Ecuador Explorer: Andes North to South with Eva Seelye

Your TourHero

Eva Seelye

Hi! I'm Eva and I'm an adventure photographer and writer who LOVES travel and the great outdoors — combine the two and it's my idea of the perfect trip! Some of my all-time favorite things to do are hike, backpacking, snowboard, and surf, but I'll try just about anything if the opportunity arises. You'll find me learning as much as I can about the local culture, venturing out on a few hikes, and finding under-the-radar activities at each destination. I'm super passionate about inspiring fellow adventurers to experience some of these adventures for themselves in a sustainable way, respecting the land, each other, and contributing to the outdoors and travel communities in a positive and inclusive way.

Duration

8 days · 7 nights

Travel Date

Feb 15 - 22, 2022

Activity Level

Moderate

Group Size

6 – 16

Transportation

Van

Tour Prices

USD 909
/ person

Your Fellow Explorers

Age range

21 – 35

Travel interest

Hiking, adventure, culture

Fellow Travelers

11
 total travelers
QuilaOnjelie StephanieAlexStephanieJosieRicardoArturoAmanda JuanitaEva

Your Local Guide

Andando Tours

With over 40 years of experience as a tour operator in the Galapagos and Ecuador, Andando Tours is equipped with the expertise and extended travel knowledge about the fantastic destinations offered in their itineraries, delivering first-hand experiences and recommendations for an unforgettable journey. Each trip is designed to allow travelers to experience authentic locations in Ecuador in a safe, immersive, and experiential way. Let the passionate guides of Andando Tours take care of all the nitty gritty details for you — all you need to do is enjoy your inspirational journey through Ecuador.

Ecuador>Ecuador Explorer: Andes North to South with Eva Seelye

Discover the treasures of Ecuador on this spectacular north-to-south Andes Mountains adventure that takes you to some of the most magical high-altitude parts of the country. From the beautiful Andean town of Otavalo, where craft artisans call home, to the coastal city of Guayaquil and the cloud forests and national parks in between, this is an eye-opening trip you’ll never forget! Hike around the incredible Cuicocha crater lake, venture into the home of the iconic Cotopaxi Volcano, explore Incan ruins, marvel at glorious waterfalls (including Pailón del Diablo!), traverse the wetlands of Cajas National Park, and more!

Cancellation policy

Refunds for deposits
If you cancel your trip after placing a deposit but before your card on file is charged for the full payment, you can request a full refund of your deposit up to 30 days before the tour departure.

Refunds for fully-paid trips
If you cancel your trip after making full payment, you may change or cancel your trip up to 30 days before the tour departure for a credit towards a future trip. You will receive a credit equivalent to 100% of your trip payment to be used anytime within the next 2 years from the date the credit note is issued.

A full credit will also be issued if the tour is canceled due to COVID-19 travel restrictions (see our COVID-19 guarantee on the tour itinerary page). We suggest buying your own travel insurance for coverage of cancellations within 30 days of the tour commencing for reasons other than a full tour cancellation.

Your TourHero

Eva Seelye

Hi! I'm Eva and I'm an adventure photographer and writer who LOVES travel and the great outdoors — combine the two and it's my idea of the perfect trip! Some of my all-time favorite things to do are hike, backpacking, snowboard, and surf, but I'll try just about anything if the opportunity arises. You'll find me learning as much as I can about the local culture, venturing out on a few hikes, and finding under-the-radar activities at each destination. I'm super passionate about inspiring fellow adventurers to experience some of these adventures for themselves in a sustainable way, respecting the land, each other, and contributing to the outdoors and travel communities in a positive and inclusive way.

Duration

8 days · 7 nights

Travel Date

Feb 15 - 22, 2022

Activity Level

Moderate

Group Size

6 – 16

Transportation

Van

Ecuador>Ecuador Explorer: Andes North to South with Eva Seelye

Discover the treasures of Ecuador on this spectacular north-to-south Andes Mountains adventure that takes you to some of the most magical high-altitude parts of the country. From the beautiful Andean town of Otavalo, where craft artisans call home, to the coastal city of Guayaquil and the cloud forests and national parks in between, this is an eye-opening trip you’ll never forget! Hike around the incredible Cuicocha crater lake, venture into the home of the iconic Cotopaxi Volcano, explore Incan ruins, marvel at glorious waterfalls (including Pailón del Diablo!), traverse the wetlands of Cajas National Park, and more!

