Astride the Equator

Ecuador – Astride the Equator Tour – a 14 day Small Group Tour.

Just like its majority mestizo population Ecuador is a rich mixture, combining the mountains of the high Andes and rainforests of the Amazon with over 1,000km of coastline.

This tour spends time exploring colonial cities, indigenous mountain communities and rainforest villages, each offering a different interpretation of Ecuadorian life. In places triumphs of engineering have spawned impressive historic buildings, or forged rail lines across high Andean passes. Elsewhere, indigenous communities continue low-impact lives almost unchanged for hundreds of years. Oil revenues have transformed Ecuador’s formerly agricultural economy bringing improvements in education and health.

However, this development has come at a price, one paid by the country’s rainforests and wild landscapes, bringing protests from indigenous groups and environmentalists. Visiting Ecuador highlights an incredible natural wealth as well as choices and decisions that will have to made by all of us, sooner rather than later.

Take an exciting journey with Undiscovered Destinations as we travel astride the equator through the rugged landscapes of the Andes Mountains and the lush rainforest.  Observe the diversity of cultures from the Otavaleños and Afro-Ecuadorians in the north, to the Quichua and Shuar in the rainforest, and finally to the Kichwa in the central Andes at the foothills of the mighty volcano Chimborazo.

A highlight of this tour is a visit to the Avenue of the Volcanoes. The aptly named Avenue of the Volcanoes is flanked by eight dizzyingly-high snow-mantled mountains striding south of Quito down the Andean spine. It passes through a valley rich with a landscape of dense forest and tiny fields plastering impossibly steep slopes. Dotted around is a mix of deeply traditional indigenous and colonial settlements with horticultural and artisan markets and cottage industries. There’s also a clutch of old estates gifted to conquistadores where the grandiose buildings are now countryside hotels. This is supreme hiking country, with trails leading to craters harbouring turquoise volcanic lakes, usually with views of the biggest peaks, Chimborazo and Cotopaxi.

On this journey we will visit the vibrant markets, marvel at the impressive highland scenery on leisurely walks and enjoy the flora and fauna of the jungle.

Why not finish your trip with an optional extension to the unique Galapagos Islands?

Tour ratings.

  • Fitness
  • Off the beaten track 
  • Culture
  • History
  • Wildlife

Tour Pace


Tour style


Relaxed Pace

Relaxed tours are easy paced with plenty of leisure time built in. The tour will in all probability still be off the beaten track, with the occasional early start and there may still be occasional long drives. In general on a relaxed pace tour you can enjoy easy-going activities and experiences with opportunities to absorb the sights and immerse yourself in the local surroundings.

Moderate Pace

Moderate pace tours are ideal if you want a tour experience that combines activities and experiences with some time to relax. Typically you will be active and busy for part of the day but then also have time to rest and recharge your batteries. In general on a moderate paced tour there may be some long journeys involved but the tour is not an expedition or a road trip. On a moderate paced tour it will be necessary to have some early starts.

Busy Pace

A busy paced tour means that you can expect to be doing, seeing or experiencing something new almost every day, and moving on from place to place to pack in as much as possible. There may be early starts, long journeys and tiring days along the way, but you’ll return home feeling you’ve really experienced as much as you possibly could.

Pioneer Class Tours

On our Pioneer tours, you will be amongst an elite group of intrepid travellers and some of the first to explore a country that few have been privileged enough to discover. Of course, exploring such areas of the world will come with its challenges; it may mean several nights camping, long journeys by 4WD and the need to maintain a degree of flexibility for when carefully laid plans change. These are challenging tours in countries and areas that may have poor infrastructure, high levels of poverty and illiteracy. This can translate in to low standards in hotels, bad roads and poor driving standards among other issues. We try and smooth out as much of these issues as we can but you should be prepared to experience the bad with the good.

Traveller Class Tours

Our Traveller itineraries are at the core of our programme. These journeys are designed for travellers who still want to discover a land away from the tourist crowds but expect minimum standards. Accommodation will be primarily hotel based, although you could still find yourself camping, or the guest of a local family. Depending on the destination and itinerary, you’ll likely be travelling in a private vehicle, with occasional use of public transport. This is adventure travel with some of the rough edges smoothed out.


(Approximate driving time: one-hour)

Arrive in Quito and transfer to the hotel. Depending on your time of arrival, you may have time to explore the city. Overnight Casa Sol or similar. No meals are included today.

(Approximate driving time: two-hours)

This morning we explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Quito’s Old Town. We visit the major colonial churches and monasteries, including La Catedral, El Sagrario and La Compañia. Afterwards we head to Independence Plaza, flanked by the cathedral, the Presidential Palace, and the Archbishop’s Palace, continuing to the Church of San Francisco, one of the greatest religious buildings in South America. Walking through narrow streets, past ancient colonial houses, we pause at El Panecillo where there are remarkable views across of the city. In the afternoon we drive north from Quito to Mitad del Mundo (literally, Middle of the World) and the Equatorial Line Monument. Here we can stand with one foot in each hemisphere. Later we drive to Otavalo. Overnight Hotel Santa Fe or similar. (BD)

(Approximate driving time: one-hour)

This morning, we explore the surroundings of the Cuicocha Crater Lagoon during an easy to moderate grade 4-5 hour hike through the flora of the Andean highlands. After a traditional lunch in Cotacachi, visit a small archaeological museum. This afternoon, stroll through the Otavalo market and perhaps try the exotic fruits and vegetables. Overnight Hotel Santa Fe or similar (BL)

Please Note – Alternatively it is possible to take a boat tour of the lagoon instead of doing the hike.

