A unique gem in the Pacific Ocean. Experience what it is like to detach from daily life and truly be at one with nature, not found anywhere else on earth....
10 days of culture, volcanoes and magical cloud forests in combination with the most luxurious accommodations
“We only offer the best accommodations, locations that exude atmosphere, places that take you back to glorious times.”
This journey takes you to the soul of colourful Ecuador. You will visit colonial Quito, stay at a luxurious lodge in the most beautiful cloud forest of the country and you will go on an adventure at two grandiose haciendas in the Andes Mountains. Extend this journey with an 8-day expedition cruise in the Galápagos Archipelago to a 3-week vacation. In style and comfort, this visit to Ecuador fits in perfectly with an 8-day cruise on the yacht Grace; You can find this expedition cruise here. With this journey, you will create memories for life.
For this journey, we only offer the best accommodations Ecuador has to offer, locations that exude atmosphere, places that take you back in time, with an unprecedented high and personal service level.
For a day to day overview, click here to see the itinerary.
Upon arrival at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport of Quito, located in the county of Tababela, you will be welcomed by our representatives, a driver and an English-speaking guide. They are happy to give you tips for the rest of the day and evening, which you can spend at leisure.
You will be staying at Casa Gangotena for the next two nights. This boutique hotel was originally a mansion from the early 1900s. Various Art Nouveau and Art Deco elements shine in the warm interior. The hotel has won various awards over the years, including several times a place in the Top 25 best hotels in the world.
A splendid full day in Quito visiting the Aerial Tram, the Intiñan Museum at the Middle of the World and Quito Colonial City “World Cultural Heritage Site”.
Quito’s Cableway, called “Teleférico” loads new passengers at 2,500 meters above sea level. In just 10 minutes the gondolas rise from the valley to 4,050 meters for a spectacular view of the city from high above on the mid-foothills of the Pichincha Volcano. At the top, passengers feel as if they could reach the summit of the Pichincha Volcano (4784 m) and can also obtain breathtaking views of the famed Avenue of the Volcanoes including several of the snow-covered colossus’ such as Cotopaxi (5897 m), Antisana (5752 m) and Cayambe (5790 m).
Approximately 40 minutes north of Quito, the Equatorial Line crosses Ecuador and marks the Earth’s Latitude Zero. A commemorative monument marks the historic expedition of the French Geodesic Mission in the 18th century that determined the Earth’s measures. The Inti-Ñan Museum is located right at the Equator Line and offers an immersive and fun-filled interactive experience of the influence that this geodesic landmark of our planet has on a local and global scale. Additionally, Intiñan Museum includes fascinating representations that depict the daily life of the peoples of the Amazon Rainforest as well as the Andean cultures.
Quito was named as the first “World Cultural Heritage Site” in the world by UNESCO in 1978. This historical city has the largest and best-preserved Historic Centre and colonial quarters in Latin America. Quito’s colonial centre features narrow streets lined with charming balconies filled with geraniums which enhance the beautiful and unique architecture that are emblematic elements of its historical legacy.
Our excursion through Quito starts with a visit to the Gothic Basilica Church to enjoy its impressive architecture and a unique panoramic view of the Historic Centre. After this visit, you will take a walking tour through small, winding streets and romantic plazas to reach the Independence Square to continue with some of the most famous temples that are a part of the many major architectonic icons of this World Heritage Site.
Today you will drive about 3 hours through beautiful mountain landscapes to a completely different world: Mashpi Lodge.
Mashpi Lodge was awarded Best Spa Resort in Latin-America during the 2018 World Spa Awards. The lodge is part of National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World.
Perched on a small plateau surrounded by a hilly topography of stunning cloud and tropical forests, this luxury cocoon with a modern and sophisticated architecture and a blending minimalist interior design is a perfect hideaway to enjoy nature and an ideal base for exhilarating exploration of the unique fauna and flora of the Equatorial Chocó Bio-Region, considered one of the world’s “hotspots of biodiversity”. For those seeking pure relaxation, the Lodge with its superb installations and fantastic views of the densely vegetated mountains from the rooms and public areas is also a great choice.
Mashpi Lodge is intimate and elegantly casual, accommodating a maximum of 44 guests in 22 luxurious rooms with private facilities and amazing views of the surrounding nature while providing guests with world-class services and superb gastronomy.
