DAYS 72 – 84: ECUADOR
A long day’s drive will take you north, across the border into Ecuador, and to the beautiful colonial town of Cuenca. In Cuenca you will have a free day to explore the city and to visit a Panama Hat factory to learn about the manufacturing process of these iconic hats which, despite the name, originated in Cuenca.
From Cuenca you will drive to the remote village of Chugchilán, via the stunning landscape of the Cajas National Park en route and the spectacular highland scenery along the road of the ‘Quilotoa Loop’. In Chugchilán you will stay in a fantastic local hostel where breakfast and dinner are included, giving you a chance to enjoy traditional Ecuadorian food.
The following day you will transfer to the village of Quilotoa to see its stunning crater lake, and take an included day trek back to Chugchilán through the local villages, canyons, and beautiful scenery. This walk is widely considered one of the best day treks in Ecuador! The mostly-downhill usually takes between 4-6 hours, but please be aware that there is a section towards the end of the trek with a steep incline which you will need to be physically fit for – although we thoroughly recommend the trek, it can be skipped by anyone if they prefer.
Leaving Chugchilan you will drive along the remainder of the Quilotoa Loop and head north to the village of Rio Verde near the famous Tungurahua volcano. You will have 3 nights, 2 full days here to enjoy a range of activities such as white-water rafting, trekking, canyoning, cycling, and other options. You will also have the opportunity to visit the nearby town of Banos and its popular volcanic thermal springs.
From Banos you will drive to the edge of the Amazon basin near the town of Tena before you head to a jungle lodge for an incredible 3-night stay. During your time at the lodge you will head into the Amazon jungle enjoying rainforest treks exploring the nearby waterfalls and caves, and trips down the Napo River in motorised dugout canoes, hopefully spotting lots of wildlife on the way. You will also see some ancient fossils and petroglyphs and visit a local Quichua community.
From the jungle you will drive back up into the highlands and arrive at the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, where you will have a free day to explore the city.
From Quito your journey begins with a short drive to Mitad del Mundo, the monument that marks the equator. After this you will continue north to the small market town of Otavalo, stopping in the centre to visit its famous markets.