Explore from the Cloud Forest to an Ice-Draped Volcano

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! 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 (9,350') to the biodiversity of the cloud forest, we explore primary forest, hike to a hidden waterfall, take night walks, and ride a “sky bike” above the trees, a unique way to see the exuberance of nature.

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

We discover a new realm: the volcano-dotted highlands, where we explore the Otavalo market and visit a family of traditional weavers in Agato. On our hike from Hacienda Cusin to Hacienda Zuleta, a winding trail leads through a green patchwork of farms where wheat, maize, potatoes, and quinoa are grown. At 17th century Zuleta, with its serene mountain setting and warm welcome, we hike to the condor conservation center, and learn about this renowned program.

 View Lodging
Days 7-8
Cotopaxi National Park

Our final setting is the dramatic pÿramo grasslands of Cotopaxi National Park, where snow-draped Cotopaxi dominates the views. We’ll enjoy a catered picnic lunch and fantastic vistas as we hike from an Inca ruin, and on Day 8 hike from the climbers’ refuge up to the volcano’s snowline. Our post-hike reward at our mountain lodge is a tasting menu by one of Ecuador’s top young chefs.

 View Lodging
Day 9
Quito / Depart

Drive to Quito, where day rooms are held at a boutique hotel by the airport. Depart in the evening.

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
Hike hacienda to hacienda, see magnificent Andean condors
Enjoy a picnic at Inca ruins, hike in Cotopaxi National Park
Hike to the glaciers on magnificent Volcano Cotopaxi

Details

Length: 9 days
Cost From: $5395  
Arrive: Quito, Ecuador
Depart: Quito, Ecuador
Lodging: 8 nights hotels, haciendas, and lodges
Meals: All meals included except for 1 lunch and 2 dinners (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Hiking / Trekking, Wildlife & Natural History
Trip Level:

5 hiking days on moderate trails, 2-5 hours, altitudes between 3,200-11,800 feet; 1 optional hike at 15,600 feet