During your stay at Mashpi, an ample menu of touring options and activities is offered to the guests as part of the package, to select from daily. You can choose between the excursions and activities that are offered and adjust them to your needs, interests and capacities. Mashpi is a remarkable place for bird-watching, so most of the expeditions have a “birding” component, while others are specially designed for dedicated bird-watchers.
Mashpi offers several nature trails of diverse lengths and levels of difficulty, to cater for different interests and capacities. All of the nature outings, accompanied by enthusiastic and highly knowledgeable nature guides provide the chance to admire spectacular flora, including orchids, lichens, mosses and giant ferns, while also allowing the travellers to view numerous species of birds, reptiles and colourful insects, including beautifully coloured butterflies. Some of the trails also take you to beautiful waterfalls.
Below please find a description of the various activities:
A forty-minute downhill trail from the Lodge brings guests to the Life Centre. The Centre was conceived as a place for learning and ongoing research about the fabulous biodiversity of the area. Guests can disconnect from the hustle-bustle of daily life and contemplate the views, sit in comfortable chairs or read a book while enjoying a fresh sugar-cane juice. Guests will learn here about the butterflies that inhabit the region and be shown the amazing evolution process of these creatures as they transform from eggs to pupae, then to chrysalis and finally to winged-wonders. Some 200 species of butterflies have been identified to date in the Reserve, with more than a dozen observable at the Centre.
The Centre also allows for more learning about the dozens of species of orchids, bromeliads and other amazing flowers all around the structure. Close to the Centre, there is an area for growing medicinal plants (ideal for herbal infusions) and beyond, many varieties of bushes and fruit trees, including banana and plantain, manioc, cacao, tobacco, coffee, breadfruit and palm trees abound. These attract diverse types of wildlife, from birds to rodents and other mammals, making for easier observation from the comfort of the Centre’s expansive wooden deck.
One of the best ways to appreciate the beauty of the Mashpi Reserve’s forest and hills is to climb the fantastic and sturdy Observation Tower. Here, guests are able to securely enjoy an exciting bird’s-eye view of the forest and the dramatic panoramas that surround the Lodge. This is a metallic structure, with a staircase that climbs to about eight-stories high (26 m), ideal for wildlife observation, particularly at dawn or dusk. Species that can be spotted here include toucans, woodpeckers, barbets, tanagers and parrots as well as raptors. The tower is just a 15-minute walk from the Lodge.
Also located close to the hotel, the sky bike makes for an original and exciting way to explore the forest canopy up close. Designed for two people to use securely at once, one person pedals the bike along a double, upper and lower cable, stretched between two points in the forest, about 200 m apart, crossing a gorge above a river flowing between rocks and trees below. Silent, easy-to-use and fun, this is a unique activity available for adults and children from 8 years of age on, accompanied by an adult, providing guests with another chance to observe the forest canopy as the birds do.
The forests of Mashpi boast 35 hummingbird species identified to date, inhabiting different specific altitudes, with around 16 species easily observable by guests. In order to make it easier to see these amazing creatures, a shelter with seating provides the ideal venue, including feeders for the birds strung from its roof. The site is located at a natural viewpoint or observatory, which, on clear days, provides breathtaking views of the Reserve’s thickly forested hills and of the coastal lowlands stretching to the west.
Water is vital for the abundance of animal and plant life in Mashpi and there’s nothing like a refreshing dip at the end of a walk. Several rivers cross the Mashpi Reserve some reasonably close to the hotel, forming beautiful small waterfalls, cascades and pools to enjoy. The water temperature is between 18 and 20°C.
The dream of Alfred Russel Wallace – the 19th-century naturalist and explorer, best known for proposing a theory of natural selection in parallel with Charles Darwin – of “sailing gently in a balloon over the undulating flowery surface” to enjoy “the whole glory of these forests” is realised with our innovative glide through the Mashpi Reserve.
This new highlight of any trip to Mashpi, the Dragonfly travels gently, slowly and almost silently along a cable, sometimes below the canopy, sometimes through it, and also far above it, emulating the birds, butterflies and dragonflies that flit and flutter through our protected reserve’s magical ecosystem
Riding in the company of expert guides, it’s a unique way to experience the world from a new perspective, spotting birds and animals in the trees, wafting over rivers and waterfalls, slipping in and out of misty clouds, taking in the stunning views of a green universe.
