The ME Ecuador Trail President’s Pick
Ecuador isn’t made of regions, it’s made of artisans, musicians, chefs, creators. Ecuador is made up of Micro Entrepreneurs. I am so proud to be a co-founder of ME Ecuador, an organization dedicated to helping these specialists from indigenous communities achieve their dreams. This program takes you on their path, on their trail. This is the ME Ecuador trail. This is the real Ecuador
Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands
Price starts at 850.00 Land per person, per day, double occupancy.
Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Ecuador
Upon arrival in Quito, Ecuador, please proceed through Immigration and Customs. After claiming your luggage, exit the Customs Hall where a representative from Big Five will be waiting for you. (Our representative will be holding a sign indicating your last name). Once you are met and assisted, you are transferred to your hotel.
Your journey starts as you are whisked off to the colonial center of Quito where the team at Hotel Mama Cuchara will be waiting to greet you with a signature welcome cocktail.
Located in the Historic Center of Quito – the best preserved and least altered historic center in Latin America according to UNESCO World Heritage Site – Hotel Mama Cuchara enjoys an ideal location among the other hotels in the historic center, within walking distance of Plaza de Santo Domingo, La Ronda, and many other historical attractions in the city. True to the Art Hotels brand concept, Hotel Mama Cuchara indulges discerning travelers with a private art collection complemented by rotating exhibits by various Ecuadorian artists. Proceeds from art sales directly benefit artists and their communities. Mama Cuchara Hotel – 1 Luxury Room None
Day 2: Quito / Otavalo
After a refreshing rest and a delicious breakfast, you will have an amazing ride through the Andean mountain range. You will stop at a traditional place to taste Ecuadorian biscuits and the local cheese on the way.
The town of Cayambe is the place in which you will try this delicacy. 40 years ago, the priest Rafael Méndez needed to satisfy his need for a morning and afternoon snack to combine with handmade leave cheese or “Queso de Hoja” and “Dulce de Leche” or Milk Caramel, hence he created “Biscochos” a rich in butter biscuit. It became so popular that many locals from Cayambe developed their own recipes, and it is the most popular good you can find in this town, named after the Cayambe Volcano. You will try the original! Dip it in “Dulce de Leche” for a perfect bite!
On the way to Otavalo, you will stop at a colonial hacienda, Molino San Juan, which was one of the largest mills in the north of the country and has a vast plantation of beautiful Ecuadorian roses. Learn how in this Hacienda, the church is still used for holy celebrations by locals, who are the primary workforce for the rose plantation.
You will have a traditional lunch at the restaurant of this hacienda. You arrive in Otavalo and will Check-in at Hotel Otavalo.
Explore art and architecture in this hidden castle within the city. Take a little break before embarking on the Insider’s Concierge Tour. Learn about Otavalo’s history, beliefs, traditions, and legends. Visit cherished places to get a deep understanding of the Otavalo culture, seen through the eyes of locals. The concierges themselves have lived the stories you will hear, giving you a better insight into iconic places in the city that are not on the beaten tourist path. After these experiences, a very special dinner will await you in this beautiful Otavaleño castle. Hotel Otavalo – Luxury Suite Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 3: Otavalo
After a healthy breakfast, you will meet the safe keepers of Ecuadorian traditions that have dedicated their lives to keep their ancestral culture alive.
Equator Face Workshop
Let´s create some family bonds! This family has kept the Taitas (fathers) traditions alive for four generations. Awaken your skill and creativity by really understanding how traditional looms work and the effort behind beautiful textile handicrafts! Only after this immersion will we explore “La Plaza de Los Ponchos” in Otavalo, the biggest market in South America where you can admire and buy handmade Ecuadorian textiles, jewelry and a great variety of other crafts. Your appreciation for the famous market will be undoubted after the Equator Face Workshop.
