Group - Classic

Picaflor: Ecuador on track

10 days

Ecuador & Galapagos Islands

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 0

UK clients depart Thursday, arriving Quito, Ecuador, the same day.

Day 1

Transfer to hotel in Quito, overnight in the capital.

You will be met at the airport by a local representative and transferred to your hotel in the centro historico of Quito. This colonial highland city was founded by Spanish conquistadores in 1534 on the ruins of Inca and pre-Inca settlements that had occupied the site for at least 1000 years. Over recent decades, colonial Quito has been given the sort of facelift - façadelift that befits its being the very first city to be declared a Unesco World Heritage site. Your hotel is located in the centre of this beautifully preserved area and your guide will accompany you to dinner in one of the excellent local restaurants.

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Day 2

Guided tour of the city and the Equatorial Monument.

The old town, with its steeply cobbled streets and elegant plazas is a pleasure to explore and this morning you will be taken on a tour to visit the many churches, cathedrals and old world buildings that line the streets. There is also the chance to visit the equatorial line at Mitad del Mundo (which gives the country its name), a short drive north of the city. It's not a spectacular site in itself but you can pose for photographs with a foot in either hemisphere and there is an interesting museum nearby, as well as some wonderful views over the surrounding volcanoes.

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Day 3

Travel to Mindo.

After breakfast you will leave Quito for the cloud forest, and head to the El Monte Ecolodge your base for the next 2 nights. The lodge is located just outside the town of Mindo - recognised as a world class bird watching site by BirdLife International. On arrival you will be welcomed by your hosts who will offer a short informal introduction to the area. This is not simply a place to stay and the owners are dedicated to preserving and protecting the natural beauty of Mindo, one of the most biologically diverse and endangered Cloud Forests in the world.

In the afternoon a local guide will take you on a 2 hour exploration beside the Rio Mindo, where you will find exotic birds and be taught about the many medicinal plants and their local uses.

Rainforest

Day 4

Bird spotting and walks in Mindo Cloud Forest.

An early morning start gives you the chance to go to the local ‘Cock of the Rock’ lek, a meeting place where these marvellous birds congregate to feed. The Cock of the Rocks in Mindo have bright red crests and black wings and you can see them perform their wild dances, squawking and play fighting.

You will return to the lodge for breakfast before a walk along the heights of the Cordillera San Lorenzo, where your guide will point out native animals and some other spectacular birds such as the Golden Headed Quetzal, Choco Toucan and Crimson Rumped Toucanet.

The afternoon will allow you time to relax in the peaceful surroundings, or wander the many trails around the lodge or even do some whitewater tubing should you be feeling adventurous.

Day 5

Back to Quito, stopping to spot hummingbirds on the way.

After a relaxing morning and lunch you will make your way back to the bustle of Quito. En route there will be a stop at ‘Tony’s House’. This is well known local place to see more than 24 species of hummingbird that come to the house to eat from the feeders strategically placed around its grounds.

This time you will experience a different side of Quito staying at a hotel located in the new town, home to lots of restaurants, cafés and bars.

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Day 6

Board the Slow Train Sierra, passing magnificent volcanoes including Cotopaxi.

Board the train in time for its 8am departure. This first section climbs steadily through the suburbs of Quito and beyond to fertile volcanic arable soils, from 2,777m to El Boliche at 3,547m. Weather permitting there are views of Antisana (5,758m), Corazón (4,788m), Illiniza Norte (5,120m). As the train approaches El Boliche, the perfect snowbound cone of the still-active Cotopaxi looms into view - 5,897m. Here, alight the train and head to a rose plantation. Visit the greenhouses growing 40 different varieties of rose. Roses and cut flowers are amongst Ecuador's major export earners, and there are demonstrations on how the roses are grown in this high-altitude equatorial region with its year- round temperate climate, and how they are harvested and packed for the international markets within 24 hours of picking. Continue to a local hacienda for lunch, afterwhich drive to the national park, and take a short walk on Cotopaxi's skirts. Hike around Laguna Limpiopungo, a gathering point for several species of hummingbirds, deer and small Andean wolf. In the summer months, green and purple gentians, Indian paint brush and blue lupine cluster like jewelled studs from between tufts of grass. Even from below the snow line there are panoramic views of the valley and surrounding peaks. Afterwards, transfer to a local hacienda to overnight.

