MOUNTAINS OF THE SUN, KINGS OF HACIENDAS

From the heights of the Andes to the depths of Ecuadorian history, challenge the peaks of Ecuador and in the evening relax like kings in the oldest and most historic haciendas. Steadily conquer several peaks among them the perfect glaciated cone of Cotopaxi, the second highest active volcano in the world and Cayambe, the mountain of the sun located on the Equatorial Line. An ideal program for novice mountain climbers who enjoy roughing it by day and being pampered at night.

ITINERARY (16 days / 15 nights)

DAY 1 Arrive in Quito. You will be met at the airport by a ECOSPORT representative and escorted to Hostal Santa Barbara, a beautiful colonial house that has been converted into a charming bed and breakfast.

DAY 2 Quito. In the morning, acclimatize yourself with a promenade through the colonial district of Quito’s El Centro at 9,500 feet above sea level. Quito is classified as a World Heritage Site for its well preserved examples of Baroque School of Quito – a design fusion of Moorish, Italian, Flemish, Spanish and indigenous influences. Walk through its narrow streets and visit the incredibly ornate cathedrals and churches of this beautiful city. In the afternoon, stop at the Middle of the World where we will put one foot in the Southern hemisphere and the other in the Northern hemisphere. The cultural museum at the middle of the world provides an excellent introduction to the different indigenous communities we may encounter in the next few days. Welcome dinner.

DAY 3 El Corazón (4,780 meters) provides the ideal first ascent. Spectacular view. In the evening, enjoy a delicious dinner at the Hacienda La Carriona where we will spend the night.

DAY 4 Quilotoa. In the morning head south towards the aquamarine volcanic lake Quilotoa (5,200 m/ 17,060 ft). Enjoy a 3-hour hike around the lake. Picnic lunch. In the afternoon, visit the local artisans famous for their Tigua paintings. Tigua paintings are painted on sheep skin with vivid colors in a naïve style. Tigua paintings often depict the festivities and daily life events of the indigenous people. Spend the night in the historic Hacienda Ciénega (circa 1580), which has played hosts to numerous political and Ecuadorian presidential figures. Other famous historic guests include German naturalist, Alexander von Humboldt and French scientist, Charles Marie de la Condamine, who was part of the Geodesic Mission that determined the true shape of the earth that is accepted today.

DAY 5-6 Iliniza Norte. Early in the morning, depart for our second summit, North Iliniza (5,126 m /16,817 ft). There is no permanent snow on Iliniza and does not require technical experience. Hike up to the refuge where we will spend the night. Early in the morning we continue climbing until we reach the top. As you reach the summit enjoy beautiful vistas including the summit of Iliniza South DAY 6 Free day. An easy, relaxing day to rebuild our energy before conquering Cotopaxi. Around mid-day, visit a rose plantation. Roses are one of Ecuador’s major exports. In the afternoon, relax in the serenity of the little known Hacienda San del Callo that once belonged to the Augustine Monks. Surrounded by Inca ruins, San Augustín was once a tambo real, a place where the Inca would spend the night when passing through.

DAY 7-8 Cotopaxi National Park. From Limpiopungo Lake (3,900 m/ 12,795 ft) in Cotopaxi National Park, hike until we reach our camp located at the base of the volcano. Dinner by bonfire. The following day hike to the refugio and spend the evening acclimatizing at 4800 m (15,748 ft). DAY 9 Cotopaxi Prep Day. Practice basic ice climbing and self-arrest techniques. All the equipment is prepared. Retire early by 5 or 6 pm.

DAY 9 - 10 Cotopaxi Summit. At 1 am, depart for the summit. The climb will take approximately 6 to 7 hours. Reach the summit in time to greet the sun at daybreak. Return to the refuge by 10:00 am. By late afternoon, relax in the stone courtyard and gardens of the Spanish colonial Hacienda El Cortijo in the beautiful Valle de los Chillos. It was once home to the renowned Carrión family and also to Don José Fernández Salvador, president of the first Constitutional Assembly in 1830.

DAY 11 Papallacta. On our day free we cross the continental divide to seek out the soothing thermal springs of Papallacta. Opt for a massage, an aromatherapy bath or a short hike through the cloud forest. (Optional)

DAY 12 Otavalo and Cotocachi. Visit the famous Otavalo market in Ponchos Plaza. Farmers, artisans and peddlers from all over South America come here to sell their wares. A must-see, must-shop bazaar of people, animals, produce, and crafts that will overwhelm your senses. An ideal place to do all your Christmas shopping - a warm alpaca sweater or a panama hat. Later visit Cotacachi, known for its leather goods of great quality at exceptional prices.

DAY 13 Bellavista. Take advantage of the birdwatching trail early morning before breakfast (optional). Bellavista is famous for its hummingbirds. After breakfast we hike through primary forest learning about the ecosystem and the natural history of various species. Picnic lunch. In the afternoon, take a refreshing plunge under the waterfalls. Head back for dinner at Bellavista Lodge.

DAY 14-15 Rio Blanco. We leave in the morning towards our great two-day adventure on the Rio Blanco (Class III). After a safety talk, start 60 km of exciting whitewater descent. Picnic Lunch. Continue towards a beautiful sand beach, where we will build our camp. Our dinner is accompanied with a warm fire and the lulling sound of running water. On day 2 after breakfast, continue our trip until we reach the town of Valle Hermoso. Return to Quito in the late afternoon for our farewell dinner.

DAY 16 Transfer out for international flight.

Cost includes: Lodging, transportation, meals with a non-alcoholic beverage, equipments and specialized guides.
Cost does not include: extra meals or beverages.

Meeting point: Quito
Departure point: Quito
Difficulty: Medium