Ecuador: Volcanoes, Hiking & Wildlife

Trip Overview

Explore the diverse landscapes, ecosystems, and wildlife of mainland Ecuador in December 2018, on this unique AdventureWomen journey designed just for women. Hike, horseback ride, and experience authentic Ecuador while also enjoying one night of solo camping deep in the Andean highlands.

Ecuador is a magical country with its own way of life deep in the heart of South America. It is a country full of variety and amazing scenery, yet easy to get around as the distances from one region to another are relatively short. Ecuador has everything: virgin beaches, unexplored jungle, active volcanoes, snow-capped peaks, lakes, different kinds of forests, mangrove swamps, friendly cultures rich in tradition, colonial towns, and large modern cities.

Begin your journey in Quito, Ecuador exploring this diverse, colonial town with remarkably-well preserved buildings dating back to the 16th century. Considered the best preserved Colonial town in South America, the city of Quito became the World’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in the high reaches of the Andes Mountains, Quito offers beautiful scenery, local markets, delicious restaurants, and excellent shops.

Travel to Cotopaxi, where you will get to experience Andean life first-hand. Cotopaxi National Park is known for the volcano of the same name, which suddenly surges out of relatively flat terrain, offering spectacular views of the volcano from all directions. Cotopaxi is one of the highest volcanoes in the world, and is the second-highest summit in Ecuador. The mountain was honored as a “Sacred Mountain” by local Andean people, even prior to the Inca invasion in the 15th century. The ecosystem in Cotopaxi is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including a unique combination of pine vegetation and wolves, pumas, bears, rabbits, condors, wild horses, and foxes.

Then experience Ecuador on horseback! Learn to saddle your Ecuadorian horse from a local "Chagra" (an Andean cowboy) and ride across the slopes of a dormant volcano as you share the unique group energy that is created when humans and horses become part of one herd.

You continue to explore Cotopaxi National Park on foot with your guide on a five hour hike to see the landscapes and wildlife that this beautiful park has to offer. Start hiking towards Hacienda El Tambo on the eastern flanks of the Andes. You will cross hills and valleys, guarded over by Quilindaña, a peak hard to see from the Central Andean Valley. You will hike at an average altitude of 12,100 feet and the highest pass will be 13,400 feet. Arrive at your charming farmhouse retreat where you'll overnight at an old mountain refuge, built on Inca stones.

Connect with your fellow travelers, local guide, and AdventureWomen Ambassador as you prepare for one of the highlights of this trip, a solo camping experience in the highlands of the Andes. You will be outfitted with your own tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, water, and food, allowing you to relax in comfort while you enjoy a quiet day and night of introspection and reflection. In the western world, we almost never spend time completely alone, so this is a unique opportunity to disconnect in a more meditative way surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature.

After your solo experience, continue your exploration of the interior of Ecuador with a new lens and journey to the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve in Ecuador's Amazon basin for the next four nights. This Ecuadorean rainforest has an incredible variety of wildlife – river dolphins, caimans, monkeys, and butterflies – and spectacular bird life which you can view by boat. Take a hike into the forest, learning about the wildlife, medicinal plants, and the forest ecosystems.

Travel along the Cuyabeno River, observing rich wildlife along the riverbank. Tour a lagoon to observe animals, take a swim in the lake, and enjoy the sunset from a canoe. Enjoy a night hike with your headlamp to look for nocturnal flora and wildlife. Most wildlife in the Amazon are nocturnal, so this is a perfect way to explore all that this unique ecosystem has to offer.

Head downstream on the Cuyabeno River to the Siona indigenous village and immerse yourself in a transformative cultural experience within an indigenous community. Work alongside the local women to cook the typical “casabe,” share stories, and gain an understanding of their way of life.

You will discover more about Ecuador as well as about yourself on this one-of-a-kind, custom-designed 2018 AdventureWomen journey into the magic of Ecuadorean parks, culture, and ecosystems.

