SAMPLE ITINERARY - 2020 "CRASH COURSE!" ECUADOR
Day 1 - Quito
Our first morning begins bright and early at 9 AM, following breakfast in our tour hotel, with a group welcome and tour overview session where you will meet your guides and the other members of the tour. We will have an introductory session to expat life in Ecuador and begin to learn basic Survival Spanish with our Teacher/Guide. We’ll visit the main cathedrals and sites of interest in Colonial “Old Town” and have an “almuerzo” (inexpensive lunch) at a very popular Quito cafe. In the afternoon, back at our “classroom”, we'll delve a bit more into basic Spanish and learn more from our guest speaker. Afterwards - a fantastic wine and cheese service at our hotel!
Day 2 - Quito and Cotacachi
We will get our morning started with more Survival Spanish, followed by a fun and informative talk from our Guest speaker. Afterwards we'll have some delicious Ecuadorian snacks, coffee, and tea . . . and then begin our journey northward to the province of Imbabura, driving through the picturesque northern Andes. En Route we’ll have an intro to the Indigenous culture. We’ll visit and indigenous factory and have free time for shopping in Otavalo. Late afternoon arrival to Cotacach, giving you time to explore this quaint and quiet town, famous for its leather crafts and its growing expat population. In the evening we will have an informal and informative get together with Cotacachi expats with samples of local foods and indigenous dancers.
Day 3 - Cotacachi, Cuicocha, Ibarra
After breakfast we begin the day with more Survival Spanish and have the opportunity to practice in the fruit and vegetable market. We’ll head to the northern part of the province of Imbabura, seeing many towns along the way. We’ll have the opportunity to try some of the local cuisine, including guinea pig (cuy),the 'national dish' of Ecuador. Then a drive through the rural countryside up to scenic Cuicocha Crater Lake, to join more Cotacachi area expats for lunch overlooking the lake. The expats will discuss the nuts and bolts of life in Ecuador and help you understand the joys and challenges of expat life. In the afternoon, we’ll have an optional trip through Cotacachi and the surrounding area to visit some of the real estate developments and expat housing, or a chance to relax or explore the town on your own, shopping for leather goods or just strolling around.
Day 4 - Cotacachi, Otavalo, Mindo
We start again with more Survival Spanish. Morning departure to the Equatorial line. Lunch at Latitude 0-0-0, and you will have your chance to get the classic photo straddling the equator. We’ll continue to Mindo, a small village nestled in the cloud forest, famous for its butterflies, orchids, and birds. We’ll stop for Coffee/ Tea or Hot Chocolate and see many hummingbirds. In Mindo we’ll meet local Expats who will join us for a discussion of life in Mindo. Free time and dinner on your own. Optional Chocolate making tour.
Day 5 - Mindo to the Coasts of Manabi
Breakfast and morning departure to the coast, descending from the misty cloud forest to the tropical plains and continuing on via the “new road” to Pedernales, where we will catch our first glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. Lunch will be at a beach town and then continuing south we will pass through the small towns of Jama and Don Juan, both areas which are attracting expats and “gringo developments.” Late afternoon arrival to Canoa, just in time to watch the sunset with Margaritas or Caipiriñas
Day 6 - Canoa, Puerto Cayo
Free time in the morning for an early swim or stroll down the beach. Late morning we'll continue south visiting the towns of San Vicente and Bahia de Caraquez, referred to as "the Waikiki of Ecuador". We'll have lunch and meet a handful of Expats in the beach area of San Jacinto & San Clemente. After lunch, we'll continue south visiting the coastal city of Manta and on to Puerto Cayo. Sunset arrival at our beautiful hotel right on the beach.
Day 7 - Down the coast to Salinas
After breakfast, we'll continue south visiting a lot of picturesque fishing towns. Amongst all these towns, we'll see Puerto Lopez, Ayampe, Olon and Montanita. We'll have lunch in Olon. After lunch we'll see lots of new developments geared towards retirees and Ecuadorians. Before arriving into Salinas, we'll see Ballenita, La Libertad and Santa Elena. Late afternoon arrival into Salinas. You'll have some free time to stroll the beach and town before having an evening Q & A session with a handful of Salinas Expats.
Day 8 - Salinas, Guayaquil, Cuenca
After breakfast, we head east to Guayaquil, Ecuador´s largest city, port, and industrial center. We'll visit the beautifully renovated downtown area (Parque Seminario and El Malecon 2000) and have lunch overlooking the Guayas River. From there, we head up once again to the Andes and on to Cuenca, passing through the outstanding beauty of El Cajas national park at almost 13,000 feet. Arrival to our Cuenca hotel late afternoon or early evening.
