Trip Details

 

A hiking adventure in Ecuador is a fascinating course in geography, geology, and culture—all within the magnificent setting of some of the highest Andes. Below the snowcapped volcanoes that pierce the Ecuadorian skies, indigenous peoples carry on their vibrant traditions amid relics of the Incan empire and the colonial past. Ecuador’s upland volcanic slopes are cooled by elevation and thick with forests full of endemic species. Exquisite colonial buildings in Quito and on surrounding haciendas form a picturesque backdrop for lively markets and towns. Look for rare hummingbirds, condors, and spectacled bears on hikes in mountain reserves of tall pine trees and glittering crater lakes. Travel back in time, discovering the countryside at a gentle pace, meeting warm and welcoming people all along the way.

Trip Highlights

    • Discover the colonial heart of lovely Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
    • Hike in nature reserves on the slopes of three of Ecuador’s magnificent volcanoes: Pichincha, Cotacachi, and Cotopaxi.
    • Visit the Condor Huasi Project, a condor preservation effort, at historic Hacienda Zuleta, established in 1691.
    • Take in extraordinary mountain views from the vantage of the Ecuadorian Railway, a national heritage monument.

Itinerary - 10 Days

Day 1 — Quito, Ecuador

Upon arrival, transfer to our hotel in the heart of lovely colonial Quito, named a World Heritage site by UNESCO for having the “best preserved, least altered” historic center in Latin America.
Hotel Plaza Grande (D)

Day 2 — Quito/Yanacocha Reserve

Yanacocha is a 2,965-acre cloud forest reserve, located on the western slope of the Pichincha Volcano about 10,500 feet above sea level. The reserve is home to an extraordinary diversity of highaltitude birds; pumas; spectacled bears; and one of the most endangered hummingbirds in the world, the black-breasted puffleg. Get used to the elevation while hiking a gentle trail with great views of Pichincha and other distant snowcapped volcanoes. Return to Quito and enjoy dinner in town. (2 miles hiking; 1 hour)
Hotel Plaza Grande (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Quito/Cotopaxi

Explore the colonial buildings of this urban jewel. Visit the Church of Saint Augustine and the Plaza Grande, site of many of Quito’s historic buildings: the cathedral, the presidential palace, city hall, and the archbishop’s palace. Next, visit the Church of San Francisco, one of the grandest religious buildings of the New World. After lunch, drive south through the renowned Avenue of the Volcanoes to the foothills of Cotopaxi Volcano and check into our luxurious hacienda, built on the site of Inca ruins. (2 miles hiking; 1 hour)
Hacienda San Agustin de Callo (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Cotopaxi National Park

Cotopaxi is one of the world’s highest active volcanoes, rising high above the lower peaks of the surrounding Andes. Drive up to Lake Limpiopungo (~12,500’), and set out on an invigorating hike below this iconic snow-covered peak. (5 miles hiking; 6 hours)
Hacienda San Agustin de Callo (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Olmedo/Zuleta

Head north to one of the most fertile valleys in the region and visit a sundial located precisely on the equator. After lunch in the small village of Olmedo, begin our hike through the high Andean grasslands (9,800’) along a “hacienda trail” linking Guachalá with Zuleta. Arrive at Zuleta, a 5,200-acre working hacienda, and relax or explore the hacienda’s beautiful grounds. The dairy, farm, and organic garden produce everything from milk and cheese to quinoa and organic vegetables, and the horses are available for riding on the surrounding trails. (5–6 miles hiking; 3 hours)
Hacienda Zuleta (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Condor Huasi Project/Caranqui Pyramids

Hacienda Zuleta hosts the Andean Condor Huasi Project, created to reintroduce captive Andean condors to the wild. Hike to the project headquarters nearby to learn about the plight of the Andean condor and how Condor Huasi aids in their repopulation and survival. Next, discover the pre-Inca pyramids of the Caranqui, who thrived here between 850 and the late 1400s, building the dozen or so pyramids and many mounds believed to be burial sites. (2 miles walking; 2 hours)
Hacienda Zuleta (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Angla/Pimán

We leave Hacienda Zuleta by foot on an exhilarating trek through eucalyptus forests, cattle farms, pastures, and hills. In the town of Angla, spend time with children and teachers from the local school. Later, drive through Andean valleys alongside lakes, rivers, and indigenous Otavaleño houses until we reach Hacienda Pimán near the city of Ibarra. (3 miles hiking; 2–3 hours)
Hacienda Pimán (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Ibarra to Salinas

In 2008, the government of Ecuador declared the Ecuadorian Railway, dating from 1873, a national heritage monument and began a total restoration of the network. Climb aboard and ride north from Ibarra through magnificent mountain landscapes.
Hacienda Pimán (B,L,D)

Days 9 & 10 — Cuicocha Lake/Otavalo/Quito

Explore the diverse flora and fauna of Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve on a hike around Cuicocha Lake, a deep blue crater lake that flanks the dormant volcano of Cotacachi. En route back to Quito, visit the renowned handicraft market at Otavalo to experience vibrant Otavaleño culture, costumes, language, and food, and maybe even bargain for handwoven fabrics. The next morning, transfer to the airport for your flight home. (Day 9: 8–9 miles hiking; 5 hours)
Hotel Plaza Grande (B,L,D; B)

Optional Extension

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About Adventures

National Geographic Adventures are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers that combine spectacular places, cultural interaction, and physical challenge. You'll explore fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places with top guides, and wherever possible, meet National Geographic experts in the field.

Dates

2015
  • Jun 27 - Jul 06, 2015
  • Aug 08 - 17, 2015
  • Sep 19 - 28, 2015
  • Dec 05 - 14, 2015
2016
  • Jan 07 - 16, 2016

Trip Cost

2015 - 2016

$5,995

Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,300. International airfare to/from Quito is not included in the adventure cost.

GROUP SIZE: 8–16

See special terms and conditions for this adventure.

Activity Level

Moderate

We will hike 1 to 6 hours per day (2 to 9 miles) on moderate to steep grades at high altitudes ranging from 9,000 feet to a maximum of 12,500 feet. During hikes, vehicle support is provided at various points along the way, and participants always have the option to rest a day and ride to the next hotel. We will stay 3 nights at an ideally located hotel in Quito and 6 nights in comfortable haciendas that reflect the local charm.

Click here for a description of all activity levels.

Contact Us: 1-888-689-2557

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