Self Guided Walking Holidays & Cycling Holidays


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Hike through Ecuador’s Avenue of the Volcanoes within the Andean Highlands and Cotopaxi National Par
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Highlights

  • Hike through Ecuador's Avenue of the Volcanoes within the Andean Highlands and Cotopaxi National Park
  • Relax in Casa Mojanda's wood-burning hot tub after a scenic rim walk around Cuicocha Lake
  • Discover Cotopaxi National Park's expansive landscape as you trek to thatch-roofed mountain lodges
  • Explore the Pedregal Valley, ranked by The New York Times as a top place to visit
  • Visit Otavalo's local market for artisanal crafts and textiles on your way to family-run haciendas

Explore incredible volcano valleys, unique local culture and the vast colorful landscapes of Ecuador’s Andean Highlands and Cotopaxi National Park, staying at welcoming haciendas and cozy mountain lodges, for the ultimate Andean hiking adventure unlike any other.

Upon arrival in Quito, enjoy a half-day city tour before heading to the Highlands to hike local trails around a crater lake, to Otavalo market and overnight family run-haciendas for an authentic Ecuadorian experience. Head to Cotopaxi National Park to trek through the Pedregal grasslands and along the Pita River for off-the-beaten path trails and spine-tingling views. Each night, relax within thatch-roofed mountain lodges where savory dinners and a welcoming staff await your arrival.

Conclude your Andean journey on the slopes of the majestic Cotopaxi Volcano to reflect on the wonders of these unique regions and all your hiking accomplishments before returning back to Quito.

Day 1: Arrive Quito

Upon arrival to Quito International Airport a private taxi will take you to your colonial hotel located within the historic district of old town Quito (approx. 1 hour).


Quito, Ecuador’s capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the perfect introduction  to Ecuador’s rich culture and history. Sitting high in the Andean foothills at an altitude of 9,350 feet, this ancient Incan city is now the country’s bustling epicenter, boasting 2.6 million people. With its well-preserved colonial center, tourists and locals alike enjoy roaming its narrow streets for a mix of 16th century historic attractions, modern-day shops and upscale restaurants. 


Overnight: Quito


Day 2: Quito City Tour and Transfer

Start acclimatizing to Ecuador’s high altitude with an easy half-day walking tour of Quito’s historic sites. Your guide will greet you for a morning stroll through the Main Plaza, where you will see the Government Palace, La Compañía, San Francisco Monastery, and some of the oldest and most important sites built in the 16th and 17th centuries. Shift from sights to smells with a cocoa tour and chocolate tasting at the Republica del Cacao, a producer of the world’s finest chocolate. The final stop will be the tour of “Panecillo” where you will admire the famous statue of Our Lady of the Panecillo and spectacular views of Quito.


After lunch, pack your bags for a private transfer up to your first night’s stay within the Andean Highlands.


Quito City Tour: 4 Hours


Overnight: Otavalo


Day 3: Hike Cuicocha Crater Lake

Begin with a transfer up to the Cotacachi Visitor Center and today’s stunning hike (approx. 30-minute drive). 


Take a peek in the visitor center for information about the Cotacachi volcano, local life and regional flora and fauna. When you’re ready, follow the dirt trail counterclockwise along the rim for a spectacular loop around Cotacachi Crater lake. Soak in fantastic views of the volcano, caldera and colorful wildflowers. At the end of your hike, your taxi will be waiting to take you back to Casa Mojanda for another night of relaxation in the mountains.


Hike: 7.5 mi. (+1631/-1582ft., 6 Hours)


Overnight: Otavalo


Day 4: Explore Otavalo & Local Culture

Meet your guide and follow the footpath down from Casa Mojanada to the famous Otavalo market, or Plaza de Ponchos. With textiles and handicrafts made by nearby villagers, the market is an unique cultural experience. Take some time to roam, admire and purchase hand-made jewelry, llama-wool apparel and embroidered blankets.


In the afternoon, take an optional trek from Otavalo to the Peguche waterfall, a beautiful 50-foot waterfall and indigenous ceremonial site, where shaman rituals are still performed. Visit a local weaver and continue hiking to the rural communities above town. Walk among local residents as you continue along the Imbabura foothills, enjoying stunning views of San Pablo Lake below, to your overnight hacienda.


