Day 1 – International Flight to Quito
Today you'll start your adventure Ecuador to make unforgettable memories with your group. Upon arrival in Quito, you will be greeted at the airport by your Tour Manager and begin your adventures.
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 you have time for dinner you will have your first traditional Ecuadorian meal.
Day 2 – Quito - Amazon
After breakfast, 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. 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.
We 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
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 7 – Adventure in the Amazon - Hot Springs
After breakfast you will say your goodbyes to your new friends in the Amazon before heading to Baños with lunch on the way. You will check into your hotel and you will have the afternoon to relax in the hot springs heated by the Tungurahua Volcano.
Day 8 – Quilotoa Volcanic Lake - Chugchillan trek
After an early breakfast, you will have an early departure to head towards the Quilotoa Volcanic Lake for a trek around the lake. The trek takes about 5 hours along agricultural fields, indigenous settlements, beautiful landscapes, and a small canyon. You will also stop during the day for snacks and a hearty boxed lunch. The trek ends with your arrival to Chugchillán town, where your lodging will be waiting for you.
At night you can go for a walk and visit the local church.
Day 9 – Quitsato Monument - Cayambe
Today, you will wake up very early in order to head toward the equator; this trip takes about 5 hours. You will stop on the way at a traditional restaurant in order to have breakfast and then continue your trip.
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. You will also stop in Cayambe, a town well known for its traditional bizcocho factories. You will get to sample these salty pastries that taste great with dulce de leche (caramel) or with a special kind of cheese, both made locally.
After lunch, you will head towards a colonial hacienda where you will visit a cultural project that promotes the use of an ancient traditional plant, and then you will have some free time to visit the rest of the hacienda and relax at the swimming pool. After dinner, you will have a brief explanation of ancient cultures and their relation with astronomy. To finish the evening, you will be part of the popular tradition of the “chamisa”, in which thin branches are placed to form a bonfire. The chamisa is traditionally burned in community celebrations.
Day 10 – Condor Park and Otavalo Indigenous Market
In the morning, at the hacienda you will visit Condor Park, where many of the resident birds of prey have been rescued from illegal captivity or other unsuitable environments. Some species that can be seen here are condors, king vulture and a variety of owls. You will then head to Otavalo where the largest indigenous market in South America is located.
Upon arrival in Otavalo 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. In the afternoon 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.
Note: Condor Park is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. In this case an alternate activity will be offered.
Day 11 – Cotacachi and workshops
After breakfast, you will head towards Cotacachi which is famous for its leather handcrafts. You will have a chance to browse the leather offerings including purses, jackets, and shoes. After this you will visit a workshop where the wool is hand-dyed and the textiles are woven on traditional backstrap looms. You will also visit a nearby workshop that makes traditional musical instruments. These artisans will show you the processes used to make their products and will share the importance of keeping these traditions alive. Finally, you will visit a small town that maintains the traditional process of weaving a natural fiber grown in lakes.
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.
Day 12 – Departure
Today your Ecuador adventure comes to a close as you depart early for your flight out of Quito.
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