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Help Planning Trip to Ecuador in December 2014

St. Petersburg...
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Help Planning Trip to Ecuador in December 2014

I am so thankful for this forum as I've yet to find a travel book that's anywhere near as helpful as these posts! Now that I've done some basic research and have ideas about what I'd like to see, I could use help with the logistics.

My boyfriend and I will be going to Ecuador in late December for friends' wedding in Quito on Dec. 27th. Neither of us have been to South America before so we are incredibly excited for this trip. We love being outdoors and exploring new places. Both are very fit (marathon runners & moderate hikers), however we do not live in areas of high altitude. I'm not particularly fond of extreme adventure sports - e.g. ziplining kind of intimidates me but I could be convinced to give it a go.

Okay, with all that said, we have not booked flights yet but are thinking about flying to Quito on Dec. 20. We'll probably stay through the 29th, but could maybe (very slight chance) extend it to January 2nd. Knowing we have to be back in Quito on the 26th & 27th for the wedding, and with Christmas, I'm trying to figure out the best itinerary.

Here is what I'd like to fit in, if possible:

Old Town Quito


Mitad del Mundo

Mindo (Love the idea of cloud forests since we've never seen anything like this. Is this a day trip or overnight excursion?)

Baños (Would someone do both Baños and Mindo? Or just one?)

Quitoloa (Can't figure out how we'd get there... thinking about doing the Happy Gringo day tour)

Also interested in, but doubt any of these will work: Galapagos or Isla de Plata, Cuenca, Pululahua

Not interested in Otavalo.

Any advice on putting together an itinerary would be greatly appreciated!


Quito, Ecuador
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1. Re: Help Planning Trip to Ecuador in December 2014

Really, the flow of the week is going to depend on arrival and departure times of your flights. If you're leaving late in the day on the 29th, I would change my recommendation for you quite a bit, actually, but we have to start somewhere, right? :) Here are some suggestions and let's go from there!

Dec 20 (Saturday): Arrival

Dec 21: Old Town Quito. Since this will be your first real day, it's nice to spend some time for acclimatization and recovering from travel. It's also a great idea to plan your first day with flexibility in case of luggage or flight delays.

Dec 22: Pululahua & Mitad del Mundo, overnight in Mindo

These two stops are on the way. I would plan on a 3 hour horseback ride through the crater in the morning with Pululahua Hostal (mists fill the crater every afternoon so morning is best), lunch at the hostal, visit to Mitad del Mundo and Intiñan museum then transfer to Mindo for an evening in the cloud forest.

Dec 23: Full day Mindo...for you, I highly recommend the waterfall hike (ride a tarabita cable car across a gorgeous valley then follow well-marked trails to numerous waterfalls...take a plunge, enjoy! It's a great way to see the cloud forest), chocolate tour & open-air juice bar in town...there are plenty of activities, though, so you can pick and choose depending on how adventurous you feel that day :) Zip line (if you dare ;) butterfly house, tubing, orchid garden, birdwatching, and more. Make your way back to Quito in the early evening or overnight in Mindo again.

Dec 24: If you made it back to Quito, you might go ahead with your Quilotoa plan...I suggest taking a day trip to Cotopaxi National Park today and staying overnight in the Cotoapxi area with whatever tour company you end up using...Gulliver Travels and Ecuador Treasure have lodging options near the national park. From this base, you'll be closer to Quilotoa which will lessen your travel time by 1.5 hours. Because Quilotoa is a loooooong day as a day trip (but absolutely worth it), it is nice to shorten your day by starting closer. Also, I know you didn't mention Cotopaxi but it's on the way to Quilotoa and is the second most visited national park in Ecuador...the landscape is surreal and it's an incredible feeling to stand above 15,000ft on one of the world's highest active volcanoes!

Dec 25: Quilotoa and return to Quito with your tour company

Dec 26: Wedding

Dec 27: Wedding

Dec 28: How about Teleferiqo and hiking Pichincha?! You'll likely be acclimatized at this point and able to do it. Reach that peak!!

Dec 29: Departure

So let's go from here shall we? Like I said, once you know your arrival and departure days everything will fall into place more neatly but, for now, this is a good place to start in terms of becoming acquainted with the logistics flow.

Best of luck with planning...it's one of my favorite parts!



St. Petersburg...
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2. Re: Help Planning Trip to Ecuador in December 2014

Thank you so much for this reply! We are still in the planning process, and can't believe how soon our trip will be here. Now that more of our dates have been finalized and I've done even (more) research based on what you recommended, I'm trying to nail down the details so we can start making formal arrangements. We do not currently have specific flights but will be leaving the U.S. 12/24 and leaving Quito 1/3.

