Spirit of the Andes
• Avenue of Volcanoes • Centuries old haciendas • Devil's Nose railway
Start in Quito before departing on a four-day immersion into the Andean World. Travel along the Avenue of the Volcanoes to Cuenca, with visits to centuries old haciendas and discover the local culture, history, Andean flavours, traditions and legends of the ancestral people. A highlight will be riding the refurbished 100 year old train on the switchbacks of the famous Devil's Nose railway.
Day 1: Quito You will be met and transferred to your hotel.
Day 2: Quito Enjoy a private walking tour of Quito's old colonial heart, UNESCO World Heritage listed and the largest and best preserved colonial centre in South America. The walk starts at the Independence Plaza, flanked by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishop's Palace. Also visit the ornate La Compania de Jesus and its awesome gilded interior - perhaps the most beautiful colonial era church in all the Americas. Continue on to the Monastery of San Francisco, one of the great religious buildings of the New World; its impressive facade and atrium lead to its Baroque interior influenced by Moorish style, with the winged Virgin of Quito at its main altar. Return to your hotel for the rest of your day at leisure.
Day 3: Quito > Cotopaxi National Park > Patate Leave Quito after breakfast and travel south on the Pan-American Highway to Cotopaxi National Park which is centred around the magnificent Cotopaxi Volcano that rises to 5,897 metres. The scenery is stunning - the evergreen landscape of the Ecuadorian highlands and to valleys and mountains covered by multi-coloured fields. Upon arrival at the park, visit the small Interpretation Centre to learn about the Andean paramo or moorlands, its flora and fauna. A number of high-altitude birds can be observed around Limpiopungo Lagoon and occasionally, wild horses. On clear days, the perfect snow-capped cone of the Cotopaxi Volcano is quite a sight! At the foot of the volcano is a charming hacienda, where lunch is served in a room with Inca walls, perfectly preserved through the centuries - a true archaeological jewel. There will be free time after lunch to stroll through the rose plantation before your drive continues, descending towards the town of Patate, where you will spend the night at the 300-year old hacienda Hacienda Leito.
Day 4: Patate > Banos > Riobamba After breakfast, travel the spectacular route along the gorge of the Pastaza River to the town of Banos situated at the foot of Tungurahua Volcano, from where thermal waters emerge. Drive along the Route of the Cascades to El Pailon del Diablo (the Devil's Cauldron). Lunch is served at a hacienda, followed by free time to stroll through Banos, a town with an international pulse, full of people from all over the world as well as many locals who take pilgrimages to the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Holy Water. Continue your journey through to Riobamba climbing alongside massive Chimborazo, the highest mountain in Ecuador. There will be great photo opportunities today as you travel through hillsides tilled by Indian farmers into fascinating patterns. Continue to Hosteria la Andaluza where you will overnight.
Day 5: Riobamba > Cuenca This morning travel past Indian villages and cultivated fields "“ this is the area in which most of the cereals in Ecuador are grown. The scenery is spectacular! After a couple of hours you will arrive at the small town of Alausi, the centre of the rehabilitation of the Ecuadorian Railway Company where you board the Nariz del Diablo train, with the highlight being a thrilling 800 metre zigzag descent through a section known as the Devil's Nose. At the bottom you will find the newly renovated Station of Sibambe where you will visit the Nizag community to see displays of local handcrafts, fruit and medicinal plants, and get a chance to try the local coffee before the train whistle calls guests back on board for the return to Alausi. Then continue by road exploring the Andean landscape and visit the Inca Fortress of Ingapirca, the largest Inca site in Ecuador. Arrive in Cuenca at dusk.
Day 6: Cuenca Enjoy a half day tour of Cuenca, a city that retains its pleasant provincial air with red tiled roofs, cobblestone streets, flowery plazas and museums. See the Plaza of San Sebastian, a colourful artisans' market, where handicrafts are sold, and the Museum of Modern Art, featuring an excellent collection of contemporary fine art. Next is a visit to the flower market at the small plaza in front of the carved stone entrance to the church of El Carmen de la Asuncion. From here stroll to the main square, surrounded by the imposing blue-domed Cathedral, the Court of Justice, Municipal Palace, the Governor's Palace and the Church of El Sagrario. Round off the tour with a visit to a Panama Hat factory to observe the whole process of making the famous hats of high-quality toquilla straw.
Day 7: Cuenca > Guayaquil Today you will be collected from your hotel and transferred by private vehicle to Guayaquil (approximately 3 hours 30 minutes). On route, visit the Cajas National Park, a high-altitude area west of Cuenca known for trails through evergreen cloud forests and hundreds of lakes, such as Laguna Toreadora. Cajas National Park is also home to rich wildlife including Andean condors, giant hummingbirds and raccoon-like coatis. Just outside the park, the Santuario de la Virgen del Cajas is an outdoor pilgrimage site where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared. Arrive Guayaquil in the afternoon and check into your hotel
Day 8: Guayaquil Transfer to the airport
• Tailor-made journey with private English speaking local guides • 7 nights' accommodation • Transfers and transport • Sightseeing and entrance fees • 7 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
Pricing (per person) $AUD
Departs Daily except Thursday
Daily except Thursday
Booking conditions This tour can be combined with a visit to the Amazon or Galapagos Islands.
This tour can be combined with a visit to the Amazon or Galapagos Islands.