Main Attractions

  • Explore Quito, one of the best-preserved colonial cities in Latin America, and the first to be declared as a UNESCO World Heritage City
  • Ride on horseback like an Andean cowboy and learn about their culture
  • Disconnect from the world and reconnect with yourself on a solo overnight in the highlands of the Andes
  • Search for wildlife and learn about the rainforest ecosystem in the Amazon basin
  • Sleep in traditional Andean haciendas and learn about the local families who run the haciendas
  • Galapagos Islands extension available

What You'll See and Do

  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Bicycling
  • Canoe and Boat Travel
  • Cultural Exploration
  • Handicrafts
  • Hiking
  • Historical Sites
  • Horseback Riding
  • Local Delicacies
  • National Parks
  • Natural History
  • Solo Experience
  • Walking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Women-To-Women

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Ecuador: Volcanoes, Hiking & Wildlife

Trip Itinerary

Day 1

Sunday, December 9 - Arrive in Quito
Ecuador is a magical country with its own way of life in the heart of South America. It is a country full of variety and amazing scenery, yet easy to get around as the distances from one region to another are relatively short. Ecuador has everything: virgin beaches, unexplored jungle, active volcanoes, snow-capped peaks, lakes, different kinds of forests, mangrove swamps, friendly cultures rich in tradition, colonial towns, and large modern cities.

You will be picked up at the airport and transferred to your hotel.

Enjoy a welcome dinner and group orientation this evening.
Welcome Dinner

Overnight: Hotel Casa Gardenia
Hotel Casa Gardenia is a remodeled old house combining ancient and modern, creating a unique hotel concept in the historic center of Quito. It is located a few blocks from the main plazas, churches, museums, restaurants, and shops of the old town, declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

 

Day 2

Monday, December 10 - Quito to Cotopaxi
Visiting Quito, Ecuador’s Capital city, is a vibrant experience and a great starting point for this journey of discovery. Located on the high Andes, it offers beautiful scenery, local markets, delicious restaurants, and excellent shops. Considered the best preserved Colonial town in South America, the city of Quito was declared the World’s first Heritage site by UNESCO.

This morning, explore the Colonial casque known as the Old Town, a stunning portion of well-preserved Colonial buildings that dates back to the 16th century. Quito’s Old Town is truly unique, and is a vibrant and authentic portion of the city.

Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

Head south out of Quito this afternoon, through what the German explorer Humbolt designated as the Avenue of the Volcanoes. Arrive at Hacienda El Porvenir, a working traditional farm in the buffer zone of the Cotopaxi National Park. This will be your home away from home.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight: Hacienda El Porvenir
Hacienda El Porvenir is set in a traditional Andean house with adobe walls and thatched roofs only a few miles from Cotopaxi National Park. With parquet floors and large windows, rooms at El Porvenir are very bright.

 

Day 3

Tuesday, December 11 - Cotopaxi
Cotopaxi National Park is known for the volcano of the same name, which suddenly surges out of relatively flat terrain, offering spectacular views of the volcano from all directions. The ecosystem is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including a unique combination of pine vegetation and wolves, pumas, bears, rabbits, condors, wild horses, and foxes.

After a delicious hacienda breakfast, start getting acquainted with horses in a way that you never have before! Learn to become part of the herd and share the unique group energy that is created when humans and horses become part of one herd. After a safety briefing, a local Chagra (an Andean cowboy) will teach you to saddle your horse. Get dressed in the typical dress of the chagra, and ride out across the slopes of the dormant volcano, Rumiñahui. The chagra will join the group and share some of his deep knowledge of the country life.

Enjoy lunch back at the Hacienda.

Discuss the balance of the four major aspects of human beings. During this discussion, start to identify yourself in each area and identify ways you can find balance.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight: Hacienda El Porvenir

 

 

Day 4

Wednesday, December 12 - Cotopaxi to the Andean Highlands
Cotopaxi is one of the highest volcanoes in the world, and is the second-highest summit in Ecuador. The mountain was honored as a “Sacred Mountain” by local Andean people, even prior to the Inca invasion in the 15th century. It was worshiped as “rain sender,” that served as the guarantor of the land’s fertility, and at the same time its summit was revered as a place where gods lived.

Explore Cotopaxi National Park with your guide to see the landscapes and wildlife on your way to the trailhead.

Start hiking towards Hacienda El Tambo on the eastern flanks of the Andes. You will cross hills and valleys, guarded over by Quilindaña, a peak hard to see from the Central Andean Valley and which looks very much like the Matterhorn seen from the Italian side. You will hike at an average altitude of 12,100 feet today, and the highest pass will be 13,400 feet. The hike will take about five hours in total. Reach the farmhouse this afternoon, an old mountain refuge, built on Inca stones. The hike is an opportunity to reflect on yesterday’s discussion. When you arrive, continue your discussion.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight: Hacienda El Tambo
Hacienda El Tambo Quilindaña dates back to Inca times as a refuge on the road leading the jungle. Experience pristine and unique landscapes during your adventure. In this unique spot in the Andes, everywhere you look, you will see the solitude and beauty of a valley bathed in rivers and the silence and ever-present wind of the “páramo”.

