A road-trip along the ‘Volcano Avenue’ to discover Andean culture and incredibly dramatic landscapes.
The Andes mountain range, the backbone of Ecuador, has been shaped by intense volcanic activity. These rich soils, subject to extreme climatic influences, have enabled ancient Andean civilizations to make their homes here. Our self-guided tours will allow you to explore the atmosphere of traditional markets and the great Andean landscapes at your own pace. A road-trip along the ‘Volcano Avenue’ to experience Andean culture and incredible landscapes. The world of the Andes, at your feet.
Day 1: Quito - Zumbahua market - Quilotoa volcano
Whenever the name Alexander Von Humboldt is mentioned, it is very quickly associated with the Andes. It is precisely through the Andes that this 3-day itinerary will take us.
Heading south, the Pan-American Highway passes through indigenous villages and landscapes of valleys and agricultural patchworks, ravines and crops, following the famous Volcano Avenue.
After 2 hours on the road, we arrive at the small indigenous town of Zumbahua, where we can visit the traditional market, partly preserved from the ravages of modernity. Here, traditions mingle with colours and flavours. In this semi-arid valley, the villagers still use llamas as pack animals to transport native tubers or tropical fruit, freshly harvested from the western slopes.
We then continue on to the turquoise lagoon of Quilotoa. From the sharp rim of the crater, the light competes with the colours and the landscape becomes magical. You can walk the 200 metres down to the shore of the lagoon, accompanied by herds of sheep and llamas.
We'll take advantage of the sunsets to make a few photographic stops of the agricultural landscapes and scenes of daily life.
Dinner and overnight stay in a rustic hacienda.
guide and transport
Day 2: Giant Chimborazo
Long considered to be the highest peak in the world, Chimborazo was much more than a simple explorer's challenge for Humboldt.
It wasn't just for glory that he wanted to conquer its slopes; his intentions were in fact complex. He wanted to measure atmospheric pressures, heights, temperatures and chemistry, collect plants, mosses and stones, draw his landscapes, test hypotheses, make maps and observe the unknown part of the volcano from above.
Following in the footsteps of these explorers, we will cross the different altitudinal gradients of the "colossus of the Andes" across the sandy steppes to the foot of the glacier. Cross-sections along the way will help us to interpret the region's geological and volcanological past. We'll be looking for the flora and fauna typical of these ecosystems, which are perfectly adapted to the sun's rays, extreme temperatures and winds.
In particular, we'll be on the lookout for the Ecuadorian Hillstar, which only lives here on Chimborazo, at the highest altitude of any hummingbird in the world, (Oreotrochilus chimborazo), the endemic subspecies of the Andean fox, the stealthy Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe (Gay's Attagis) and we'll have the opportunity to observe a large number of vicuñas.
Lunch in the first refuge. For the more physically fit, we'll have the opportunity to climb to the second refuge (5000 m).
Dinner and overnight stay in the same hosteria.
guide and transport
Day 3: Cotopaxi - Quito
After a good traditional breakfast, we'll have about 2 hours to drive through a mosaic of traditional crops: quinoa, amaranth and all sorts of legumes and tubers, to reach Cotopaxi National Park.
This emblematic volcano is the country's second highest peak (5987 metres) and one of the most closely watched active volcanoes in the world. A short walk around the Limpiopungo lagoon, framed by Cotopaxi, Rumiñahui and Sincholagua volcanoes at over 3,800 metres, will give you the chance to discover some very special landscapes and observe the high altitude Andean flora.
Weather permitting, you can hike up to the first refuge at an altitude of more than 4,800 metres, where you can get close to the glacier. For the more adventurous, we can also cross the herbaceous moors on the slopes of Rumiñahui.
Lunch in a high-altitude lodge opposite Sincholagua.
Return to Quito in the late afternoon.
guide and transport
Dates of the next departures
Departures all year round.
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Prices per person
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- Departure from your hotel
- Private transport
- Specialist bilingual guide
- All meals mentioned in the itinerary, box lunch on some outings
- Accommodation in double rooms in superior category hotels
- Additional soft and alcoholic drinks
- Entrance fees to various sites
- Personal expenses
- Currency exchange
- VAT tax (12%) only for Ecuadorian citizens and residents
Itineraries may be subject to last-minute changes due to natural disasters or changes in national legislation. The operator therefore reserves the right to make any changes necessary to guarantee the safety and integrity of travellers and to comply with the laws in force. Hotels are given for information only and are subject to availability at the time the tour is booked. In the event of unavailability, a hotel of the same category will be offered where possible.
Formalities: Passport valid for 6 months after your return date. No visa is currently required for French and Belgian nationals.
Vaccinations: It is advisable to be vigilant when travelling, particularly during the rainy season (when infectious outbreaks can occur) in the coastal provinces and in the Amazon. Malaria is a parasitic disease transmitted by mosquito bites, requiring the use of personal protective measures such as sprays, creams, electric diffusers and mosquito nets. Quito and the centre of the country are not affected by malaria. In fact, very few areas are really affected by these parasitic diseases. Most of these high-risk areas are not in the zones we visit in our itineraries. If, however, you decide to take a course of treatment, beware: some people react badly to it. Although no vaccinations are compulsory, we recommend that you consider vaccinations against tetanus and hepatitis A and C to be essential. We also recommend that you consult your GP before leaving and take out insurance to cover medical expenses and repatriation.
Characteristics of the trip
|Culture, photography and naturalist observations
|Easy, although some high altitude walks can be tiring, maximum altitude 5000m/16.000ft