A canvas of ice-capped volcanoes, Andean grasslands, tiny indigenous villages and llamas will hold you entranced as you set off across Ecuador’s Central Highlands to see some of its most famous volcanoes, lakes and reserves.
Explore the unique flora and fauna of the Andean ‘paramo’ (at an altitude of 3600-4800 meters) at the Antisana Ecological Reserve, on the glacier-covered slopes of the imposing 5705-meter high Antisana volcano. Exult in the stark beauty of the environs as you drive to Tigua, an artisan village of Quechua Indians. Get a vivid picture of local life as you view paintings on sheepskin with vibrant colours and intimate details of people growing corn or herding llamas with a snow-dipped volcano in the backdrop.
The mysterious turquoise waters stunningly beautiful Quilotoa Lake, situated in the crater of Quilotoa Volcano, will bewitch with its beauty. The area provides a spectacular panorama of the lake set against the gleaming snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano in the distance.
Day 1: Quito – Antisana Ecological Reserve
You will be picked up from either your hotel or the Quito airport and taken in a private air-conditioned vehicle to the Antisana Ecological Reserve . The drive takes about two hours. An English-speaking guide will accompany you on this tour.
Drive southeast from Quito for about an hour, covering approximately 60 kilometres, and then begin the climb up the Antisana volcano. Admire the spectacular scenery on the way up with close-up views of a massive glacial moraine, said to date back to some 11,000 years. As your vehicle climbs higher on a good paved road, you can feast your eyes on the spectacular scenery with jagged rocky peaks and the glacier-covered summit above the tree line.
There will be a brief stop for an overview of the impressive lava flow at Antisanilla, and then further on to admire a huge wall of cliffs across a narrow canyon, where condors breed and can be seen fairly regularly.
Arrive at the Antisana Ecological Reserve.
After lunch in the Hacienda Antisana, set out to explore this beautiful reserve. A great variety of birds can be spotted around the many paramo lakes and ponds, such as the highly endangered black-faced ibis, cinereous conebills, brown speckled teal, Andean lapwings, many carunculated caracaras, black wing doves, and the rare siskin.
Overnight at the Hacienda La Ciénega in Lasso or similar.
Day 2: Lasso – Quilotoa
After breakfast, set out early in the morning to the Quilotoa crater and lake, in the tiny village of Quilotoa. The stunningly beautiful Quilotoa Lake is located high in the western ranges of the Andes, in the crater of the dormant Quilotoa volcano. The Quilotoa caldera (lake), which dominates the vast Andean countryside, is oval-shaped with steep crater walls that drop more than 300 metres down to a large lake over 2.5 kilometres wide. The alkaline content of the water, when combined with the high copper concentration in the lava, makes the water purely aquamarine in colour. The mysterious emerald waters of this volcanic crater lake offer a striking contrast to distant snow-capped peaks of the Cotopaxi volcano and make for a truly awe-inspiring setting.
Enjoy your lunch at the Hosteria or restaurant in the area.
After your meal, you may set out to explore the lake and its surroundings. It will take you about a half hour to hike down to the lake. At the lake you can hire a half-an-hour ride on motor boat for $2 (payable direct. The price may vary according to the number of passengers). Kayak rental is also offered for $2 for a half-an-hour. It is better to hire a mule for your return. For $5 you save yourself a challenging steep hike over a sandy slippery terrain. Enjoy the ride up while you take in the amazing view.
Or, if you prefer, after lunch, enjoy a cozy afternoon or evening by listening to Andean music at the lodge itself, reading a book from the lodge’s library by the warmth of the fireplace, viewing scenic sunsets or watching satellite television.
Overnight at the Posada Tigua or similar.
Day 3: Quilotoa - Tigua -Quito
After breakfast, depart Quilotoa and proceed towards the towns of Tigua and Chuchilan. The drive takes you through some breathtaking Andean scenery before you arrive at the small village of Chuchilan. This village is built into the mountainside overlooking the spectacular Rio Toachi canyon. Tigua is a small town with a community dedicated to produce paintings on dried sheepskin. These very colourful paintings are made on sheepskin canvases and then mounted on wooden frames. They portray the land and unique customs of the people that live around the Quilotoa Lake.
Begin your return journey to Quito, stopping for lunch on the way.
Arrive in Quito where your tour ends with a drop-off either at your city hotel or at the Quito airport.
3 Days/ 2 Nights
Your preferred time
Duration: 3 Days/ 2 Nights
Your hotel/airport in Quito.
Hotel: (Please advise your hotel at the time of booking. If you do not have this information now, please contact the local activity operator 24 hours prior to the start of the tour with these details.)
Airport: (Please advise your flight timings at the time of booking. If you do not have this information now, please contact the local activity operator 24 hours prior to the start of the tour with these details.)
Your hotel/airport in Quito
Do not swim or drink from the alkaline waters of the Quilotoa Lake Warm clothing is needed as the Andean nights can be quite chilly. It is also quite windy, consider gloves and ear protection. Carry sunblock (SPF 40), good walking shoes. Bring along your camera (wide angle lens), binoculars and sunglasses.
Please call the activity operator at least 24 hours prior to start of the tour for reconfirming the departure details.
See the Cancellation policy for this product