Explore from the Cloud Forest to an Ice-Draped Volcano with Rob Noonan

Overview

Immerse yourself in the enchanting world of a magical cloud forest, hike from hacienda to hacienda across the indigenous heartland of Ecuador’s highlands, meet chefs and artisan-weavers in their homes, and hike up to the snow line from the climbers’ refugio on Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes on Earth! With our beloved Trip Leader Rob Noonan, we celebrate Ecuador’s phenomenal array of landscapes and cultures on a unique journey that brings us to three totally distinct settings. In the pristine cloud forest, home to some of the richest biodiversity in the world, we join researchers to walk to healing waterfalls, through vine-draped forests, and even take an aerial “sky bike” ride. In the lofty realm of the highlands, we hike across beguiling rural landscapes where we explore centuries-old markets and are welcomed at atmospheric 17th century haciendas. Our grand finale finds us on the páramo grasslands of Cotopaxi National Park, crowned by ice-draped Cotopaxi (19,347’), where we hike from Incan ruins, along high trails, and enjoy fantastic stargazing in the night sky of the Southern Hemisphere. As we explore these three realms of Ecuador, dining will be a special part of the experience, with locally sourced meals inspired by the ingredients of Ecuador’s natural bounty—we’ll even have a cooking lesson from a local chef! Our hand-picked accommodations, from a stunning nature lodge in the cloud forest to 17th century haciendas and a cozy mountain lodge, will be as memorable as the journey itself.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-3
Quito / Ecuador’s Cloud Forest Ecosystem

Descending from Quito to the magical cloud forest, a biodiversity hot-spot, we join specialist guides to explore primary forest, hike to a hidden waterfall, and spot birds. One adventure is a “sky bike” ride across a river, a fun way to enjoy the exuberance of nature. The flavors of the cloud forest influence the cuisine at Mashpi, our elegant lodge.

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Days 4-6
The Highlands/ Otavalo / The Great Haciendas

Coming up out of the forest to the gleaming, volcano-dotted highlands, we visit the famed artisan market at Otavalo and visit the home of a family of weavers in the remote village of Abato. Our hike from Hacienda Cusin to Hacienda Zuleta brings us through traditional highland farms. At Zuleta, a sublime 17th century working farm, we visit the condor conservation program, the artisan cheese production area, and savor the serene mountain setting.

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Days 7-8
Cotopaxi National Park

We hike from an Inca ruin across the dramatic páramo grasslands of Cotopaxi National Park, where magnificent, snow-draped Cotopaxi dominates the views. We’ll enjoy a catered lunch and fantastic vistas, then hike from the climbers’ refuge up to the volcano’s glaciers. Our mountain lodge has phenomenal Cotopaxi views.

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Days 9-10
Old Quito / Chocolate Tasting / Sculpture Garden / Depart

An insider’s tour takes us through grand colonial quarter, the most intact in Latin America, with a visit to the elegant Museo Casa del Alabado, local artisan chocolate tasting, and lunch at a Quinteña sculptor’s home and garden. Depart in the evening of Day 10.

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Highlights

Highlights

Glide by cable car across the cloud forest, hike to a “healing” waterfall, hear the roar of howler monkeys
Savor a tasting menu from one of Ecuador’s rising young chefs
Meet traditional backstrap loom weavers in the village of Agato
Hike from hacienda to hacienda through beautiful highland farms
See magnificent Andean condors at Hacienda Zuleta
Enjoy a picnic at Inca ruins, hike across Cotopaxi National Park
Climb up towards the glaciers on magnificent Volcano Cotopaxi

Details

Length: 10 days
Cost From: $5995  
Arrive: Quito, Ecuador
Depart: Quito, Ecuador
Lodging: 9 nights hotels, haciendas, lodges
Meals: All meals included (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Hiking / Trekking, Wildlife & Natural History
Trip Level:

5 hiking days on moderate trails (some steep sections), 2-5 hours, altitudes between 8,000 and 15,000 feet

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