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Immerse yourself in the colorful countryside of Ecuador’s Andean Highlands as you explore on foot, at a leisurely pace.
Upon arrival in Quito, explore the city’s historical sites with an easy half-day walking tour. Head to the Highlands for stunning vistas and overnight stays at friendly, family-run haciendas. Hike local trails around a crater lake, through volcano valleys and to the Otavalo market for an authentic cultural experience and hiking adventure.
Spend one last day in the heart of the Highlands at Hacienda Zuleta, a 17th century working farm offering beautiful backyard trails, Andean cuisine and cosy rooms, before returning to 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.
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
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 Cuicocha 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)
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
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)
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 of roaming the hallways and library full of collected relics and 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 off in your private taxi back to Quito.
Feel free to extend your stay if you desire more time to explore Hacienda Zuleta, its beautiful grounds and inviting atmosphere.
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.
Add to your Andean Highlands adventure with a trip to Cotopaxi National Park or a tour of the Amazon Rainforest for the ultimate Ecuadorian experience. To add on another tour, or for more information, please contact us here at Macs Adventure and a specialist will be happy to help assist you.
a converted colonial home, a boutique hotel, or a family-run hacienda,
we carefully hand-pick every accommodation. We book standard rooms that
provide comfort and modern amenities. While each overnight accommodation
differs in style, each offers exceptional service, excellent food and
individual character and charm.
highlands are a year-round destination with a large volume of
travelers. As such, we may at times have to accommodate you at
alternative locations due to availability. We regularly use the
following properties but will accommodate lodging of equal standard
should any of the following be unavailable.
This trip is based on two people sharing a room. If you’d like separate rooms, a single supplement is required.
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 for solo hikers.
is included each morning and ranges from buffet style to a set menu or a
la carte. All chefs pride themselves on serving fresh and seasonal
cuisine straight from the organic garden or via local farmers nearby. A
typical breakfast includes juice, tea, coffee, yogurt, granola, breads,
jams, eggs or a selection of hot dishes. Please notify us of dietary
restrictions at the time of booking.
lunches are included in this trip and consists of a convenient packed
lunch when hiking Cuicocha Crater Lake
and two lunches presented by Hacienda Zuleta. Five
farm-to-table dinners are included in this trip and are provided by your overnight accommodations while in the Highlands: Casa
Mojanda, Hacienda Cusin and Hacienda Zuleta. All other lunches and dinners are not
included in the trip, so you can choose to dine at your hotel or from
available nearby cafés or restaurants.
You can easily request to add extras nights during this itinerary. For further details, please ask us at the time of booking.
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, 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, 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 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.
This trip is available year-round. We suggest you book as soon as your plans are finalized to ensure availability for specific dates.
The weather in the Andean highlands is temperate with temperatures varying little. However, the warmest and driest months within this region are from June to October.
January to May is cooler and wetter, with temperatures changing by a few degrees at night and with scattered afternoon showers.
June to September are the warmer and drier months with often blue skies, warm sunshine and fewer showers. October to December are also a great time to visit, with warm temperatures, but with reduced availability due to many local and national holidays.
A private English-speaking guide is provided for the Quito city tour and on the fourth day when hiking from lodge-to-lodge, to gain in-depth local knowledge of significant sites and Ecuadorian culture.
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.
The Macs Adventure Navigation App is a great tool when navigating daily hiking routes. All daily routes with GPX tracks are available to download for use offline. Along with this app, you will also receive route notes and turn-by-turn directions in your pre-departure information pack.
You will be provided with 24/7 telephone support from us here at Macs Adventure as well as telephone support from our local, English-speaking representative should you require assistance.
The route is graded moderate. The 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 and six hours. To get the most from your trip, you should be a regular hiker or do some training prior to departure to get accustomed to walking every day.
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 and a day pack.
If you have any questions about what to take, we'd be happy to share our own top tips and advice.
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.
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.
The best airport to arrive at is Quito International Airport, which has flights from international and national destinations.
By Private Taxi
Included in this trip is a private transfer from the airport to your overnight hotel in Quito. A private taxi will pick you up directly from Quito International Airport outside the arrivals exit, after passing through customs, baggage claim and security, and will drop you off at your overnight hotel (approx. 1 hour).
All taxis and transfers related to the itinerary are included in this trip. Depending on your travel plans, you can add a private transfer from Quito back to the airport if desired (additional costs apply).
For additional transportation services outside the provided itinerary, such as a taxi to a specific restaurant, the host at your evening’s accommodation can help assist you in making the necessary arrangements.
Each accommodation will supply you with bottled water or filtered water stations for drinking. 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 re-filling with filtered water) with you during hikes and throughout the day. Drinking plenty of water can help prevent dehydration and the negative effects of altitude sickness.
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.
This itinerary allows for flexibility as you hike from lodge-to-lodge. If you are unable to hike or need to skip the day’s hike entirely, inform your hotel immediately and have them assist you with a transfer to the next location. When on the route, stop off at a restaurant or call your hotel to help arrange a taxi and pick-up location.
Outside Quito, local taxis and car services are rare in the highlands and should be reserved in advance. Specific taxis and hotel contact numbers can be found in your pre-departure information packet.
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.
Free WiFi will be available for use at your overnight accommodations and at specific locations with service along the route. 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.