Ecuador Mainland

Explore a part of Ecuador that most visitors never experience -- mainland Ecuador's historic indigenous communities.

Country Information

Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands

Ecuador Mainland Enrichment Series

(Countries Visited)

Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands


(Interest Type(s))

Sustainable Travel

,

Adventure Travel


(Tour Length)

10 Days


Tour Highlights

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  • Explore Quito, at an elevation of 9,000 feet, it is one of the most beautiful capitals in the world and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site
  • Visit the Salasaca Indian weavers, an important ethnic group in the province of Tungurahua
  • Enjoy a thrilling train ride through remote highland regions and past Indian communities along the way
  • Discover the Cañari Indians and Ecuador’s largest and most important archaeological site at Ingapirca
  • Relax in beautiful surroundings where jungle mingles with enchanting ocean breezes, or surf or engage with the local communities

Day 1:  Arrive Quito, Ecuador
Welcome to Ecuador.  After claiming your luggage, you will be met by your Big Five Ecuador representative and transferred to your hotel.  Mansion del Angel Hotel

Day 2:  Quito
The capital of Ecuador, Quito, lies at an elevation of 9,000 feet in the province of Pichincha surrounded by the Andes Mountains.  One of the most beautiful capitals in the world, the city was founded as San Francisco de Quito on December 6th, 1534 by the Spanish conquistador and sanctioned through the auspices of UNESCO in 1978 to be a World Cultural Heritage Site.  The historic center of Quito, known as the "Old City" is replete with narrow and winding cobblestone streets, magnificent churches and wide-open squares.  The buildings that line the streets reflect Spanish colonial influence with their balconies, tile roofs, thick columns and central patios.  A full-day private tour of Quito begins in the colonial quarter, with its incomparably rich La Compania Church, San Francisco Square, and other landmarks.  Drive up Panecillo Hill for glorious views of the city and surrounding mountains.  You visit the Astronomical Observatory, the oldest astronomical observatory in South America, built in 1873.  It houses the unique Merz Equatorial Telescope, designed to scan both Northern and Southern constellations, given that Quito is just 25 miles south of latitude zero.  You see a number of antique instruments used in the 19th century for map making, weather recording, terrestrial and celestial observation.  Even more important, it was essential in developing the metric system of measurement!  It even houses the first meter that was constructed out of an alloy of iridium and platinum.  Then, in the heart of colonial Quito, on what is believed to be the oldest pre-Hispanic street in the city, there is the most delightful piano repair shop operated by the son of one of Ecuador´s most famous musicians and composers, Humberto Santacruz.  By special arrangement, you enter a small patio courtyard where the shop displays an old 1902 player piano built in New York City and, later painstakingly rebuilt by “the piano plastic surgeon” as he is known in the neighborhood.  Sr. Santacruz will play a couple of local compositions reminiscent of the country´s traditional beat.  Enjoy a typical lunch overlooking the serene countryside and stand in the northern and southern hemispheres simultaneously at the Equatorial Monument before returning to your hotel.  Mansion del Angel Hotel (B,L)

Day 3:  Quito / Baños / Riobamba
Early morning departure from Quito takes you down through the Avenue of the Volcanoes to the cloud forest region beyond the town of Baños, in the eastern Andes and at the base of mighty Mt. Tungurahua, an active volcano.  En route, visit the Salasaca Indian weavers, an important ethnic group in the province of Tungurahua.  They are excellent weavers and have preserved their costumes, traditions and original political and cultural organization.  Enjoy a hearty picnic lunch before returning up the Andes to the town of Riobamba, near Ecuador's highest peak, Mt Chimborazo.  Hacienda Abraspungo (B,L,D)

Day 4:  Riobamba / Devil's Nose / Ingapirca
Start the day with a thrilling train ride.  The train departs early morning for a journey through remote highland regions and quaint Indian communities grouped around the many train stations along the way.  Experience the dramatic drop via switchback to Sibambe and back up to the frontier town of Alausi for lunch.  Then, you continue on to the land of the Cañari Indians and Ecuador's largest and most important archaeological site at Ingapirca.  You will enjoy overnight at an inn just a short distance from the ruins and overlooking an expansive valley.  Posada Ingapirca (B,L,D)

Day 5:  Ingapirca / Cuenca
This morning, explore Ingapirca, a mixture of Cañari and Incan architecture, with exquisitely carved stones tightly fitted together like a giant jigsaw puzzle, and all done without the use of mortar.  You then continue to Cuenca in time for lunch and an afternoon excursion through the colonial past of this charming Andean town, including a special visit to the Panama hat factory.  Mansion Alcanzar (B,L,D)

Day 6:  Cuenca / Cajas National Park / Cuenca
Full day visit to Cajas National Park with lunch at typical restaurant at the reserve.  Cajas provides about 60% of the drinking water for the Cuenca area.  Two of the four rivers of Cuenca originate from Cajas, and eventually drain into the great Amazon River.  See strikingly jagged peaks and lagoons.  In the lower regions of the park, the cloud forest and perennial high mountain forest are present, mostly near the brooks and rivers.  Enjoy a nature walk in these dramatic landscapes before returning in the afternoon to Cuenca.  Mansion Alcanzar (B,L,D)

Day 7:  Cuenca / Guayaquil / Santa Elena
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Guayaquil.  Here, you travel for a couple of hours along the Route of the Sun through ever-changing landscapes of tropical plantations and fishing villages to Samai Spa Hotel.  At 330 feet above sea level, Samai emerges as an oasis amid the ivory nut, tangerine, and orange groves.  The architecture is an eccentric blend of oriental Feng Shui with Andean and Amazonian cosmogonies.  With the sounds of the jungle mingling with the enchanting ocean breeze, Samai is an inn-and-spa suited for meditation, relaxation and healing.  Enjoy the beauty of the Cordillera Mountains, the Pacific Ocean and rain forest all in one place!  You will find the extraordinary peace and tranquility of Ecuador in a setting still largely untouched by civilization.  Take advantage of the Jacuzzi, swimming pool and spa treatments.  Samai Spa Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 8:  Santa Elena
Today’s focus is the Agua Blanca Community, a small village located eight miles north of the fishing town of Puerto López and just three miles off the main highway.  The people of this village still observe a lifestyle similar to that of their ancestors, who were the Manteño Culture, which inhabited this land between 800 and 1532 A.D.  Visit the on-site archaeological museum.  Hike the nearby trails that harbor some ancient remains.  You may encounter colorful birdlife, iguanas and more.  Your hike ends at a pond said to possess healing powers.  Enjoy a late lunch at a local restaurant, where local chefs prepare local favorites such as lobster, langoustines and tropical fruits.  Return to Samai for an amazing sunset before heading to dinner at a local restaurant in the town of Montañita.  Besides its wonderful local gastronomy, this town is widely known for excellent buys in arts and crafts.  Samai Spa Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 9:  Santa Elena
Today you can choose to relax or select one of the activities that interest you such as meeting with residents in a local community to learn about their traditions and way of life; taking surfing lessons with the locals at the village of San Jose; or zip lining over the forest canopy, with its breathtaking views.  You can also opt for a boat ride to Isla de la Plata just off the coast, where you encounter blue-footed boobies, masked boobies, frigate birds and albatrosses.  Depending on the time of year, you may see them nesting and mating.  Also, between June and September, humpback whales come to mate and give birth just off the coast of Ecuador.  Samai Spa Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 10:  Guayaquil / Depart
Today you are transferred to the airport in Guayaquil for your international homebound flight.  (B)

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