Day 1 - Depart the U.S. to Quito, Ecuador. Arrive the same evening and transfer to your hotel. You will be accompanied by private transportation and English speaking guide. Check in at your Hotel. Overnight Quito and dinner at the hotel.
Day 2 – Quito - This interesting city tour goes through diverse neighborhoods for a look at both colonial and modern Quito. We will visit top Quito attractions such as historic plazas, churches and colonial buildings, like the Independence Square, the Presidential Palace, the Archbishop Palace, the Municipal Building (City Hall), and the Cathedral. The visit to Compañia church cannot be missed, one of the most impressive of Latin America and then visit San Francisco Church, one the of great religious buildings of the New World. Finally, head to the most famous hill in Quito, Panecillo viewpoint, where you'll notice the contrast between colonial and modern Quito. You will have the afternoon at leisure to explore this fascinating city on your own. Meals: Breakfast
Day 3: Quito – Visit Mitad del Mundo – Otavalo Market & surroundings You´ll be picked up from your hotel to head towards Imbabura known as "The Province of the Lakes". But first you will visit Mitad del Mundo or The Middle of the world. The origin of this place goes back to the First Geodesic Mission which came to our country for the purpose of study and determines the exact curvature of the planet. This mission, managed by the French scientist Charles Marie de la Condamine and the Ecuadorian scientist Pedro Vicente Maldonado, determined where the equator crossed. We have the opportunity to visit Intiñan museum just 200 meters north of the Mitad del Mundo monument, here is the actual "middle of the world," marked. This museum showcases what modern-day GPS has proven to be the true site of the equator line. Here your device will actually read zero degrees latitude and zero degrees longitude. Then we will continue to the north of the country, the highway offers a lovely view passing through Calderón and Guayllabamba valleys. We will make short stop here to get to know more about local culture. Passing through Cayambe we can get a sight of the snow-capped volcano (5,790m.), the world´s highest point crossed by the Equator Line (If time permits, we will make a stop in Cayambe to sample the famous salt biscuits with "leaf cheese" and "manjar".) We continue to the Imbabura province, named after the Imbabura Volcanoe, where we will first head to the largest lake in Ecuador, the San Pablo. We will then enter Otavalo City that holds the Indian Market every day, the biggest are on Wednesdays and Saturdays, an ancient tradition and cultural exchange site among the Otavalo community. This market is centered on 'Poncho Plaza' but extends up and down all intersecting streets for several blocks in each direction. The indigenous craft market will be full of vendors proudly displaying their wares. Wander through the market perusing the wide range of unique jewelry, hand-woven rugs, colorful clothing, bright bags, hand-carved ornaments, and vibrant textiles. In the afternoon we will visit Peguche waterfall before returning to Quito. Meals: Breakfast & Dinner at Hotel.
Day 4: Cotopaxi Full Day & Rose Farm Plantation We will begin our adventure early in the morning driving through the Panamericana Highway, appropriately acknowledged as "The Avenue of the Volcanoes". Our destination is no other that the world's highest active volcano: Cotopaxi. With 5,897 meters high, Cotopaxi elegantly adorns the Cordillera Real of the Ecuadorian Sierra. We will enter the Cotopaxi National Park for a close encounter with the Paramo biodiversity and a short ecological explanation. If the weather and the travelers physical conditions are appropriate, we will continue towards the road of the pine forest to the no less charming Limpiopungo Lake , where we will make a short walk around it, you will also visit the museum that holds information about the origin of the volcano, flora and fauna that can be found. We will transfer to a Rose plantation located near Yambo Lagoon, the ride will take 1 hour, here we will know about the Ecuador roses, Ecuadorian Roses, due to Ecuador's geographic location it has very similar seasons; therefore, roses and flowers can be cultivated and produced during the whole year, in the hacienda we will see the complete life cycle from growth till exportation, a local guide will explain why Ecuadorian roses are well known worldwide, a delicious lunch based on rose petals will be served. Back to Quito in the afternoon. Meals: Breakfast & Lunch.
