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Trip Type : N/A
Essential Ecuador tour

Essential Ecuador

Great Value Vacations
4.3 . Great
93%
Travel Style: A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level: Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level: Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
9 days
From: $ 2,961 $ 329 / day
Checking price

Overview

Highlights

  • Plant your feet right on the equator at the Equatorial Line Monument in Quito!
  • While you're in Ecuador, see not one but two volcanic lakes: Laguna Cuicocha and Quilotoa.
  • Visit a Panama hat factory in Cuenca and pick up a straw hat for yourself. Contrary to popular belief, Panama hats originated in Ecuador, not Panama.
  • Ecuador is famous for its high quality cacao beans. Visit a cacao plantation outside Cuenca to learn all about the magic bean!
  • End your trip with a sunset stroll on Guayaquil's malecon (riverfront) overlooking Guayas River.

Short Description

Do you dream of going to South America but don't know where to start? Ecuador is the answer! This 9-night vacation offers the perfect introduction to the colonial cities, volcanoes, indigenous markets and lakes of Ecuador.

Trip Type N/A
See all the highlights and popular spots on a classic tour.
Itinerary Focus Classic Highlights
Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Lodging Level Value - 3 star
Flights & Transport Only ground transport
Start City Quito
End City Ecuador

Trip Includes

  • Round-trip economy class airfare into Quito (UIO), out of Guayaquil (GYE)
  • All airport and inter-city transfers
  • 2 nights in Quito at the Mercure Alameda Hotel, or similar
  • Quito City Tour with Equatorial Line Monument (6 hours)
  • 1 night in Otavalo at the Hacienda Pinsaqui, or similar
  • Visit to the School of Peguche (social project)
  • Visit to the Otavalo Indian handcrafts market
  • 1 night in Papallacta at the Hotel Termas de Papallacta, or similar
  • Visit to Laguna Cuicocha
  • Visit to Cotacachi and Papallacta villages
  • 1 night in Cotopaxti at the Hacienda La Cienega, or similar
  • Visit to Cotopaxti National Park and flower plantation
  • 1 night in Riobamba at the Hosteria Abraspungo, or similar
  • Visit to Quilotoa volcanic lake
  • Train ride to Devil's Nose, with boxed lunch
  • Visit to Ingapirca Inca monument (en-route to Cuenca)
  • 2 nights in Cuenca at the Hotel Carvallo, or similar
  • Cuenca City tour (half-day)
  • 1 night in Guayaquil at the Unipark Hotel, or similar
  • Visit to cacao project
  • Guayaquil sightseeing tour
  • Breakfast daily

*Please note that some of the activities included in this itinerary (particularly Papallacta, Cotopaxti and Quilotoa) may be strenuous for children, due to the high altitude.

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Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Quito!

Accommodation: Hotel Mercure Alameda

Arrive in Quito and enjoy a transfer to your first accommodation. Set at the foot of the volcano Pichincha and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, Quito is easy on the eyes. The city is known for its colonial churches, monasteries, paintings, sculptures and the magnificent blend of Spanish, Flemish and Moorish architecture. >Quito has 86 churches and monasteries, giving it the name “Convent of America.

Spend your first night in Quito trying the local cuisine like hornado (roasted pork) or for the more adventurous eaters, cuy (guinea pig)!

Transfer to Quito hotel

Day 2: Quito

Wake up and enjoy a 6-hour tour of Quito's highlights including Panecillo Hill and the “Middle of the World” - the Equatorial Line.

Later, head to Quito's Old Town and admire its picturesque plazas and magnificent churches. San Francisco Square is a great place to get a true sense of the city!

Quito City Tour with Equatorial Line Monument (6 hours)

The tour of Quito will introduce you to this culturally unique city. See the Independence Square with the Government Palace and the Cathedral (outside), admire the facade of church La Compania de Jesus. Afterwards, visit the famous hill of the old town, Panecillo (little bread) where you will see the angel statue “Virgen de Quito.”

Later, visit the Equatorial Line Monument called “Middle of the World” where you get a truly rare experience to stand in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres simultaneously! The Equatorial Monument marks the spot where an 18th-century French scientific expedition established the exact position of the Equator. The area has been built as a typical colonial town, with restaurants, gift shops and Post Office with philatelic sales. Visit the monument and Ethnographical Museum, which shows the history of the Indian cultures of Ecuador.

