Day 1 – International Flight to Quito
You will depart as a group and fly to Quito, Ecuador where your Program Leader will welcome you. From the airport you will head to the historical center of Quito and settle into your hotel.
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. Tonight you will have dinner at a traditional Ecuadorian restaurant or take-out if you have a late arrival.
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 theatrical walking tour visiting the principle plazas of the old town and the Casa del Alabado Pre-Colombian Art Museum. You will learn about the history of the oldest cultures of Ecuador and you will also begin your scavenger hunt that will continue throughout your trip. 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.
After lunch, you will continue to your small host community where you will be spending the next few days. You will be met by your host families and get to know each other over dinner.
Days 3-7 – Service Project and Host Community
The homestay experience and service project, the heart of your program, are an excellent way to bond with your host community and peers through service. The multi-day service project will help the community address local needs. On the first day, you will meet in the morning at the work site to be briefed on the service project and to meet the local leaders who will be working with your group. 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 might be 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.
You will also visit surrounding attractions during your time in the community or at the ecological center. Some of these activities might include:
● Help families with traditional daily activities
● Visit the local trapiche, the place where raw sugar cane is transformed in blocks of sugar and other sugar products
● Visit a ethno botanical park, where you will learn about the traditional use of many plants and trees that belong to the jungle
● Hike through the forest to a hidden waterfall
● Traditional cooking lessons
● Meet with a local shaman (local traditional healer)
● Soccer game with local community
● Dance lessons with local community
During your days in the community you will receive clues and challenges to continue your scavenger hunt. For your final evening in the community, you will gather with your hosts for a celebratory farewell dinner.
Day 8 – Hot Springs
After breakfast, you will say good-bye to your new friends in the Amazon and head to the Papallacta thermal springs. These hot springs are located in the Andes mountain range and are naturally heated by an active volcano. Upon arrival, you will enjoy a traditional, local lunch and then you will have the afternoon and evening to relax at the hot springs. You will spend the night at a nearby lodge resting up for your trip to Otavalo tomorrow.
Day 9 – Equatorial Line and the Otavalo Indigenous Market – Quito
After breakfast at the lodge, you will head towards Otavalo in the northern highlands. On the way you will visit the Quitsato Project, a huge solar clock located on the equatorial line. You will have the opportunity to stand in two hemispheres at one time and visit the museum to learn about how early indigenous communities took advantage of astronomy to organize their culture.
Upon arrival in Otavalo you will have time to explore the famous Otavalo market and surroundings. You will find typical indigenous handcrafts such as hammocks, bags, ponchos and necklaces among other more modern souvenirs such as t-shirts and paintings. You will have a traditional lunch with the opportunity to try the famous dish of “cuy” (guinea pig) which is a delicacy throughout the Andes.
Upon arrival, you will visit the old town, also known as Quito Colonial, to visit a convent that will be opened exclusively for you. At the convent you will also have the chance to climb to a viewpoint from which you will have an amazing view of the historical center all lit up at night.
You will enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 10 – Hiking in the Cloud Forest
After breakfast, you will head to the northwestern part of the Andes, which is considered the transition region to the coast. Here you will explore the cloud forest, considered one of most diverse spots in the country. You will also have the opportunity to take an educational hike in the primary and secondary forest in a private reserve learning about how agriculture and reforestation with native species is possible in this region. After lunch at the private reserve, visit Tulipe, a culturally rich and mysterious archaeological site formed by several pools in different shapes that were filled with water for astronomical and ritual uses.
Upon arrival to Quito, you will have time to rest and re-pack your bags for your flight out in the morning.
Tonight you will have a special dinner at a quiteño family’s home to reminisce about the time you shared together in Ecuador and to conclude your scavenger hunt. This will be a theatrical dinner with a historical character providing reflection about the importance of communities in Andean cultures. You will return to your hotel to rest.
Note: Tulipe is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. In this case a visit to an alternate archeological site of Rumicucho will be offered.
Day 11 – International Flight Home
Today your Ecuador adventure comes to a close as you depart early for your flight out of Quito.
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