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8-9 days itinerary for Ecuador: Need help and advice

New York, NY
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8-9 days itinerary for Ecuador: Need help and advice

Hi there,

We need to decide on a vacation location ASAP, our time is short so any help is appreciated.

We are a couple in our early 30's, coming from NYC, July 29-Aug 7th.

We are looking for a nice mix of some relaxation, cities, short hikes (~4 hours) and other adventures. I'm still wondering if it's a good time to go on a Galapagos cruise, a bit worried for cold water and sea sickness :(

We're fine with renting a car and driving around - though would take guided tours if those are really recommended.

In terms of money spending we are flexible.

We are also thinking about Mexico as a destination.

Could anyone please help us decide and come up with a suitable itinerary?

Thanks,

Elad & Sivan

Tucson, Arizona
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for Quito, Ecuador
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1. Re: 8-9 days itinerary for Ecuador: Need help and advice

A Galápagos cruise will eat up your entire vacation period and then some. With such limited time, I would base myself in the highlands around Quito and then maybe Baños or Cuenca, though you could easily find plenty to do in and around Quito. Look on the Quito forum at the Top Questions for information on what there is to do around here. You can easily visit the Otavalo and Mindo areas for a couple of nights each (they can be day trips, but they're worth it for longer stays), stay at an historic hacienda, and do some hiking.

Baños is geared for both outdoor adventure and relaxation. Cuenca is a beautiful colonial city with Cajas national park nearby for very interesting hiking opportunities.

New York, NY
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2. Re: 8-9 days itinerary for Ecuador: Need help and advice

Sounds great, I will look into it (and may come with some more questions :)).

Does it make sense to rent a car and drive around? My spanish is rather basic.

Sivan

Quito, Ecuador
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3. Re: 8-9 days itinerary for Ecuador: Need help and advice

Agreeing with the above, there is so much to see in Ecuador, I would save Galapagos for another trip (but definitely make it an important must-see destination!).

In Ecuador here are some suggestions:

Relaxation: Papallacta. This could be a day trip or 1 night. Natural thermal springs, location 1 hour from Quito, nice private baths and spa services, exclusive location tucked into the mountains, fabulous scenery away from the city. There is a resort for lodging, or you can go in the morning and return to Quito in the evening.

Adventure: Mindo &/or Banos. Two different locations. Both have adventure activities such as Puenting (bungee jumping), Canopying (zip-lining across the mountains, great views!), Cascading (rappelling down a waterfall), Hiking, Rafting, Kayaking, Horsebackriding, etc. Key differences: Banos is much bigger and may have more offerings, including a good nightlife, Banos has thermal baths as well, Mindo is more secluded. If you go to Mindo, make it to the "Mariposario" (butterfly nursery) and the evening "Concierto de Zapos" (frog concert). If in Banos, try to go to El Rescate de Monos, a monkey rescue house where you can see varieties of monkeys.

Sun/relaxation: Manabí beach, Isla de la Plata ("poor man's Galapagos" here you can see Booby birds, Frigatebirds, Albatross, and maybe even hunchbacked whales)

Culture: Quito, Cuenca. In Quito you can spend easily 3 full days or more. Sights not to miss: Historical old town, Iglesia de la Compania, La Basilica, El Panecillo, Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World equator line), and more. Cuenca has colonial town as well, both Quito & Cuenca old colonial towns are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Scenery: Cotopaxi National Park, located outside of Quito, can be done in a day trip from Quito or overnight. Cotopaxi is a snow-capped volcano, actually one of the highest volcanoes in the world.

My advice is to start by contacting a few tour operators, and describe your idea, they can try to put a package together that includes many of these places. Ask around to find a few quotes and decide based on the itinerary and prices. Good luck!

san francisco
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4. Re: 8-9 days itinerary for Ecuador: Need help and advice

Don't rent a car unless you are experienced driving in developing countries. To the untrained eye it is utterly terrifying - the drivers there are have a sort of collective consciousness and set of unwritten rules that keeps them from killing each other, but to a "Westerner" (culturally, not longitudinally speaking) it just looks and feels like chaos. Plus the buses are fun.