Hike: Casa Mojanda to Otavalo Market: 3.8 miles (+3/-1060ft., 2 Hours)


Hike: Otavalo Market to San Pablo del Lago: 9.5 miles (+1250/-915ft., 5 Hours)


Overnight: San Pablo del Lago


Day 5: San Pablo del Lago to Zuleta

Today, transfer to the small town of Cochas to make your way across cobblestone paths and fertile soil to the elegant town of Zuleta. Behold the colorful patches of greens, yellows and browns (or quinoa, lentils and fava beans), that make up this quilted countryside. The majestic Cayambe volcano towers in the distance with its snowcapped peaks and jagged edges. Enter the quiet town of Zuleta, passing by local embroidery shops, on your way to Hacienda Zuleta, your lodging for the evening.


Hike: Cochas to Zuleta: 5.5 miles (+190/-1030ft., 2 Hours)


Overnight: Zuleta


Day 6: Explore Hacienda Zuleta

Hacienda Zuleta is a stunning 17th century hotel and working farm of former president Galo Plaza Lasso and his family. Make this day your own by choosing from the wide range of activities this property boasts. If you desire a leisurely day, enjoy a tranquil afternoon roaming the hallways library full of photographs. Or stroll the gardens, cheese factory or farm to lend a hand in milking a cow.


Partake in an unforgettable walk to view condors at the Condor Husai, an on-property rehabilitation center for endangered Andean condors. Make sure to traverse the numerous other hiking trails that scatter the area for chances to see speckled bears or exotic bird species. Other activities include horseback riding, mountain biking, cooking classes, embroidery and carriage-rides.


Enjoy another home-cooked late lunch before taking a private taxi back to Quito.


Overnight: Quito


Day 7: Transfer & Hike the Pita River 

This morning, take a private transfer to Cotopaxi National Park and your overnight mountain lodge (approx. 3 hours). After lunch, grab your daypack and water for a delightful out-and-back afternoon hike. Enjoy a gradual downhill from the lodge into the valley known as the Pedregal and along the Pita River before reaching the base of the waterfall “Cascada Fuego.” Explore the waterfall and the river’s rushing waters from the glacier snowmelt of the nearby Cotopaxi Volcano before heading back the same way you came. Discover the humid Andean forests, birds, fish species and wildlife that frequent the area, as you hike back to the lodge.


Hike: 7.6 miles (+568/-558ft., 4.5 Hours)


Overnight: Chilcabamba Lodge


Day 8: Hike the Pedregal Valley

Join your guide for a hike through the Pedregal Valley, one of the most pure and protected areas of Ecuador. Known for its natural beauty, this region was ranked by the New York Times as one of the top 52 places to explore in 2017. Enjoy a gentle walk along the Pita River, a main water source for Ecuador, as you trek towards the archaeological site of Pucara de Salitre. Serving as a great place for lunch, keep your eyes peeled for wild horses, llamas, wildflowers, condors and a variety of Andean bird life. Hike onward to the thatched-roof mountain lodge of Tambopaxi, where peaceful casitas, delicious local cuisine and mountain climbers happily await.


Hike: 11 miles (+1233 ft./-323ft., 6 hours)


Overnight: Tambopaxi Lodge


Day 9: Cotopaxi Snow Line & Transfer to Quito

Today, warm up your legs with a morning hike to Limpiopungo, a pristine lake at the base of Rumiñahui mountain. Follow the dirt trail for a mile loop around the lake for stunning views of Cotopaxi Volcano. From Limpiopungo, meet your driver for a transfer to Cotopaxi’s vehicle parking lot to take the exhilarating hike up the sandy hillside to the mountaineers Refugio. Enjoy a hot chocolate and boxed lunch before continuing the steady ascent up to the snow line at 5,000 meters (16,427 ft.) above sea level. Touch the edge of the glacier and soak up the panoramic views of the surrounding valley, looking down on your week’s hiking accomplishments!


Follow the same route as you descend back down to meet your driver for a transfer back to Quito.


Hike: Tambopaxi Lodge to Lago Limpiopungo: 5.5 miles (+476/-90ft., 2.5 hours)


Hike: Hike to Cotopaxi’s Snow Line: 2.5 miles (+1329,-1348ft., 1.5 Hours)


Overnight: Quito

Day 10: Onward Travel

Depending on your travel arrangements you may have time to relax in the morning or visit your favorite spots in old town Quito before journeying onward.


It is possible to extend your stay within Cotopaxi National Park with hiking options that are of longer durations, steeper ascents or to summit mountain peaks.

Accommodation

Whether a boutique hotel, a family-run hacienda or a cozy mountain lodge, we carefully hand-pick every accommodation while in Quito, the Andean Highlands and Cotopaxi National Park.


