All activities listed below are included in the program fee, unless otherwise noted as ‘optional’.
Day 1: Bienvenido
We’ll meet and greet you upon your arrival into Mariscal-Sucre International Airport in Quito. We’ll then bring you to our residence in Quito where we’ll be based for the first 2 full days of the program.
Day 2: Exploring a Cultural Icon
We wake up early in the morning and head to Mitad Del Mundo, an indigenous themed museum and info centre based right on the equator. Here our local guide, Milton, will introduce you to indigenous culture and history in the context of pre-colonial, colonial, and contemporary Ecuador. We then head over to the Pullalahua Volcano ridge where we take in stunning views, approximately 10 minutes from the museum.
For lunch we visit a locally owned and operated shop known for its indigenous themed cuisine. We then partake in a private tour of Quito’s cultural centre, the old city. During the city tour we’ll discuss the colonial influences of Spain, the role of the catholic church in the development of the city, and the complex relationship between indigenous groups and the government.
In the evening, we head to Mariscal-Foch, one of Quito’s cultural hubs, for our welcome diner at a local pub. Afterwards, we welcome a guest speaker who will introduce us to Ecuador’s booming Eco-Tourism sector.
Day 3: Into the Mountains
Day 3 starts with a short commute from Quito to one of the country’s must stunning scenes, the Pappallacta Hot Springs. After a short hike high in the mountains, we jump into the naturally occurring thermal baths. Our local guide, Milton, discusses with us how Pappallacta is attracting sustainable, eco-themed tourist opportunities.
We then continue onwards from the top of the Andes, descending by bus approximately 4000 meters into the heart of the Amazonian rainforest. We arrive in our host community, the province of Napo’s only completely indigenous run eco-lodge, located in Misuhalli. Here we’re welcomed with the sights and sounds of the tropics, and the hospitality of a community that’s truly banding together to create opportunity.
Dinner is served and, in traditional fashion, comes wrapped in palm leaves. Our group is formally welcomed by one of the local council elders. As desert arrives, the director of the lodge discusses with us the importance of community-owned enterprises, as well as how the Sinchi Warmi lodge is creating a model for socially and environmentally responsible business.
Day 4: The Rainforest and the River
We start the day with a 2 hour hike through the Amazon rainforest, observing some truly stunning scenery, while walking alongside one of the Amazon river’s largest tributaries. Our local guide, speaking in Quechua and translated into English, highlights unique flora and fauna, and how all of the elements of the rainforest work together.
Back at the lodge we prepare for a fun afternoon of eco-adventuring. After a healthy lunch, we head back to the Napo river and jump into a raft. A relatively calm float down the river provides for a relaxing and soothing experience, while our guides inform us of the recent protections provided to the river by the government.
Our last activity of this busy day is truly a sweet one. Our hosts at Sinchi Warmi escort us to their nearby Cocoa plantation. From the fruit to the bar, we spend the next hour learning about everything chocolate. If you’re a fan of dark chocolate and believe in it’s healing properties, you’ll truly enjoy this part of the tour!
Day 5: Animals in the Wild
Day 5 starts with an early rise and ride down the Napo on a motorized boat. We arrive approximately 30 minutes later to one of the region’s animal rescue and rehabilitation centres. Here we spend the next two hours learning about some of the endangered species in the Amazon and how private foundations, like the one we’re visiting, are working to save animals and how eco-tourism can contribute to a more secure future for the region.
A return to Sinchi Warmi leads us to our last activity in the Amazon – learning how local women use plant based fibers to create and sell handicrafts. From the garden to the office, we’ll go through a comprehensive tutorial on how to turn locally grown plants into a handicraft business.
After a late lunch we board the bus and depart the Amazon, heading back into the mountains and off to Waterfall Alley. A couple of hours later, we’ll arrive in the Banff-esque town of Banos.
Day 6: Waterfall Alley
We start the day in the much cooler climate of the Andes, approximately 2200 meters above sea level. The temperature change ensures everyone’s wearing a few more layers than they were in the Amazon, but a hike to a nearby volcano ensures the blood gets going!
Upon arrival to Tungurahua, our local guide talks about recent eruptions and how the town of Banos’s diligent preparedness mitigates against disaster. The stunning views nearby the top of the volcano are simply hard to comprehend. A local hotspot, known as the Swing on the Edge of the Earth, tests the nerve of anyone willing to get a great picture of them swinging literally over a daunting cliff edge.
We continue our hike mid-day, heading down the mountainside and into the town. We head to a local watering hole to talk climate change, and how the town’s access to hydro-electricity has become increasingly controversial.
Later in n the afternoon we head to the Devil’s Cauldron, a local waterfall known for it’s stunning views.
Day 7: Off to Otavalo
Day 7 starts with an early morning rise and departure from Banos to the market town of Otavalo. Here we head to the infamous market, checking out locally produced handicrafts and souvenirs (some shopping time will of course be allotted). We then head from Otavalo into the cloud forest to explore one of Ecuador’s most unique attributes.
The cloud forest, probably Earth’s closest thing to a true Ewok village (for all of you star wars fans) – think large trees, clouds, and a brilliant forest. The evening activities are rooted in climate change and the increasing threats to local communities’ ways of life by international corporations, including some of Canada’s largest mining companies. We’ll learn about how international trade and the resource market is poisoning waterways, and how Canada’s reputation abroad isn’t exactly what we think it is.
Day 8: Adios Amigos
Our final morning has us waking up in a truly magical climate. The cloud forest is the perfect way to start your last day with us in Ecuador. We reflect on the experiences had over the past week, and prepare to head back to Quito.
Upon arrival in the capital, we head up to the top of the city, the Teleferico. This Swiss-built chairlift brings us from the base of the city to the top of one of Quito’s neighbouring mountains. The views are stunning, the winds are a bit breezy, and it’s the perfect way to complete your trip to one of the world’s most diverse countries.
We head back to Mariscal-Foch for our last meal together and part ways, bringing you either to your airport or your hotel.