This 12-day private tour showcases Ecuador's tremendous array of natural wonders and the indigenous cultures of the Amazon and the Andean peoples. It packs in such a lot: you explore the Amazon Rainforest and meet the communities who live there; you experience the spectacular beauty of the Avenue of the Volcanoes, as well as the beautiful colonial towns of Cuenca and Quito. There is also the opportunity to take a ride on the Devil's Nose Train, an incredible feat of engineering. Ecuador is a very special country and this itinerary works hard to shows just what it can offer.
Chosen by Wanderlust as one of their 50 Best Trips for 2012, they said, “Rainbow Tours' epic Ecuador Explorer trip has mainland Ecuador covered, from Andean train rides to Amazon wildlife, rumbling peaks and indigenous communities. Start in historic Quito, before flying to the Napo Wildlife Centre, to make forays on foot and by canoe into the chirping, buzzing Amazon. Next, pick up some handicrafts at Otavalo's lively market, then head south down the looming Avenue of the Volcanoes (a ride on the hair-raising Devil's Nose train is a must). Colonial Cuenca and the bustling port of Guayaquil complete the picture. Who needs the Galápagos?”
Day 1 Take the daytime flight to Quito, arriving in the late afternoon and stay at the charming Patio Andaluz hotel in the heart of the old city.
Day 2 Explore the city with your local guide on a half day city tour. Visit the old squares and cobbled streets of Quito as well as visiting some of the city’s numerous old cathedrals and churches. Drive north to the 'Mitad del Mundo' which represents the middle of the world. At this point you can stand on both sides of the equator simultaneously. Afternoon at leisure to stroll around the old city or take the cable car towards the summit of Pichincha volcano.
Day 3 Transfer to the airport for the short domestic flight to Coca, the gateway to the Amazon rainforest and transfer to the award winning Napo Wildlife Centre. Owned by the local Anangu Kichua people, this eco-tourism project helps protect 53,500 acres of the most pristine Amazon rainforest within the Yasunì National Park, an important UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Day 4 Two full days at the lodge to spend exploring the Amazon jungle on foot or by canoe, and you can take part in any number of the exciting activities such as Piranha fishing and night walks in the rainforest
Day 6 Return to Coca and take the short flight to Quito before transferring to your hotel in the historic centre, La Casona de la Ronda, as before. Rest of day at leisure.
Day 7 Full day trip to the Northern Highlands and the famous Otavalo region. Set in beautiful countryside this is an ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of Quito. The highlight of your visit will be the indigenous market in Otavalo town. Although Saturday is the main market day, there is still a market on every day of the week where you can buy local handicrafts.
Day 8 From Quito, travel south to the town of Riobamba. En-route visit the town of Baños (Baths) which is situated at the foot of Tungurahua Volcano, from where the thermal waters that gave it its name emerge.
Day 9 Transfer by road (approx 2 hours) to the small town of Alausí, where you will board the Devil's Nose Train and take this spectacular journey through the Andean Highlands. Continue by road to the colonial town of Cuenca visiting the Inca Fortress of Ingapirca en-route.
Day 10 Free day to explore beautiful Cuenca, a World Heritage Site. Perhaps visit the main square, surrounded by the imposing blue-domed Cathedral, the Court of Justice, the Municipal Palace, the Governor's Palace and the Church of El Sagrario. You can also visit the area where they make the famous Panama Hats from high-quality toquilla straw.
Day 11 Transfer by road to Guayaquil via Las Cajas National Park. Overnight at the recently renovated Oro Verde hotel which is an ideal base to explore the old coastal port and Ecuador's second city.
Day 12 Today is at leisure and then transfer to the airport for your onward journey, or continue on to the Galapagos Islands.
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
Sign up to our weekly Trip Finder email and get a selection of the best trips to feed your Wanderlust