Ecuador archaeology & history tours, visit Inca ruins

Sample archaeology tour itinerary

Explore the most important archaeological sites in Ecuador, visit pre-Inca and Inca ruins in the Andes and Coastal plains. We will have on-site lecutres at the sites of fortresses, temples and burrial grounds uncovering the history of Ecuador´s past and learn about some of the first cultures in the Americas.

Day 1 - Quito

Arrival flight. Transfer in from the airport to your hotel.

Day 2  - Quito

Today we start our journey into the past by visiting the Natural History museum and learning about the pre-colonial cultures of Ecuador, we will have an onsite lecture about the main archeaogical findings. Visit to the Archaeological Museum which contains more than 25,000 items, some dating back to 10,000 BC and the Inca era. We continue on to the downtown area of Quito, the colonial district, it is a UNESCO heritage site. Our guide will give us an overview of the Spanish colony, the religious conquest and we will get to learn about the architecture and religious art found in the main churches and monasteries.

After lunch (optional) we head to the Middle of the world to visit the monument at the Equator line. From here we go on to the first archaeological site on our trip, the Pucara de Rumicucho, a strategic point with majestic views, a fortress used by the Incas We will also visit Catequilla hill which is the site that marks the indigenous middle of the world, where no shadow is cast on the noon of the equinoxes when the sun rises to its absolute zenith. From the summit of the Catequilla hill, other sites of astronomical importance were traced and located using the path of the sun on the solstice and equinoxes.

We return to our hotel for the evening.

Day 3 - Quito - Cochasqui - Otavalo - Zuleta

Today we head into the northern Andes of Ecuador, our first visit is at the Cochasqui Pyramids a pre - incan site composed of burial mounds and pyramids which belonged to Quito's first inhabitants. The pyramids were made of local volcanic material called cangahua.After learning about the diferent archaeological studies we will depart the site and continue north to the indigenous market at Otavalo considered to be the most important gathering of its kind in South America. At the market you will be able to shop, barter and negotiate souvenirs, specially textiles and ponchos as well as other handcrafts from surrounding villages.

After lunch (optional) we continue our trip to the backside of Imbabura volcano arriving at hacienda Zuleta, we will explore the in-house archaeological site composed of 3 pyramids and burial mounds. We also get to visit a Condor rehabilitation project and the local cheese factory.

Tonight we will stay at hacienda Zuleta and share some time with family of Ecuador´s former president Galo Plaza. Dinner with your hosts is a homemade delicacy.

Day 4 - Zuleta - Quito Loma - Guachala

After a hearthy breakfast, we will continue to explore this historic hacienda and learn about the history of the Caranqui Indians and about the local people from Zuleta. After a delicious lunch we will depart towards Quito Loma, the largest archaeological site in Ecuador. This cylindrical construction made from stones is strategically located, it was a fortress in the times of the Inca´s, today it offers a spectacular view of Quito and surrounding Andean valleys.

We continue our journey to the nearby hacienda Guachala, the oldest farm house in Ecuador, now converted to a boutique hotel. We will visit a small onsite museum with archaeological finds and learn the history of the Cayambi people. Overnight at the hacienda.

Day 5 - Guachala - Cotopaxi national park - San Agustin del Callo

Today we depart Guachala southbound to Cotopaxi National Park, here under the watchfull view of majestic Cotopaxi volcano we will visit the lagoon of Limpiopungo where we find the pucará of el Salitre a fortress, and before, in the border of the cartwright, a wide well-known square structure as the “Ingapirca.” We continue on to the Lagoon of Santo Domingo supplied by a spring and adorned with vestiges of stone walls of the Incan time. Nearby is the lookout point of Sunfana. At the base of the mirador, the visitor will appreciate the green pine forests on a vast plain. In the same area there are pre colombinan remains of platforms and stone enclosures, built apparently by the old worshipers of the snowy volcano.

After lunch (optional) we will leave the park and continue under the view of the volcano as we head towards hacienda San Agustin del Callo. At the hacienda we will visit the Tambo of The Callus, this building, of imperial Inca style, conserves two rooms integrated to the country property house San Agustín.

The cameras or rooms have a rectangular plant, they possess a door of form trapezium and false windows of the same style, in the internal part. The Tambo of El Callo, more than having satisfied a residence functionality, it should have been a temple,  that is in the skirts of the imposing volcano Cotopaxi.

We will spend the night at the hacienda and enjoy Inca remains within our rooms.

Day 6 - San Agustin del Callo - Riobamba

Today we continue south through the Avenue of the volcanoes surrounded by snow covered peaks, we will visit the Salasaca indigenous community and see their textile weaving looms en-route to Riobamba, a colonial city in the central Andes of Ecuador, here we will take a short city tour and visit the neighbouring town of Guano, where we will see how people make handwoven rugs and enjoy a local delicacy called "cholas" (bread filled with sugar can syrup).

Optional lunch and a free afternoon as we reach our country inn and get ready for our next days adventure on the Inca trail.