The Dragonfly consists of an innovative, custom-designed, 2-kilometre cable system stretched between two stations, suspended across six towers. An intermediate station is located half-way, which is used as an additional embarkation and disembarkation point. The four, specially designed metallic ‘gondolas’ travel continuously along the cables, each carrying four guests plus their guide. It takes about 40 minutes to ride from the Orchid Station to the Cock-of-the-Rock Station. The fascinating round-trip experience lasts for approximately two hours.
After your fascinating experiences at Mashpi, you will return to Quito, where you will arrive in the afternoon. You will be welcomed at your home in Quito: Casa Gangotena.
About one and a half hours of a fantastically scenic drive south of Quito, standing tall within the “Avenue of the Volcanoes” is the mighty Cotopaxi Volcano, covered with a perpetual blanket of dazzling white snows and glaciers. At 5.897 meters above sea level, it is considered as the highest active volcano in the world and home to Cotopaxi National Park.
The Park offers a tundra-like environment and is surrounded by other volcanoes both active and extinct. The area offers great hikes with the opportunity to explore and enjoy its unique geology and flora and chances to see local fauna, including wild horses and the Andean Condor, the world’s largest flying bird.
The next two nights you will stay at Hacienda El Porvenir. The estate is a beautiful traditional example of a hacienda in the Andes: built with adobe blocks and thatched roofs. You spend the night in a beautiful suite. This working Hacienda covers 1000 hectares of land; 20% of this land is used for crop farming, 20% exclusively for the reforestation of native plant species to restore the natural habitat and 60% for cattle farming. The hacienda offers a great atmosphere to spend a few perfect days.
Food is an important part of the experience at El Porvenir. In the kitchen, they cook up traditional Andean recipes with a touch of international cuisine. They use fresh, locally grown ingredients, such as different varieties of potatoes, Andean cereals like quinoa, and organic vegetables grown in nearby valleys. Their bread, jams and dairy products, all homemade, make the breakfasts unique, with a true flavour of their own. They always have a variety of vegetarian dishes on offer and meet any other special dietary requirements.
You may choose from various activities:
Crossing the Andes on horseback is one of the best ways to become part of the local culture, also known as Chagras, the Andean Cowboys. The hacienda has the longest traditions of the area in the Chagra culture; that is the reason why El Porvenir specialises in horseback rides and are your best option for offering this activity in the region, doing it chagra style wearing poncho and zamarro (chaps). Guests can choose between riding through farmland for a couple of hours or going on longer, more specialised expeditions that can last a whole day.
The hacienda provides 29er Bull Bikes, built in Germany, with front suspension and hydraulic disc brake; the perfect companion to explore the unique scenery. The Hacienda owns more than 30 km of trails in the area specially design for mountain biking.
The rope course is an experiential adventure program which offers groups or individuals the opportunity to participate in a series of activities involving mental, physical and emotional challenges in a safe environment. As a family challenge, participants discover that through healthy, exciting and meaningful experiences strong relationships are built.
Making hot chocolate has been a family tradition at the Hacienda and we would like to share that experience with you. Also if you would like to learn how to prepare our unique Andean flavours, you can enjoy our cooking classes suitable for amateurs, families and guests in general who want to experience the regional culture, the Highland Family Traditions and the use of antique cooking instruments in an informal and friendly environment.
In addition to the activities mentioned, the Hacienda offers many more options. Discover traditional markets, visit local communities, work on the Hacienda and go milking cows, or enjoy an endless starry sky at night.
After days full of exciting activities you say goodbye to El Porvenir and we will take you to Hacienda Zuleta in about a 4-hour drive. Along the way we will make a short visit to Quitsato Middle of the World Monument, a local community enterprising marked by a large orange beacon and located at the place where modern GPS technology has identified the exact position of the Equator: our planet’s latitude 0’0’0’.
For two nights you will stay at Zuleta. This luxurious Colonial Hacienda, dating back to the late sixteenth century and surrounded by amazing Andean scenery, is just two hours north of Quito. Besides welcoming guests in their beautifully decorated rooms, Zuleta is a working farm of 4,000 acres (2,000 hectares) that belongs to the family of Mr. Galo Plaza, a former president of Ecuador. While in the Hacienda guests can enjoy its quaint gardens and a peaceful atmosphere while being served unique Ecuadorian cuisine prepared with products grown or elaborated in the Hacienda.