Timeline

  • Day 1 · Quito and Otavalo
  • Arrive in Quito
  • Transfer to Otavalo
  • ~ 1 hr 30 mins van
  • Check-in at El Indio Inn (or similar according to availability)
  • Dinner (not included in price)
  • Day 2 · Otavalo, Cuicocha Lagoon, and Quito
  • Breakfast and check out of accommodation
  • Cuicocha Lagoon hike
  • Lunch (not included in price)
  • Explore Plaza De Los Ponchos Market
  • Journey to Quito
  • Check-in at Selina Quito (or similar according to availability)
  • Dinner (not included in price)
  • Day 3 · Cotopaxi National Park and Baños
  • Breakfast and check out of accommodation
  • ~ 1 hr 30 mins van
  • Cotopaxi National Park tour – includes Pucará de Salitre ruins
  • Lunch (not included in price)
  • Journey to Baños
  • Check-in at Selina Baños (or similar according to availability)
  • Dinner (not included in price)
  • Day 4 · Baños
  • Breakfast
  • Cloud forest waterfall tour – includes Pailón del Diablo
  • Lunch (not included in price)
  • Canyoning or biking experience
  • Dinner (not included in price)
  • Day 5 · Baños and Cuenca
  • Breakfast and check out of accommodation
  • Ingapirca Ruins tour
  • Lunch (not included in price)
  • Journey to Cuenca
  • Check-in at Selina Cuenca (or similar according to availability)
  • Free evening
  • Dinner (not included in price)
  • Day 6 · Cajas National Park and Guayaquil
  • Breakfast and check out of accommodation
  • Cajas National Park tour – includes lake hike
  • Lunch (not included in price)
  • Journey to Guayaquil
  • Check-in at Hostal El Manso (or similar according to availability)
  • Dinner (not included in price)
  • Day 7 · Guayaquil
  • Breakfast
  • Free day
  • Lunch and dinner (not included in price)
  • Day 8 · Departure
  • Breakfast and check out of accommodation
  • Transfer to Guayaquil airport
  • Journey ends

Details

Day 1

Welcome to Ecuador! Spend your first night in the beautiful Andean town of Otavalo

We’re excited to have you here in Ecuador with us! Upon your arrival at the airport in Quito, the country’s capital, we’ll embark on a journey north to the delightful town of Otavalo, which sits 2,532 meters above sea level in the highlands of the Andes Mountains. Surrounded by volcanoes, including the Imbabura Volcano, this charming town is known for its skilled indigenous artisans and woodworkers. After checking into your accommodation, you’ll have the chance to rest and recover from your long journey. Tomorrow, we will visit the town’s handicraft market in the morning before our big adventure to the Cuicocha crater lake.

Day 2

Hike around the Cuicocha Lagoon and witness absolutely breathtaking views

Ready for adventure? It’s time to head to the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve to discover the Cuicocha Lagoon, actually an impressive three-kilometer-wide crater lake. Located at the foothills of the imposing and still-active Cotacachi Volcano, this glorious caldera is a sight to behold. We’ll stop at the viewpoint to admire the breathtaking scenery before we begin our trek around the lake. The route will allow us to enjoy the amazing landscapes and a truly unique ecosystem. Fun fact: This lake was considered a sacred place by the indigenous inhabitants and the name Cuicocha Lagoon (Laguna de Cuicocha) comes from the Kichwa indigenous language and means “Lago del Cuy”, or “Guinea Pig Lake” in English. It was given this name because of the guinea pig shape of the largest island in the middle of the lake! After our visit, we’ll head back to the city

Discover local treasures at the Plaza De Los Ponchos Market

After lunch, we’ll take a short walk to the nearby Otavalo handicraft market. Known as the Plaza De Los Ponchos Market, this lively place is the largest and most important indigenous artisan market in the country. Here, artisans gather to show and sell all manner of crafts, with stalls overflowing with textiles, jewelry, trinkets, and souvenirs. Immerse yourself in the bustling atmosphere, interact with the locals, and grab yourself a bargain!

