Itinerary Help Needed

Old Jan 29th, 2022, 09:10 AM
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Itinerary Help Needed

My husband and I (71 and 69) will be touring mainland Ecuador prior to a Galapagos trip. We enjoy wildlife, light hiking, history, learning native customs and of course good food and beverages! Here is my proposed itinerary:

Day 1 Fly US to Quito
Day 2 Explore Quito and Mitad del Mundo
Day 3 Day Trip Cotapaxi and Quilotoa Lagoon
Day 4 Fly to Cuenca and tour Cuenca
Day 5 Day Trip--Ingapirca
Day 6 Day Trip--Gualaceo and Chordeleg
Day 7 Cuenca to Guayaquil w visit to Cajas National Park
Day 8 Fly to Galapagos

My questions are: Is this too ambitious knowing that the Galapagos trip will be a very active 8 days. Are there important things we are missing? Are there things on this itinerary that are not worth doing or are redundant?

I appreciate any insights you might have to offer!
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Old Feb 11th, 2022, 11:44 PM
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Having spent a lot of time in Ecuador over the years, I would say that is a very ambitious itinerary. Given the time you have I would probably drop a few things in favour of spending more time on those that really are worth seeing.

A few specific comments/thoughts;
  1. With just one full day in Quito, I would not bother with mitad del Mundo. It takes an age to get there and isn’t reall that impressive. I would spend your time exploring the Old Town (only in daylight hours and do take care!). If it is a clear day then take the Teleferico up to Pichincha for great views of the city.
  2. Cotapaxi and Quilatoa lagoon make a great combination. Make sure to see Quilatoa first as the clouds roll in like clockwork around midday obscuring the views. There is a nice level hike around the lake at the base of Cotapaxi which provides great views of the volcano. NB it took us three attempts to see Cotapaxi because of the clouds.
  3. Cuenca is a beautiful colonial city and you could easily spend a couple of days there without getting bored. Incapirca I found uninspiring and it certainly doesn’t compare with the Inca ruins in Peru. Cajas NP is stunning and there are some nice hikes right from the park HQ. I wouldn’t bother with the other two places you mentioned. Some of the best food in Ecuador is found there!
  4. En route to Guayaquil you could break your journey with a night in Riobamba and take a trip up the magnificent Chimborazo.
Lots of photos and more detail of our time in of most of these places on our blog @ https://accidentalnomads.com/category/ecuador/ just click on each title for the full post.

Unless you have been at altitude before , do take care to adjust to the high altitudes you will reach in Ecuador. Take it easy on arrival and maybe check with your doctor re a script for Acetazolamide.

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Old Feb 13th, 2022, 05:29 AM
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Thank you so much for the feedback. We added a day in Quito on the front end and one on the back end since I posted this. I will make further adjustments and I will definitely check your blog.
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Old Feb 14th, 2022, 02:20 PM
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Just to add to crellston's advice:

Agree that I was unimpressed with Mitad del Mundo. There was a pretty good HOHO bus that ran around Quito including a stop at the Panecillo Mirador but it looks like it does not go to the Pichincha cable car. That might be enough for you. There should also be some free walking tours although I don't have a specific one to recommend. Quito is long and skinny. Traffic can be very bad so allow extra time. The National Museum had a good gold room. The Marriott there is nice although a bit out of the way. I also liked Hostal de La Rabida for Quito City (down the street from traditional bakery La Union). Both are near a Crepes & Waffles on Orrellana (great ice cream).

I did enjoy a daytrip to the weaving family in Gualaceo. I was less interested in the silver shops in Chordeleg. I think I booked that and a trip to Cajas from a tourist agent in the main Cuenca town center. It was a private driver and one other person. But she was affected by altitude and we had to turn back and drop her off in Cuenca as there was a high-ish pass to get to those villages. I think Gualaceo I think is where they roast the guinea pigs outdoors. The market in Cuenca is nice if you don't do that trip.

I also didn't bother with Ingapirca since I had been to Peru a bunch. I notice you don't have Otavalo on your itnerary?
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Old Feb 15th, 2022, 07:14 AM
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Thank you mlgb. We decided to pass on Otavalo. I read mixed reviews and with the craft markets in Quito and Cuenca was not sure that it was important. Should I reconsider?
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Old Feb 15th, 2022, 08:56 AM
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Not necessarily for the market but in town I liked seeing the traditional dress of the Otavalans as well as a day tour to Miguel Andrango (I think they are listed as Tahuantinsuyo Weaving Workshop) in the town of Agato, we also went to a workshop that made ivory palm jewelry and stopped in the leather town for lunch. I believe this was AFTER the death march around Lake Cuicocha.

Do you have a tour operator already?

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Old Feb 16th, 2022, 04:00 PM
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We do have a tour operator—the same one who is doing our Galapagos cruise. They did suggest Otavalo but I was not convinced.
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Old Feb 16th, 2022, 10:01 PM
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We have visited Otavalo several times over the course of our travels in South America. In recent years it has changed a lot. The one day a week Artisans market now (or at least pre covid) is effectively on 7 days a week. the Craft/Artisan/locally produced items for sale are now mostly mass produced in factories and workshops around the back streets. I would not go there for the craft market any longer. However, If you want hiking, albeit at pretty high altitude, there are some great trails around Mojanda Lakes in the mountains above the town. The animal market held early on a Saturday morning is very much worth seeing if you are staying on a Friday night (need to be there at dawn to see the best of it.

