Note: This journey involves hiking in high altitudes.
Day 1: Quito, Ecuador
Welcome to Ecuador! On arrival in Quito, clear immigration, collect your luggage, and proceed through customs. In the arrivals hall, you are welcomed by a Big Five representative and assisted with your luggage. Then you are escorted to your hotel near the airport. Wyndham Hotel Quito
Day 2: Quito / Imbabura
After breakfast, join your guide for the drive north to Cayambe, known for its biscuits, mozzarella cheese, and manjar de leche, a typical sweet made from milk. Stop at Hacienda La Compania, a private farm that grows roses for export. The house was constructed in 1919 in a French Republican style, and the interior is lavishly decorated with antiques and incredible rose displays. Walk through the historic home and visit the rose plantation and showroom, which houses more than 4,000 roses in 40 different colors.
Continue on to the Indian village of Peguche to meet a family of artists, who makes traditional musical instruments. Here you can sample a typical indigenous dish – cuy, or guinea pig, which you can sample, or opt to enjoy the famous Otavalo country chicken.
Your day will end at Sacha Ji, a mountain-top wellness sanctuary located in the northern Avenue of the Volcanoes. The lodge combines magnificent scenery with sustainable, feng shui-based design to create a tranquil and harmonious experience. The setting, personalized service, organic Andean cuisine, and an array of wellness and cultural activities create a holistic journey for the body, mind, and soul. Admire the sunset at the foothill of the Imbabura Volcano or as an optional activity, destress with one of the various relaxation treatments by the hotel’s professional therapists. Sacha Ji Wellness Hotel & Retreat (B,L,D)
Day 3: Imbabura
Begin your day with a yoga session surrounded by the glorious views of San Pablo Lagoon and the Imbabura Volcano. Following breakfast, take an invigorating walk around the rim of the caldera at Cuicocha Lake before you travel to Otavalo to explore the food market to taste some exotic fruits in an indigenous market atmosphere.
After lunch at your hotel, you have a photography lesson with Maria Teresa Ponce, a recognized photographer and the owner of Sacha Ji. She offers instruction and smart tips on how to capture the most professional wildlife pictures, which you can use in tomorrow’s trekking program. Your guide will also brief about the excursion. Sacha Ji Wellness Hotel & Retreat (B,L,D)
Day 4: Imbabura / Pasochoa / Chaparro Forest
This morning, you will be picked up at your hotel, which is situated at an altitude of about 3,200 meters/10,500 feet, to begin your Andean hike to your next lodge. At the foot of Pasochoa Peak, you begin the climb that takes you to 4,200 meters/13,780 feet. Access is not difficult and the hike to the peak will take about three hours over grassland trails. From here, you will savor a box lunch amid the spectacular views of the mountains including Antisana, Sincholagua, Quilindaña, Cotopaxi, Rumiñahui, Corazón and the twin peaks of Iliniza as well as the inspiring scenery of the Pasochoa Crater. The second part of your hike consists of the descent to the Pita River Canyon, a downhill walk of about three hours through grasslands and low ‘Chaparro’ forests, ending at the lodge. Chilcabamba Lodge – Standard Rom (B,L,D)
Maximum Altitude: 4,200 meters/10,500 feet. Hiking time: 7 Hours. Difficulty: Moderate. Type of terrain: Grassland trails.
Day 5: Chaparro Forest / Cotopaxi
Today, you head to Cotopaxi National Park, one of the most beautiful protected areas of Ecuador, and your next night’s lodging. On a clear day, you might see Cotopaxi’s volcanic peak from parts of Quito. But its majesty is only clearly revealed from within the borders of the park. When the weather cooperates, views of its snow-capped, nearly symmetrical summit cone are inspiring. Begin at the Pita River, which provides water to hundreds of thousands of Quiteñios in the capital city. Its source is the pristine glacial meltwater of Volcan Cotopaxi. The river guides you throughout much of your adventure. This is a beautiful hike, but it’s more than just the beauty and activity. By hiking here, you are helping to conserve the Pita River by raising awareness for both locals and visitors alike about the importance of this river, it conservation and how melting glaciers impact the population. The hike enters the Cotopaxi National Park near an archeological site called Pucara de Salitre, where you see a variety of migrant and resident Andean bird life. On the way, you might also see some of the wild horses, deer or llamas that make the park their home as well as gorgeous seasonal mountain wildflowers and breathtaking scenery. Spend time at the water’s edge of the Pita and the natural springs at the park with its classic views of Cotopaxi Volcano or the reflection of Rumiñahui Mount in its waters. Enjoy a picnic in the crisp alpine environment. Finish your day’s journey at the cozy mountain lodge. Tambopaxi Lodge – Standard Room (B,L,D)
Maximum Altitude: 3,755 meters/12,320 feet. Hiking time: 5 Hours. Difficulty: East. Type of terrain: Forest, grassland trails.
Day 6: Cotopaxi / Quito
From the lodge this morning, you drive by private vehicle to the parking area of the Cotopaxi Mountain Refuge. You walk for approximately an hour before reaching the mountaineers’ lodge. From here, the northern side of the mountain offers spectacular panoramas. Your guide will help you identify all the ground you have covered since the first day of your adventure: Quito, its valleys, the distant mountains in the north, and the road from Pasochoa, through the Pita Canyon, to El Pedregal, Sincholagua, Rumiñahui, and the magnificent Limpiopungo Valley. The descent, which will take approximately one hour, takes the same route back to the parking lot. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before driving back to Quito. Hotel Carlota (B,L)
Maximum altitude: 5,100 meters/16,732 feet. Hiking time: 3 Hours. Difficulty: Moderate. Type of terrain: Sandy ground, glacier.
Day 7: Quito / Depart
This morning is at leisure to use as you wish. Late this afternoon you will be transferred to the airport to board your onward flight. (B)
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From $300 per person per day.