Day 5

Thursday, December 13 - Andean Highlands
The valleys of the Andean highlands are home to some beautiful creatures. Hummingbirds abound; in these valleys, you can observe the largest hummingbird in the world, the hummingbird with the longest beak drinking nectar from trumpet flowers, or a hummingbird with a tail twice as long as its body.

Plunge into a life changing solitary experience in the highlands of the Andes today. Over the next 24 hours, spend some time reflecting on your life. Fill out a questionnaire on your life, and come up with an action plan. Write a letter to yourself, which we will send you in six months. In this constantly connected world, taking 24 hours to spend completely alone is an opportunity you rarely get; enjoy this unique experience in a beautiful setting.

You will be provided a tent, sleeping bag, insulation pad, water, and food for today and tonight. You will also have a radio in case you should need assistance.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight: Tent and Sleeping Bag
For your solo experience, you will have a tent, sleeping bag, insulated sleeping pad, water and food. Enjoy getting back to the AdventureWomen roots of camping!

 

Day 6

Friday, December 14 - Andean Highlands to Cotopaxi
In Cotopaxi, mammals that frequent the park include redbrocket deer, Andean fox, Andean puma, white-tailed deer, and, of course, the rare Andean spectacle bear. Bird life is plentiful here as well.

Enjoy breakfast and debrief on your solo experience.

Leave Hacienda El Tambo and head to Cotopaxi National Park. Explore the park on your way through, looking for unique mammals and bird life along the way.

After a short briefing on how to handle your bike and testing it, start riding on the hacienda trails. This amazing five-mile long single track passes through native woods that have been planted for habitat restoration and conservation. The trail zig-zags uphill with a gradient between 5 and 8 degrees. This is the ideal afternoon adventure.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight: Hacienda El Porvenir

 

 

Day 7

Saturday, December 15 - Cotopaxi to Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve covers over 1.4 million acres of primary rainforest and possesses an incredible variety of Neotropical wildlife: river dolphins, caimans, anacondas, monkeys, spiders, and butterflies. The bird life is spectacular; the prehistoric-looking hoatzin, the umbrella bird, the blue-headed parrot, the scarlet macaw, and the legendary harpy eagle.

Depart Hacienda El Porvenir this morning for your hour-long flight to Lago Agrio.

Meet your jungle guide when you arrive and have lunch in a local restaurant. Take a motorized canoe along the Cuyabeno River to your lodge Laguna Grande. During this two-hour journey, observe rich wildlife along the riverbank. After settling into your room at the Lodge, go on a tour of the lagoon to observe animals, take a swim in the lake, and enjoy the sunset from a canoe.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight: Cuyabeno Lodge
The Cuyabeno Lodge is certified by the Rainforest Alliance for its sustainable tourism practices and for its use of local materials in the construction of the facility. The lodge works closely with the local Siona indigenous community, whose members provide motor canoe transportation for the tours at the Cuyabeno Lodge. Scattered throughout the grounds are seven detached thatched-roof wooden cabins, a perfect base from which to explore this unique place.

 

Day 8

Sunday, December 16 - Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is an important nature reserve in Amazonia with unusual ecological characteristics. Located at the foothills of the Andes, it is different from any other Amazon protected area in the world. The area encompasses a poorly drained plain with a network of periodically inundated forests, lakes, and creeks. Such conditions are rare so close to the Andes, where the drainage in the foothills prevents the development of swamps and lakes. Given its proximity to the mountains, combined with a slightly cooler and wetter climate, it has a different species composition in comparison to other areas in the upper Amazon watershed.

After breakfast, walk through the “terra firma forest” with your naturalist guide. Learn about the wildlife, medicinal plants, and the forest ecosystem.

Enjoy lunch before you head to the flooded forest. Travel by dugout canoe to the flooded parts of the forest with macrolobium trees. The trees are covered with epiphytes, and you’ll be able to spot monkeys and birds.

This evening, head out on a hike with your headlamp to look for nocturnal flora and wildlife. Most wildlife in the Amazon is nocturnal, so this is a perfect way to explore all that the ecosystem has to offer.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight: Cuyabeno Lodge

 

 

Day 9

Monday, December 17 - Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
There are no other parks in the Amazonian Andean countries of Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, or Bolivia with so many lakes and creeks that are as conveniently accessible as Cuyabeno. Enjoy another day exploring this unusual ecosystem.

