Photos courtesy of SCOTT ARVICKSON
About the Andean Region
People who have never visited Ecuador often picture it as a land of steamy jungles astride the Equator, bordered by the Pacific Ocean. They are unaware that a large area is Andean Sierra, dominated by a range of 35 towering volcanoes, eight of which are considered potentially active and are always snow-capped mountains.
When visiting this region, the tourist will be amazed observing the highland landscapes, its breath taking valleys, tiny villages lost in the Andes and the famous indigenous markets.
The cultures of the highlands are by no means the oldest, but they are the most visited and known. Many communities still maintain their cultural manifestations through dress, language (Quichua) and festivities.
Inca Holidays suggests the following program which would take you to the essence of Ecuador: markets, villages, volcanoes, old churches, haciendas, typical food, and the best views guaranteed!
Please notice we will be pleased to custom design it if required to suit your specific interests.
Day Tours from Quito
A visit to colonial Quito will take you along the northern residential section to see the Parliament Building. Then stroll downtown and visit the colonial temples and monasteries of this urban jewel, designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. The tour starts at Independence Square, the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal building and the Archbishop Palace.
We will take you to La Compañía Church one of the best examples of religious art. Afterwards to San Francisco‘s church, one of the great religious buildings of the New World… its impressive façade and atrium lead to its gilt interior, a Baroque
The Mitad del Mundo compound is one of Quito’s most famous attractions, situated about 20 km. to the north of Ecuador’s capital. There is an interesting open-air museum called Inti-Ñan. Here you’ll be shown the different effects that being on the equator-line has on gravity and other natural forces. This museum also teaches visitors about indigenous Ecuadorian civilizations, their knowledge of the Cosmos and many singularities and interesting facts about our present-day cultures. You will have the chance to have your picture taken with one foot on the southern and one foot on the northern hemispheres! This is definitely worth a visit!
Charming Haciendas of Ecuador
Ecuador is a country with a rich colonial past. In colonial times, the mountainous countryside was divided up among rich landowners who usually built a hacienda, a sort of rural mansion, as a place to live and oversee the work done on their lands. The system was in place for centuries, and the Ecuadorean countryside is dotted with old haciendas, many of them converted into hotels and guest homes.
The area to the north of Quito, near Otavalo, is particularly known for excellent converted haciendas. The spacious rooms, beautiful gardens, and centuries of history have proved irresistible to thousands of visitors every year. The best of them have not lost their rural charm: they still feel like a home, and friendly staff members make guests comfortable.
While the area north of Quito near Otavalo is known for its haciendas, the scene to the south, towards Tungurahua and Chimborazo, is equally as beautiful. From volcano vistas to first-class facilities the haciendas stretching across the central Andes are certainly worth the trip.
We encourage travelers to make a point of visiting at least one hacienda while in Ecuador, as each is unique and memorable, and the value for the money is quite good.
Ecuadorean haciendas have much in common. Most of the haciendas offer horseback riding, mountain biking, and gardens where their guests can wander and relax. Most also have an on-site restaurant. Many of them plan and host special events such as conferences and weddings.
HACIENDAS TOUR – Itinerary at a glance
Day 01: Welcome transfer – Overnight at boutique hotel
Day 02: Visit to Equator and transfer to Cotacachi + Cuicocha lake. Overnight 400 year old Hacienda Cusin
Day 03: Visit to the indigenous market + transfer to Hacienda Zuleta
Day 04: Leisure morning and Zuleta + return to Quito. Overnight
Day 05: Visit to Cotopaxi National Park + Overnight Inca Hacienda San Augustin del Callo
Day 06 Transfer to Hacienda Manteles in the Patate valley
Day 07 Transfer to Riobamba + Overnight Hacienda La Andaluza
Day 08 Transfer to Quilotoa Volcano crater lake + return to Quito (or Nono).
End of services.
Program includes private transportation, guidance, all meals, entrance fees, accommodation, local taxes.
*Overnight on Day 08 is not included.
EXPLORING THE SOUL OF OUR MULTICULTURAL COUNTRY
These tours explore the historical and cultural heritage of our amazing country. We present you a tray of options and invite you to immerse yourself in a world that shines with the sun.
Community tourism strengthens the identity of the communities and ensures a sustainable development keeping a balance between social, environmental and economic.
Inca Holidays praises the great job done by the following local communities. We can tailor-made a whole program to include all of them, or you can choose to visit one or two.
There are approximately 100 different indigenous communities in the districts of Otavalo and Cotacachi, with most of the inhabitants belonging to the Kichua-Otavalo ethnic group.
