Ecuador cultural tours, indigenous markets and Ecuadorian culture
Sample cultural tour itinerary
This trip is ideal for cultural institutions, museums, alumni associations, and other non profit organizations! The itinerary includes unique, guided cultural tours in the Andes of Ecuador visiting indigenous villages and colonial cities. It is crafted for educated travelers who share a love for discovery and range of interests: indigenous art, architecture, history, cuisine, native music, natural history and more!
Day 1 - Quito
Arrival transfer, hotel stay at a colonial mansion or boutique hotel in the downtown area.
Day 2 - Quito - City tour and museum visit
Visit the colonial downtown of Quito a UNESCO heritage site, learn about the unique architectural wonders the capital of Ecuador has to offer. The colonial center is a unique blend of styles Moorish, Baroque, Gothic and Neo classical from the days when Ecuador was a Spanish colony. Your guide will explain how volcanic stones were used in construction together with local materials and how the people coped with the unique topography of Quito. You will get the chance to visit several churches and marvel at the religious art from the Quito school and how the indigenous born painters assimilated the European techniques creating a blen of styles found nowhere else.
After visiting downtown Quito, we will enjoy lunch at a typical restaurant with international and local dishes (lunch is optional). We will then continue our learning adventure at the Guayasamin museum, where we find the largest collection of paintings from late Owswaldo Guayasamin one of the most important painters in South America, we will be able to review his style and feel the emotion behind his paintings.
After a full day of learning, we return to our hotel. Afternoon lecture by University Professor (optional).
Day 3 and 4 - Quito - Otavalo market - Indigenous family homestay - Quito
North of Quito is the valley of the awakening sun, home to the Otavalo ethnic group. The Otavaleño people live in several communities and are one of the most prosperous indigenous nations anywhere. En-route to the Otavalo market we will visit several small villages, each specializing in a craft. Learn how traditional crafts and innovation keep these cultures alive and prosperous.
Some of the villages & towns we may visit:
Calderon: Bread dough figures
Cayambe: Small city known for its traditional biscuits and leaf cheese
Zuleta: Female embroidery workshops
Agato: Textiles, backstrap loom and Spanish loom weaving of ponchos
Peguche: Musical instrument workshop and Andean folk music
Iluman: Shamanic ritual and sample spiritual cleansing
San Antonio: Crafted wood workshops and master carvers
Cotacachi: Fine leather goods
We will visit most of the above villages depending on passengers interests, visits will be spread out between the 1st and 2nd day in the area. Our visit to the Otavalo market will help us understand the social interaction and local economy, this colorful gathering will allow us to observe handicrafts and textiles from the surrounding villages and other parts of the country in one plaza.
The afternoon of the first day we will visit a local family where we will spend the night, at dinner we get a chance to enjoy local food made from fresh produce. We will be able to practice our Spanish and talk to our friendly hosts and learn about their lifestyle. Accommodation is in a nice twin bed cabin with a private bathroom and fireplace.
Our second day in the Otavalo area starts with a delicious breakfast with fresh fruit from the garden and homemade tortillas or bread. This morning we get to help the family (optional) with their everyday activities.
Before leaving the northern Andes of Ecuador we will continue visiting artisan villages and the workshops of diferent master craftsmen. This evening we head south of Quito and stay at a historic hacienda in the Chillo valley.
Day 5 - Chillo valley - Indigenous market - Riobamba
Today we drive through the famous "Avenue of the Volcanoes" with majestic views of the snowcapped peaks of Ecuador´s Andes. We visit one of the areas indigenous markets (Pujili, Saquisili or Latacunga), these are produce markets where people offer their farm goods and gather to sell livestock and other agricultural goods. This is the best opportunity to see local culture and the andean living, this is not a tourism focused market, it is the real thing. We continue South and stop at the Salasaca community to see their weaving techniques and on to Riobamba, lunch en-route (optional). Riobamba is the heartland of Ecuador, and is located in the Chimborazo province, the area with the largest indigenous population in Ecuador. If time permits we will visit a handmade rug factory in the town of Guano, here we will also enjoy a local treat "cholas" small bread stuffed with sugar cane syrup. Tonight we stay at a historic hacienda or a small country inn.
Day 6 - Riobamba - Alausi - Devils nose train ride - Ingapirca Inca ruins
We will continue southbound driving aside the railway tracks, en-route to Alausi we will visit Balbanera chapel for some Ecuadorian history, the chapel is the oldest catholic church in the country. The roadside is full of small settlings where we will be able to watch indigenous people tending their fields and livestock.
In Alausi we will board the Andean train for a ride along the Devils Nose, this is one of the most important samples of railroad engineering, we will ride switchback´s down the mountain side. We will enjoy a hearty lunch at a local family home.
The route continues through one of Ecuador´s most picturesque countryside´s enroute to Ingapirca. Fields with patchwork farming and colorful indigenous dress of the Cañari people blend in to display the wonders of the highland sierra´s.
As we drive through small andean towns we will get to admire the economic and social impact of immigration on the local families.
We will arrive at the Cañari and Inca ruins at Ingapirca, the importance of this site is the blending of Inca-Cañari construction, culture and beliefs. We will spend the night a block from the ruins at a historic hacienda and enjoy typical Andean dishes like Quinua soup.
Day 7 - Ingapirca - Cuenca
Cuenca is considered the most beautiful city in Ecuador, its downtown area is a UNESCO heritage site. We will walk along its streets and enjoy the unique architecture, wrought iron balconies, religious art and colonial builidings. After a guided walking tour around the city and a visit to straw hat factory (mistakenly called Panama hats) we will wrap the morning up with a visit to the Vega ceramic workshop, here we will be able to admire the art of one of Ecuador´s master artists.
After lunch (optional) you will have the rest of the afternoon free to explore the city of Cuenca. Suggested visits are: The Conceptas museum of religious art or The Central Bank museum of natural history.
We will spend the night at a colonial mansion converted to boutique hotel.
Day 8 Cuenca - Gualaceo - Chordeleg - Quito
Today we will visit one of the valleys near Cuenca. In Gualaceo we will visit the workshops of IKAT weavers and learn about their tie-dye approach torwards creating unique designs in their textiles. The town of Chordeleg almost entirely sustains itself from its handmade jewelry industry where the philigrain technique is used to creat unique art in silver and gold. After lunch (optional) we return to Cuenca in time to catch the afternoon flight back to Quito. Overnight at a hotel near the airport.
Day 9 Quito - ?
Transfer out for your intenational flight home. Today we have the option to join a trip extension on board one our Galapagos yachts or an Amazon river cruise.
The above is a sample itinerary prepared for a Roadscholar program. It can be customized to fit the needs and special interests of your travellers.