(Approximate driving time: one-hour)

Today we board the famous Tren de la Libertad, travelling from Ibarra, through seven hand-excavated tunnels, across tall bridges spanning deep canyons, to Salinas, a town suffused with Afro-Ecuadorian history and culture. Along the way the train makes several stops, opportunities to take in the spectacular scenery of the northern Andes. Hotel Santa Fe or similar. (BL)

(Approximate driving time: five-hours)

Enjoy a walk early this morning through the streets of the Andean town of Otavalo to observe the lively market activity in Plaza de Poncho and the Andean culture of the Otavaleños. Continue over an Andean Pass of 4050m altitude into a valley at 3300 m where thermal springs feed the most beautiful Spa in the country. This afternoon we reach Hakuna Matata, a cosy rainforest lodge in the midst of a private protected forest. Overnight Hakuna Matata Lodge or similar. (BD)

Today we take a guided hike through the rainforest, discovering medicinal plants and learning about local wildlife. At the small village of Santa Rita a delicious jungle lunch awaits. Afterwards, experts from Pacari, Ecuador’s award-winning organic chocolate producer, demonstrate how to make delicious chocolate from the local cocoa beans. Later we return to the lodge where the rest of the day is free to relax. Overnight Hakuna Matata Lodge or similar. (BLD)

After breakfast we head to the Arajuno River and take a canoe trip to a natural clay lick, a magnet for hundreds of parrots and parakeets. Afterwards we continue by canoe to the indigenous Kichwa community of Santa Barbara where we taste many local dishes. Later we continue to the village of Misahualli for a typical almuerzo (lunch) After a short tour of the village and its surroundings we return to the lodge. Overnight Hakuna Matata Lodge or similar. (BLD)

Please Note – Those that do not wish to do the canoe trip can opt out and stay by the Hakuna Matata Lodge taking some small walks and enjoying the jungle directly from the lodge.

(Approximate driving time: two-hours)

After breakfast, travel through the rainforest to Puyo where we visit an Animal Rescue Centre to observe tropical animals of the Amazon region and meet some monkeys face to face. From here we drive deeper into the forest towards the small town of Macas and our accommodation at a rainforest hosteria. Overnight Luzcelinda Hotel or similar. (BD)

(Approximate driving time: three-hours. Approximate trekking time: three-hours)

Today a short drive takes us to into the territory if the Shuar people. Here we take a guided hike through the forest to a sacred waterfall where we participate in the Shuar’s spiritual waterfall ceremony. Afterwards there’s time to swim and taste typical Shuar food. Later we drive on to the Atillo Lakes, crossing the Andean highlands to Guamote. Overnight Inti Sisa Hotel or similar. (BLD)

(Approximate driving time: one-hour)

This morning we visit the traditional Andean Market of Guamote. Afterwards we board the train to travel Ecuador’s most famous rail route, the zigzagging climb, backwards and forwards, over Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose), up the valley to Sibambe. After some time to look around the village we return to Guamote. In the afternoon we visit one of the surrounding small villages to learn about the lives of the indigenous Kichwa population. Later we drive to Riobamba, surrounded by the immense volcanic peaks of Chimborazo, Carihuayrazo, El Altar, and Tungurahua. The city is the most important agricultural centre in the Ecuadorian Andes. Overnight Mansion Santa Isabella or similar. (BL)

(Approximate driving time: two-hours)

Today we drive from Riobamba to the slopes of 6,268m Chimborazo volcano, Ecuador’s highest mountain. En route we stop at an indigenous Kichwa community whose village lies at over 3,000m. From here we drive to Refugio Hermanos Carrel at an altitude of 4,800m where the road ends. The adventurous can hike to Refugio Whymper at over 5,000m, a short but taxing ascent. Later in the afternoon we arrive at the small town of Latacunga situated at relatively lowly 2,800m. Overnight Villa Tacunga or similar. (BL)


(Approximate driving time: two-hours)

Leaving Latacunga we drive to the village of La Victoria, famous for traditional ceramics. Afterwards we continue to Zumbahua and its noisy and chaotic market, before heading to the beautiful crater lagoon of Quilotoa. We take a short hike to experience changing views of the lagoon and the surrounding Andean peaks. Overnight Mama Hilda Hotel or similar. (BLD)

(Approximate driving time: two-hours)

This morning we drive to the 400-year-old Hacienda La Cienega, enjoying a coffee break surrounded by the atmosphere of yesteryear. Continuing to Cotopaxi National Park, we stop briefly at a nearby flower farm to appreciate the blooms’ vivid colours. On arrival at the park we take an easy guided walk around Limpiopungo Lagoon, learning about Andean flora. If the weather is clear there are superb views of Cotopaxi. We take lunch at Refugio Tambopaxi, set amid the impressive peaks of 4,893m Sincholagua and 5,897m Cotopaxi itself, before returning to Quito. Overnight Hotel Casa Sol. (BL)

Time at leisure until your transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)

Why not finish your trip with an optional extension to the unique Galapagos Islands?

