Included meals are indicated in parentheses: (B,L,D)
Your private guide will pick you up from your hotel to begin the drive through the Avenue of the Volcanoes, a series of eleven peaks that frame the Latacunga-Ambato Valley in the center of Ecuador. You will drive through the scenic Andean countryside to reach the foot of Cotopaxi Volcano, the 19,340-foot peak that dominates the area. Cotopaxi National Park is an ecological sanctuary of 36,000 hectares surrounding the volcano. You’ll have time to explore the National Park, home to unique wildlife and otherworldly landscapes.
Afterward you will be taken to your lodging for the night, Hacienda San Agustin de Callo. Built in the 16th century on the site of an important Inca Palace, and containing the finest and largest set of Incan ruins in central Ecuador, this working hacienda subsequently became an Augustinian convent with a textile workshop and later the home of the French Geodesic Mission. The house is built directly on top of what was an Incan palace, and many rooms have original Incan walls, with extraordinary masonry work. The dining room is a fully-intact original Incan palace room, an experience you can’t have anywhere else.
Hacienda San Agustin de Callo (B,L,D)
Today you will visit the Quilotoa area, passing through rolling Andean countryside along the way. En route you will stop in the Tigua community, whose artists are known for their colorful paintings on sheepskin canvases, representing Andean landscapes, people, and daily life. Continuing on to Quilotoa, you will explore the Quilotoa Volcano Crater, over 2 miles wide and 800 feet deep, which now holds a vivid green lake. The crater is the result of an eruption hundreds of years ago, and your guide will teach you about the interesting geological history of the area. You will enjoy a scenic lunch before heading back to your hacienda, where you’ll have the balance of the day free to relax or explore more of the hacienda.
Hacienda San Agustin de Callo (B,L,D)
After breakfast, you will depart San Agustin and continue south along the scenic Avenue of the Volcanoes to Riobamba, the provincial capital. After about 2.5 hours, you will stop for lunch at a mountain lodge nestled at the foot of Ecuador’s highest mountain, Chimborazo (20,500 feet), a massive extinct volcano. In the afternoon you continue to Hosteria La Andaluza, a beautiful Andean hacienda where you will spend the night.
Hosteria La Andaluza (B,L,D)
In the morning you have the opportunity to take a ride on the Devil’s Nose Train, considered one of the world’s most impressive feats of railway engineering. This scenic railroad travels along a series of switchbacks down the steep mountainside, passing Andean lakes and small traditional villages along the way. After your ride you will be transferred south to the Ingapirca Ruins, the largest Incan ruins in Ecuador, which date back to the Inca Huayna Capac. After this visit you will continue by car along scenic roads to the city of Cuenca. Cuenca is named for one of its striking geographical features: the city was built in a cuenca, a land basin formed by the confluence of several rivers. Here, you will be dropped off at your hotel to relax for the evening.
Mansion Alcazar (B,L)
In the morning you will have a half-day, privately-guided walking tour of Cuenca. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site for its incredible historic buildings, Cuenca is considered a cultural capital of Ecuador. On the tour you will have a chance to visit the Plaza de San Sebastián and the Museum of Modern Art, several of Cuenca’s incredible cathedrals and local markets, and a lookout point with a beautiful view out over the city. With your private guide, you’ll have the flexibility to explore at your own pace and make adjustments to the itinerary as you go.
Mansion Alcazar (B)
In the morning you will be picked up from your hotel and transferred to the airport to catch your flight home or to your next destination.