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Discover artistic Ecuador with a visit to the Art Workshop School, and meet famed Ecuadorean painter Oswaldo Viteri to discuss his work. Then, uncover the source of the inspiration of so many local artists as you explore the country's natural beauty: high Andes habitats and volcanic mountains painted with verdant forests, and aquamarine crater lakes. Travel the Avenue of the Volcanoes, walk amid the cloud forest, and hike beside waterfalls. Keep an eye out for puma, spectacled bear, and the magnificent Andean condor. Visit the vast Inca Ruins of Ingapirca and the colonial cities of Quito and Cuenca, and complete your picture at colorful Indian markets and a private hacienda.
DAY 1 Arrive Quito, Ecuador
Welcome to Quito! You are met upon arrival and taken to your designer hotel in the newer, northern part of the city.
Quito, at 10,000 feet above sea, is nestled deep within the valley of towering snow-capped Andean volcanoes. The rest of today is at leisure to relax or explore Quito on your own.
Casa Gangotena, Quito
This morning, your full day tour starts in the colonial center of the city. Visit the children’s Art Workshop School of Quito, where homeless children from 13 to 20 years old learn the different colonial artistic techniques of painting and sculpture. Tour lively La Ronda Street, the oldest street in the city, filled with craft workshops and vintage stores. See the San Francisco Church and Independence Square.
Stop for an enjoyable lunch at the chefs table of the famed Alma restaurant.
In the afternoon, enjoy a short private visit to the house of Oswaldo Viteri, perhaps the as the best contemporary painter of Ecuador. The painter himself is your host – he explains the details and motivations of his art, and you his magnificent private art collection, considered one of the best private collections in the country.
This evening, relax with champagne and canapés at Casa Gangotena before a private visit to the baroque style Church of La Compañia (the Golden Church). (B,L)
Casa Gangotena, Quito
DAY 3Quito to Hacienda Campu Cocha & Cotopaxi
Depart Quito early this morning, and take a short drive along the Cinnamon Trail, path of 16th century explorers. Learn how Francisco de Orellana took this trail in 1542 in search of “El Dorado.”
Stop for a visit at a private hacienda of Campu Cocha. This is a 1200-acre sanctuary for endangered species including the magnificent Andean condor, spectacle bear, puma, and paramo wolf. Spend the morning hiking, horseback riding, or fishing amid the magnificent landscape of this pristine páramo (highland moor).
Enjoy lunch at the hacienda before continuing on a scenic drive through the famous "Avenue of the Volcanoes" to Cotopaxi. These snow-capped mountains painted with verdant forests create a magnificent and memorable picture. The Cotopaxi cone-shaped, snow-capped volcano, at 19,343 feet, is considered the highest active volcano in the world.
Stay in a 15th century hacienda, a resident museum that was once an Incan palace. (B,L,D)
Hacienda San Agustin de Callo, Cotopaxi
DAY 4Cotopaxi to Baños & Riobamba
This morning, travel through the high Andes to Baños, the entrance to the Amazon basin and home to the 'El Otro Lado' cloud forest reserve. Stop for a short hike amid this lush cloud forest laden with magnificent waterfalls, archaic thermal baths and a diverse plant and animal life. Watch for puma, spectacle bear, and the magnificent Andean condor. Get a spectacular view of the noted Devils Waterfall. After your hike, visit the picturesque village of Baños (meaning bathes), famous for its delicious taffy and for the numerous thermal springs that originate from the base of the volcanoes.
Enjoy lunch at the home of a local rock-climber legend, and then continue to the 15th century city of Riobamba. Enjoy a sightseeing tour of this charming village filled with heritage houses set along cobblestone streets, before continuing to your hacienda home for the night. (B,L,D)
Hacienda Abraspungo, Riobamba
DAY 5Riobamba to Ingapirca & Cuenca
Arise early today, to take the exciting switch-back “Nariz del Diablo” train ride to the “Devil’s Nose.” This journey is a spectacular steep descent passing amazing landscapes and colorful Indian towns. The train travels along the ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes,’ an awe-inspiring valley between the Cordilla Ranges that is adorned by dozens of snow-capped Andes Peaks including Tunguragua, El Altar and Chimborazo, the highest mountain in Ecuador. You can sit inside the train, or venture to sit on the roof of the old box cars.
The highlight of the journey is a section known as the “The Devil’s Nose,” when built called “the Most Difficult Train in the World.” The train churns its way up a series of nail biting zigzags to climb the sheer stone face of the mountain, climbing a steep grade from 5900 to 8500 feet. Engineers designed the route by having the train goes forward and backwards up a series of switchbacks. Today, the train uses a relatively modern engine to pull the beautiful old carriages. The train stops en route to visit some of the authentic Indian markets of the central Andes, as well as for a picnic lunch in the mist of this pristine environment.
Disembark the train in the early afternoon, to continue your drive to Cuenca. Stop along the way to explore the massive Inca Ruins of Ingapirca, the biggest Inca complex in Ecuador. (B,L)
Hotel Mansion Alcazar, Cuenca
Enjoy a morning tour of Cuenca. Visit the 19th century blue-domed cathedral, the colonial cathedral museum, and the flower market. Drive up Turi hill for a panoramic view of the city and to visit a Panama hat factory.
Enjoy lunch at a traditional Ecuadorean restaurant in town, then have the rest of the afternoon at leisure to rest or explore on your own. (B,L)
Hotel Mansion Alcazar, Cuenca
DAY 7Cuenca to Quito and Depart
This morning, transfer to the Cuenca airport for your flight to Quito to meet your departing flight home or to another destination. (B)
Accommodations as indicated in the itinerary
Meals as indicated in the itinerary
All transfers and sightseeing provided in a private deluxe vehicle when possible
Local English-speaking guide for sightseeing
Entrance fees per final scheduled itinerary
Airport porterage, where available (2 bags per person)
Travel Guard Medical Emergency and Assistance Plan
Package price is per person, based on double occupancy. Single supplement applies. Land, air, and governmental/park taxes are subject to change based on date of departure. International airfare is additional. Other restrictions may apply. Contact us for complete journey details.
AVENUE OF VOLCANOES - ECUADOR