After breakfast, head downstream on the Cuyabeno River to the Siona indigenous village. Immerse yourself in a transformative cultural experience within an indigenous community. Work alongside the local women to cook the typical “casabe,” share stories, and gain an understanding of their way of life.

Enjoy lunch at the lodge. Take an afternoon dip in the lagoon.

After dinner, head out in a canoe to search for caimans, snakes, and nocturnal bird life.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight: Cuyabeno Lodge

 

 

Day 10

Tuesday, December 18 - Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
The Amazon region of Ecuador is primarily made up of the huge Amazon national parks and vast stretches of land set aside for the Amazon Amerindian tribes to continue living traditionally. The population is primarily mixed Amerindian Shuar, Huaorani, and Kichua, although there are numerous tribes in the deep jungle which are little-contacted.

Learn some of the wisdom of a shaman through his rituals. This is an excellent opportunity to align what you learned during your solo experience with the shaman’s teachings.

Paddle in the lagoon this afternoon, experiencing the simultaneous silence and cacophony of this natural setting.

Relax at the lodge this afternoon. Repack your bags to head back to Quito tomorrow.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight: Cuyabeno Lodge

 

 

Day 11

Wednesday, December 19 - Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve to Quito
Leave the reserve this morning and head back to Quito, Ecuador’s capital.

Transfer by boat and by vehicle this morning from the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve to the Lago Agrio Airport. Fly to Quito, arriving late this afternoon.

Have a farewell dinner with your new AdventureWomen friends. Reminisce over all of the memories you have made and celebrate the end of an incredible trip!
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight: Hotel Casa Gardenia

 

 

Day 12

Thursday, December 20 - Quito and Depart
Enjoy one last morning in Quito before departing for the US.

Say goodbye to your new AdventureWomen friends as you transfer to the airport for your flights home.
Breakfast

 

 

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Ecuador: Volcanoes, Hiking & Wildlife

Traveling to Ecuador


Traveling to Ecuador

Arrive: Arrive in Quito, Ecuador (UIO) on December 9, 2018 before 3:00pm.

Depart: Depart Quito, Ecuador (UIO) on December 20, 2018.

We are happy to help you make your flight and travel arrangements. Please contact us at:

(800) 804-8686 or (617) 544-9393
email: info@adventurewomen.com

If you’d like to do anything prior to or following the AdventureWomen trip, we’d be delighted to help you arrange any trip extensions you’re interested in.

Note: The recent trend in travel is for travelers to finalize their plans much closer to departure time than was customary in the past. While we try to be as flexible as possible booking last-minute registrants, we must release hotel rooms two to three months prior to departure! Please keep this in mind when making your travel plans.

Passports and Visas

Citizens of the United States must have a passport valid for six months beyond your travel dates with at least two blank facing pages. If you do not have a passport, please apply now!

Activity Level

We rate this trip as Active with High Energy options. Our Active adventures get you on your feet! You should be in good physical condition where you are comfortable walking on uneven surfaces, such as cobblestone streets, biking manicured nature trails, or kayaking calm waters. Our High Energy trips are designed for women who enjoy a physical challenge and crave being on the go! You should be prepared for itineraries that include (but are not limited to): a full day of biking on rolling terrain, hiking 5-8 miles on moderate to steep trails, being active at high altitudes, whitewater rafting, or skiing.

We recommend training before your trip (with your doctor’s permission!) to make the most of your adventure. We have a partnership with FitForTrips, a company that will design an individualized fitness plan for you with this itinerary in mind. Best of all, AdventureWomen guests get a 25% discount with the code FITWOMEN. Learn more at: https://fitfortrips.com/partners/adventure-women/

You should come with a flexible, adventurous, and enthusiastic spirit, and a wonderful sense of humor that adventure travel requires.

Health Considerations

Make an appointment with a travel clinic. There are no immunization requirements for travel to Ecuador, however your local travel clinic may have recommendations for you based on your age, health, and past vaccination history.

For more health information, go to www.cdc.gov/travel and navigate to the page about Ecuador.

Money

US Dollars are the official currency of Ecuador. Credit cards are only accepted in larger cities. ATMs will only be available in Quito. We suggest bringing cash for your trip to Ecuador.