Day 3

Explore Cotopaxi National Park, discover Lake Limpiopungo, and visit the Incan ruins of Pucará de Salitre

After a hearty breakfast, we’ll depart for Cotopaxi National Park. On our journey, we’ll pass the town of Machachi and cross a pass that takes us to the Cotopaxi Province, from which the colossal Cotopaxi Volcano will come into view. Catch sight of the clouds that fill the nearby valleys like steaming cauldrons! When we enter the home of Ecuador’s second-highest peak, you will see why the area is called the “Avenue of Volcanoes”. Our drive brings us out onto the plain of Lake Limpiopungo (Laguna de Limpiopungo), fed by water from the volcano Rumiñahui that towers over it. At the water’s edge, you might glimpse visiting wildlife — ducks, swallows, frogs, and toads, or perhaps an eagle or a great Andean condor. We’ll eventually come to the Incan ruins of Pucará de Salitre, a lookout fortress once used to control the communication route from the highlands into the Amazon Jungle. If the weather is good, you’ll be treated to epic views of surrounding volcanoes: Rumiñahui, Sincholagua, Pasachoa, and with luck, the shy Antisana! As we advance across the paramo (moors), we might see hawks, foxes, llamas, and even deer. Finally, we’ll continue to the town of Baños in the Tungurahua Province.

Day 4

Enter the Andean cloud forest to see waterfalls, including the legendary “Pailón del Diablo” (The Devil’s Cauldron)

Today, after breakfast, we’ll visit one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on our planet: the Andean cloud forest. From Baños, located at the foothills of the Tungurahua Volcano, we will drive towards the jungle to see the many waterfalls that flow into the 300-meter-deep Pastaza River Gorge. We’ll stop at the most famous waterfalls in the area before reaching our destination in the Parroquia Rio Verde. Here, a cable car ride takes us across the gorge — get ready, you’ll be treated to spectacular panoramic views and a closer look at “Manto de la Novia”, a remarkably high waterfall on the other side of the gorge. Once in Rio Verde, a 15-minute walk through the cloud forest brings us to the unbelievable “Pailón del Diablo” (The Devil’s Cauldron), a massive waterfall that cascades into a big cauldron of rocks below. For the more adventurous, a tunnel carved into the rock leads you to the back of this waterfall; if you don’t mind getting wet, get exploring! After this, we return to our transport for the drive back to Baños and to prepare for our next activity.

Canyoning or biking experience

Choose between a thrilling canyoning experience or bike along the trails of Llanganates National Park.

Choose from one of the two activities

Option 1 · Challenge yourself on a canyoning expedition

This activity takes place in the community of Cashaurco, located 40 minutes from the town of Baños. After being transported to the starting point, you will be given a safety briefing and some training before donning the equipment necessary for your canyoning experience. We’ll then walk 15 minutes uphill to reach our first waterfall. On this adventure, you can expect a total of 15 thrilling waterfall descents that will require you to combine rappelling techniques with small jumps and use of the natural water slides. This activity presents a moderate challenge for people new to canyoning; the team will ensure that you have a fun and safe experience. How cold does the water get? Between 14 and 19°C. Refreshing!

Option 2 · Traverse the bike trails of the Llanganates National Park

Ready for a bike ride to remember? From Baños, we’ll board a private vehicle that will take us 1.8 kilometers to the trailhead. Then, hopping on our bikes, we’ll travel the 3.2-meter route into the heart of Llanganates National Park and start our descent back towards the city. This bike trail will take us on dirt roads, through haciendas, and across streams. After a short stretch on a paved road, we will arrive at the final checkpoint where our transportation will be waiting to take you directly back to your accommodation in Baños for a well-deserved rest.

