Day 1 Quito – Sangolquí – Cotopaxi – Urbina – Chimborazo - Riobamba
The adventure starts in Quito, heading due south through the outskirts of the capital. This first leg reaches the town of Sangolqui, where a stop is made to explore the traditional Andean market, full of animals, produce and people: a great introduction to the Andean way of life. Over to the east, the journey enters Cotopaxi National Park, an ecological sanctuary of 88,920 acres that harbours the magnificent cone of the Cotopaxi Volcano, rising 5,897 meters (19,347 feet) above sea level.
The evergreen landscape of the Ecuadorian highlands is one of the main attractions, as the programme travels along valleys and over mountains patchworked with multicolored fields. After an hour and a half, the entrance to the park is reached and then it’s up a dirt road for approximately one hour. Upon arrival at the park, there is an introductory briefing about the habitat of the Andean páramo or high-altitude moorlands. Continue on to Limpiopungo Lagoon to observe a variety of birds and occasionally wild horses and to enjoy a short walk. On clear days, the Cotopaxi Volcano accompanies guests as a magnificent backdrop.
Lunch is served at a local restaurant in the area. Continue along the Pan American Highway, up and down the slopes of the famous Avenue of the Volcanoes. Continue to Urbina Train Station, high up at the foot of imposing Chimborazo Volcano. Visit a Tagua nut workshop and warm up with a canelazo and biscuits by the fireplace and, if the Chimborazo is clear, an amazing sunset can be expected. Then continue by road to Riobamba for dinner and overnight.
Day 2 Riobamba - Alausí – Devil’s Nose – Alausi – Ingapirca - Cuenca
After an early breakfast, depart by road (about 2 hours) towards the small town of Alausí, the beating heart of the rehabilitation of the Ecuadorian Railway Company in the last years. Great efforts have been made to restore the 100-year old train stations, replace rails and sleepers, renovate engines and classic coaches, and involve the Indian communities in the rail operation for tourism along the route.
The highlight is the thrilling 800-metre (2630-foot) descent via zigzags cut into the rock of the Devil’s Nose. At the bottom is the newly renovated Sibambe Station. Here there is time to visit the local museum “Condor Puñuna” built and run by the Nizag community, see the display of local handcrafts, fruit and medicinal plants and try the local coffee. The train whistle calls guests back on board for the return to Alausí Station.
Continue exploring the Andean world by road to the south, passing through stunning landscapes before visiting the Inca Fortress of Ingapirca en-route. Lunch is served in the area. Arrival at Cuenca at dusk, for dinner and overnight.
Note: Train departure from Alausí: 08:00 am, departure from Riobamba by road at 06:00 am at the latest, please use this info as reference, your local guide will give you further details on spot.
Day 3. Cuenca, a World Cultural Heritage Site
Cuenca is Ecuador’s third largest city; yet it still retains its pleasant provincial air. Its red tiled roofs, cobblestone streets, flowery plazas and museums make it very special. This comprehensive visit includes the Plaza of San Sebastian, a colorful artisans’ market, where handicrafts are sold. Then, visit the Museum of Modern Art, featuring an excellent collection of contemporary fine art. Next is a visit to the flower market at the small plaza in front of the carved stone entrance to the church of El Carmen de la Asunción. From here, a stroll to the main square, surrounded by the imposing blue-domed Cathedral, the Court of Justice, the Municipal Palace, the Governor’s Palace and the Church of El Sagrario.
Then, a drive along the Tomebamba river to admire the city’s riverbank houses. Lunch is at one of the excellent restaurants in Cuenca, and in the afternoon, a short drive visits a ceramics handcraft shop, followed by a visit to a Panama Hat factory to observe the whole process of making the famous hats of high-quality toquilla straw.
The Spirit of the Andes adventure ends at the airport – to take a flight to Quito or to Guayaquil.
Air ticket is not included. Additional nights in Cuenca can be easily added!!
Notes and recommendations
- Please bear in mind that the train operation is handled directly by the Ecuadorian Railway Company. The operation and schedules are subject to change without notice.
- The cost of the train ticket for the Devil´s Nose segment is included.
- Accommodations in Cuenca at hotels: Oro Verde, Santa Lucía or Carvalho. Accommodations at Mansión Alcázar have an extra cost. Please request information from your account executive.
- Visits may change without previous notice due to weather conditions or circumstances beyond our control.
- The next day, guests can continue to Guayaquil by plane or by road via El Cajas; or on overland to Loja.
- Not included: internal air tickets, meals not noted, drinks, tips and personal expenses.
- Entrance fees to National Parks, Natural Reserves, community projects or others are included in the excursions or have no cost. Unless otherwise is specified in each tour section.
Why Is This Tour So Special?
- Acquire a vision of the Andes and the people who inhabit them.
- Explore Cuenca, one of the country’s most popular cities and a World Cultural Heritage Site Extensions easily arranged for more time there.
- The best of the Andes in just three days for people short on time.
- Plenty of craft-shopping opportunities.
- Discover the Inca ruins of Ingapirca amid the rolling countryside of Cañar Province.
- Great food, great scenery, great experiences.
Our recommendations for the best possible experience:
- Dress in layers (T-shirt, blouse, sweater, coat).
- Take a warm coat for evening and rain protection.
- Sun protection (SPF 40) even if the day is cloudy.
- Hat or cap. Good walking shoes.
- Altitude: 2,550 meters (7,750 feet) to 3,000 meters (10,000 feet)
- Average Temperature: Day 10° to 25° C / 50° to 77° F. - Night 6° to 10° C / 43° to 50° F.
The Spirit of the Andes Adventure
Join us on a memorable journey traversing the most spectacular part of the Ecuadorian Andes, soaking up the constantly changing and admirable scenery; the culture and traditions of the local people; the color of the towns, villages and cities along the way; the delightful gastronomy and varied handicrafts of the area; finding yourselves immersed on the ancestral and truly magic "Spirit of the Andes"....
This voyage provides an unforgettable experience viewing the awesome Avenue of the Volcanoes with its many snow-covered peaks and summits, towering over 19.000 feet above sea level; the green valleys, cultivated in terraces like a mosaic patchwork of color and produce of the fertile land; the high moorlands and their unique fauna and flora. The tour includes, among its most notorious highlights, the Cotopaxi National Park, at the foothills of Mount Cotopaxi, Earth's highest active volcano; Baños, Ecuador's most renowned thermal springs and adventure sports center, nestled in a narrow valley between steep hills, roaring rivers, cascades and the flanks of the active Tungurahua Volcano; the famous "Devil's Nose Rail Adventure" with its zigzag design, considered the world's most challenging feat of railway engineering; the historic Inca Ruins of Ingapirca and Cuenca, the country's third largest city and for many, the most beautiful one, declared also by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site.
The stunning sights, the charming hospitality of the people, the colorfulness of the towns, markets and ancestral costumes; the aromas of the local cuisine; the exquisite elegance of historic haciendas, converted now into fascinating country inns, are the frame for a variety of activities which will offer the guests a never to be forgotten experience, a glorious feeling of what the magic Spirit of the Andes is like...