A UNESCO world heritage site since 1978, Quito is ripe with contrasts. The old city merges with the modern in a landscape surrounded by mountains and valleys at 2,850 meters above sea level.
As the tour begins, you will head out from your hotel to the heights of barrio de Guápulo. The views from the look-out platform are magnificent and on a clear day you will see the barrio’s XVII century church, and the road that once carried the Spanish Conquistadors towards the Amazon. The tour continues to the Centro Histórico (Historic Center), where the impressive Neo-Gothic Basilica towers over the skyline, and down the narrow streets of old multicolored houses, before arriving at the Plaza Grande. Next, the route continues towards the Compañía church, a stunning example of the influence of Baroque architecture in Quito, before heading to the Plaza de San Francisco. Each of these attractions houses works of art from the XVI, XVII and XVIII centuries, making up part of Quito’s cultural and historical legacy. The tour ends at the top of Panecillo hill which affords panoramic views over the city and is topped by an enormous metal sculpture, the Virgin of Quito.
*(Available as a group tour. The itinerary may vary slightly. Runs daily)
Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World)
The Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) is found in Pomasqui, approximately 40 minutes from the city. On the way there, you will have the opportunity to stop off to taste the exotic flavors of the helado de paila, a type of ice pop made with local fruit following recipe more than 50 years old.
The monument of the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) houses an ethnographic museum which gives an introduction to the different ethnic groups that live in Ecuador. Outside the monument, you will have the unique photo opportunity to pose for pictures with one foot in each hemisphere! The monument is part of a large complex surrounded by local handicraft stores. You will also find busts of members of the French Geodesic Mission who visited Ecuador in 1736.
Another big tourist attraction is the Intiñan interactive museum. Here you will discover and participate in various physical phenomena that only occur on the equator.
City tour y Mitad del Mundo
This trip combines a visit to the city and its historic city center with a tour of the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World). You can also request a visit to the Teleférico, a sky tram over the city, as part of a private tour.
*(Available as a group tour. The sightseeing itinerary may vary slightly. Runs daily)
The tour begins early in the morning when you will head north on the road to Imbabura province. During the journey you will travel through Guayllabamba valley, where you will experience its temperate climate and taste chirimoya, an exotic fruit that grows here. Next, you will continue on to Cayambe where, on a clear day, you will be astonished by the incredible view of the volcano. In Cayambe village you will sample biscochos, a type of crispy bread that is still baked in traditional wood stoves.
The tour continues towards the viewpoint at San Pablo lake, situated at the foot of Imbabura volcano: a stunning spot for a photo. The next site on the itinerary is the Plaza de los Ponchos at Otavalo’s market. This is one of Ecuador’s most visited places due to its traditional handicrafts. Here you will find a wide variety of hand-spun fabrics made from natural fibers. The market is open every day of the year. However, on Saturdays, when the market is at its biggest, the Plaza becomes even more colorful.
The tour continues towards Cotacachi, an area known for selling and making leather goods. This village is the jumping off point for the volcanic Cuicocha lake in the Cotacachi-Cayapas ecological reserve. Here you will have the opportunity to hike along marked trails or take a boat trip around the islets in the volcanic crater lake. Return to Quito
*(Available as a group tour. The itinerary may vary slightly. Private tours depart daily – Shared tours depart Tuesdays and Saturdays)
Your tour starts early in the morning, when you will set off towards the cloud forest of Mindo, two hours north-west of Quito. The first stop is El Pahuma Orchid Reserve, where you will see some of the hundreds of species of orchid that grow in their botanical gardens as well as the epiphytes (air plants) and mosses which are endemic to this type of forest. There are marked trails leading to crystal clear waterfalls.
Mindo is an exceptional place for bird and butterfly watching. A variety of hummingbirds and the Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola Peruviana) are some of the species found in the area. You will be able to view them up close and experience the enormous biodiversity of the cloud forest.
Furthermore, the area is perfect for adventure sports and on a private tour you will have the opportunity to experience the forest’s canopy.
Papallacta lies two hours from Quito, along the road leading to the Ecuadorian Amazon. During the journey you will be astonished by the vegetation of the moorland and lakes.
You will swim in volcanic thermal springs, which are enjoyed for their mineral content and health benefits. There is a spa offering treatments such as massage and aromatherapy which you can pre-book if you would like to pamper yourself. The Antisana and Cayambe volcanoes surrounding Papallacta are both designated protected areas, to preserve their unique wildlife and plants.
Cotopaxi National Park
Early in the morning your tour begins along the Avenue of Volcanoes towards Cotopaxi National Park. Inside the park, you will discover Cotopaxi volcano at 5,897 meters above sea level. Although it has been dormant for three centuries since its last eruption, this is an active volcano. The first stop on the journey is Limpiopungo lake where you will see bird species such as Andean gulls and Andean teal. The vegetation of the paramo landscape is characterized by bushes, mosses and lichens.
From here, depending on physical fitness, you can hike to the Refugio José Rivas, a refuge which lies at the foot of the glaciers.
On Wednesdays and Thursdays private tour groups can request a visit to the local indigenous markets.
*(Available as a group tour. The itinerary may vary slightly. Private tours depart daily – shared tours depart every Tuesday)
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