Days 7 through 9 - Riobamba - the Inca trail - Ingapirca

We leave early from Riobamba by car and drive towards the south until we reach the small village of Achupallas at 3300 m. / 10.827 f. Here we put our equipment on donkeys and then start hiking on the páramo grasslands. After 4 - 5 hours of hiking we make our camp for the first night at about 3850 m. / 12.632 f. The trail we hike is part of the old route used by Inca´s to connect the southern and northern ends of their vast empire.

This is a 3 day hiking journey. You will hike around 4 - 6 hours per day crossing the páramo grasslands, the Sanasuin lake by tres cuchillas point, Paredones ruins, small lost towns of the Andes as Tambo Cajon, following hidden trails of an ancient commerce route used by Inca and pre - Inca cultures. From Tambo Cajon we can see the Cañari & Inca ruins of Ingapirca. It takes another 2 hours of walking to arrive at the ruins at 3300 m. / 10.827 f. Our guide takes us around Ingapirca and explains about the culture of the Inca and of the Cañari. This is the most important archaeological site in Ecuador as well as the best preserved. We will visit several remains of stone constructions as well as ceremonial sites, silos, and temples found at the complex. We will also go through the on-site museum to learn about the restoration process.

After exploring Ingapirca, we will stay at a historic hacienda just a short walk from the ruins and enjoy the comforts of this boutique hotel.

Day 10 - Ingapirca - Colluctor - Cojitambo - Cuenca

Today we continue visiting the archaeological sites of Cañari and Inca cultures. After having a last view of Ingaprica we will head towards the nearby “bathrooms of the Inca”at the archaeological site of Colluctor which is a rock of cyclopean dimensions (approximately 100 m of long and 8 m of high) where the surface has several elements carved. We will continue on to Cojitambo which is a town of the Cañar province, but it is also the name of a mountain in whose hillsides and peak is an archaeological area of approximately 25 hectares. The ruins of Cojitambo understand a group of stone constructions, summoned in the north side of the hill. The vestiges are distributed in an adjacent natural terrace with the summit. Embankments can be observed consolidated with stone walls, residence structures, colcas or deposits, staggered walls and a tract of the Cápac Ñan (Royal Inca road).

After visiting both archaeological sites we will stop for lunch (optional) and continue on to Cuenca where we will have a walking tour of the downtown area, UNESCO HERITAGE SITE, here we will enjoy the fine architecture of colonial days as well as several churches with a tremendous display of religious art at the Conceptas museum. We rap up the afternoon with a visit to a straw hat factory, where we learn how these mistakenly called Panama hats are made from a fiber found in the Ecuadorian coast. We have the opportunity of purchasing one of these fine hats to protect us from the coastal sun on the rest of our journey.

Tonight we will stay at a boutique hotel in the downtown area of Cuenca.

Day 11 - Cuenca

The morning will be spent at the Pumapungo archaeological site at the Central Bank museum, the biggest testimony of Inca occupation in the current territory of southern Ecuador. this urban center, with palaces, temples and constructions for the armies, it was considered as the rooms “superb and rich that there was in the whole Peru, and to where there were the biggest and more cousins buildings” (Pedro Cieza León, The Chronicle of the Peru, / 1551 / ,1973). Of this city, they conserved the prints that correspond to the neighborhood of Pumapungo at the moment (door of the pumas), denomination that is justified for the existence of a cover adorned with the figure of this American feline. The city covered an area of approximately two hectares, in those that constructions rose for different uses, being the most important Huayna Cápac's Palace, the temple of the god Viracocha, the temple of the Sun and the barracks.

Afternoon is free to walk around Cuenca and the many attractions this beautiful city offers to visitors. Overnight at our boutique hotel.

Day 12 - Cuenca - Guayaquil

The scenery of our trip will  change drastically today, we will descend from the high Andes into the coastal lowlands, we will depart Cuenca passing through Cajas National Park which is made up of some 235 boxed lakes and an amazing mountain landscape that will keep our interest for the ride. We will arrive in Guayaquil around noon and check in to our boutique hotel.

After lunch (optional), we will take a short tour of the city visiting Malecon 2000 (the riverfront) and it surrounding attractions. Overnight in Guayaquil.

Day 13 - Guayaquil - Santa Elena Peninsula - Guayaquil

Today we will head towards the Santa Elena Peninsula where we will visit the Archaeological Museum  of The Lovers of Sumpa, the oldest archaeological place in the Ecuadorian coast, where they were discovered the remains of an establishment preceramic with evidences of housings, a landfill and a cemetery. The better known archaeological evidence of this place constitutes the burial formed by two young individuals (man and woman) deposited in flexed position and with the crisscross arms. The certain thing is that this discovery caused great admiration in the population of the area that began to recognize them as “the lovers of Sumpa.”

After visiting our last archaeological site on the trip we will head for an afternoon at the beach by the town of Playas, we get the opportunity to wind down and relax by the beach. We return to Guayaquil in the late afternoon.Overnight.

Day 14 - Guayaquil - ?

Transfer out to the airport for your international flight. Today we have the option to join a trip extension on board one of our Galapagos tour yachts or an Amazon expedition tour.

Trip Notes

The above is a sample itinerary prepared for a museum group in the U.S.. It can be customized to fit the needs and special interests of your travellers.