Forget about the galapagos for this trip. Make it to Cuenca if you can, which is one of the best small cities on earth, and from where you can take day trips with guides into the Andes and to see Incan ruins. Sample itinerary:

Days 1 and 2: Quito

Day 3: take one hour flight or 10 hour bus to cuenca.

Days 4 and 5: Cuenca

Day 6: take long bus or short flight to Guayaqil, spend the evening eating crab and trying not to get mugged (crab is worth it)

Day 7: bus to Puerto Lopez - charming, gritty little coastal town.

Day 8: Pina Coladas on the beach

Day 9: Bus to Guayaqil, then fly home.

Quito, Ecuador
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5. Re: 8-9 days itinerary for Ecuador: Need help and advice

Very good advice above,

Hire a car+ guide, in this way you can see a lot and just get worried about taking pics and watch the landscape.

Make sure you hire with some reputable agent.

Kind regards,

Dennis Yepez

New York, NY
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6. Re: 8-9 days itinerary for Ecuador: Need help and advice

OK, here is the itinerary I built based on your recommendations. At the bottom I wrote some open questions. Would love to get your feedback on both :)

07/29 - Friday

================

NYC -> UIO (Quito)

07/30 - Saturday

================

Quito, getting used to the height

Historical old town (check also at night), Iglesia de la Compania, La Basilica, El Panecillo, Mitad del Mundo

Night: Quito, Hostal Quito Cultural (40$)/ Hotel Boutique Plaza Sucre (60$)?

07/31 - Sunday

================

Quito, getting used to the height

Quito, termas de papallacta/Jamanca (suppose to be cheaper and nice)? - 1-2 hour from quito, ~$20 (incl rancho del canyon)

http://www.termaspapallacta.com/

Night: Quito

08/01 - Monday

================

Teleferiqo - gondola lift 40 min + 3 hour hike on the Pichincha . After 2- days in quito

Night: Quito

08/02 - Tuesday

================

Drive to Banos - is it Baños de Agua Santa? (4 hours)

Stop at Cotopaxi volcano (see from quito).Food: Cafe de la vaca/Hacienda Tombopaxi

Night: Banos, La Posada del Arte / La Casa Verde- Eco Hostel / volcano hotel

08/03 - Wednesday

================

Banos, Geotours company? The waterfall road, ATV/buggies ~$40 per person

Swing jump (peundulo)

Thermal pools

Night: Banos, La Posada del Arte / La Casa Verde- Eco Hostel / volcano hotel

08/04 - Thursday

================

1 day Jungle trip (http://www.geotoursbanios.com/Jungle.php)

Night: Banos, La Posada del Arte / La Casa Verde- Eco Hostel / volcano hotel

08/05 - Friday

================

Horseback riding (http://www.ecuaworld.com/isla/4hrride1.html) or half day canyoning trip

Night: Banos, La Posada del Arte / La Casa Verde- Eco Hostel / volcano hotel

08/06 - Saturday

================

Banos, El Rescate de Monos, a monkey rescue house where you can see varieties of monkeys

Driving back to Quito (4 hours), stop at Cafe de la vaca.

08/07 - Sunday

================

UIO -> NYC

Open questions:

* I was planning on renting a car. Which car rental company? Is a jeep required? will parking be a problem? Where to park, Quito/Banos

* Do we need to book our accommodation ahead of time?

* Cotopaxi volcano - we are not so fit... read it’s really hard if you are not fit... Recommendations?

* Jungle tour, is 1 day enough ?

* You recommended: "Stay at historic hacienda", any specific recommendations?

* Where to sleep in Quito? location-wise

* Weather, could it be around 10C in banos? I saw in some tours “swimming in waterfall/lake” isn’t it too cold?

* Horseback riding (inexperienced), Quito or Banos?

Many thanks,

Sivan

Quito, Ecuador
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7. Re: 8-9 days itinerary for Ecuador: Need help and advice

That looks like a great itinerary, a few comments:

Definitely try to stop at least once at Cafe de la Vaca, it is a wonderful, quaint restaurant with amazing breakfast/brunch. Must try the fresh cow milk.