Day 9 - Cuenca
Breakfast meeting with expats who will talk about life in Cuenca, by far the most popular relocation destination for North Americans (and many others) with an estimated expat population of 6000 - 8000. We’ll meet an Ecuadorian lawyer who will present an informative overview of legal issues for expats, visa procedures and more, with time for questions. Walking tour of the historic center city visiting the flower market, Parque Calderon, the Cathedral, the 10 de Agosto fruit and vegetable market, Panama Hat Museum and the artisan market. Then some free time for exploring and lunch, followed by a city tour on the double decker bus. In the evening we will wrap things up with drinks and have our Crash Course “graduation” party. Congratulations, you survived the Ecuador 'Crash Course'!
Day 10 - Cuenca
For those not going on to Loja and Vilcabamba the morning is free to explore more of Cuenca or the surrounding areas. Please check in with us for any travel arrangements for your returns to home or for any in-country travel or lodging needs.
For those continuing south to Loja and Vilcabamba: We'll travel the Pan-American Highway south, approximately a 4 - 5 hour trip to Loja. Get ready for the gorgeous scenery, unique and different from any other part of Ecuador.
**NEW 4 Day Extension Tour Itinerary beginning JULY 2019**
Extension Tour Day 1 - Cuenca To Loja
Morning departure from Cuenca in private transportation to Loja (3 -4 hours). Along the way we will visit the town of Saraguro and see many other towns along the way. Saraguro is an interesting indigenous town where we’ll have time to visit their artisan stands. Lunch in Saraguro and mid afternoon arrival into Loja - short orientation walk in downtown Loja - evening free.
Extension Tour Day 2 - Loja To Vilcabamba
Morning free to relax, stroll around town then enjoy a typical Lojanan lunch <provided>. We will then board our bus after lunch and head for Vilcabamba. Mid-late afternoon arrival. Once we check in, we'll orient you to the town square and some of the main eateries or organize massages, etc for the next day. Evening free to have dinner, relax and enjoy the town.
Extension Tour Day 3 - Vilcabamba
Your morning and most of the afternoon is free so treat yourself to a massage <additional cost>, or go horseback riding <additional cost>. Afternoon optional excursion around Vilcabamba with expat John Curran and the surrounding areas or free to stroll around and make contacts on your own. Guest speakers over dinner, John Curran and Sue Harrington. Rest of the evening free to join in on anything going on in town!
Extension Tour Day 4 - Vilcabamba, Malacatos & Catamayo (Loja) Airport
Morning free to do any last minute exploring and time for lunch as well. Early afternoon departure to Malacatos where you will have a bit of time to explore the area and pick up some locally grown and processed coffee, then continue on for an early arrival to the airport, or for anyone continuing back to Cuenca, you'll board your transport.
*** 3 Day Extension Option is still available if needed....
3 Day Extension Tour Itinerary
Day 1 Extension Tour - Cuenca to Vilcabamba
Along the way we will visit and have lunch in Saraguro, home to the southernmost indigenous community in Ecuador, we'll have about an hour to explore the town, visit the market and shop for the typical beaded jewelry and handicrafts of the area. We will continue on past Loja, arriving to our Vilcabamba hotel late afternoon.
Day 2 Extension Tour – Vilcabamba
A day to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of this popular and quirky town. Optional activities include horseback riding, massage, spa services, hiking. Early evening dinner and discussion with expats John Curran and Sue Harrington.
Day 3 - Vilcabamba - Malacatos - Loja - returning to Cuenca or Quito
After breakfast we have an early morning departure back to Loja. We'll stop in the pretty town of Malacatos along the way, and then in Loja we'll enjoy a few stops in the city, including a short walk in the city center. Later, we'll have lunch overlooking the city in a restaurant specializing in some of the typical foods of Loja province. Mid afternoon departure to Catamayo airport (for flights to Quito) and our bus will then return to Cuenca.
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Please Note: The above is a sample itinerary only. We occassionally make changes to the actual itinerary depending on hotel availability, holidays, road conditions, and other factors. However, once we have sent out itineraries for each 'Crash Course!' we strive to maintain that schedule. Thanks!
ECUADOR "CRASH COURSE!" Tour includes:
Airport Pick up in Quito
Private Van/Bus Transportation
Bi-Lingual Expat guides with over 30 years experience in Ecuador
Knowledgeable Guest speakers
Meetings with local expats in each of the areas
Daily Spanish and Culture classes
Lodging (10 nights) - includes Wednesday night pre-tour
Breakfast for all 10 days
Several additional meals (lunch or dinner) during the tour
All entrance fees and activities included in the tour.
ECUADOR "CRASH COURSE!" tour does not include:
Hotel – Airport transfer out (post-tour)
Return flight from Cuenca or Loja (post-tour) We can help you with these arrangements.
Personal spending or tips