Ecuador’s mainland is a feast for all five senses. Snow-capped volcanoes emerge from lush green valleys and you’ll find some of the best preserved and most beautiful colonial cities in the continent. During this 9-day itinerary, you’ll travel down the very spine of the country, known as the Avenue of the Volcanoes. It runs 200 miles south of Quito between two parallel cordilleras and contains seven peaks above 5,000 metres high.
Ecuador’s position on the equator makes it a world of contrasts. You will travel through tropical landscapes rich with orchids and palm trees, while the snow-tipped Andes tower in the background. You will ride the famous Devil’s Nose Train, visit the thermal town of Baños and explore Cuenca, one of the most beautiful colonial cities in South America. Along the way, you’ll travel with a private driver and guide, sleep in traditional haciendas and be charmed by the friendliness of the local people.
Our Avenue of the Volcanoes and Devil’s Nose Train trip can be tailored to suit your requirements. Please contact one of our consultants to start planning your dream Ecuador adventure.
Today you will arrive in Quito, where you will be met and taken to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.
After breakfast, you will be collected by your guide for a city tour of Quito. Quito’s historical centre is a beautifully preserved testimony of the city’s colonial past. During the trip, you’ll visit a handful of its famous churches, all different in their colours and architecture. You will also stop at the monument that marks the exact location of the equator – the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo. After the tour, you will be dropped back at your hotel and the afternoon will be at leisure.
This morning after breakfast your private guide, who will accompany you as you explore the Avenue of the Volcanoes, will pick you up for the drive to Cotopaxi National Park. Here, you will discover the diverse flora and fauna thriving in this lush, green area and walk along the shore of the Limpiopungo Lagoon, sitting at an altitude of 3,800 metres. You will spend a few hours walking through the park and taking in the gorgeous Andean scenery, with Cotopaxi Volcano dominating the backdrop. Afterwards, you will be driven to a typical local hacienda where you will spend the night.
After breakfast, you will continue your journey along the twisting roads that pass through beautiful landscapes to reach picturesque Crater Lake Quilotoa. From the edge of the crater’s rim, you can walk down to the turquoise lake. It’s a bit of a hike, but it’s 100% worth the effort! If you run out of energy, you can hire a horse or mule to help you with the climb back up.
In the afternoon you will drive to Baños and will have the afternoon free to enjoy as you wish. You can visit the thermal baths, walk around the charming town or hop between the many restaurants and bars that ring the plazas.
After breakfast, we recommend making a quick visit to the beautiful cathedral before starting the day’s adventure. Today your guide will drive you through the Route of the Waterfalls, which runs along the beautiful Pastaza River Gorge. This highlight is located in Rio Verde, where you will take a hike through the cloud forest to reach the thundering waterfall known as Pailón Del Diablo (Devil’s Cauldron).
In the afternoon, your tour will continue to the highest volcano in Ecuador. Chimborazo stands at a staggering altitude of over 6,000 metres. The surrounding landscape is desert-like, with herds of shy vicuñas and far-reaching views. If you wish, you can take a walk to the Edward Whymper shelter. At an altitude of 5,000 metres, it offers excellent views of Chimborazo and the surrounding area. You will spend the night in the nearby town of Riobamba.
You will depart early this morning to reach Alausi train station where you will hop aboard one of the most famous trains in the world. The Devil’s Nose is a thrilling and unforgettable train ride down an almost sheer rock face. The train makes switchbacks all the way down the cliff and then back up again. You will be given a packed lunch for the trip.
Afterwards, you will carry on to the Ingapirca Inca ruins, the largest site in Ecuador. You will explore the beautiful temples and fortifications until late in the afternoon when you will continue to Cuenca, where you’ll spend the next two nights.
After breakfast, you will take a morning tour of this beautiful colonial city. The promenade along the Rio Tomebamba, the imposing new cathedral and the daily flower market are just a few of the highlights of the tour. The afternoon you will have free time to explore the city as you wish.
This morning, you will head west to cross El Cajas National Park. Although mostly above the tree line, the reserve has an astounding variety of plant and animal life. In addition to rugged ridges and deeply incised, box-shaped valleys, there are nearly 240 lagoons, all of different shapes and sizes. You will reach an altitude of almost 4,200 metres and stop at several viewpoints to take in the beautiful landscape.
Afterwards, the Avenue of the Volcanoes will start descending towards the coast, through extensive cocoa, bananas, rice and sugar cane plantations. Eventually, you’ll reach Guayaquil, the largest city in the country, where you will check in to your hotel for one night. The rest of the day will be free. We suggest taking a walk along the malecón and exploring the bohemian neighbourhood of Las Peñas.
You will enjoy breakfast at your hotel and, at a suitable time, you will be picked up and driven to the airport for your onward flight.
The region of the Avenue of the Volcanoes has a spring-like climate all year round. However, the best time of the year to visit is between May and October when the skies are clearer and the days are sunnier, with just a little rain.
If you'd like to get a feel for this trip, read our blog post, 'Visit Ecuador: why you should extend your stay beyond the Galapagos', written by one of our consultants who's been there.
This itinerary is purely a suggestion and can be tailor-made to your requirements, so please contact us with your dates and requests and we’ll put together a bespoke quotation for you
8 nights in 3* or 4* standard accommodation.
Hotels in this category include: