- Hike through Ecuador’s Avenue of The Volcanoes and travel to the depths of the Amazon
- Seek soaring condors by foot or horseback during your stay at the 17th century Hacienda Zuleta
- Explore the Amazon Rainforest at Yasuni National Park, a UNESCO biosphere reserve
- Shop for artisanal crafts and textiles at the colorful Otavalo market
- Climb up to a tree observatory, paddle through a lagoon and listen to the sounds of the jungle
Hike the colorful countryside of Ecuador’s Andean Highlands and explore the heart of the Amazon Rainforest, while staying at cozy haciendas and a remote jungle lodge.
Upon arrival in Quito, enjoy a half-day city tour before heading to the Highlands for stunning vistas and overnight stays at 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.
Fly into Coca and travel into the center of the Amazon rainforest to fully explore Yasuni National Park. Based at the Sani Lodge, discover animals, plants and indigenous communities native to the region and the Napo River by kayak and foot.
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.
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
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)
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, 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)
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 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.
Day 7: Travel to the Amazon
This morning, transfer from your hotel to Quito International Airport and the domestic departures. After a forty-five minute domestic flight from Quito to Coca, a staff member will greet you upon arrival. Embark on an enchanting 2.5 hour boat ride on the Napo River and admire the amazing biodiversity surrounding the river banks.
The journey continues with a brief walk, paddle canoe and motorized canoe ride across the beautiful Challuacochoa blackwater oxbow lake to Sani Lodge.
After getting settled in, take a short hike on nearby trails to get acquainted with the sights, smells and sounds of the Amazon jungle. With chances of seeing 13 species of primates, uncommon amphibians and extraordinary flora, this walk forecasts the richness of the Amazon ecosystem. Return to the lodge for dinner before heading out to the lagoon for an evening canoe ride. Learn about the region while paddling in search of nocturnal wildlife, and glowing eyes, amongst the darkness. Tonight, enjoy a well-deserved rest and recapture of your day’s events at the lodge.
Overnight: Sani Lodge
Day 8: Wildlife Hike & Forest Canopy Discovery
Set out for a full day of guided hiking within the Yasuni jungle. Keep a look out for impossibly small species of frogs and insects below while searching for larger animals in the forest canopy high above. Learn about medicinal plants and hone your survival and hunting skills by testing a blow gun, a tool still used in the area today.
Make your way to the lagoon to set out on kayaks for an afternoon of recreational paddling, with a stop at the Sani Lodge’s observation tower. Sitting atop a 108ft staircase and giant tree (named God’s Hand tree) within the forest canopy, this wooden observatory is an incredible way to view wildlife from an entirely different perspective. Keep your eyes peeled for 565 registered species of birds, howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, sloths and other exotic species difficult to see from the ground.
Enjoy another delicious dinner before retiring for the night.
Overnight: Sani Lodge
Day 9: Explore Yasuni National Park & Local Communities
Depart to Yasuni National Park for a deep-dive into the Amazon jungle. This 9,620-square kilometer park is Ecuador’s largest mainland park and a designated UNESCO international biosphere reserve. The park was untouched by the last ice age, resulting in a thriving and diverse pool of species and one of the last true wildernesses in Ecuador.
Support a local community’s women’s project and turtle breeding work during a Sani community visit. Take part in a cooking class in preparation of your lunch for a very special bonding opportunity. Your cultural exchange and exploration continues with a short hike following the “camino vecinal” (local walk). Learn about architecture, agriculture and how plants in the rainforest directly impact the daily life and health of native tribes.
Return to the lodge for dinner and an optional night walk to view a myriad of snakes, spiders and frog species.
Overnight: Sani Lodge
Day 10: Onward Travel
After breakfast, make your way back to Coca for a return flight back to Quito International Airport, the end of your journey. As you head back up the Napo River, learn about some of the challenges that local communities and ecotourism face today to keep the Amazon and surrounding region preserved.
If you’d like to extend your stay, we can book extra nights for you in Quito.
Whether a boutique hotel or a family-run hacienda, we carefully hand-pick every accommodation while in Quito and the Andean Highlands.
While in the Yasuni National Park and jungle, we have carefully selected the Sani Lodge, for a truly unique Amazon experience. We are proud to support this ecolodge, its efforts towards preservation and its support of indigenous communities.
You can easily request to add extra nights during this trip. 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.
Breakfast is included each morning and ranges from buffet style to a set menu.
All meals within the Amazon are included in this trip, while three lunches and four
dinners are included within the Andean Highlands.
All other meals are not included, so you can choose to dine at your hotel or from available nearby café’s or restaurants.
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, 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.
Sani Lodge is considered one of the most biologically diverse spots on Earth. Located on 42,000 hectares (103,784 acres) of untouched rainforest, Sani Lodge is surrounded by 1,500 species of trees, hundreds of climbing vines and exotic flowers. Guests can enjoy viewing local wildlife and garden terraces, relaxing within the communal lounge or gathering at the open-air restaurant and bar. Private thatched-roof cabins offers clean modern amenities and mosquito nets to keep you comfortable during the night. The owners of Sani Lodge play a key part in the local community and ensure that all profits help improve healthcare and education.
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 location due to availability.
We suggest you book as soon as your plans are finalized to ensure availability for specific dates.
When To Go?
Traveling between the months of September to May is recommended to get the most out of these regions.
While in the Andean Highlands, a private English-speaking guide is provided for the Quito city tour and when hiking from lodge-to-lodge, for in-depth local knowledge of significant sites and Ecuadorian culture. All other hikes within the Highlands 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.
English-speaking guides and expert naturalists are provided for each day’s activities while exploring the Amazon Rainforest.
A daily guide is available to hike with you at all times while in the Andean Highlands if desired. Please let us know during the time of booking if you prefer this option.
Experience, Fitness & Grade
This trip is graded moderate and includes daily hikes and some kayaking while exploring the Amazon. To get the most from your trip, you should be in decent physical shape and are able to climb stairs and walk four to six hours every day. The hiking is mostly on dirt trails or local paths. The kayaking is on gentle river waters, and consists of one to two persons per boat. No prior experience is necessary, although your ability to swim is a must.
Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard gear such as durable hiking boots, quick-dry clothing, layers, wide brimmed hats, insect repellent, sunscreen, binoculars, water shoes, 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.
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.
Travel to the Amazon Rainforest
Transfers to and from Quito International Airport and a domestic flight to Coca, Francisco de Orellana Airport, are an included part of this itinerary. We typically book flights to Coca using the domestic airlines Tame or Avianca. Due to a long travel day, via many methods of transportation to the Amazon, we typically choose the earliest flight out of Quito to allow plenty of time to get to your Amazon lodge.
Should you have any specific requirements for any flights, please inform our team here at Macs Adventure during booking.
All boat transfers and transportation 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.
- 9 Nights in hand-selected accommodations
- 9 Breakfasts, 6 Lunches and 7 Dinners
- Private transfer from Quito International Airport to downtown Quito
- Flights to/from Coca
- English-speaking tours and guides
- 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
- International flights
- All other lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
- Additional nights before, during or after the trip
- Personal equipment
- Travel Insurance
- Gratuities and tips
- Extra Nights in Quito, Otavalo, San Pablo del Lago, Zuleta or Sani Lodge
- Single Room Supplement
- Room Upgrades (only where applicable)
- Twin Beds
Each accommodation will supply you with bottled water, filtered water stations 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 rustic is the Sani Lodge?
The Sani Lodge is the perfect way to be completely immersed within the natural surroundings of the Amazon jungle, without the compromise of modern amenities or creature comforts. This “first rate” ecolodge offers a private, yet social atmosphere for guests. With private cabanas and bathrooms, solar electricity, internet, restaurant, bar/lounge, multilingual staff, and hot water showers, you can enjoy a genuine jungle experience without having to “rough” it.
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 or do an activity?
This itinerary allows for flexibility. If you are unable to hike, kayak or do an activity, please let us know at the time of booking and we can help assist you with an alternate activity (if applicable). If you need to skip the day
entirely, inform your hotel immediately and have them assist you with medical services or a
transfer to the next 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.
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.
Free WiFi will be available for use at your overnight accommodations and while within the Sani Lodge. However, service can become spotty, rare or non-existent at times. 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.