Ecuador may be a relatively small country, but in addition to its many giant volcanoes, Amazon destinations, beach towns and cloud forest resorts, the country’s mainland is also an excellent place for a family trip. This journey will take you through old cities and towns to explore the country’s heritage, as well as to incredible sites of natural beauty such as the Peguche waterfall. This is the ideal trip for a family looking for excitement and variety.
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Upon arrival in Mariscal Sucre International Airport, you will have a private transfer to your selected hotel in Quito. Look for a sign with your name on it when arriving.
The airport is located in the town of Tababela, about 43 km from Quito and takes between 45 minutes to one hour to arrive, depending on traffic conditions.
Tour of Quito
Day 2 will take you through the historical city tour of Quito, in which you will explore the best preserved colonial centre of all of South America. As one of the first World Heritage Sites, it will be an unforgettable experience, as if you were stepping back in time!
The first stop is the Basilica del Voto Nacional. Due to its size and style, it is considered the largest neo-Gothic temple in the Americas, and the most important piece of neo-gothic architecture in Ecuador. You will continue to the Plaza Grande, or Independence Square. Admire the historical buildings surrounding the square and it’s important history! Located here is the Presidential Palace, the Catholic Cathedral, and the Archbishop’s Palace.
Another visit you will enjoy is the most impressive of all churches, the San Francisco de Quito. The church houses masterpieces of talented indigenous artists from the famous methods of Escuela Quiteña, “Quito School”, which are the artistic traditions associated with the 17th and 18th centuries. Walk through the lively colonial streets of the old town to visit other historical highlights such as the Panecillo, from where you will have an amazing 360 degree view over the city.
The second part of this tour will take place at the North part of the city (35 minutes’ drive from Quito’s Old Town) where the equator line meets the prime meridian and the coordinates indicate point 0° 0’ 0”.
La Compañia Church
One of the highlights of the city tour is the visit to La Compañia Church, considered to be a Baroque masterpiece. The facade is made of volcanic stone and the interior is all covered with gold.
Middle of the World Monument
A must-see stop during your visit in Ecuador is the Middle of the World. Here an Equator Monument was built to honor the 18th century French Geodesic Mission, led by French scientists Condamine, Bouguer, Godin and the Ecuadorian geographer, Pedro Vicente Maldonado, who studied the curvature of the planet and who determined the supposed location of the equator. This unique place allows you to be a part of a historic landmark in what was once thought as the exact equator line, and of course you can’t miss taking your picture with the monument in the background with one foot in each hemisphere! Additionally, the complex offers an Ethnographic museum, a planetarium, artisanal stores great for picking up souvenirs, coffee shops, and restaurants that serve local food.
The Intiñan Museum is a smaller, but highly interactive museum located right next to the Mitad del Mundo Monument. Even though the monument features the division of the equator, when technology improved, geologists and cartographers realized the real equator line was just a bit off. It features outdoor exhibits of astronomical geography and explanations of the importance of Ecuador’s geographical location. One of the highlights are the solar dials, fun experiments that can only be done here, like balancing an egg on a nail, and many more activities, as well as reconstructed native homes found all over Ecuador.
With interactive displays and sparkling fountains, the Yaku Parque-Museo del Agua confirms an undeniable universal truth – life cannot exist without water. Located in the historic district of El Placer, on the slopes of the majestic Pichincha volcano, this fascinating museum presents facts regarding this essential element of life in a way that is both interesting and educational. The strategic location of the museum it facilitates a special connection between nature and human activity while opening up spectacular views of the surrounding areas. This is truly a place to stop and contemplate the simple, and yet important, aspects of life – including water.
La Ronda Barrio & Toy Workshop
La Ronda is a historical and emblematic neighbourhood of Quito. In the late 19th century “La Ronda” became known as a neighbourhood where artists, writers, bohemians, poets, the misunderstood and even priests would meet. Over time the area was left scarce as the city expanded and it began falling apart and eventually became a desolate area nobody dared to visit. However, its demise became it’s salvation. Since the neighbourhood was left untouched, so were its colonial era buildings built by the Spaniards. Nowadays, it is a beautiful and vivacious street lit with lanterns and decorated with floral balconies; offering a romantic and lively ambiance. La Ronda is easily one of the crown jewels of Quito’s best kept cultural secrets.
Walking down the street you can see multiple art galleries, museums, artisanal goods, and traditional crafts and workshops and delicious traditional foods. One workshop in particular specializes in the spinning “trompos” or old-fashioned wooden spin tops. The workshop owners will show you how to spin the tops, how they are still hand-made, and may even tell stories about their own childhood and how they used to play in the old and historic streets of Quito.