Extra Nights

You can easily request to add extras nights during this itinerary. For further details, please ask us at the time of booking.


Solo Travelers & Single Rooms

This trip is based on two people sharing a room. If you’d like separate rooms, a single supplement is required.


If you would like to request a twin room (same room with two separate beds), please notify us during booking so we can request this option.


This trip is not available to solo travelers.


Meals

Breakfast is served each morning and ranges from buffet style to a set menu.


Six lunches and four dinners are included in this itinerary. Lunches range from a packed lunch while hiking remotely or served at your overnight accommodation. All dinners are served during your stay at overnight haciendas within the Andean Highlands, and are produced directly from the organic garden and farm. Meal descriptions and inclusions are outlined within the pre-departure trip itinerary.

For all other meals or snacks, you can choose to dine at your hotel or from available nearby cafés or restaurants. Please notify us of dietary restrictions at the time of booking.


 




Hotel Patio Andaluz



Hotel Patio Andaluz

Located in a colonial style house from the late 16th century, this elegant boutique hotel is just a five-minute walk from the renowned Plaza Grande or Plaza de la Independencia, and to many of the museums, churches and historical sites of Colonial Quito.



 

 

 



Casa Mojanda

Casa Mojanda, a true Ecudadorian experience, is located in the foothills above Otavalo. The central lodge and cabins are spread over the farms’ grounds, with each cabin providing expansive views of the surrounding mountains and a homey Andean feel.



 

 

 



Hacienda Cusin

Hacienda Cusin, a restored 17th century estate in Ecuador, is the perfect destination to relax in an atmosphere of old colonial elegance, and explore the natural beauties and culture of the Andean highlands.



 

 

 



Hacienda Zuleta

Hacienda Zuleta is a stunning 17th century hotel and working farm of former president Galo Plaza Lasso and his family. Created with his natural warmth, hospitality, and community ties, Hacienda Zuleta is blessed with beautiful antique rooms, delicious homegrown Andean cuisine, and a wealth of activities to choose from.



 

 

 



Chilcabamba Lodge



Chilcabamba Lodge

Built from local materials, Chilcabamba is welcoming, unpretentious and charming. Lodge rooms are equipped with a wood burning stove to keep you warm at night, along with ponchos and thick duvets to keep off the mountain chill. The main lodge is welcoming, with cozy nooks to relax, books to curl up with, and stunning views of Cotopaxi.



 

 

 



Tambopaxi Lodge



Tambopaxi Lodge

Under the majesty of the Cotopaxi Volcano and surrounded by five other volcanoes, lies Tambopaxi. This mountain ecolodge is a comfortable and hospitable place, ready to welcome a great variety of guests coming from all over the world in search of adventure, sports, well-being or relaxation.

Hiking

A private English-speaking guide is provided for the Quito city tour and when hiking from lodge-to-lodge through Otavalo and the Pedregal Valley. Join a guide on these days to gain in-depth local knowledge of significant sites, Ecuadorian culture and ecological features for a value added experience.


All other hikes are self-guided and supported by the Macs Adventure Navigation App and route notes, so you can enjoy an independent, go-at-your-own pace.


A daily guide is available to hike with you at all times if desired. Please let us know during the time of booking if you prefer this option.


Availability

This trip is available year-round. As these regions are popular destinations, with a large volume of travelers, we may at times have to substitute you with an alternative itinerary or location due to availability.


We suggest you book as soon as your plans are finalized to ensure availability for specific dates. 


When To Go?

June to October are often the best times to go to Ecuador’s Northern Andes. This time period is during the dry season, where temperatures offer warmer weather and clearer skies.


Experience, Fitness & Grade

This tour is graded moderate to challenging. Hiking is mostly on distinct dirt trails or double-track roads with moderate ascents and descents. On most days you will be walking between four to eight hours. To get the most from your trip, you should be in great physical condition and an experienced hiker accustomed to walking medium to long distances every day.


The Ecuadorian Highlands and Cotopaxi National Park are high-altitude regions, often above 8,000 feet. We have added extra time in Quito to help you acclimatize to this altitude and to minimize the likelihood of experiencing altitude sickness.


Equipment

Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard hiking gear such as good hiking boots, lightweight clothes, warm layers, water bottles, hats, sunscreen, rain gear, camera and a day pack.


Travel Insurance

Travel insurance helps protect your travel investment, your belongings and most importantly you, from unforeseen circumstances that may arise before or during your trip. For more information, please visit our travel insurance page by clicking this link.


Visas

Please check your visa requirements with the foreign office or the embassy in your country of residence before traveling to Ecuador.