There are lot of photos and details on our blog that I linked above.

Another factor of course is that Otavalo is in a completely different direction to where you are headed meaning that it would be very time consuming to get to Cotopaxi /Quilatoa from there. There is a bus you can pick up on the highway which will take you direct to Latacunga for Cotopaxi. If, of course, your operator is providing car and driver then this is entirely doable and ignore what I have just said.

Otavalo is very pretty especially around the surrounding villages and mountains, good accommodation options, decent food options. Cotopaxi and the Quilatoa Crater are simply stunning but they do (or at least did) lack the tourist infrastructure of nice hotels etc. The problem with Cotopaxi is simply that you may not get to actually see it. It took us three attempts before we actually did see it and even when we did it was touch and go.

If you did want to include Otavalo then I would perhaps drop Coto/Quila completely and return to Quito from Otavalo and fly to Cuenca. Perhaps include a visit to the Mindo cloudforest between Otavalo and Quito?
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Old Feb 17th, 2022, 06:39 AM
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Crellston—good to know that the Otavalo craft market is full of mass produced items. I would pass on the 4 hour round trip for that! I considered Mindo since I enjoy wildlife photography. Based on reviews, if you do not spend the night, you will miss most of the wildlife activity in the early AM and late PM. That would be a disappointment for sure!

It sounds like Cotopaxi is like Denali—you never know when you will be lucky enough to see it.

I have been enjoying the pictures and information in your blog! You are being most helpful!
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Old Feb 17th, 2022, 12:38 PM
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If you have a private transfer from the Quito Airport it would be about 1.5 hours to Otavalo since you bypass the Quito traffic. It's actually a bit closer than Latacunga. But, yes in the opposite direction.



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Old Feb 20th, 2022, 06:55 AM
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Interesting. We could do that on our way back from the Galapagos. Thank you for that idea!
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Old Feb 23rd, 2022, 12:27 PM
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Hi Italy2012,
I second Crellston's inclusion of Latacunga, a market that we'd not miss.
When in Quito, a fun time can be had at the Nucanchi pena music nightclub. Its the real deal for live panpipes n' ponchos bands, typically three acts per night. Great stuff, with quality Chilean wines available to boot.

Btw, yesterday we shopped at our local deli/butchery, run by an Ecuadorian family. I teased their adult daughter about their home city, Guayaquil.
I told her, "We used to call it 'Guy'll kill ya' !" (due to its former rep for violence).
Luckily, she laughed.
I am done. The end.

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Old Feb 23rd, 2022, 10:27 PM
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""We used to call it 'Guy'll kill ya' !" " Sadly, not too far from the truth these days. Peruvian drug gangs are at war with each other, especially along the coastal area. Few months ago, around 200 died in prison riots as a result of war between rival gangs!

i was chatting with a friends Ecuadorian housekeeper yesterday who has just booked tickets to go back and see family this summer. She was VERY worried about the increasing riots, not just the drug gangs, which won’t be around areas tourists frequent , but because of the increase in petty , sometimes violent street crime as result of covid poverty.

The vast majority of visitors won’t experience any issues but it is best to take the usual precautIon, especially in big cities like Guayaquil and Quito.
  1. Dont carry lots of cash or wear expensive jewellery or watches.
  2. Completely avoid empty streets or areas where there are no other tourist.
  3. Dont walk the streets at night.
  4. Use only registered taxis, preferably organised by you hotel or restaurant
  5. Be extra vigilant on public transport and markets, especially in Quito which is rife with pickpockets
  6. Carry bags and cameras, cross body, never on your back
  7. only use ATMs at banks, preferably inside. Outside only use ATMs where there are armed guards.
  8. If threatened with violence, do not try to resist. Give them what they want and walk away to a safe area - do not expect passers by to offer assistance.
As I said earlier, highly unlikely that tourists will experience any problems, but poverty is rife and people are desperate. Above all use common sense. If it feels wrong, it most probably is..
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Old Feb 24th, 2022, 07:18 AM
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The only place that we've ever suffered an attempted theft in all our travels was Quito, back in '92. OP Italy2012, you may want to adopt the same habit that we used then---a decoy bag. Mrs Z wore it draped over her real bag and that ploy worked. The thieves tried to distract us by having a few of them squeeze in on us in a crowd, then one of them used a knife or razor to slice what they didn't realize was an empty decoy bag. All of our valuables were inside the inner, real bag. The irony was that my poor wife was so freaked out after we discovered the attempt, that she insisted we detour into a nearby shop to gather our wits. There, the shopkeeper innocently gave her a glass of tap water to drink and help her chill out. Unfortunately, that kind gesture ended up being God's Sense of Humour---Mrs Z was later hospitalized with tummy troubles that were almost certainly born of that water.

*Crellston, did you see my joke on that TA thread about you and the 'anger management facility'?

OP Italy 2012--recommended listening to help you get into the mood for Ecuador: the song 'Tamia' by Jayac. Available on YouTube.
I am done. The end.
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Old Feb 24th, 2022, 10:33 AM
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"*Crellston, did you see my joke on that TA thread about you and the 'anger management facility’?” No, I don’t think I did.
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Old Feb 27th, 2022, 07:58 AM
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Zebec Thank you for the advice! I will listen to that song!
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Old Feb 27th, 2022, 08:00 AM
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Crellston Thank you for the warnings. We will keep all of these in mind.
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