City Tour in Quito with “Mitad del Mundo” (Middle of the World) (5 hours) - Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Drive around the colonial center of Quito and see the stone-carved facade of Ecuador’s House of Congress depicting scenes from Ecuadorian history; Independence Square, with the Presidential Palace and the Cathedral. Visit the church of La Compa–ia (1605), with its breathtaking gilded altars, considered the finest example of baroque art in America and the church and monastery of San Francisco (1535). For a panoramic view of Ecuador’s capital city we go to the top of Panecillo Hill. Our country, needless to say, owes its name to the Equatorial Line which crosses it 15 minutes to the north of Quito. There you find a monument marking latitude 0º 00` 00”, a unique place where you can literally get a picture of yourself jumping from north to south of the planet. This tour includes a visit to the Ethnographic Museum on site. Certificates are awarded to visitors who take part in this adventure.
Cuenca 3 day Tour - Thursday-Saturday, July 19-21
We start the trip by driving through the south of Quito, where we will visit Ecuador’s first National Park, where Cotopaxi Volcano, the highest active volcano on earth, is the main attraction. You can explore the Andean moorlands with more than 90 species of highlands birds or hike up to the snow line (4,800 meters/ 15,700 feet). We will stop for lunch in one of the local traditional haciendas. Afterwards, visit Ambato, city of flowers and fruits, also known for its fine leather industry, the historical Juan Leon Mera's Orchard as well as other principal attractions of this city. On the road to Guano, you will pass by the Igualata ridge, the highest point on the Pan-American Highway at the base of Mount Chimborazo. Riobamba is the birthplace of Ecuador’s first constitution, which took place in 1830. A short night tour of Riobamba includes its French-influenced plazas, the Basilica and the Cathedral. Admire the city from Quito Hill and learn about Ecuador’s history from its murals. Finally arrive in Riobamba's country inn or hacienda for a well-deserved rest, surrounded by volcanoes. Accommodations + dinner.
The second day; We start the day with an American breakfast after which we will drive through some of the most picturesque indigenous areas of the country, passing by Balbanera Chapel, the oldest Catholic chapel in the country, until we reach Alausi train station. When the train is available, you will experience the adventure of going from the highlands to the lowlands through the Devil’s Nose, leaving us in Sibambe where the train will take us back to Alausi. From there a van will take us back on the road to Cuenca. Along the way, after a box lunch, we will arrive at the Ruins of Ingapirca, the most important religious and political monument left by the Incas and the many pre-Columbian cultures that once dwelled in this area. Further south on the road to Cuenca, you can say your prayers while climbing the stairs of the church of “Our Lady of the Dew” in Biblián. Keep your eyes open for women weaving Panama hats (straw hats), spinning, or smiling while walking alongside the Pan-American Highway, carrying children or animals on their backs. Arrive in Cuenca + accommodations + meals.
The third day; To most visitors, Cuenca is the prettiest colonial city in the country. Let its cobblestone streets, graceful wrought-iron balconies, and flowered plazas captivate you. Its market places and handicrafts are living testimony to the regions rich indigenous & artesian heritage. The handsome sunlit domes of the cathedral, the quiet convents and museums, the city’s romantic Tomebamba river flanked by overhanging houses are part of an experience that no one should miss. After lunch, a visit one of the straw hat export enterprises and a ceramic factory. Transfer to the airport. Flight to Quito, upon your arrival you'll be settled in your hotel.
Day Tour to Otavalo Market - Sunday, July 22
Start your trip through the Awakening Valley in Calderón with its bread-dough figures and Cayambe for the local food specialties. Passing by some of the most attractive artisan centers and Andean landscapes, you arrive in Otavalo and its famous indigenous market just in time to bargain for hand-knitted wool sweaters, colorful tapestries, wood carvings, silver jewelry, native paintings, woolen and straw hats, and much more. Lunch will be served at a typical nearby hacienda or country inn. Afterwards, enjoy amazing landscapes in your way back to Quito.
Fly to Baltra Island - Monday, July 23
Spend the afternoon of today and the morning of tomorrow relaxing at the Mainao Inn and exploring the sites on Santa Cruz.
Note: The itinerary has been shifted due to the closure of the airport at San Cristóbal, but we will still see all the same places.
Thurs: Española: Gardner Bay/Punta Suarez
Sat: North Seymour/Bartolome
Sun: Fernandina: Punta Espinosa/Isabela: Punta Vicente Roca
Mon: James: Puerto Egas/ Rabida
Tue, July 31: Santa Cruz: Charles Darwin Station/Baltra, Fly back to Quito
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