Day 3: Quito – Otavalo

Accommodation: Hacienda Pinsaqui

Leave Quito today for Otavalo, a town in the Andes that hosts a famous crafts market dating back to pre-Incan times. Browse the colorful selection, then head to the School of Peguche. After the visit, arrive in the town of Papallacta where you will spend the night.

Transfer to Otavalo

Visit to the Otavalo handicraft market

Discover the world-famous Indian handcrafts market in Otavalo with its central square Plaza de los Ponchos. The market sells unique and colorful bags, ponchos, tapestries and more made by the local indigenous people who have achieved economic prosperity as a result of their weaving skill.  Enjoy the unique variety of handicrafts at the giant market and take some new souvenirs with you. Otavalo is a typical indigenous city where tourists can see families wearing their colorful garments and speaking Quichua as their first tongue and Spanish as their second.

Visit school in Peguche

Depart Quito in the morning and drive two hours to Peguche, an indigenous town of weavers. Visit a school project, which arose out of the German association “We help children in Ecuador” and looks after the education and adequate care of children in need in Ecuador. In 1997, the association renovated an old hacienda to make it a social center for children, known as the Casa de Niños. Today, this house contains a kindergarten, an elementary school for all age groups and a carpenter’s workshop where older students train in this skill.

Day 4: Otavalo – Papallacta

Accommodation: Termas de Papallacta Hotel

In the morning, head out for your first excursion of the day to Laguna Cuicocha, a beautiful lake nestled within the crater of the Cotacachi volcano. After visiting the lake, head to Cotacachi and Papallacta villages. Pick up a leather souvenir in Cotacachi and relax in the thermal baths in Papallacta.

Transfer to Papallacta

Visit to Laguna Cuicocha

Visit Laguna Cuicocha, a caldera and crater lake at an altitude of 10,650 ft and a width of about 1.8 miles. The lake is named Cuicocha which in the Quichua language means the Lake of the Cuy (or Guinea Pig). In the center of the lake are two volcanic islands covered in vegetation and rimmed with totora, a type of reed.

Visit to Cotacachi and Papallacta villages

Just outside of Laguna Cuicocha is the small town of Cotacachi, known as Ecuador’s center for leatherworks. Stroll along the town's small streets and pop into one of the various shops to pick up a few souvenirs. Then transfer to the small Andean village of Papallacta, which is famous for its thermal baths.

Upon arrival in Papallacta 10,600 ft above sea level, visit the baths at Hotel Termas de Papallacta. Relax in the warm, odourless thermal waters surrounded by stunning landscape. After enjoying the baths you may go for a walk to get to know the typical flora and fauna of this region.

Day 5: Papallacta – Cotopaxi

Accommodation: Hacienda La Cienega

Explore Cotopaxi National Park today! The focal point of the park is the symmetrically-perfect Cotopaxi volcano, the second-highest volcano in the world. Enjoy a guided walk as you learn about the local flora and fauna, then visit a flower plantation near the park and see how the flowers are cultivated, selected for exportation and packed.

Transfer to Cotopaxi

Visit to Cotopaxi National Park and flower plantation

See one of the most impressive national parks in Ecuador, Cotopaxi National Park. On a walk near the shallow lake Laguna de Limpiopungo, you will have the chance to learn about the typical vegetation of the so-called “Páramo” and will gaze in wonder at the beautiful view of Cotopaxi volcano (19,347 ft) in the background.

You will also visit a beautiful flower plantation where the friendly staff will explain everything about their great variety of flowers.

Day 6: Cotopaxi – Riobamba

Accommodation: Hosteria Abraspungo

After breakfast, visit a colorful and original Indian market. Continue about 10 miles to Quilotoa, the famous volcanic lake with stunning views. Late afternoon, continue to Riobamba, the capital of Chimborazo province where a great number of indigenous communities live.

Close to Chimborazo, the highest mountain of Ecuador, you will spend the night in one of the atmospheric hosterias in the region.

Transfer to Riobamba

Visit to Quilotoa volcanic lake

See the colorful goods at an Indian market before continuing about 8 miles to Quilotoa, the famous volcanic lake with a deep green color. At an elevation of more than 12,000 ft, the lake is tucked within a rugged countryside and offers many hiking trails all over the Andes mountain.

In the late afternoon, continue on to Riobamba, the capital of the province of Chimborazo, where a great number of indigenous communities live. lose to Chimborazo, the highest mountain in Ecuador, you will spend the night in one of the atmospheric Hosterías in the region.