There is so much we want to see, but are having trouble figuring out the logistics. We are definitely budget travelers but will pay for private tours when necessary, especially if safety is ever a concern.

Based on the itinerary I have below, I'm wondering when and how we could fit in the following (in order of preference):

- From Quito, we'd like to see/do Mitad del Mundo, Telefériqo

- Quilotoa (we would like to do the rim to lake hike, probably don't have time for any of the outer rim)

- Mindo - Still love the idea of Mindo and seeing the cloud forest. I'm still torn between this and Baños, which has been recommended to us by the bride

- Baños - would really like to do the Ruta de las Cascadas by bike & see the thermal baths.

- Cotopaxi (possibly only a quick stop to see the area - not sure we'd want to hike to the glacier or anything. Open to other volcanoes if there are better options for us based on our interests/plans)

With several days open to explore Ecuador after the wedding, we are truly open to any suggestions that will allow us to take in the country's diverse landscapes while also getting in some moderate activity such as light hiking and biking. We don't mind long days of traveling as long as we can fit in 6-8 hours of sleep somehow.

Any advice on how to go about planning the rest of our trip? Thanks again!!!

12/24 - Travel from US, land close to midnight of the 25th

12/25 - Quito (Will the Hop On/Hop Off bus be running on Christmas Day? If so, will probably do this to get acquainted with the city)

12/26 - Quito (We have most of the day open but need to be back later in the afternoon for pre-wedding BBQ. Could we do the Telefériqo in the morning?)

12/27 - Quito (Wedding at 5 PM; I will have the morning and early afternoon free; not sure how I'll occupy my time yet...)

12/28 - Quito (No plans but imagine we will get a bit of a late start as we recover from the wedding! Would this be a good day to head to Mitad del Mundo?)

12/29 - Tren Ecuador (Bride and Groom want friends to take the train from Quito to Latacunga - anyone know what we can expect to see?)

12/30 - 1/2 - Completely open with no plans or hotels booked

1/3 - Depart Quito for the US

Quito, Ecuador
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3. Re: Help Planning Trip to Ecuador in December 2014

Ok...here are some more ideas:


Dec 25 Quito Old Town (there will likely be tons of church services today and perhaps some lovely music)

Dec 26 Teleferiqo (a.m. is generally best for clearer views though you can never be sure :) Afternoon BBQ

Dec 27 Guayasamin Museum, city parks, more Old Town; Wedding

Dec 28 Recovery; Mitad del Mundo

Dec 29 Train. Overnight in historic hacienda near Cotopaxi NP. You might have time for an afternoon horseback ride wearing llama chaps and ponchos :) This area is GORGEOUS for riding.

Dec 30 Cotopaxi National Park (either downhill mountain biking with someone like Biking Dutchman or spend the day with a private guide/driver hiking flatter terrain and visiting more remote, gorgeous areas of the park). Either transfer to the Quilotoa area or overnight in the hacienda again.

Dec 31 Full Day Quilotoa Lake; overnight in Banos

Jan 1 Route of Waterfalls

Jan 2 Relaxed morning perhaps at the spa and thermal pools at Luna Runtun overlooking the city. Afternoon transfer to airport area hotel (unless your departure is later in the day on the 3rd)

Jan 3 Departure

To be honest, the Route of Waterfalls by bike is a bit terrifying. You share a narrow road with big trucks and buses speeding around corners and, though you do have a few safer side roads along the way, the narrow road takes up the majority of your route. To see the waterfalls, you can also take an open-air chiva bus or rent quads/go-karts.

The only place we didn't fit in here is Mindo. If you think you can get up early enough on Dec 28th after the wedding, you could certainly fit in a day trip there but only you know how well you recover :) Depending on the hour of your arrival flight on Dec 24, you might even consider doing the day trip to Mindo on the following day (Christmas) instead of hanging around Old Town. With the mornings you have free surrounding wedding events, you will definitely have time to experience Quito on other days.

In any case. Keep us all updated as your plans develop. The only place in the itinerary where I HIGHLY recommend a private guide for you is the Cotopaxi NP-Quilotoa-Banos portion. The guide could definitely drop you off in Banos on the 31st and you would be fine to get yourself around the Route of Waterfalls and back to Quito. For the day trip to Mindo, you could either join in a group tour (approx $50-70/person) or hire a guide for the day for maximum flexibility (approx $130/day).

Hope that helps you continue along in the planning process :)



4. Re: Help Planning Trip to Ecuador in December 2014

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