Arrive at any time. Arrival transfer is included.
Drive into the mountainous Andean highlands, stopping for lunch in the village of Peguche. Meet some of the local residents, and learn about the community's weaving traditions. Continue to Otavalo, surrounded by misty volcanoes, and visit the town's famous handicraft market??one of the largest outdoor markets in South America. Browse stalls selling colourful local art, textiles, and souvenirs, and try your hand at haggling. Later, settle into your room at a historic hacienda, where we'll spend the night. Spend a night in the Otavalo area and visit its world famous handicrafts market, the largest in South America. Villagers from the surrounding countryside come here every week to sell handmade goods as well as livestock, fruits, and vegetables.
One of the most obvious signs of the Otavalenos' cultural integrity is their traditional dress. This is not just worn for the tourists at the Saturday market, but is worn throughout their daily life.
Otavalo is famous both for its friendly people and its Saturday animal market. The market dates back to pre-Inca times when jungle products were transported from the eastern lowlands and traded for highland goods. Today's market has two different functions: the local market for buying and selling animals, food, and other essentials, and the crafts market for the tourists and other interested people.
Make your way to the village of Papallacta, known for its abundant natural hot springs. En route, visit the home and studio of a renowned traditional weaver, who is working to preserve the indigenous weaving techniques of the Otavalo region. Get a glimpse of the family's daily life, and observe them at work on the backstrap loom, which has been used in these parts for centuries. Continue to the Papallacta Hot Springs Resort for an afternoon of relaxation. Soak in the mineral-rich waters of the thermal pools, enjoying stunning mountain views, and indulge in a variety of optional spa treatments.
Head towards Tena, often called Ecuador's gateway to the Amazon. On the way, we'll stop at Guango Lodge to explore the property's cloud forest reserve??home to a plethora of avian species, including more than 10 varieties of hummingbirds. Enjoy lunch in the lodge's orchid garden, then continue to Misahualli. This charming town is one of the oldest ports in the Ecuadorian Amazon, and harbours a thriving population of capuchin monkeys. Arrive in Tena and board a motorized canoe to our jungle lodge, perched along the banks of the Arajuno River. This evening, embark on a walk into the forest with a naturalist guide, looking out for the Amazon's nocturnal creatures. The lodge is located along the bank of the Arajuno River approx. 40min. from Tena. We stay in comfortable cabanas next to the river, which have private bathroom with hot water in the rainfall-shower, electricity and a balcony. From your balcony, you can relax in a hammock or deck chair and observe hummingbirds, shore river birds and butterflies. In the evening, listen to the night music of the multitude of frogs and other nocturnal creatures. The Lodge also has an open-air lounge with pool and full service bar, all connected by a raised and roofed boardwalk to guests rooms.
The lodge is dedicated to protecting the pristine jungle environment and has a dedicated recycling program, energy conservation program and offer biodegradable amenities including shampoo and shower gel in the bathrooms.
Depart early by canoe to visit a saladero, or a parrot clay lick. Alongside our naturalist guide, observe brightly coloured parrots and parakeets gather here to snack on the mineral-rich clay, which studies suggest aids in digestion and provides an important nutrient supplement. Return to the lodge for breakfast, then take a tour of AmaZOOnico, an animal rescue centre that rehabilitates wild creatures that have been victims of illegal trafficking. Later, we'll visit the home of a local Amazonian family for a unique cultural experience. Chat with your hosts about their traditions and beliefs and learn about everyday life in the jungle; then sit down to a delicious homemade lunch.
Leave the Amazon behind and travel to Banos. This popular resort town is packed with gorgeous landscapes, thrilling outdoor activities, and??as the name indicates??thermal springs originating from the base of the Tungurahua Volcano. Along the way, stop at Omaere Ethnobotanical Park for a walk with an expert guide, discovering the diverse flora of the region and learning about the indigenous uses of the various plants found there. After arriving in Banos, enjoy free time to stroll through the town; or opt to go horseback riding through the picturesque countryside. Banos is one of the most popular spots in the country. Many Ecuadorian families vacation here. One look at this delightfully green mountain town and you will know why. Banos means "baths" and this is precisely what the town is famous for. Some are thermal springs from the base of Tungurahua Volcano, which means "little hell" in Quichua. Other baths have melt water running into them from Tungurahua's glaciated flanks. Locals swear that the baths are good for your health; it's definitely worth rising early to watch the dawn creep over the mountains from a hot spring vantage point.
The day is yours to explore Banos and the surrounding area. Choose to head to the mountains for an invigorating hike, and later soak your tired muscles in one of the town's thermal springs. Set off on a mountain biking adventure, pedaling past rivers, waterfalls, and delightfully green landscapes; opt to hit the rapids on a white-water rafting excursion; and much more. The town is the perfect setting for outdoor pursuits. Activities include horseback riding, canyoneering, hiking, mountain biking, climbing, and rafting on the River Patate.
Drive back to Quito, Ecuador's capital, along the spectacular Avenue of Volcanoes. En route, we'll venture through Cotopaxi National Park??home to the snowcapped Cotopaxi Volcano, the second highest peak in the country. As you explore this magnificent park, keep an eye out for the resident wildlife, which ranges from condors, foxes, and deer to the vicuna and the endangered Andean puma.