Day 7: Riobamba – Cuenca

Accommodation: Hotel Carvallo

After an early breakfast, you will be taken to the train-station in Alausi to board the train for the famous Devil’s Nose ride. After an exhilarating ride, start the approximately 2-hour drive to Cuenca. On the way, stop at Ingapirca - the most important Incan ruins in the country.

Transfer to Cuenca

Train ride to Devil's Nose, with boxed lunch

The most impressive part of Ecuador's railway is the Diablo de la Nariz (Devil’s Nose) a hair-raising trip down the rocky slopes of the Andes through some of Ecuador’s most breathtaking scenery. The zig-zagging route climbs 1640 ft in just 7 miles and remains an impressive piece of railroad to this day. The track was initially built in the early 1900s to link Quito with Guayaquil, and was given its name for the many deaths that occurred during its construction. A lunchbox is included.

*Due to weather conditions or technical problems of the train, train ride is subject to reconfirmation.

Visit to Ingapirca Inca monument (en-route to Cuenca)

On your way to Cuenca, stop at the Inca ruin site of Ingapirca, the most important monument of pre-Spanish culture in Ecuador and the country's largest known Inca ruins. The ruins are located on a grass-covered hill at an altitude of about 10,000 ft. On a walk through the former place where the Incas lived and held their ceremonies, you will learn about their beliefs and rituals as well as the way they constructed this ordination place in the shape of a puma.

Day 8: Cuenca

In the morning, enjoy a half-day tour taking you to some of the Cuenca's highlights including the "Todos los Santos" ruins and main square.

After the tour, head to one of several excellent museums dedicated to the city's rich and varied past. The Museo del Banco Central sits right next to the Pumapungo archaeological site, which was an Incan palace. See the artifacts on display in the museum, tour the ruins of the palace, and wander through the botanical gardens.

Cuenca City tour (half-day)

Visit the sights of Cuenca, the third largest city in Ecuador. Founded in 1557 on an Inca settlement valley, Cuenca is Ecuador's most beautiful colonial city after Quito. However, for most Ecuadorian inhabitants – and travelers – this center of art, ceramics, panama hats, silver and gold is the most beautiful city in Ecuador.

As a result of its early 19th-century architecture, Cuenca was declared “Cultural Patrimony of Mankind” in November 1999. During the city tour, you will see historical buildings located along the Tomebamba River, the “Todos los Santos” ruins, flowers market and the main square with the old and new cathedrals. The tour ends at a Panama hat factory, a perfect place to pick up an authentic hat!

Day 9: Cuenca – Guayaquil

Accommodation: Unipark Hotel

Leave Cuenca today for Guayaquil. On the way, you will notice the dramatic changes in vegetation. Observe the typical paramo grassland, small colorful flowers, mosses, lichens, and other fungi. Once in the lowlands, you will see a lot of rice, cacao and banana plantations.

En route to Guayaquil, stop at a cacao plantation and get to know the source of the chocolate many of us consume. You'll then arrive in Guayaquil where you will enjoy a short sightseeing tour of the city.

Transfer to Guayaquil

Visit to cacao project

En route to Guayaquil, visit a cacao project and take a guided tour through cacao plantations. Learn everything about the cultivation of the cacao fruit, the process of harvesting and the cacao bean treatment. Ecuador produces some of the world's finest and most prized cacao beans, which in turn makes the chocolate we know and love!

Guayaquil Sightseeing Tour

Explore beautiful Guayaquil, a city that perfectly balances tropical paradise and bustling metropolis. Get to know the most interesting parts of Guayaquil on this amazing tour! Visit the city's most impressive landmarks, like the pleasant Parque Simon Bolivar, the Gothic Cathedral, the magnificent Malecon promenade, and much more.

Guayaquil has experienced some historically devastating fires, which destroyed many of its beautiful wooden houses. Today, only the small quarter of Las Peñas remains preserved and is now the oldest picturesque village of the colonial Guayaquil. This village is home to many famous people, it's known as an artist's haven, and is filled with small open-air exhibitions of paintings and sculptures.

Venture to the border of the Rio Guayas, where you will see Italian renaissance style architecture and the Palacio de Gobernacion. Pass by the Cementerio Geneal, which is lush with palm trees, beautiful decor, and eye-catching flowers.

Day 10: Depart Ecuador

Squeeze all your souvenirs into your bag and enjoy a comfortable transfer to the airport. Board your plane and spend your relaxing flight home dreaming about your next adventure.

Transfer to Guayaquil airport (GYE)

Fly home!