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Day 7

Continue your journey by train to Riobamba, passing Ecuador's highest station.

This morning from Latacunga station we will cross the inter-Andean valley and past the Yambo lagoon before acsending to Urbina station. Bleak and isolated, this is the highest station in Ecuador at a dizzying 3,609m/11838ft above sea level. Here you'll meet Ecuador's last 'ice-merchant', Ushca Baltasar, who will share with you his experiences of extracting ice from the slopes of the nearby Chimborazo volcano to be sold in the Riobamba markets.

Board the train to continue to the Jatari Campesino where you disembark and walk for 30mins to the La Moya community. Here you can learn about the Quichua - Puruha culture and their ancestral work programs. You will be able to participate in some of the activities led by the inhabitants of the area as you interact with this amazing culture, before ending the day in Riobamba.

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Day 8

Travel by traditional steam train and tackle the famous Devil's Nose.

You leave the hotel early for the station at Riobamba. This is a real highlight of the journey, since this short section is normally hauled by steam power. At Colta there's a visit to the small chapel of Balvanera, one of Ecuador's earliest. You continue by rail to Guamote, to visit the town and its indian market. After lunch at the station, board the train to Palmira followed by a 30 minute bus transfer to Alausi and after a brief stop, begin the most spectacular part of the journey and, from an engineering point of view, the most ambitious section of track between Quito and Guayaquil. This is the Devil's Nose. The track descends 200m, zig-zagging down an almost vertical wall of rock by a series of switchbacks, a thrilling ride in itself which is enhanced by views of the snow-mantled volcanoes Chimborazo and Carihuairazo. Return to Alausí to continue to your hotel followed by a walk of the town.

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Day 9

By train into the tropical lowlands, finishing in Guayaquil.

Jumping on a bus for an hour we travel to a coastal hacienda to visit a cocoa plantation and to learn about the history of this remarkable crop and its effect on Ecuadorian culture. There is also time for some chocolate tasting and a typical Ecuadorian lunch before boarding the train again at Naranjito. On this stretch we pass through coastal plantations of banana, sugarcane and rice en route to Yahuachi, where you transfer once more to the steam train for the final journey to the disembarkation point at the terminus in Durán and the Complejo Eloy Alvaro, where the locosheds and works are. And where, in the heyday of the line, passengers were trans-boarded onto a ferry across the estuary to Guayaquil. The ferry now sits rusting in the works yard, although both it and the yard itself are off-limits to us. The estuary and river Babahoyo is crossed by the road bridge to bustling, modern Guayaquil.

Our hotel for the night is the Oro Verde, long considered the acme of sophisticated accommodation in the commercial city, and though it's no longer the only good standard hotel in town, it retains an aura of an era when all the great and the good of Guayaquil disported here. There's an outdoor pool and a gym.

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Day 10

Day at leisure before flying home.

We have the best part of a day in the city; you can relax by the pool, or join one of a number of optional excursions - a tour of the old city, a stroll along the sea-front malecón, or a drive out to the mangrove swamps if flora and fauna is your thing - although iguanas also live in the garden plazas of this tropical port.  

Guayaquil serves as a jumping off point for the Galápagos Islands, so please ask one of our specialists for further information if you wish to add a cruise or land based visit at the end of your tour.

Flights back to the UK leave in the early evening, arriving the next day.

Day

UK clients arrive home the following day, Sunday.

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Real Latin America Experts

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    Jim Ashworth - Travel Consultant

    Jim first caught the Latin American travel bug in 2001 when he decided at the last minute to join a friend travelling around Central America – he hasn't looked back since.

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    Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made team.

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    Sophie Barber - Travel Consultant

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia.

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Consultant

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Consultant

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  • Ben Line
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    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Manager of the Tailor-made Department.

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