Climbing Cotopaxi up to the refuge (4000+ meters above sea level) is a challenge. Breath is hard to catch, any talking makes it more difficult. A great view from above, but the hike is steep, cold, and takes the wind out of you. You can still go to the Cotopaxi National Park and surrounding area without climbing the volcano, beautiful scenery.

In Banos: don't stress too much about the day-by-day itinerary. On my recent trip to Banos, I took a walk around the town around 9pm and there were tour operators beckoning people to take a look at the next day's activities, we popped into a place that was open and made plans for the next day based on the offers, prices, and descriptions of available activities. This will be easy to arrange when you get there and see what the weather is like.

Weather in Banos: can definitely be chilly. My opinion is too chilly for swimming, but wet activities are not entirely out of the question (rafting, canyoning) - you'll be chilly but you'll be moving a lot, just bring extra clothes and a towel. Take it day by day to see how the weather is and decide your activities based on what you're comfortable with.

Horseback riding is likely more convenient in Banos.

It might be a lot to fit Mitad del Mundo in with the historic district of Quito, try to do an early visit to Mitad del Mundo and be in the historic center by midday/early afternoon. I would stay until the evening, and right around dinnertime take a walk down the street "La Ronda", there is typical Ecuadorian food, live street musicians, etc. Very pleasant cultural experience just after dark! Try to see if the same night that you plan to do the historic center if there is a show at Teatro Sucre, which is located in the heart of the historic area.

Happy planning!

Quito, Ecuador
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8. Re: 8-9 days itinerary for Ecuador: Need help and advice

One more note about Banos: the natural springs/baths are thermal, warm, and great way to relax even (perhaps especially) in chilly weather.

Quito, Ecuador
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9. Re: 8-9 days itinerary for Ecuador: Need help and advice

Dear chibban,

I am a guide and know all the terrain that you want to explore; from my previous experience I can give you my comments on your itinerary:

For your Quito day trip you definetely need a guide trip. Don't waist your time at the touristy Mitad del Mundo, the real Equator isn't there. The real Equator is a coupple hundred meters ahead at Inti Nan museum (outside of the tourist complex).

Hostal Quito Cultural isn't really nice....Old town in generall is boring at night plus there is no parking there at night. Stay at Mariscal better, there are plenty of options for lodging there and lot of amusment around.

Termas de Papallacta is nice, you can do a hike to the Sucus lakes right before them. Jamanco is cheaper but not as "posh" as the Termas, but the water still the same.....

For the Teleferico Day you can do that on the same day after Old Town and Equator.

Banos de Agua Santa. Go trough Cotopaxi volcano, but go with a Guide, make sure the vehicle has real good susspension for the Andean Roads and high clearance, is very snowy there lately there. Have you driven before on steep snowy mountain roads above 13000 ft? Is not the same as driving at sea level. Oxygen pressure makes the engine combust slowly and less so the vehicle loosed power dramatically. You might need an engine bigger than 3000 cc.

Forget about Cafe de la Vaca, you can eat at the Ribas Refuge after you reach 15000 ft in the snow. Thers is a new restaurant implemented by the Mountain Guides asociation, is always better to bring business to the locals. If get to Cafe de la Vaca on a weekend you'll have to make a nice line to be admitted, is like a Club....

Tambopaxi mountain refuge (is not an hacienda) is nice for lunch but you might not have time.

At Banios the hotels you mention are OK but they are a bit noisy (you can hear the guests next door). Casa Verde is great but out of town. Volcano hotel is nice but pricey, I like its pool.

Forget about ATV rental, this vehicles are killing machines and they are not really good ones, the ones they rent in Banios a are cheap Chinese makes... Last year a traveller's couple got killed on the waterfalls road, thanks to these ATVs.

The jungle trip they offer there is simply a high Amazon basin jungle so, isn't rea jungle... Horse back ride is good at Tambopaxi.

My advice would be to hire a Naturalist guide+expedition vehicle trough a reputable Ecuadorian agency. Driving here isn't as driving in the US.

Make sure they include life and accidents inssurance for you.

Look in these forum for real good companies specialized on this.

Saludos cordiales,

Dennis Yepez

10. Re: 8-9 days itinerary for Ecuador: Need help and advice

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