Suggested Gratuities:

  • Main guide: $8-10 per day
  • Drivers: $5 per day

How to Register

Call the AdventureWomen office at (800) 804-8686 to determine space availability and register for this trip. We can complete your registration, including taking your credit card deposit over the phone. As a courtesy, we can hold your space for five days while you are making personal and travel arrangements.

If you prefer, you can register online by clicking "Sign Up for this Trip" on the trip page.

Please be sure to read the AdventureWomen policies before registering!

Forms and Final Payment

Once you book, you will need to fill out and return to AdventureWomen:

  • Information Form
  • Booking Conditions Form
  • Copy of Flight Information
  • Copy of Issuing Page of Passport (photo page)

Final payment is due to AdventureWomen in a cash form (check, money order, or wire transfer) on or before September 10, 2018.

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Ecuador: Volcanoes, Hiking & Wildlife

Included

  • All hotel accommodations throughout the trip
  • All meals as listed in the itinerary
  • All ground transportation
  • Fully-guided sightseeing as indicated in the itinerary
  • English-speaking guides throughout the trip
  • Drinking water
  • One AdventureWomen Ambassador

Not Included

  • International airfare to and from Ecuador
  • Domestic airfare
  • Optional activities as listed in the itinerary
  • Meals not specified in the itinerary
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Fees for passports, visas, or immunizations
  • Cost of hospitalization or evacuation
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Gratuities

 

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Ecuador: Volcanoes, Hiking & Wildlife

What To Bring

You should be prepared for all types of weather on this trip. Temperature ranges are relative to altitude than to seasons, and weather changes happen rapidly. In Quito and Cotopaxi, the average temperatures can range from 32 - 77F, and in the Amazon, the average temperature is from 68 - 86F.

Plan on dressing in casual, comfortable clothing on this adventure. We recommend dressing in layers. In the rainforest, we recommend long pants and long sleeves to help avoid mosquitoes.

Baggage note: For your internal flight, your checked luggage can weigh no more than 44lbs.

Clothing and Gear:

  • Duffel bag
  • Daypack
  • Medium-weight, waterproof hiking boots (make sure they are broken in!)
  • 3-4 pairs wool hiking socks
  • 1-2 pairs tall socks to wear with rubber boots in the Amazon
  • 1 pair of lightweight long underwear (top and bottom)
  • 2-3 short sleeve shirts (quick dry recommended)
  • 2-3 long sleeve shirts (quick dry recommended)
  • 1 medium weight fleece sweater/jacket for cool evenings
  • 1-2 pairs of pants
  • 1-2 pairs of shorts
  • 1 set of nicer clothes for dinner
  • 1 bathing suit
  • Waterproof jacket and pants (Gore-Tex recommended)
  • Hat for sun protection
  • 5-7 pairs underwear
  • Hat, scarf, and gloves
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Sandals
  • Sleepwear

AdventureWomen Essentials:

  • Travel documents (passport, airline tickets, money)
  • 2-3 spare passport photos (in case of lost passport)
  • Write down/print out travel insurance number
  • Locks for your suitcase/duffel bag
  • Travel alarm clock with spare batteries
  • Headlamp or small flashlight with spare batteries
  • Binoculars (8x40/42 models are excellent choices; center focus models are easiest)
  • Digital camera, memory cards, battery charger
  • Power adapters
  • Sunglasses, case, and strap
  • Spare glasses, contact lenses, cleaner, saline, etc.
  • Money belt or neck pouch
  • Your AdventureWomen insulated bottle (good for hot or cold drinks!)
  • Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Hand wipes/hand sanitizer
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Soap, shampoo, and conditioner
  • Small packet of tissues
  • Tampons and panty liners (avoid plastic applicators)
  • Earplugs: We recommend Mack’s Pillow Soft White Moldable Silicone Snore Proof Earplugs. Available at most drugstores or at www.earplugstore.com
  • Assortment of stuff sacks and Ziploc bags
  • 1-2 bandanas/Buff
  • Reading material/journal and pens

Personal First Aid Kit:

  • Prescription medicine you usually take (in original containers)
  • Personal epi pen (if you need one, don’t forget to pack it!)
  • Bandages, Gauze, Ace bandage, blister prevention
  • Antiseptic wipes/spray
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Cotton-tipped applicators
  • Oral rehydration tablets/packets
  • Antidiarrheal medication
  • Mild laxative
  • Antacid
  • Cold remedies
  • Ibuprofen/acetaminophen
  • Eye drops
  • Tweezers, scissors (travel size), safety pins

If you prefer to buy a complete kit, we recommend the Smart Travel first aid kit.


If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.