Day 5

Visit the Ingapirca Ruins to discover the remains of mysterious structures

After an energizing breakfast, we’ll take a short hike nearby to explore the surrounding mountains and take in some amazing views. Once we’ve stretched our legs, we’ll board our transport and depart for the Ingapirca Archaeological Complex. Also known as the Ingapirca Ruins, this gem is a remarkable site of perfectly carved stones that fit together seamlessly. The main ruin is the elliptic structure of the Temple of the Sun, a temple used for ceremonies and rituals of the Cañari and Inca people. Here, we will also come across a cemetery, a solar observatory, paths, priests’ chambers, and an indigenous plaza scattered among the remaining buildings. After this visit, we will continue to the city of Cuenca. Here, you’ll have the chance to check into your accommodation located in Cuenca’s historical center. You’ll have the rest of the day free to explore the remarkable city, declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Day 6

Discover the rich landscapes of Cajas National Park

After breakfast at the hotel, we will leave Cuenca behind and journey to the nearby Cajas National Park, one of the biggest wetland reserves in Ecuador. It boasts 30,000 hectares of forest and moors, with more than 230 lakes spread across the protected area. Due to the different altitudes and humidity levels, this reserve is made up of multiple microclimates and ecosystems, making it an ideal home for many animals, especially birds and amphibians. Once in the park, we will hike around one of the lakes to have a closer look at this unique ecosystem and the surrounding landscapes. After our hike, we’ll continue to the city of Guayaquil, located in the coastal region of the country.

Day 7

Spend a free day in Guayaquil

Today, enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel and spend the day at your own pace in the port city of Guayaquil. Venture downtown to find cafes and art galleries, stop by the Plaza Guayarte for street art and great food, take a leisurely stroll down the Malecón 2000 riverfront promenade by the Rio Guayas, or relax in one of the many beautiful parks. There's plenty to see and do in the city, so make the most of your final full day in Ecuador!

Day 8

Time to bid farewell to Ecuador

We hope you’ve enjoyed your epic adventure in Ecuador! After your final breakfast and checking out of your accommodation, depending on your flight schedule, we will transfer you to Guayaquil airport for your return flight. Until next time — we hope to see you again soon!

Accommodation

  • El Indio Inn (or similar according to availability)

    Set in a unique, colonial-inspired building with a delightful plant-filled inner atrium, El Indio Inn sits in the center of the city of Otavalo, 13 kilometers from the artisan town of Cotacachi and 3 kilometers from the Cascadas De Peguche waterfalls. The inn has a cafeteria that serves breakfast, a restaurant and terrace, and a spa area with a steam room, hot tub, and sauna. Guest rooms are fitted with antique furnishings, a TV, Wi-Fi, and a mini-fridge. Room type: Double occupancy.

  • Selina Quito (or similar according to availability)

    Selina Quito is located in Ecuador’s capital city, surrounded by cafes and shops. This modern, upmarket hostel offers several types of rooms to guests, including mixed-gender dorms and private rooms with en suite or shared facilities. Wi-Fi is available on the premises and there is a lively restaurant and bar, a shared kitchen, a movie room, and a wellness area, among other communal facilities. Room type: Double occupancy.

  • Selina Baños (or similar according to availability)

    Selina Baños is located in Baños, a town popular for being the gateway to the nearby Amazon Basin and providing easy access to the trails on the active Tungurahua Volcano. Vibrant and funky, you’ll find unique art murals on display at this unique hostel. Facilities include a rooftop terrace, bar, spa, cafe, and shared kitchen. Wi-Fi is available on the premises. Room type: Double occupancy.

  • Selina Cuenca (or similar according to availability)

    Located in the Andes Mountains overlooking Río Tomebamba that runs through the city, Selina Cuenca’s colonial building overflows with Ecuadorian design. Guest rooms are furnished with local influences like cream wicker baskets, hand-dyed rugs, and alpaca blankets. Facilities include a shared kitchen area, movie room, wellness area, and indoor restaurant that serves homemade granola for breakfast. Selina Cuenca benefits from its convenient location — historical hotspots such as Calderon Park, the Museum of Cañari Identity, and the Museum of Skeletons are found nearby. Wi-Fi is available on the premises. Room type: Double occupancy.