The project of Runa Tupari (meaning in their Kichwa language «encounter with local people»), facilitates cultural exchange between visitors and the inhabitants of the region. Visitors will experience a close contact with nature and, above all other things, a truly intercultural living space.
There are a few alternatives to enjoy the area. Our favorite day tours are:
Cuicocha Volcano crater lake.
Surrounded by stunning landscapes, we will hike on the «Orchid Trail» where we will find a wide variety of plants, many of them with medicinal properties. During this hike, you will have beautiful views of the majestic crater lake Cuicocha (meaning «lake of gods»), and enjoy wonderful panoramas of the Cotacachi and Otavalo districts, which are widely known for their rich millennial cultures. Later on, we will head to the paramo grasslands on the flanks of Cotacachi Volcano near the community of Morochos to see Alpacas (Andean Camels) and learn about ancients weaving techniques.
The Circuit of Sustainable Production
During this tour we will visit several projects, micro-enterprises, women groups and associations – all of them aiming to establish and strengthen new sources of income and job opportunities for the local population. We will see handicraft workshops, tourism enterprises, and manufacturers of honey, dried fruit and herbal teas, amongst others. We will have lunch along the way and also visit Lake Cuicocha where we have some free time for a short hike or a boat trip on the lake (optional).
Adventure in the Heart of Ecuador: BAÑOS
The idyllically set town of Baños has long been popular with Ecuadorians and foreigners alike.
Baños is famous for some of them are fed by thermal springs from the base of the active Tungurahua volcano. Baños’ elevation gives it an agreeable climate, and the surroundings are green and attractive. The town is also the gateway town into the jungle via Puyo and Misahualli.
East of Baños, the road drops spectacularly, and there are exceptional views of the upper Amazon Basin stretching before you. In the town itself, there are more attractions: the sugar cane candy makers, the tagua jewelry makers, an interesting Basilica, a small museum, its nightlife and restaurants with local and international cuisine.
Among the activities that are popular in town are cable car rides, canopy, trekking, horseback riding, mountain biking, river rafting, etc.
Itinerary at a glance
Day 01: Transfer from Quito via Avenue of Volcanoes to Baños. Hike +
Day 02: Avenue of Waterfalls, hiking tour or biking tour + Overnight
Day 03: Leisure morning for an array of activities available in the area
+ return to Quito.
Fascinating Cuenca and its surroundings
We start with the full day city tour. The visit of the beautiful city of Cuenca includes places like the picturesque and traditional Barrio de San Sebastián, the Museum of Modern Art, the Calderón Park (central park), the Plaza de las Flores, the Sagrario Cathedral (Old Cathedral), the Immaculate Conception Cathedral (New Cathedral) considered the largest in Latin America. We include a visit to a famous Toquilla Straw Hat Factory, where you can see the making of Ecuador’s finest hats.
Typical gastronomic experience
We travel through the majesty and charm of the Barranco where architecture meets natural surroundings. Finally, we arrive at the “Mirador de Turi” where the landscape of a valley full of red roofs and blue domes is framed by imposing mountains.
La Travesía: the best of Nono and the highlands
This soft adventure explores Ecuadorian highlands and valleys, showing off why Ecuador is by no means small in cultural and natural diversity.
We enjoy an array of activities to discover the beauty of the mountainous countryside, the charm of its people, the delicious gastronomy of each region and the hospitality of the posadas, haciendas or country houses chosen for overnights.
Get your camera and your soul ready to take with you beautiful vistas of the paramo highlands, the color of the fruits and vegetables, the smiles of our people, the whites of snow-capped volcanoes, the greens of our valleys and the peaceful sunsets.
ITINERARY AT A GLANCE:
Day 1: Arrival – Transfer to the colonial village of Nono. 3 overnights at
beautiful Villa Doris country guest house.
Day 2: Ecoroute of the Hummingbird day tour + gastronomic experience
Day 3: Otavalo indigenous market + visit to community project in the Andes
Day 4: Yanacocha Reserve + departure to Quito. Overnight at an art-boutique Hotel
Day 5: Transfer via the Avenue of the Volcanoes to Baños.
Overnight at an old Jesuits monastery coverted into a resort & spa.
Day 6: Hike and enjoy the Avenue of Waterfalls + Baños attractions
Day 7: Leisure time for hot springs or spa facilities + transfer to Riobamba
Day 8: Transfer to Cuenca + visit to Ingapirca archeological site
Day 9: City tour in Cuenca + surroundings
Day 10: El Cajas National Park and transfer by car to Guayaquil airport.
Program includes transportation, guidance, accommodation with breakfast, lunches or box lunches, entrance fees and local taxes.