Our third stop will lead you to discover the ancestral gastronomy of the Kichwas. Different flavors from the Andes – grains, roots, fruits, vegetables and more – turned into one of a kind dishes that will transport you to the origin of the Kichwa traditions. A delightful lunch inspired by a master class with “Our Daily life” gastronomy.
After such an enriching lunch you will visit Nayia Art Workshop. Find out about the connection between the Condor and the Eagle while learning about the positive energies of the “Pacha Mama” (Mother Earth). Get in touch with the symbolism of the northern Andes through the natural materials used to construct each of these amulets.
¿Are you ready for the last stop of the day? This time you will discover how to create your own “antara”, a traditional musical instrument frequently heard in the music from the Andean mountains of South America. Share the passion of Tayta Gundo and uncover the subtle sounds of the Andes. Following this ancestral awakening, a delicious dinner waits for you in Sarance Restaurant. Sarance means “People who live up right” and is the ancient name of Otavalo. Hotel Otavalo – Luxury Suite Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 4: Quito
The sun rises in the Andes and it’s the best time to explore the shapes of this magical mountain range. After breakfast, you will make your first stop at an extinct, eroded volcano best known for its deep crater lake and two lava islands, Lake Cuicocha. You start your trip back to Quito and why not make a stop to taste some endemic fruits in the town of Guayllabamba – translated from Quechua “Green Valley”. Local families grow, collect and sale alongside the main street what the earth provides, from avocados to “Chirimoyas” (Custard Apple)! After this incredible journey to Quito, you will be transferred to a traditional local owned restaurant in the Plaza de la Independencia where you will taste a typical delicious menu designed by Ecuadorian chefs.
You will check in at Hotel Mama Cuchara. Located in the Historic Center of Quito – the best preserved and least altered historic center in Latin America according to UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Hotel Mama Cuchara enjoys an ideal location among the other hotels in the historic center, within walking distance of the Plaza de Santo Domingo, La Ronda, and many other historical attractions of the city. True to the Art Hotels brand concept, Hotel Mama Cuchara indulges discerning travelers with a private art collection complemented by rotating exhibits by various Ecuadorian artists. Provenances from art sales directly benefit the artists and their community.
Take a break and catch your breath, as you travel in time to be part of the history of Quito. A complete theatrical city tour will drive you through this exceptional experience where we may find many surprises along the way. After this stunning experience we will transfer you to Hotel Mama Cuchara where a tasty dinner will be waiting for you at La Plaza Restaurant.
Mama Cuchara Hotel – Luxury room Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 5: Quito
Explore Quito and its beauties. We will start the day’s activities by heading northwest toward the Equator Line for a visit to the monument of the Middle of the World, and the Equator Intiñan Museum, where you will be amazed by various displays of equatorial tricks. We will continue with a trip to the Agave culture museum, one of the oldest strongholds of the equatorial inter-Andean valleys.
On the way back to Quito in the afternoon, stop for lunch in a traditional Quiteño restaurant specializing in signature food. Once in Quito’s best-preserved colonial center of Latin America, delve into “The Enchanted Hill”. Explore the living neighborhood of La Loma Grande and meet the different characters and artisans who make up the rich fabric of its traditions, legends, and delicacies as a local would.
The Domes of Santo Domingo Church and Chapel of the Rosary
Unearth the secrets of the Dominican Priests’ building techniques which conserve the pure essence of Baroque in Quito, golden paintings, and architectural gems of the historical center of Quito.
On your next stop this afternoon, you will probably meet the last Quiteño Caretero, who has been making beautiful handmade paper and cardboard masks for more than two decades. Uncover the different characters of his creations and travel to the fantastic world of the masks.
La Cuchara Gallery
The last stop of the day will be an exquisite coffee tasting from the Ecuadorian Amazon, which you will savor with the world-renowned fine chocolate de aroma that attracts local and foreign chocolate lovers. You can also enjoy guayusa tea, a typical energizing drink from the eastern jungle, at La Cuchara Gallery. The Gallery is a rescued house with an endless display of handicrafts of the highest variety and originality, made with so much love and care by skilled Ecuadorian artisans.
