An Ecuador tour is not just about the Galapagos, it has so much more. This 3 day mainland Ecuador tour is a perfect bolt on your Galapagos cruise. Giving your a real taste of Ecuador’s highlands.
Day 1 – Start your Ecuador tour visiting Quito and Otavalo
Either before or after your Galapagos Islands tour we will pick you up from your hotel in Quito and take you into the northern highlands of Ecuador, enjoying stunning views of valleys such as the Guayllabamba and the Pisque en-route. This is an opportunity to learn about the formation of the Andes mountains and its inhabitants in an area that is still volcanic. There will be many chances for stops to take photos of the snow-capped volcanoes Cayambe and with some luck, Cotopaxi (this volcano often has cloud issues!). We will drive through the extensive rose farming region and patchwork countryside where corn, potatoes, quinoa and broad beans grow. This journey will see us arrive in the province of Imbabura, known as the “lake province of Ecuador”.
The Otavalo market is a famous one among visitors (much like Pisaq´s reputation in Peru). The shy and soft spoken Otavalo Indians, typically dressed in their traditional costumes have many artisan stalls in the plaza and it is a great opportunity to buy something for the wall at home or a gift for someone else. Haggling is expected, and can be great fun.
Later in the day you will visit Cuicocha crater lake meaning Guinea Pig lake”. This lake is set in lovely scenery surrounded by peaks and Andean flora and fauna. We will then continue on to Cotacachi, a small traditional town specializing in the manufacture of leather goods, anything ranging from wallets to suitcases. Our next visit is the small village of Peguche which is known for its old fashioned Otavalo weavers, where work is still done on traditional, Spanish introduced weaving looms. You will visit a local family that produce wind instruments, and see a demonstration of how the ancient instruments are made and hear the playing of native music. After this full day of sightseeing you will spend overnight at a traditional hacienda, such as the Hacienda Pinsaqui for example.
Day 2 – On Towards Papallacta
After a hearty breakfast at the hacienda we will drive south-east towards the town of Papallacta well known for its natural thermal hot springs. En-route you will enjoy panoramic views of the Andean countryside, including high moor vegetation and indigenous Polylepis trees. Upon arrival at Papallacta you will have time to soak in the spa and thermal pools soothing any travel tiredness away. You will spend overnight in the area and feel fully relaxed for a nice dinner and drinks with your fellow travelers.
Day 3 – Antisana Reserve to Quito
After breakfast we will take you back towards Quito through the Ecological Reserve at Antisana where we will explore relatively recent lava formations and cliffs areas where Andean Condors are known to roost. Antisana is characterized by a wide range of interesting plants and great opportunities to observe birds, such as Andean Gulls and Geese, Caracaras, Sierra Finches, Eye Stripped Cinclodes and if you are lucky the unique Black-faced Ibis and the largest land-living bird, the Andean Condor. Occasionally, white tailed deer or an Andean fox can be spotted in the area, as well as some small wild rabbits and other small mammals.
Lake Mica is set against a lovely backdrop with many interesting plants such as wild gentians and various species of daisies which have adapted to this harsh mountain climate. Vast plains form the surrounding landscape dominated by peaks like Sincholagua or Cotopaxi and, weather permitting, you will be able to see the massive glaciers of nearby Antisana volcano. You will be provided with a box lunch to eat en-route back to the capital of Ecuador.
This short Ecuador tour makes a perfect addition to a Galapagos cruise or hotel-based Island Galapagos tour so just ask us to adapt to your needs and fit it in with the cruise boat schedules.