Day 1: Quito, Ecuador
Welcome to Ecuador! On arrival in Quito, clear immigration, collect your luggage, and proceed through customs. In the arrivals hall you are met by your Big Five representative and assisted with your luggage before being escorted to the waiting vehicle for the transfer to your hotel, the beautifully and eclectically appointed Casa Gangotena, Its newly restored interiors encompass Art Nouveau and contemporary touches combined with the original Neo-Classical architecture. During the restoration process, huge efforts were made to preserve and restore the mansion's original details, assuring an air of history and sophistication dressed up with understated luxury. The hotel features 31 guest rooms, some with plaza views. A wide terrace on the third floor offers more impressive views over the Old Town, the bell towers and spires, Panecillo Hill, the Pichincha Volcano, and special events such as the Easter procession from the San Francisco Church. The hotel's cozy glass-roofed patio is ideal for relaxing with a patio-garden planted with orchids and flowers just beyond. The ground floor restaurant offers cuisine that is a modern international take on traditional Andean and coastal ingredients. Casa Gangotena
Day 2: Quito
After breakfast, join your guide to visit the Iñaquito food market to sample some of Ecuador’s exotic fruits, vegetables and meats and learn about local medicinal herbs. Continue to an artisanal brewery for a beer tasting, followed by lunch at Namba to discover a menu of dishes mainly from the Central Coast.
Return to Quito to explore the city’s historic center, a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site. The city was founded as San Francisco de Quito on December 6th, 1534, by the Spanish conquistadors, and is considered to be one of the most beautiful capitals in the world. The Old Town is an eclectic of narrow, winding cobblestone streets with magnificent churches, and wide-open squares. The buildings, some dating between the 16th to 18th centuries, reveal their Spanish heritage in the lovely balconies, tile roofs, thick columns, and central patios. La Compañia is Quito’s most innate church and a standout among the baroque splendors of Old Town. Stroll down La Ronda Street, considered one of the flagship regeneration projects in the city, to meet artisans at work. Taste the famous Ecuadorean chocolate and learn about the chocolate-making process. Continue to San Francisco Square to visit the most imposing of all of Quito’s architectural monuments. San Francisco is a church, a series of chapels, and a convent, and when combined, it occupies nearly two blocks and rises up above a wide stone paved court. This evening, you are transferred to Theatrum Restaurant for a culinary lesson while seated at the chef’s table. Casa Gangotena (B,L,D)
Day 3: Quito / Imbabura Province
After breakfast, drive north to the town of Cayambe, known for its biscuits, mozzarella cheese, and manjar de leche, a typical sweet made from milk. Stop at Hacienda La Compania, a private farm that grows roses for export. Tour the house, which was constructed in 1919 in a French Republican style. The interior is lavishly decorated with antiques and fantastic displays of roses. Then visit the rose plantation and the showroom housing more than 4,000 roses in 40 colors.
Continue to the Indian village of Peguche where you meet a family of artists who makes traditional musical instruments. Savor one of the most typical indigenous dishes – cuy, more commonly known as guinea pig. For those with a less adventurous palate, enjoy the famous Otavalo country chicken.
Your day ends at Sacha Ji, a mountain-top wellness sanctuary in the northern Avenue of the Volcanoes. The lodge combines scenic magnificence and sustainable, feng shui-based design to create a tranquil and harmonious experience. The setting, personalized service, organic Andean cuisine, and an array of wellness and cultural activities, creates a holistic journey for the body, mind, and soul. Admire the sunset at the foothill of the Imbabura Volcano or, relax with a complimentary spa treatment at the hands of professional therapists. Sacha Ji Wellness Hotel & Retreat (B,L,D)
Day 4: Imbabura Province
Begin your day with an hour yoga session surrounded by magnificent views of San Pablo Lagoon and the Imbabura Volcano. Following breakfast, take an invigorating walk around the rim of the caldera at Cuicocha Lake. Continue to Otavalo to explore the colorful and active food market to taste some exotic fruits in an indigenous market atmosphere. Then enjoy lunch at La Mirage Garden and Spa, celebrated for its gourmet Ecuadorean fusion cuisine. Here, the chef will share his secrets and famous recipes.