Day 3 sees you first visit the town of Otavalo, famous for its indigenous market that is held every day, with the largest bargains and traders present on Saturdays. The market is an ancient tradition and cultural exchange site among the Otavalo community. Furthermore, you can visit the peaceful town of Cotacachi, famous for its leather products such as shoes, purses, coats and belts. You can browse the products and meet the local craftsmen who create these beautiful pieces.
The Condor Park is located in Otavalo, not far from the Peguche waterfalls. Driving into Otavalo you have a spectacular view of the San Pablo Lake, and the striking Imbabura volcano behind it. While you are visiting the park you can observe many species of owls, eagles, hawks, and condors, the main attraction. All the birds found at the park are rescues from illegal captivity or from inappropriate environments, the park works on their recovery in order to be released again into the wild. The bird handlers are known to put on quite a show, children and adults alike will get a thrill watching.
Peguche, an indigenous Quichua community in Imbabura province just North of Otavalo, is surrounded by high mountains and inactive volcanos like Imbabura (5380 mt.) to the South, Cotacachi (5940 mt.) to the North West and Fuya Fuya (4950 mt.) to the South West. Also near Peguche are Pablo and Mojanda lagoons and the Peguche waterfall, a natural park admired by both Ecuadorian and foreign tourists. The natives of this area, “Pegucheños”, are pioneers in making and designing textiles and often travel around the world as handcrafts merchants. You will first visit the waterfall, the village and then the surroundings of Peguche.
The rural community tourism program has been developing among the families of San Clemente since 2002. This sustainable form of community tourism is much more than another friendly face and helpful hand. The initiative began with the direct participation of local families in the region where they developed a program to offer accommodation and food services for the tourists who visit the region. The basic concept is to “coexistence,” allowing a more personal experience in cultural exchange between visitors and residents, in addition to the basic amenities and the unique hospitality found in this coastal community. The host families will show travelers an authentic way of life that comes from their view of the world. A local guide will show you the Andean calendar and special dates and festivities, agricultural activities, and you will be able to hike and simply be part of daily activities of the community like helping to gather and prepare food, participating in their daily routine, and feeling like a part of the community.
One of the very best ways to get to know a country is by experiencing its local foods and learning about every pinch and dash it combines, as well as its history and importance! Today you will learn about the preparation of the traditional and delectable Ecuadorian ‘bizcocho’. These melt in your mouth Ecuadorian biscuits are made with wheat flour, butter, salt, egg yolk, lard, anise and water, baked in an old-fashioned clay oven. You will participate in the entire process from combining and mixing the ingredients, making the dough and finally stretching it into the small stick-like biscuits of its traditional form ready to be placed into the oven. The best part comes in the end, where you will try the flaky biscuits served with local cheese, warm chocolate or a local coffee of the Sierra.
Cotopaxi National Park
Today’s adventure starts early in the morning with a drive south through the Avenue of the Volcanoes. Today’s destination is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world and one of Ecuador’s most popular highlights: the elegant Cotopaxi Volcano, with an altitude of 5897 meters above sea level. This impressive, snow-capped volcano stands proudly in the middle of the beautiful national park that bears its name.
Upon arrival at the entrance of the Cotopaxi National Park, your guide will explain about the unique flora and fauna of the area, and about the history of the volcano. Subsequently, you’ll continue to the Limpiopungo Lake (altitude: 3850 meters), to enjoy a hike through the stunning “paramo”, or grassland, landscape where you can see hummingbirds, wild horses, and other wildlife. All this time, the imposing Cotopaxi Volcano is just a few steps away and on a clear day you can admire its full glory. In the afternoon you head to your hotel located close to the Cotopaxi National Park.
The tour starts with a brief riding lesson from one of the guides before you set out on horses. Wearing the typical dress of the chagra (Ecuadorian cowboys), you will ride out across the slopes of the extinct volcano, Rumiñahui. A legendary chagra from the area will come with you and share some of his deep knowledge of the country life. The ride lasts for approximately 2 hours.
Papallacta Hot Springs
You will then continue to the North Eastern Cordillera, up to an impressive altitude of 4065 meters, before arriving at the small town of Papallacta (3300 meters). On a clear day, you get amazed by magnificent views of the Antisana Volcano and the surrounding paramo highlands. In this beautiful region you can spot birds, wild horses, and even spectacled bears, with some luck. It is a breathtaking and mystical area. Upon arrival in Papallacta, you visit the thermal hot springs of Papallacta that are naturally heated by the volcanic activity in the area. Thanks to the volcanoes, this water contains minerals that make bathing here benefiting your mind and body. With this tour you will experience ultimate relaxation in a beautiful environment.
Public Hot Spring
The Papallacta hot springs are naturally heated by the volcanic activity in the area. Thanks to the volcanoes, this water contains minerals that make bathing here benefiting your mind and body.
Following this, you will be transfered to Quito Airport for your departure.