Day 5. Transfer out to Cuenca / City Tour Early in the morning you will be transferred to the airport, you will take your flight around 8am to Cuenca, after 30 min you will arrive to this charming city known as " the city of the four rivers". Today you will have the opportunity to stroll around this charming colonial city, declared a Cultural Heritage site of Mankind by the UNESCO. The city gets familiar with its colonial buildings with beautifully decorated patios; it's nice and gentle inhabitants and the cozy atmosphere. The trip up to Mirador de Turi is one of the most popular excursions in Cuenca. Turi is located in the perfect place to bask in the breathtaking panorama of the entire city of Cuenca. Mirador means "lookout" or "viewpoint"; "Turi" means "brother" in Quechua, the language of the pre-colonial indigenous people of the same name. Near the city center you will also visit a Panama hat fabric. These hats, made of the local 'Paja Toquilla' palm leaves, are originally Ecuadorian hats and Cuenca is one of the main cities exporting this worldwide known product. Afterwards we will have a nice lunch in a cozy restaurant located in the old town. Meals: Breakfast & Lunch.
Day 6. Full Day Valleys of Cuenca Departing from Cuenca with your guide, relax on the scenic drive to the two small villages of Gualaceo and Chordeleg. These bucolic towns are well known for their traditionally made handicrafts, such as the macanas (shawls) that women have woven from alpaca wool for centuries. First stop of the day is a quick visit to San Bartolome, a small town located next to the Andes Mountain Range. Famous for its crafty, handmade guitars, you'll visit a local shop to observe the process of making this instrument. Then, head to nearby Chordeleg, famous for the jewelry shops that line the streets and large plaza. Walk through the clean, tranquil town with your guide and admire the intricate silver and gold filigree sold at great prices. You'll have time to shop around and check out the local jewelry and other crafts made by locals in the town's central plaza. Next, head to Gualaceo where the locals sell folkloric handicrafts and textiles, such as the characteristic white straw hats, as well as blouses, skirts and linens hand-embroidered with magenta, orange and yellow thread. Learn from your guide about the significance of the pre-Columbian patterns and designs such as birds and flowers. You'll have time to eat lunch before heading to a local textile whop, where you'll see the process of weaving. After a full day outside of Cuenca, you'll be dropped-off at your hotel. No extra meals will be served this day. Meals: Breakfast.
Day 7. Free day Cuenca – Cooking Classes Our tour starts with a visit to the main local market in the historic center of Cuenca. Here you'll purchase some of the ingredients you'll be using later. It's a great opportunity to experience local culture and everyday life , make sure to learn some Spanish words to interact with locals. You'll learn about Andean products and the way to order produce at the market. You'll then take a short walk through to the chef's kitchen where you'll learn how to cook your selected menu. After the class, you will then get to sit back and enjoy the food you've prepared. The program lasts about 4-5 hours. If you have any particular dietary requirements, please let us know. Meals: Breakfast & Dinner.
Day 8. Transfer to Guayaquil – Visit Cajas NP – Visit Guayaquil – Transfer to Airport After breakfast you will be picked up to visit El Cajas National Parks which is 70,000 acres shelter everything from cloud forest to rocky lunar landscapes, but it's the lakes (more than 200 of them) scattered among jagged peaks that characterize the reserve best. Most of El Cajas lies above 3,000 meters, with páramo covering most of the rugged terrain. Frost and ice above 4,000 meters try their best to deter the thriving of hardy vegetation such as the tiny quinua tree, clinging to life higher than any other tree in the world. Look for these 200-year-old specimens tucked up against hillsides in pockets of primary forest, clothed in a green palette of mosses and ferns and fighting each other for sun- light. You stand a good chance of seeing the wild llamas that were reintroduced to the park in the late 1990s. The park's other animal inhabitants, such as the spectacled bear, puma, and tigrillo, are more elusive. A long bird list counts hummingbirds, toucans, and Andean condors. Afterwards we will continue to Guayaquil. Guayaquil is the main port of the country and is considered one of the most important because its location and infrastructure provides facilities for international maritime trade. Guayaquil is situated on the river Guayas that connect to the Pacific Ocean. We will do a short walk around Malecon 2000, which is one of the new magnets in the city which attracts thousands of people, then transfer to Guayaquil airport. Meals Breakfast
Day 9 - Early morning arrival to the USA. End of our services.
This itinerary is approximate. The exact times, days and destinations may vary due to unforeseen circumstances.