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Off the beaten track Ecuador: From the Andes to the Amazon

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Ecuador packs an astonishing array of landscapes, flora, fauna and human cultures into an area the size of Britain. This short holiday exposes this agreeable little country’s diversity, from snow-smothered Andean volcanic peaks to luscious Amazon rainforests. You’ll discover where to spot an abundance of wildlife, interact with indigenous communities and discover a traditional Andean way of life.

Few experiences have as much awe-inducing power as being surrounded by the untamed beauty of the Amazon rainforest. Ecuador’s share of the Amazon basin is the most accessible — you can get there easily by road. But before plunging down from historic Quito’s lofty Andean setting, you’ll spend a night surrounded by succulent cloudforest at Papallacta’s thermal spa.

The winding road starts its lonely descent, delivering you to your jungle Sacha Lodge in an ecological reserve on the banks of the Napo river, an Amazon tributary. Wildlife-spotting opportunities from a variety of viewpoints abound, local residents include toucans to alligators, spider monkeys to macaws. It’s a trip by river and air back to the Andean highlands where you head north to a colonial hacienda, Piman, set in wild prairies and cool forests, the home of endangered spectacled bears. From there, a train ride or visit to a traditional market enriches your experience.

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Transfer to your hotel in historic Quito.

Day 2

Guided walking tour of Spanish colonial Quito.

Day 3

By road to Papallacta thermal spa.

Day 4

Drive on down to Coca in the Amazon basin.

Days 5-6

Exploring the Ecuadorian jungle from Sacha Lodge.

Day 7

Travel to Hacienda Pimán in the high Andes.

Day 8

Guided adventure to seek out the Andean spectacled bear.

Day 9

Highland train ride or explore artisan markets. Transfer to airport for international flight or Galápagos extension.


Visit Us

Places visited on this holiday

Off the beaten track Ecuador: From the Andes to the Amazon

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Quito has long been a city of two halves. Occupying a highland valley at 2,850m and flanked by volcanoes, the setting of its historic centre and adjoining modern quarters is breathtaking. The formerly dark and run-down colonial heart has been magnificently restored. Cobbled lanes and whitewashed façades, scrubbed up churches and renovated theatres now gleam and echo with the sounds of the everyday life of its traditional inhabitants. Beyond are the skyscrapers and broad avenues of the contemporary commercial city, La Mariscal, with flashy shops, offices and restaurants, where busy young workers flock to the many bars and nightclubs.

When to go

The capital is an all-year destination. Lying at 2,850m on the Equator, Quito has a year round spring-like climate.  Most days have a sunny morning but there may be rain in the afternoon. Feb-Mar are the wettest months, Jul the driest.



Getting local currency
Ecuador uses the US dollar. Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs using a UK credit or debit card. 
Time difference

GMT -5 hrs.

Combines with

A visit to Otavalo market in the northern highlands, 58km (1-2hrs by road); the bird-filled cloud forest in the Mindo region, 100km (1hr 40mins by road); the Avenue of the Volcanoes, 77km (2hrs by road); the Galápagos Islands, (2-3hrs by air).

Getting there

Average flight time is 15 hrs. There are no direct flights from the UK to Ecuador, popular routes to Quito involve a change of plane in Amsterdam, Paris or Madrid.

Key events

Dia de Quito: Quito, 6 Dec. The city’s own festival is actually celebrated from 1st Dec, with parades, street music and bullfights, right up until the fiesta’s climax on 6th. It can be quite boisterous.

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Andes to Amazon
river pastaZA

On the eastern flank of the Andean cordilleras, separating the high-altitude chain of snowy peaks on the Avenue of the Volcanoes from the steamy flatlands of the Amazon basin proper is a rugged area of misty mountains and steep valleys smothered in cloud forest and punctuated with thermal pools, waterfalls and silvery streams.

This scenically exquisite region has until recently not really been explored by visitors who head straight down into the jungle or visit the attractive little spa town of Baños and then head back up to the Andean spine.

But with improvements in the road infrastructure the region, fringed by the central highlands and the jungles of the northern oriente, is opening up to visitors keen to discover it hugely abundant and varied flora and fauna and become acquainted with the lifestyle of its rural and indigenous communities.  Sustainable eco-tourism is gaining ground here, fighting against the encroachment of commercial and industrial interests.

Easily accessible from Quito, Baños and river-ports Tena and Misahualli  are the centres of activity for visitors, with both a good range of hotels and lodges and a plentiful choice of walks, outdoor sports including river rafting and kayaking, wildlife spotting. Don't miss the thermal hot springs at Papallacta (above).

When to go

The cloud forest has an all year round spring-like climate with temperatures averaging 21°C.  There are on average a few hours of sunshine every day. It rains all year round, but the wettest months in the eastern Oriente jungle are Jun-Aug, when there can be landslides and airports may be closed. These however are the driest months in Baños, at a higher altitude. The closer you get to the Amazon region, the lower, more humid and hotter it will be. The hotels and tourist attractions in the region can be busy at weekends and at national holidays.



Getting local currency
Ecuador uses the US dollar. You can withdraw cash from Quito and the larger towns in the region such as Baños, Tena and Mishaualli where there are banks and ATMs.
Time difference

GMT -5 hours.

Combines with

The Avenue of the Volcanoes; Otavalo and the northern highlands.    

Getting there

It’s a drive of 90 minutes  from from Quito to Papallacta in the cloud forest, 3hrs 40 minutes to Misahualli in the Oriente and 3hrs to Baños

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The Ecuadorian Amazon

The moorlands of upland Ecuador fall away through cloud forested slopes down to the jungles of the Amazon basin (Oriente), which occupies half the country but, still undeveloped and even unexplored, is home to only 5% of the population. It's a true wilderness of exuberant rainforest and remote indian communities. The region is easily accessible from by air but also by road and boat. The Oriente is under threat from the logging and oil industry but members of the local community are very eco-conscious and sensitive to the preservation of the rainforest environment, some have opened up their villages to welcome visitors.

When to go

The Oriente has a stable temperature of about 30°C throughout the year.  It can rain – often in tropical intensity – at any time but Jul-Sep and Jan-Feb are slightly drier months.



Getting local currency

Ecuador uses the US dollar.  There’s an ATM in both Coca and Lago Agrio but better take out cash in advance in Quito where there are many banks, and ATMs (bearing in mind that the amount you can withdraw may be lower than your UK allowance).

Time difference

GMT -5 hrs. 

Combines with

Mindo cloud forest reserves, 2/5hrs drive from Quito; the Galápagos Islands, 2-3hrs flight from Quito.

Getting there

Fly from Quito to Coca or Lago Agrio (1hr). You can also access the region by paved road climbing over a 4,200m (1hr) Andean pass and descending 100km; continue to your lodge by boat.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

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