Contact us for a range of options and excursions.

Arriving in Baltra we transfer to hotel accommodation. After some time to freshen up we depart by car to the highlands of Santa Cruz, visiting the lava tubes and seeing giant tortoises in their natural habitat. In the afternoon we visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to see giant tortoises and land iguanas and take the opportunity to talk to naturalist guides about the diversity of flora and fauna found in the Galapagos archipelago. Overnight at Hotel Dejavu or similar. (BL)

Early this morning, transfer to the port to embark on a speed boat to Isabela Island. The cruise time is about 2 to 3 hours. On arrival, visit Islet Tintoreras, famed for sheltering the white tipped sharks known as Tintoreras. There is also the opportunity to observe penguins, sea lions and marine iguanas and snorkel observing the endless variety of colourful fishes and harmless shark species. Overnight at Hotel Cally Lodge or similar. (B)

After breakfast we depart for a 2 hour hike to the Sierra Negra Volcano. This volcano is located 13 miles from Puerto Villamil and is the second largest volcanic crater in the world, measuring 6 miles in diameter and 300 feet depth. Driving time to access the control gate of the Galapagos National Park is approximately 45 minutes, and from there we start our ascent to the top of the volcano from where we get rewarding views over the island before heading back to the hotel for the evening. Overnight at Hotel Cally Lodge or similar. (BL)

Transfer this morning to the port for an unforgettable excursion combining sea and land. First, embark on an open boat (maximum 10 passengers) during which time, we get a complete comprehensive panorama of the local marine life, encountering schools of huge manta rays. Continue to Roca Union to learn more about its history and the stay of the Nazca boobie birds before arriving in Cabo Rosa. There, take a walk in the lava tunnels along with a colony of blue footed boobies and then visit the El Finado for some leisurely snorkelling to appreciate among other species sea horses, golden stripes, marble stripes, eagle rays, penguins, sharks, multi-coloured fish, and the fascinating giant tortoises. Transfer back to Baltra at the end of the day. Overnight at Hotel DejaVu or similar. (B)

At a suitable time, transfer to the airport for your outward flight back to Quito. On arrival transfer to the hotel for your final night in Ecuador. Overnight Hotel Casa Sol or similar. (B)

Transfer to the airport for your onward flight (B)

Dates & Price.

Tour Notes

This group tour operates subject to a minimum group size of 2 travellers, and there will be a maximum of 12 people.

Please note that this tour is operated and sold in conjunction with our local partner, and so you are likely be travelling with people of different nationalities and from companies other than Undiscovered Destinations. Depending on the mix of nationalities in the group, and the group size, the guiding may be conducted in English plus additional languages, and there may be more than one guide with the group.

Single Supplement from £225.

Return flights from London to Guayaquil, returning from Quito start at £790. Contact us for a quotation.

Extra night accommodation pre and/or post tour in Ecuador costs from £30 per person, per night sharing a twin/double room and £52 per person in a solo occupancy room.

Please note that the prices quoted above are for the category of accommodation and hotel used for this particular tour. Depending on the hotel eventually confirmed there may be some difference in the rate advertised by the hotel, and the prices available through Undiscovered Destinations. It should be noted we will not apply a surcharge should more expensive accommodation be used. At the same time in the event that a lower rate is available for the confirmed hotel we are unable to offer a refund.

Airport transfers are included if you are booking pre and/or post tour accommodation at the hotel mentioned in our tour dossier.

Contact us for details of our extensions to the Galapagos Islands.

Mapped itinerary.

Want to see details of your itinerary on a map?

Download PDF.

Download the full tour dossier for this trip here.

Ecuador - Astride the Equator Tour Map

For expert advice get in touch now with our passionate,
well-travelled team.

+44(0) 191 296 2674 from THE UK
1-800-614-2967 from THE US & CANADA
1-300-956-415 from AUSTRALIA

Tour inclusions.

  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • All accommodation
  • All ground transportation including train ride from Imbabura and the Devils Nose
  • Services of English-speaking guide / tour leader – we have a combined driver/guide for groups of three or less
  • Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
  • Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
  • Internal flights if doing the Galapagos Extension

Tour exclusions.

  • International flights
  • Any airport taxes
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas if applicable
  • Drinks
  • Items of a personal nature & tips (discretionary)
  • National Park Fee for the Galapagos – Payable Locally on arrival in Galapagos USD 100 per person
  • Entrance fee to Isabela Island in the Galapagos USD 5 per person

What a wonderful country Ecuador is. We are so glad we decided to do the mainland as well as the Galapagos Islands. The people were so friendly and our guide took us to some really off the beaten track places!


Mr and Mrs Tiffney, UK