The Hacienda provides a host of activities for families, honeymooners and adventurous travellers seeking for top comfort while immersing in the nature sounds of the Andes.
For Equestrian amateurs, Zuleta owns the best Zuleteño horse, a unique breed of Spanish – Andalusian, English and Quarter horses, all of them trained to provide a unique horseback riding experience up and down the Andean hills and slopes.
For soft adventure travellers, the Hacienda provides great guided or self-guided trails for guests seeking for some trekking, hiking and biking.
For naturalists and bird watching lovers, Zuleta owns and runs the Condor Huasi Project which seeks to protect and reintroduce the Andean Condor to its natural environment. The hacienda’s location in an Andean Valley provides the perfect conditions for a unique bird watching experience.
For archeological interests, you will find the largest and best preserved archeological sites of the ancient Caranqui culture. There are 132 smaller earth mounds dating as far back as 700 AD and five large square truncated pyramids from 1200 AD
And there is much more to do. Zuleta owns around 300 Holstein-Frisian cows. Visit the cheese factory where the milk production is processed into great Ecuadorian cheeses. In the organic garden, the Hacienda produces a variety of vegetables that are used to serve you the most delicious lunches and suppers.
The trout farm and the sheep farm are among the many fantastic visits that this working hacienda offers to its guests.
The Northern Andes (Imbabura Province) are a magical land of lakes, beautiful green landscapes and living cultures. The excursion to this wonderful region features, Andean villages, great natural scenery and the legendary Otavalo Indigenous Culture.
During your visit we offer you a hands-on experience by visiting local live home–workshops to admire how the famous Otavalo textiles are woven by artisans as well as in semi-industrial ways. You can also visit a hat-making home-workshop where the family hand crafts and distributes the different types of wool hats which are used by the diverse indigenous groups through the Andean Region.
The Otavalo Indian Market is famous for its colourful textiles and the unlimited display of amazing handicrafts.
You may also visit the village of Cotacachi located at the foothills of the Cotacachi Volcano where you will visit the local workshops and you can also shop for quality leather goods.
The name of this hacienda is “La Compañía de Jesus” because it belonged to the Jesuit order when they were established in Ecuador 300 years ago. In 1767, when King Charles III expelled them from Spain and all their colonies, they had to leave these lands. This Hacienda has been in the Jarrin Family for 5 generations, it is still a family house, but in the past 15 years they have been offering different activities and services for visitors around the world. The style of the house is French neoclassic. Everything is perfectly maintained and the ceiling, wall paper and floors have been preserved from 1919, the time when it was built.
The Chapel dates back to the beginning of XVII century, built by the Jesuit order. The sculptures located in the altar belonged to the famed “Escuela Quiteña School of Arts”
This Troje was used by the Jesuits as a barn. Now it is transformed to a unique museum of roses with a striking permanent rose exhibition with more than 5.000 stems of the most colourful varieties grown at the farm.
Ecuadorian roses are highly appreciated around the world due to its variety and quality. Part of the tour to La Compañia, is to visit to the green houses and the post-harvest room.
This is where this wonderful 10-day journey in Ecuador comes to an end, but perhaps not your holiday. Extend your stay in Ecuador with a few days in the Amazon, for example with overnight stays at the Napo Wildlife Centre. Or fly on to the Galápagos Archipelago where you can take an 8-day expedition cruise with the Grace or the Evolution. Contact us to discuss the endless possibilities.
A journey in which you combine your passion for golf with your love for nature and culture. You play beautiful golf courses, explore tropical forests, enjoy historic haciendas in the Andes, active volcanoes and the most beautiful colonial cities in South America: Quito and Cuenca, both declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You end your trip with a 4-day expedition cruise in the Galápagos Islands.
This beautiful, adventurous journey will introduce you to all facets of Ecuador. Nature and an active holiday predominate. You will explore the Amazon, mountain bike among the volcanoes and descend along refreshing waterfalls. The chosen hotels are basic but very good and attractive.
Aves Travels is your specialist for birding holidays to Ecuador. We offer both group tours as well as bespoke, individual programs, in which you can explore all the stunning natural areas of this country. This example tour is very suitable for novice birders on a first visit to Ecuador, but also interesting for the more experienced. In addition to trips aimed at spotting unique bird species, we also offer holidays where you combine bird watching with photography. Read about this in our blog “Exclusive birding and photography tours”. Learn more.
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