For US and UK residents, proof of travel or health insurance and a valid passport for at least six months past the planned date of departure from Ecuador is required. Visas are not required unless you are planning to visit longer than 90 days. You may be asked about your reason for travel and provide evidence of a return or onward flight upon arrival.

Getting to/from Quito

Quito International Airport, based about an hour from Ecuador’s capital, has flights from international and national destinations and is a hub for exploring this beautiful country.




Getting to/from the Highlands & Cotopaxi

Included in this trip is a transfer from downtown Quito to the Andean Highlands and to Cotopaxi National Park and back (approx. 2-3 hours). A private taxi will pick you up directly from you hotel and transfer you to your overnight hacienda and mountain lodge.


Getting Around

All transfers and vehicle services related to the itinerary are included in this trip.

For additional transportation services outside the provided itinerary, such as a taxi to a specific restaurant or location, the host at your evening’s accommodation can help assist you in making the necessary arrangements.

Included

  • 9 Nights in boutique hotels and hand-selected accommodations
  • 9 Breakfasts, 6 Lunches and 4 Dinners
  • All private transfers per the itinerary
  • English-speaking tours and guides per the itinerary
  • Door-to-door luggage drop-offs
  • Pre-departure information pack
  • Macs Adventure Navigation App with directions
  • Route notes
  • 24/7 telephone support from our office and our local representative

Excluded

  • International flights
  • All other meals, drinks and snacks
  • Additional nights before, during or after the trip
  • Personal equipment
  • Travel insurance
  • Gratuities and tips

Extras

  • Extra Nights in Quito, Otavalo, San Pablo del Lago, Zuleta and Cotopaxi National Park
  • Single Room Supplement
  • Room Upgrades (only where applicable)

Drinking Water

Each accommodation will supply you with bottled water and opportunities to purchase more should you require it. While water from the faucets are often labeled safe for brushing your teeth, we recommend using only bottled or filtered water at all times to avoid any chance of contamination. Please plan on bringing bottled water, or better yet, invest in a water bottle with a built-in purification and filtration system (such as Grayl or Katadyn) with you during hikes and throughout the day. Drinking plenty of water helps with dehydration and the negative effects of altitude sickness.

How does the luggage transfers work?

We have arranged for your luggage to be transferred from your accommodation (as per your itinerary) and moved to your next overnight accommodation. Luggage will be picked up from the front desk or reception area around 10:00am each day and dropped off at that evening’s accommodation by 4:00pm. For consecutive overnights in the same accommodation, keep your luggage with you in your room. Please note that we have a luggage limit of 50 lbs. per person.

What happens if I can’t hike a section?

This itinerary allows for flexibility in the case that you become ill or are unable to hike. If you are unable to hike and need to avoid the entire route completely, inform your hotel or guide immediately and have them assist you with a transfer to the next location or to add on an extra night. For days that you are staying within the same accommodation, enjoy taking a rest day and inform the hotel of anything you might need.

What do I do if I become ill during my trip?

If you need medical services, you'll find information in your pre-departure information packet or you can ask for assistance at the front desk. As always, 24/7 support from Macs Adventure is only a phone call away.

WiFi

Free WiFi will be available for use at your overnight accommodations, haciendas and mountain lodges. However, service can become spotty, rare or non-existent while hiking some sections. Even with WiFi available, we suggest playing it safe by keeping your phone in flight mode while surfing the internet to avoid costly data or roaming fees.

Great adventure!

5

Wonderful adventure hiking along the Avenue of the Volcanoes, on top of the world! MACS teamed up with an Ecuadorian travel agency for on-ground support, which gave us a guide some days, and a driver most days -excellent team! We were there in September and had stellar weather. The accommodation, as usual with MACS, was fabulous. From the excellent hotel in Quito to mountain lodges and haciendas - top notch! A warning though - you do have to be in good shape with proper hiking shoes/boots as it's a lot of walking/hiking. Pack for cool weather as well as some lighter clothing, as there is a great variation between city days in Quito and the last push up Cotopaxi Volcano, where we had hail and snow! We were impressed with the gradual increase in altitude during the tour, so that we did not experience altitude sickness even at 16,000 feet. Having said that, we highly recommend Aerobic Oxygen, which we dropped into our water bottles and Platypus every fill up (available at health food stores). Makes a huge difference. We learned so much about Ecuador from our guide and driver and had a fabulous time in this wonderful country.

DnMTravel

Canada

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Ecuador: Highlands & Cotopaxi Trails

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