Day 1 – International Flight to Quito
Upon arrival in Quito, you will be greeted at the airport by your Program Leader. From the airport you will head to the center of the city and settle into your hotel.
If you arrive during the evening you will stop for dinner or a snack.
Optional: If you arrive with daylight to spare, you will visit the Panecillo Hill for a spectacular 360 degree view of the city and its surrounding neighborhoods or you will walk through various plazas and streets surrounding your hotel. If having time for a proper dinner, that night you will have your first traditional Ecuadorian meal.
*Please note, if the group has a morning or early afternoon arrival to Quito, additional costs for meals, activities, transportation, etc. will be added to the cost of the program.
Day 2 – Quito, Amazon
After breakfast as a group, you will have your orientation meeting. You will then take a walking tour through various plazas and neighborhoods surrounding your hotel, and, if time allows, you will visit some local candy shops to learn how traditional candy is made. Later, you will return to the hotel to pick up your bags and start your trip to the Amazon Region.
Along the way you will stop for lunch and explore one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Ecuador, Pailón del Diablo (The Devil’s Cauldron), which lies in a region where the Andean highlands begin to give way to the amazing climate of the Amazon. Then you will continue to your small host community or ecological and animal rescue center where you will be spending the next few days. You will be met by your host families or by the ecological center´s personnel and get to know each other over dinner.
Note: There are two options for lodging in the Amazon Region: with host families in the local community, or in volunteer housing at the ecological center. The two places are located a 10 minute drive from each other.
Days 3 - 6 – Service Project and Host Community
For the next few days, you will work on a much-needed service project in the Amazon region. You will work between four and six hours per day, depending on the service project. For your service location, you will choose between two options: the local community or the animal rescue center at the ecological center.
Projects in the local community may include reforestation in and around the community, helping to improve the infrastructure of the local school, teaching basic English and/or providing environmental education to school children and other community members.
One of the ecological center’s main goals is to rescue wild animals that have been kept in captivity or trafficked illegally, and rehabilitate them in an effort to reintroduce them to their natural habitat. Possible projects include infrastructure improvement such as re-fencing the enclosures that keep the animals safe, building water reservoirs, and building classrooms for local training in conservation. Additional projects related to the daily maintenance of the center such as feeding the animals and cleaning their living spaces, reforestation, and clearing trails and walkways for visitors to see the animals in a zoo-like setting are also a possibility.
You will also visit surrounding attractions during your time in the community or at the ecological center. Some of these activities might include:
Helping families with traditional daily activities
Visiting the local trapiche, the place where raw sugar cane is transformed in blocks of sugar and other sugar products
Visiting a ethno botanical park, where you will learn about the traditional use of many plants and trees that belong to the jungle
Hiking through the forest to a hidden waterfall
Soccer games with local community
Traditional games with the children
Dance lessons with local community
For your final evening in the community, you will gather with your hosts for a celebratory farewell dinner.
Day 7 – Adventure in the Amazon, Quito
After breakfast you will say your goodbyes to your new friends in the Amazon before heading back to Quito. Along the way you will stop to enjoy hot springs to relax and you will have dinner in a nearby restaurant.
Upon arrival to Quito, you will return to your hotel to rest up for the night.
Day 8 – Cotopaxi Snowcapped Volcano
After an early breakfast, you will have an early departure to head towards the Cotopaxi volcano. This is the highest snowcapped active volcano in the world and here you will have the opportunity to learn about the high plateau ecosystem and its flora and fauna. After visiting one of the park’s lagoons you will have a short but challenging hike (an average of a half hour) up to the first refuge where you will enjoy some hot chocolate to warm you up! After you hike back down the snowy volcano your bus will be already waiting for you in order to take you to a nearby traditional restaurant where lunch will be waiting for you. Then you will board your bus again and you will drive to the Quilotoa volcanic Lake.
Upon arrival you will walk around the community learning about the story of this place. If available, you can visit the market where local women come to trade and also visit a home to learn about a traditional handicraft, intricate paintings on sheepskin. You will have dinner and spend the night at a simple indigenous lodging run by a community cooperative as part of a rural tourism project. At night you will enjoy a nice dinner.
Day 9 – Quilotoa Volcanic Lake, Chugchillan trek
After having a nice breakfast you will take your backpack and get ready to see the beautiful volcanic lake before you start your trek around the lake in direction to the north. The trek takes an average of 4 to 5 hours along agricultural fields, indigenous settlements, beautiful landscapes, and a small canyon. You will also stop along the day for snacks and for a hearty box lunch. The trek ends when arriving to Chugchillán town, where your lodging will be waiting for you. There you will have time to relax, rest and enjoy from a very nice dinner.
At night you can go for a walk and if open you can visit the local church.
Day 10 – Otavalo Indigenous Market
Today, you will wake up very early in order to head in direction to the middle of the world; this trip takes an average of 5 hours. You will stop on the way at a nice traditional restaurant in order to have breakfast and then you will continue your trip.
Already in Otavalo, you will have lunch and then the afternoon and evening to explore the market and surroundings. You will find typical indigenous handcrafts such as hammocks, bags, ponchos and necklaces amongst other more modern souvenirs such as t-shirts and paintings.
You will spend the night at a local hotel in Otavalo.
Day 11 – Quitsato middle of the world monument - Quito
After breakfast, you will head in direction to Quito. On the way you will stop by the Quitsato proyect, located on the equatorial line. Here you will have the opportunity to stand in two hemispheres at one time, learn about how early indigenous communities took advantage of astronomy to organize their culture. You will also stop in Cayambe, a town well known by its traditional bizcocho factories. You will get to sample these salty pastries that taste great with a local dulce de leche (caramel) or with a special kind of cheese, both made locally.
Upon arrival to Quito, you will have lunch and time to organize your bags at your hotel before your trip back home. At night you will have your farewell dinner at a restaurant located at a nice viewpoint.
Today your Ecuador adventure comes to a close as you depart early for your flight out of Quito.