Day 1: Travel from Quito to Cotopaxi, Biking and Hiking in Cotopaxi National Park
This morning you will be met by your guide at the starting hotel before departing Quito to head off to begin your adventure! Driving through the Andes, you'll pass a number of small towns on the way towards Cotopaxi National Park.
Cotopaxi volcano is one of Ecuador’s most spectacular mountains in the heart of the Valley of the Volcanoes. Cotopaxi is an impressive snow-capped peak, towering almost 5900m / 20,000ft high. As we enter the park we will join up with our bicycle guides to prepare for a downhill biking adventure at Cotopaxi!
The ride starts at a parking area along the lone roadway up the mountain. Following the gravel / rocky road down to Limpiopungo Lagoon at 3800m. Numerous viewpoints along the side of the road provide spots to stop for photos of the volcanoes and landscape. As you enter the valley closer to the lagoon expect to see many wild horses, another interesting feature of Cotopaxi National Park.
After biking, a hike around Limpiopungo Lagoon provides fantastic photo opportunities of Cotopaxi volcano on clear days, while an abundance of birds are also found at the lagoon, including native species such as the Andean Gull, Andean Coot, Andean condor, Andean lapwing and Andean teal. Smaller animals such as the forest rabbit are commonly spotted during the hike around the lagoon.
The night is spent nearby at a Hacienda on the edge of Cotopaxi National Park.
Day 2: Horseback Riding in Cotopaxi, Travel to Banos
Our Hacienda on the outskirts of Cotopaxi National Park is the ideal spot for a horseback ride. Riding chagra style with chaps and ponchos, we'll be warm and comfy as we head out into the mountains. With impressive views of numerous volcanoes, our well-trained horses will take us to places that offer stunning views where the paramo vegetation gives way to snowy mountains. For those who are keen, there will be opportunities to let loose and gallop across the valley!
A traditional Ecuadorian lunch at the Hacienda will be ready when we return and pack up for the ride to Banos. The town of Banos is an adventure destination. This is where bike riding, bungee jumping, zip lines, white-water rafting and more can be found. While our time is pretty packed here full of activities, if there is something you definitely want to try, let the guide know ahead of time so they can plan it out for you!
Nestled in the shadow of Tungurahua volcano in the Rio Pastaza Valley, the actual town in Banos has many restaurants, ice cream shops, and places to get a massage if you want to relax and unwind in between your adventures.
Day 3: Tour around Banos, Waterfall Hike, Treehouse Swing, Free Time.
Baños, nestled between the Rio Pastaza canyon and Tungurahua volcano, is a playground for adventure activities. Sweets and treats are also common in town with many shops stretching and kneading melocha, a special kind of toffee. Ice cream and baked goods are bountiful as well.
With so much to choose from, it can be quite overwhelming. So, unless you have your heart set on a certain activity, your guide will take you on a grand tour today, packing in a wide variety of sites that you might not otherwise find. Head out of town to visit some waterfalls, hiking right up to the edge of some! You'll also visit the famous treehouse swing, which wings high over the cliffs above Banos. Some small zip lines are nearby too. Sample some local fruits and maybe take a cable car or ball swing ride too.
A hike from atop a lookout above the town, back to your hotel will signal the end of the day's activities. Arriving back in the afternoon you're free to explore town until meeting for dinner. Other options are to grab a massage or enjoy some local craft beers!
Day 4: Waterfall Climbing, Amazon Rainforest Hike, Jungle Lodge
Today we’ll head east out of Baños, down the Rio Pastaza Valley. The high cloud forest gives way to lush rainforest, sweeping all the way down the canyon walls into the river below as we descend into Ecuador’s Amazon jungle lowlands.
On the edge of the Amazon, in a place called Tena, we will enjoy a lunch break before venturing into the jungle. You will want a sturdy pair of waterproof shoes today, otherwise, we'll stop to size everyone up for rubber boots. Why? Because after a bit of jungle hiking, we are going to climb up some waterfalls!
As you may suspect, climbing waterfalls means you are going to get wet. No...you are going to get soaked! It's a refreshing soak since we're otherwise in the humid and steamy jungle. Take care to only bring waterproof cameras today or make the use of a dry bag, as you'll be climbing ropes and swimming around in jungle canyons. It's a real highlight of every trip, and your guide, along with a local guide will ensure everything is done with your safety as a top priority.
After the soaking, we're back on the road (with time to change clothes). Our goal is to head deeper into the Amazon to a jungle lodge for the night. For the curious eater, today is a day when you might be able to try some Amazon delicacies such as lemon ants or palm weevil larvae. Delicious!
Finishing the day, we’ll take a dugout canoe across the Napo River, to our Amazon lodge for the night. Fall asleep under your mosquitos nets, listening to the sounds of the jungle.
Day 5: Dugout Canoe Ride, Indigenous Village Visit, Animal Rescue Center, Drive to Papallacta
Today we explore the Amazon! By traditional dugout canoe, you'll head up the river to visit a nearby indigenous community. Simple wooden structures for houses, often on stilts, are common in the Amazon. In the community, you'll see how they've traditionally made textiles and pottery from natural plants and ingredients from the jungle.
Onwards from there, we head down river to a special animal rescue center run by volunteers. Animals from nearby villages and further away are brought here to be treated and released back into the wild whenever possible. Some are orphaned animals, others are animals that have been kept as pets and some are being rehabilitated from their injuries. A range of monkeys, toucans and parrots are here. They also have caiman, tapir, peccary and ocelots. For many visitors to Ecuador, this may be the only opportunity to see most of these creatures.
After lunch, we'll hit the road and travel out of the Amazon through the cloud forest and on to Papallacta. Arriving in late afternoon, you're free to explore the natural thermal pools which are directly outside your hotel rooms. There are also nearby public hot springs you can visit. A supremely relaxing experience!
Day 6: Hummingbird Visit, Hiking, Return to Quito
An early pre-breakfast start today takes us to a nearby lodge that attracts a large variety of hummingbirds.
Flitting and fluttering right past you, these busy birds will keep you clicking the shutter on your camera. With patience, you'll catch some staying still as they look for some sweet nectar in a nearby flower or feeder.
Back to the hotel for breakfast and to pack for our trip to Quito. Depending on preferences you'll have the option to do a shorter hike near the hotel or a longer hike in the Cayambe-Coco National Park. Each of them offers some unique vegetation, plants and flowers so you can't lose! It all depends how early you want to arrive back in Quito.
Once you're back in the big city, you'll have some time to relax and get together one last time for a final dinner with your fellow adventurers!
Day 7: Quito, Departure
Today is the last day of your 7-day Ecuador adventure. If you have time to spare, we’re happy to help with some ideas for what you can do for the rest of your time in Ecuador. Perhaps a visit to Otavalo Market? Or a trip to the Equator? Or maybe you're keen to keep things going and head onto one of our trips in the Galapagos! If this is the end of your travels, we're happy to help you with arranging transportation to the airport.