The Best of the High Sierras and the Cloud Forest
Ecuador is no bigger than the state of Nevada, yet has so much to offer. During this eight-day, seven-night trip you will experience the High Andes Mountain region, the Cloud Forest and the Capital City of Quito.
The Cloud Forest is two hours northwest of Quito and just one square kilometer of this area has more biodiversity than all of the USA and Canada combined. From ferns to palm trees, Toucans and hummingbirds, it is teeming with life. Each day is different as the clouds decide which views to reveal and whether it is a river valley or high mountain peaks, it is always magical. The Otavalo region is in the High Sierras and has its own charm. There is a large Indigenous population that still wear their typical dress and speak their native tongue of Quechua. Patchwork fields are scattered on the mountainside and jagged peaks are often surrounded by gorgeous lakes. Your week will be full of the beauty of nature, adventurous activities and many experiences of a different culture.
Day 1: Arrival. Transport to hotel near the airport.
Day 2: Leave for Above the Clouds Guest House (Approximately 2 hours.) Stop at the Middle of the World Museum and equator. View Pululahua Crater. Lunch out in cloud forest surrounded by hummingbirds and exotic birds. Check into Above the Clouds. Evening dinner.
Day 3: Visit Mindo Cloud Forest. Cable Car Ride over the Cloud Forest. Hike to waterfalls. Zip-line and Chocolate Tour.
Day 4: Visit Tulipe ancient Swimming pools built by the Yumbo Indians. Pacto waterfall.
Day 5: Early Morning Cock of the Rock Lek. Breakfast and head out to Otavalo. Otavalo market in the afternoon. Check into Hacienda Chorlavi.
Day 6: Weaving demonstration and lunch. Visit Ali at his music workshop where he hand makes instruments. Peguche waterfall.
Day 7: Visit Cuicocha Lake. Boat ride out to the islands. Stop in Cotacachi Leather Town.
Day 8: Many flights fly out late in the evening. If that is the case, we can visit the historic center of Quito and head to the airport in the late afternoon or evening.
Sunday: After a good night’s sleep, we will leave for the Middle of the World Museum. You have your choice of one of two equator activities. We can visit the monument which represents the spot the equator was first believed to be located when measured by just the stars in the 1700’s. You can visit many shops and, of course, take a photo on the equator. Or we can visit Intinan museum which is on the equator as measured by GPS. It is a small museum where you can take a tour of ancient housing styles and observe fun “equator” experiments such as standing an egg on a nail. We will then head 10 minutes up the road to take a look at the gorgeous Pululahua Crater, the only inhabited volcanic crater in the world. It is then time to make our descent from 9,000 feet above sea level to the cloud forest at 5,000 feet, driving through the lungs of the world. Stopping for a late lunch, we’ll be surrounded by hummingbirds floating around their feeders and exotic birds eating bananas at the feeders. Check into Above the Clouds Guest House.
Monday: Today we’ll visit the small town of Mindo which sits in the middle of the Choco Andino Biosphere reserve. We will take a cable car ride over the cloud forest valley and hike through the reserve to one or more waterfalls. For those willing, you can also choose to fly over the cloud forest on a zip-line. We will then learn about the steps necessary to process chocolate from the tree into a variety of chocolate products and you will get to sample one of the best brownies ever.
Tuesday: Today, we will visit Tulipe, a small town 15 minutes from the guest house. This acheological site consists of sacred swimming pools left behind by the Yumbo Indians who lived in this area from 700 BC to 1600 AD. These ceremonial pools are in various shapes such as a clock and a puma. We will tour the small museum that shows how they built earthy pyramids all around the region, one of which can be observed at Above the Clouds Guest House. We will then visit the Pacto waterall for 25 minute hike along the river banks.
Wednesday: Some adventures require getting up extra early. For those wanting to venture to the Cock of the Rock Lek, you won’t be disappointed. After a short 15 minute walk through my neighbor’s property you will observe a mating ritual during which 14 male Cock of the Rock birds fight, prance and dance for a chance at the female. (Red bird in above photo.) We will then hit the road to Otavalo (3.5 hour drive) with a stop at the Otavalo Market where you can buy handmade woven goods such as tapestries, hammocks and hats. We will then check into Hacienda Chorlavi.
Thursday: We will head to Cuicocha Lake, a beautiful crater lake at the foot of Cuicocha Mountain. The lake was given it’s name because the Indigenous feel the islands in the center are the shape of a cuyo (guinea pig) which is actually a delicacy in Ecuador. Here we will take a boat ride around the islands and stop to watch the volcanic bubbles coming up from beneath the lake. We will then head to Cotachachi, also known as the leather town, where you can shop for handmade leather goods.
Friday: Morning time can be spent at the Hacienda enjoying the pool or a spa treatment. In the afternoon we will experience special interactions with the Indigenous community. We will lunch with Jose, a man who fought for Indigenous Rights and he will give us a weaving demonstration on how the beautiful tapestries are made. We will then head over to Ali’s Music Workshop where he fabricates Pan flutes from bamboo. He will give us a musical demonstration on the many instruments he plays and his sweet daughter will sing us a song. We will then head for a short walk to Peguche Waterfall which is often used for sacred ceremonies.
Saturday: If you have a late flight out, we can head to Quito for a tour of the historic center with gold filled churches and unique architecture.
Your Hotels for the week
Above the Clouds Guest House is a great base for exploring the Choco-Andino Biosphere Reserve!
Above the Clouds Guest House
Above the Clouds Guest House, owned and operated by Cheryl Reed, sits at the end of a country road on a ridge overlooking two river valleys. It is surrounded by the Andes Mountain peaks of Pichincha and Cotacachi. This five-bedroom, four and a half bath home is a perfect home away from home. In addition to the large dining room and fully equipped kitchen, you have a spacious living area to relax in. Not only does the balcony and terrace overlook a lush garden and labyrinth, you’ll also have views of the Imbaburra Valley where you can often watch clouds sweeping up from the river below. Here you can let the silence and beauty envelop you!
Hacienda Chorlavi, Ibarra, Ecuador
Hacienda Chorlavi was founded by Jesuit Priests in 1620 and was then acquired by the Tobar Family over six generations ago and ultimately transformed into a hotel in 1971. Among the vast array of Haciendas in the Northern part of Ecuador, there is no doubt that Chorlavi still holds its tradition and story untouched thanks to its inherent beauty. Where once stood a granary house, with its large halls, chambers, and service rooms of an old estate, you now find spacious barns turned into modern auditoriums and conference rooms, houses for laborers turned into rustic yet charming guest rooms, all surrounded by gardens and orchards sheltered by millennial trees that offer visitors the magic aroma of the past.
Ibarra lies at the foot of the Imbabura Mountain and is known for it’s temperate climate. Sitting at 7,300 feet above sea level yet close to the equator makes for perfect weather. In your free time you can take a walk in teh gardens, go for a swim or relax in the Jacuzzi.You will enjoy folkloric dancing in the courtyard. You can play pool, cars, or mini-golf. Or you can simply enjoy the views from a hammock.
What is included:
All in country transport
Seven nights hotel
All activities listed
Guiding by Cheryl
Airfare to and from Ecuador
Meals where not specified