible Amazon while guests of a local family, relax in the laidback town of Banos and soak in the charm of Quito, one of South America’s most beguiling capitals.
Breakfast Included: 7 Lunches Included: 2 Dinner Included: 2
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Quito, Ecuador. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 2 pm. After the important meeting, join your leader on a walking tour of the historic centre of Quito. Stroll through Plaza Grande (main square) and by the Archbishop's Palace. From here, walk about 800 metres uphill to reach the Basilica del Voto Nacional. Time permitting, you may wish to spend more time exploring this church and its views from the top towers. Finally, walk to La Ronda Street and pass by La Compania de Jesus and San Francisco churches. At the end of the walk, your leader will recommend a local restaurant on La Ronda Street for an optional group dinner.
Amazon Lodge (Amazon Jungle)
Get ready for an an early start, as you’ll be on the move by 7 am. Catch a local bus from Quito Central Station to Tena (approximately 5 hours). From Tena, travel by private vehicle to Misahualli and then by boat to your Amazon Jungle lodge for the next two nights, arriving by approximately 1.30 pm, just in time for lunch. In the afternoon, your local hosts will take you on a walk around the area. Use this opportunity to try some fresh fruit and – if you’re feeling brave – tree worms. Finish the afternoon making an authentic chocolate dessert from scratch. With the help of the host, you’ll roast, grind and conche chocolate beans into your own chocolate sauce. Delicioso!
Amazon Lodge (Amazon Jungle)
In the morning after breakfast, travel by canoe for 45 minutes to the starting point of today's hike. The hike (approximately 4–5 hours, depending on the group's pace) is relatively easy. During the hike, visit a protected private reserve in the secondary rainforest. This is also a great opportunity to spot insects and birds that call this precious ecosystem home. During the walk, you’ll come to understand the importance of the jungle to the local community as your guide provides in-depth knowledge and history. Afterwards, enjoy a packed lunch on the banks of the Arajuno River, then strap in for the opportunity to go river tubing. The activity will last around an hour, and then you’ll jump back on the canoes and travel back to the Amazon lodge (approximately 1.5 hours). Once you get back to the lodge there will be time to shower and freshen up for dinner. After dinner, head out on a night jungle walk.
Enjoy breakfast at around 7 am in the lodge. Bid your hosts farewell, travel back to Tena the same way you arrived, then catch a local bus to Banos (approximately 3 hours). You should arrive in the city of Banos around midday, with the rest of the day free for you to do as you wish. Perhaps use your free time soaking in the city's natural baths or go for a hike into the valley and to the powerful falls of Pailon del Diablo (Devil's Cauldron).
Enjoy a full day to explore Banos and take advantage of some of the optional activities. Perhaps rise early to watch the sunrise over the mountains near the hot springs. After breakfast, venture to Nuestra Senora del Agua Santa (Church of the Virgin of the Holy Water) and see the intricate murals that depict numerous stories about the virgin. You might also be able to fit in a visit to the Devil’s Cauldron today. If you have time, stroll around the local artisan markets to pick up a memento of the city. If your trip falls on the weekend or during the holidays, be prepared for carnival-like festivities that take place all over town.
Take a local bus to Riobamba (approximately 3 hours), where you’ll swap buses and head south to Cuenca (approximately 5 hours). Cuenca may well be Ecuador's best-looking city. There are lots of impressive 500-year-old churches and colonial buildings, many made out of marble and decorated with stunning woodwork and ironwork. Cuenca is the home of the renowned Panama hat, and if there’s time you could visit a factory and pick up one that fits perfectly. There's also a buzzing nightlife here, due in no small part to the university population.
Meet up with your leader this morning and get to know Cuenca better with an orientation walk. Trundle along cobblestone streets, check out colonial parks and markets and stop by the monumental cathedral at the centre. The rest of the day is free to explore Cuenca and the surrounding area. If you’re feeling cultural, maybe head to the Museo Pumapungo, which features an impressive range of artistic, historical, cultural, and ethnological exhibits, including a collection of real shrunken heads from the Shuar civilisation – if you dare. Otherwise, maybe get out of town to El Cajas National Park, home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. Tonight, get some sleep – you have a very early start in the morning.
Ecuador/Peru Border Crossing – Lima
At approximately 3 am, begin by taking a taxi to the bus station in Cuenca, then a public bus south-east towards the coast and town of Huanquillas (approximately 5–6 hours). After crossing the border into Peru, make your way to the Tumbes Airport before flying to Lima, capital of Peru. Touch down and meet your new leader before heading to your hotel in Miraflores which sits conveniently by the beach. In the afternoon, embark on an orientation walk through Miraflores, passing the arty markets, shops, restaurants and bars before enjoying an evening at your leisure. Enjoy a free evening, perhaps spending it with some of your travel group over a dinner of delicious ceviche alongside some pisco sours.