Guayaquil │ Cuenca │ Loja │ Vilcabamba │ Podocarpus │ Zaruma │ Machala │ Churute │ Guayaquil
After breakfast you will leave Guayaquil and depart towards the “Sierra” until reaching Ingapirca – Ecuador’s most important pre-Columbian archaeological site. During a guided tour you can admire the temple and fortress complex and learn about the Incas’ culture and their ancestors’ traditions. Later, you will continue travelling towards Cuenca where you will spend the night.
Today, you will explore the impressive Cajas National Park, well-known for its green valleys, humid highlands, and 230+ lakes. During a short hike around the “Laguna Llaviuco” and along “Laguna Toreadora” (1.5hrs) we will be able to observe different bird species. Around noon we will return to Cuenca, where you take a tour through its historic centre and visit a Panama Hat Factory.
You will leave Cuenca early in the morning and head towards the province of Loja where you will stop in the small, mainly indigenous village of Saraguro. On Sundays, a beautiful market takes places in this village. After arriving at Loja, a guided walk takes you through the city with its colonial houses and typical wooden balconies. If the afternoon we will reach Vilcabamba, the “Valley of Longevity” – it is not unusual to see a person reach 100 years of age here!
Today, you will explore the Podocarpus National Park – the biggest coherent mountain cloud forest in South America with 5 different altitude and vegetation zones (1,000m to 3,600m/3,281ft to 11,811ft). During a hike you will get to know its variety of flora and fauna. Upon request, this excursion can be completed on horse-back. Later, you will return to Vilcabamba for a short walk.
Today, you will continue your journey to the gold mining town of Zaruma, visiting its center and the gold mill, where you can observe the extraction of gold. Your next stop will be Buenaventura Nature Reserve, one of the last remaining coastal cloud forests. In the afternoon you will reach Machala, the “banana capital of the world”. During a harbour tour at night you can observe how bananas are shipped.
Today you will get to know a very special banana plantation that forms part of the farmer’s organization “El Guabo” with more than 500 small-scale farmers. While watching the workers harvest, wash, and pack the bananas, you will learn more about biological banana production as well as sales including the fair trade seal. After lunch you travel to the national reserve Manglares Churute. During a boat ride you will be able to observe various bird species. In the afternoon you will return to Guayaquil.