Prepare for a wonderful dinner with a privileged panoramic view from your hotel. Mama Cuchara Hotel – Luxury room Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 6: Quito / Cuenca
After an early morning cup of coffee, you will head to the airport to take your flight to the city of Cuenca, full name Santa Ana of the Four Rivers of Cuenca, due to the rivers that cross this colorful town. Cuenca is considered the cultural capital of Ecuador and is where many of the best artisans in the country live. Upon arrival, your guide will pick you up from the airport to take you to Hotel Cruz del Vado, your 120-year-old home, for check-in.
Discover the meticulous work of the “Cuencanos” these skilled craftsmen that make Cuenca the cultural capital of Ecuador. After a short visit to the viewpoint of the city, find out the fascinating facets of this city through these magnificent entrepreneurs.
Let’s first visit The Blacksmith’s workshop and discover the traditional craft of the art of fire. Feel the intensity of this ancient practice, learn from the experts, and experiment by yourself with transforming metals into incredible figures. Stop by one of the country’s most famous and recognized restaurants, characterized by its signature cuisine prepared in a tiesto (clay dish). At Los Tiestos Restaurant, you will not want to miss any dishes served at your table. After this exquisite culinary experience, you will continue onto another dynamic visit to a place full of history.
With recharged energies, use your hands and imagination for the next stop. Ceramic art from Cuenca is recognized worldwide due to the distinction of its colorful and vibrant creations. From tiles to pots, cups and jars, you can play with clay and be immersed in this grounding experience of the earth element.
The last but equally unique experience will be in a place where you will keep kindling your creativity. Led by the skills of passionate artists and using copper, you will let your creativity fly and recreate the whimsical orchids by cutting, pressing, and painting metal.
A rooftop dinner awaits at your hotel. Hotel Cruz del Vado – Luxury Room Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 7: Cuenca
This morning, admire this unique ecosystem from a different perspective and feel the nobility of the horses as you enjoy stunning portraits of the Andes. On the way back, visit a hacienda in the middle of the Andean paramo with a magnificent view where we will try a delicious snack. Your next stop is a natural paradise with more than 235 lagoons! Cajas National Park, comprised of magical misty trails that meander through this system of lakes, is home to diverse fauna such as condors, hummingbirds, and the cute but aloof coatis. A must-visit on this trip!
In the afternoon, you will continue exploring marvelous places. This time you will go to Piedra de Agua Fuente, a spa and thermal fountain located 15 minutes from downtown Cuenca. Built almost entirely in the limestone of volcanic origin extracted from the same volcano, its clean and modern architecture combines stone, glass and wood, creating delicate and soothing spaces that, together with its thermal waters, volcanic mud, steam massages, steam baths, contrasting baths, rain showers, and more make the perfect setting for a relaxing therapy.
After an enriching stress relieving therapy, be prepared to enjoy a dinner at this wonderful place, and finally, you will return to the hotel in Cuenca. Hotel Cruz del Vado – Luxury Room Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 8: Cuenca, Depart
Visit the City and Panama Hut Museum. Another glorious day awaits you in this charming city.
After an energetic breakfast, you will be prepared for a complete visit to the city. You will have the opportunity to visit some emblematic places, including viewpoints, colorful neighborhoods, and the prettiest chapels of the Cathedral. The next stop leads us to a workshop full of mysticism and creativity at one of the country’s best and most recognized Panama Hat museums and factories. Find out all the stories behind these famous and graceful hats. We can guarantee you will fall in love with the variety and quality of the hats, so much so that you won’t be able to resist buying one.
We cannot miss the opportunity to enjoy an exquisite farewell lunch in Cuenca at the restaurant. Time to take the last photos of the city before heading to the airport to take your flight back to Quito, where you will connect your flight back home. (B)
$850.00 per person, per night, Land Only