Return to the hotel this afternoon for a photography lesson with Maria Teresa Ponce, a recognized photographer and the owner of Sacha Ji. She will offer ideas and tips for capturing the most professional wildlife pictures in the Galapagos Islands. Sacha Ji Wellness Hotel & Retreat (B,L,D)
Day 5: Imbabura Province
After breakfast, transfer to one of the most famous Ecuadorean retreats in the Andes, approximately 45-minutes northeast of Sacha Ji. The adobe hacienda, built in 1691, is the centerpiece of a 4,000-acre working farm that includes a dairy, cheese factory, organic garden, tree nursery, trout farm, embroidery workshop, and condor-raising project. The 17 guest rooms are appointed with Spanish Colonial antique furniture, down comforters, and linens embroidered by the local indigenous women. And there are stunning displays of roses throughout the hacienda.
You will tour the cheese factory, stopping to sample some of the cheeses, and walk through the organic garden. Then participate in a culinary lesson focused primarily on soups. Enjoy a historic tour of the house, visit the community and learn about the famous embroideries manufactured in the village, which many consider the best in the Ecuadorean Andes. Relax with a typical Ecuadorean afternoon ‘’coffee’’ at Amble’s home, a Zuleteno Indian, who welcomes you to his home.
You also have the opportunity to go for a ride on one of the horses through pine and eucalyptus forests and high-altitude grasslands, passing pre-Inca archaeological sites. You will relish the magnificent volcano views. Or, you can choose to explore by foot or cycle. Visit nearby indigenous villages, see the embroidery workshops, condor rehabilitation project, and trout farm. Tours of the entire farm are a typical part of every guest’s stay. You are usually privately escorted by a Plaza family member, another gesture of Zuleta’s renowned hospitality. Hacienda Zuleta (B,L,D)
Day 6: Imbabura Province
After a delicious breakfast, walk or ride (horseback, carriage or vehicle) to the Condor Valley to see condors and possibly spectacle bears in the wild, two of the most endangered species in Ecuador. Here you will learn about the hacienda’s scientific project. The purpose of the project, licensed by the government, is to rehabilitate injured condors and to breed those that can’t be released in an effort to increase the number of this endangered species by releasing their offspring into the wild.
An Ecuadorian picnic will be served in front of the Caranqui pyramids, the largest and best-preserved archeological sites of the ancient Caranqui culture. There are 132 small earth mounds dating as far back as 700 CE, and five large square truncated pyramids from 1200 CE. Afternoon at leisure to prepare for your adventure in the Amazon Rainforest. Hacienda Zuleta (B,L,D)
Day 7: Imbabura Province / Coca / Amazon Rainforest
This morning, you transfer to the airport. A short 30-minute flight takes you to the frontier town of Coca (Francisco de Orellana). You transfer to the dock and board your motorized canoe. You will travel down river for about an hour to meet your river cruise ship, the M/V Anakonda. Throughout the journey, you have the chance to admire the rainforest landscape along the banks of the great Napo River. Immediately after boarding, your ship continues navigating downstream. Settle in to your quarters and walk around the ship. Enjoy the observation deck with its spectacular views. An evening walk is organized after sunset, which gives you the opportunity to discover the forest’s nocturnal activity and listen to the nature’s own voice. Aboard M/V Anaconda (B,L,D)
Day 8: Amazon Rainforest
Travel downstream to a reserve on the Pañayacu River Delta for a canoe trip up the river in search of pink river dolphins, squirrel monkeys and much more. Pañacocha Lake is an ecosystem flooded by white waters. The rivers and lakes here are the perfect habitat for the infamous piranha, as well as the Arawana, or water monkey fish, and white caiman. Enjoy a delicious Amazon-style BBQ lunch at a nearby camping site. In the afternoon, you explore jungle trails and the flora and fauna of the rainforest before returning to the ship for dinner. Aboard M/V Anaconda (B,L,D)
Day 9: Amazon Rainforest
After breakfast on board, you set out to visit one of the most amazing natural spectacles of the parrot licks, weather permitting. These unique pools of mud become rich in minerals and attract hundreds of parrots, parakeets and others every day. Later, visit the Sani Warmi Kichwa Interpretation Center, where a group of Kichwa women talk about their customs, cuisine and everyday life. The center was created to showcase their culture, and it offers a unique opportunity to learn about Amazonian lifestyles. After lunch, stop at the Yakukawsay Kichwa Interpretation Center for a fascinating evening walk through the forest, which is dependent on accessibility, water levels and weather conditions. Aboard M/V Anaconda (B,L,D)
Day 10: Amazon Rainforest / Coca / Quito / Depart
In the morning, disembark the M/V Anakonda and transfer by motorized canoe to Coca. After the one-hour ride, you board your flight to Quito, and connect your international flight. (B)
Land price, per person, double occupancy: Prices start from US$850 per person, per day.