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Price Per Day: $ 329 per day
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6,665 Great Value Vacations Travel Reviews & Ratings

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Essential Ecuador

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The customer service was excellent

5.0
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When I booked with Great Value I was nervous because it seemed too good to be true. Nope, just a really great deal. I was able to take my dream trip to Ireland and Scotland and it was within my budget. Everything was covered, my lodging, flights, and rental car. There was no hidden fees, or fine print that would nickel and dime me later on, as "good deals" usually have. I also had to change the date of my trip and the customer service was excellent and this change was simple. Thank you Great Value, I'll be using you every time I travel from now on
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Everything on the trip was excellent.

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Everything on the trip was excellent. The only concern with any services from GVV was initial communications ahead of the trip regarding when and how we'd receive all our travel vouchers, as some were available online, and some were to be picked up in country upon arrival. It took no less than 5 phone calls to learn some vouchers would be picked up in country. The trip was outstanding, exhausting, but gloriously beautiful. It was exhausting from the perspective of moving around the country and only a few places were 2 nights. But, we knew that going in, and we wanted to see ALL of Switzerland and this certainly checked those boxes. We saw majestic mountains, we saw countless waterfalls and glaciers. The trains in Switzerland were all clean and we felt safe. The hotels were good with delicious breakfasts each morning. Overall, I would recommend GVV to a friend or family member and I would personally book another vacation with GVV.
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Our trip was amazing!

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This was my first time planning a trip out of the country. I read previous reviews who had a good experience with Great Value Vacation. Our trip was amazing! The booking and reservations were easy to use with the vouchers provided. The staff was helpful. The only downside was I upgraded to have an automatic vehicle and they gave me a stick shift. It took a while to get sorted out but other than that I loved my trip! I will definitely use great value vacations again when I book my next trip. I opted for the additional wine tasting package and I did not regret it! I recommend adding those additional tours to get a more complete experience.
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Great customer service

5.0
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My wife and I recently booked our vacation through Great Value Vacations. We were a bit nervous to travel to Europe for the first time, but we are glad we did. Great Value Vacations took care of us. Great customer service. Seamless transactions. They booked the hotels and flights for us. All we had to worry about were the daily activities! I would highly recommended them. The hotels offered through the package were as advertised: nice and in great locations. The flights times were also convenient. The best part was the price. I am thankful for the experiences Great Value Vacation was able to provide for us!
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Really enjoyed both of my trips

5.0
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Really enjoyed both of my trips through Great Value Vacations. I went on one family trip to Ireland (Adare villa, rental car with trips out to Dublin, Cliffs of Moher and more) . The villa was very comfortable with a kitchen, three bedrooms, and proximity to the local shops /restaurants. We were able to upgrade to an automatic car and had fun navigating to each location on our itinerary. The trip as planned by the agency still leaves time for exploring on your own and since we picked a trip with our own transportation, we had flexibility on which tours we wanted to do and when.

My second trip was a solo trip to Scotland. I like to go on vacation by myself sometimes, but it can be hard to find ones where you aren’t penalized for being on your own. This train trip to Edinburgh, Inverness, and Glasgow worked out really well for me. The hotels were all near the train stations and in safe areas (good lighting, plenty of people, etc.). I got a good mix of options for sightseeing in each city. The hop-on, hop-off bus circuit was especially useful for getting around Edinburgh. I also added an extra tour on in Glasgow to see nearby castles and a distillery and was very glad to have done so as the views of the countryside were amazing!

Summary: Have enjoyed my previous experiences and would definitely use again
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Above and beyond our expectations

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Just got back from our trip to Italy booked through Great Value Vacations & was our dream come true! We could not have gone if it were not for their unbelievable rates. Each 4 Star Villa we stayed at was above and beyond our expectations...I cried after leaving each part of our journey. I am so glad I took a leap of faith and would HIGHLY RECOMMEND booking with them. Besides the Villas being beautiful, great locations, clean, and great staff; each place we arrived at actually said, "They said to give you a very nice room." (with a rate of just under $1,900 a piece for 9 nights not counting travel days at 4 stars Villas in Rome, Tuscany, & Venice including airfare and rent a car... a few friends told us to expect the worst rooms at the places we were staying ~ NOT the case! Our rooms had the best views...I could go on and on. Every step of the way was smooth with no worries whatsoever. Thanks again GVV! LOVED IT!
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Details

Flights & Transport

Only ground transport

Group Size:

Intimate Group - 12 max

Trip ID#:

greatvaluevacations-PK-GC4P-SH-EE-UIO

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