  • Hostal El Manso (or similar according to availability)

    Located in the city center of Guayaquil on the west bank of the River Guayas, the cozy and homely El Manso offers Wi-Fi access throughout the property and features a restaurant that serves freshly-prepared local and international dishes. Multiple guest room types are available, including rooms with shared or private bathrooms. Some rooms are fitted with balconies that overlook the city. Room type: Double occupancy.

Included

  • 1 night in El Indio Inn (or similar)
  • 1 night in Selina Quito (or similar)
  • 2 nights in Selina Baños (or similar)
  • 1 night in Selina Cuenca (or similar)
  • 2 nights in Hostal El Manso (or similar)
  • Shared occupancy in accommodation
  • All activities described in the itinerary, private, with local English-speaking guides
  • Cotopaxi National Park entrance fee
  • Ingapirca Ruins entrance fee
  • Cajas National Park entrance fee
  • Private transportation between activities/accommodation/airport
  • All breakfasts
  • 24/7 guest support

Not included

  • International flights
  • Visas (if needed) and arrival/departure and excess baggage fees
  • All lunches
  • All dinners
  • Optional add-ons
  • Gratuities

COVID-19 guarantee

We know many of you are yearning to travel, but also want to do it in a safe and enjoyable way.

To ensure your wellbeing, we’re working with each of our partners to ensure that exhaustive precautionary health and safety measures are in place. This includes reducing group sizes, incorporating more outdoor adventures, and closely monitoring the spread on the ground.

At the same time, we also know that this is a holiday for you and that you want to experience the best of each location, with minimal inconvenience. We’re confident that each of our trips will be both safe and enjoyable, but if we cannot keep to either of those promises, we will defer or cancel the trip if necessary and gladly issue you credit for a future tour to be used towards any tour within 2 years.

Available add-on

Pre-trip extension to experience Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve (minimum 6 people required to run)

Pre-trip add-on for the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve experience and three extra nights. Includes one night in Selina Quito with private transfer from the airport to the hotel, shared transportation from Quito to Lago Agrio the following day, two nights in Guacamayo Lodge in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, and shared transportation back to Otavalo in time to begin the main trip. Hotels mentioned are subject to availability at the time of booking (a similar option will be offered if unavailable). Breakfasts are included on day 2 and day 4.

Price: USD 499

Guacamayo Eco Lodge

Post-trip extension to experience the Ecuador coast (minimum 6 people required to run)

Extend your trip with an extra Ecuador coastal experience that includes private transportation from Guayaquil to Montañita on day 7, a 2-hour surf class in Montañita (with surfboard and wet suit rental included), one night in Selina Montañita, private transportation from Montañita to Puerto Lopez on day 8, Isla de la Plata experience (with local guide, boat ride, snorkel equipment and lunch included), one night in Hosteria Mandala, private transportation from Puerto Lopez to Guayaquil on day 9, Machalilla National Park and Agua Blanca experience (with entrance fee to the national park included), one night in Hostal El Manso, and private transfer to Quito where your trip journey ends. Hotels mentioned are subject to availability at the time of booking (a similar option will be offered if unavailable). All breakfasts are included.

Price: USD 608

Surfing in Ecuador

One-way private transfer from Quito to Otavalo

Take a private transfer from Quito to Otavalo for your convenience and comfort

Price: USD 70

Say goodbye

Cancellation policy

Refunds for deposits
If you cancel your trip after placing a deposit but before your card on file is charged for the full payment, you can request a full refund of your deposit up to 30 days before the tour departure.

Refunds for fully-paid trips
If you cancel your trip after making full payment, you may change or cancel your trip up to 30 days before the tour departure for a credit towards a future trip. You will receive a credit equivalent to 100% of your trip payment to be used anytime within the next 2 years from the date the credit note is issued.

A full credit will also be issued if the tour is canceled due to COVID-19 travel restrictions (see our COVID-19 guarantee on the tour itinerary page). We suggest buying your own travel insurance for coverage of cancellations within 30 days of the tour commencing for reasons other than a full tour cancellation.

USD 909
Per person