Our active Ecuador family adventure holiday

We show you the best of Ecuador – a small country which lends itself perfectly to family holidays.

Hike and bike volcanoes, raft the Amazon and horse ride in the Andes. Parents and children of all ages will enjoy this multi-activity holiday while we take care of all the fun, food and logistics.

The activities are designed for all the family, whatever their interests and ages (normal minimum age 12-years-old but we can design options for younger explorers).

More on Ecuador Family adventure holiday

By day you may be exploring the rainforest, bathing in waterfalls or walking a volcanic crater rim in one of three distinct climates.

By night you stay at a specially selected hacienda or lodges to relax the invigorations away.

Bike into the cloud forest near Baños, horse ride – gaucho style – close to Cotopaxi National Park with views to the stunning volcano in the background.  A great choice of activities for all ages awaits!

 



Trip Highlights

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  • Explore different zones, from the steamy Amazon to lofty mountains.

  • Visit Andean markets and enjoy traditional Chagra horse riding.

  • Hike and bike around volcanoes then relax in their hot springs.

  • Raft into the cloud forest and visit the Amazon rainforest.

We actually thought that everything was perfect. Organisation, the itinerary, the choice of accommodation, the guides — everything was wonderful.

As we are not Spanish speakers we were glad that you did all the bookings, and organised English speaking guides for us. 

W. Smith, Ecuador family holiday

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Full Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival day Quito, transfer into hotel

You will be met on arrival at the airport and transferred to your hotel.

The day is yours to explore Quito and to adapt to the altitude (2,800m/9,186ft).

Make sure you visit the beautiful Old Town with its many squares and churches – head to Independence Square, where the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral and El Sagrario Church are located.

Later on maybe visit the Church of La Compañía (1605), with its amazing gilt altars (considered the finest example of baroque art in America), or see the Monastery of San Francisco (1535) – the oldest Ecuadorian church and the main altar inside is a spectacular example of baroque carving.

For a spectacular view of Quito take a taxi ride to the highest viewpoint of the city, “El Panecillo” where you can see the only winged virgin in South America.

Day 2: Transfer from Quito to Cuicocha Lake Hike & Otavalo Market (B,L,D)

After travelling north from Quito, our route today takes us along the rim of the striking Cuicocha Volcano, with its captivating blue-green crater lake.

Hiking through Andean forest to discover orchids & bromeliads, we are also on the look-out for the endangered Andean Condor.

This is a circular route, classed as moderate, with lovely lake views throughout and takes about 5 hours and is around 12km/7,4miles in length.

The first part of the hike is a climb for around one and a half hours, which brings us up from 3,100m/10,170ft up to 3,500m/11,483ft.

The second section of the hike has moderate ups and downs along the crater rim for around two hours, then the last 90 minutes is a gentle downhill back to where we began. Box lunch included.

In the afternoon we visit the pretty leather market town of Cotacachi before continuing on to the colourful handicraft market in Otavalo, where many different indigenous people, with their unique traditional dress and customs, from all across Ecuador, sell their artisan products and wares.

Dinner and overnight in Las Palmeras.

Day 3: Papallacta Lakes Hike & Hot Springs (B,L,D)

This morning we journey from Imbabura to Papallacta, crossing the continental divide en-route.

Today’s walk explores the beautiful glacial landscapes around Papallacta, passing mountain lagoons and discovering elfin forests where we can learn more about the distinct flora & fauna of this region.

Our in-and-out route begins with 20 minutes of climbing along a dust road from 3,700m/12,139ft to 3,850m/12,631ft.

There are amazing views – look out for the snow-capped Antisana Volcano at the beginning of the hike (4 hours approx. about 10km).

We take a paramo trail which has moderate ups and downs for around an hour before our final climb up to 4,000m/13,123ft, where we reach the striking Laguna de Anteojos. From here we return the way we came.

Picnic lunch is included and at the end of the day take a dip in the Papallacta hot springs where we can relax in the rejuvenating natural thermal waters.

Dinner & overnight in Guango Lodge.

Day 4: Guango Reserve walk & Amazon rainforest (B,L,D)

This morning we enjoy a walk within the cloud forest reserve at Guango located at 2,700m/8,858ft.

Following the forest trails we reach a secluded waterfall, before continuing our hike along the banks of the Papallacta river. Plenty of birdlife can be enjoyed along the way. (3km walk approx. 90 mins). Lunch included.

In the afternoon we begin the breathtaking road journey down into the Amazon basin. On arrival in the Amazon we can enjoy a dip in the pristine local river.

Dinner and overnight in River People Lodge.

Day 5: Rafting in the Amazon (B,L,D)

Rafting today on the Jatunyacu class 3+ river rapids.

A big volume, big fun river with plenty of action but generally suitable even for beginner paddlers.

This is a 25km run, and the day starts with a waterfall and swimming adventure in the Llanganates National Park.

In the afternoon, we head off on a short jungle excursion ito make a truly memorable day of rafting.

Dinner and overnight in River People Lodge.

Day 6: Pailon del Diablo waterfall walk (B,L,D)

Leaving the rainforest behind we travel onto Baños, visiting the famous Pailon del Diablo waterfall en route.

Here we follow the trail through the forest before reaching this powerful and beautiful waterfall. Lunch included.

Then we continue onto Baños via the infamous “Swing at the End of the World” where you can swing from the local treehouse out over the valley below with the smoking Tungurahua Volcano as a backdrop. Great photo opportunity.

Dinner & overnight in Hacienda Leito.

Day 7: Mountain Biking near Banos (B,L,D)

Today’s morning bike ride through cloud forests and Andean farmlands can offer spectacular views of the smoking Tungurahua Volcano and striking Pastaza Canyon.

The ride eventually brings us down into Banos.

After lunch in this mountain spa town, we have time to explore the pretty streets and basilica.

Dinner & overnight Hacienda Leito.

Day 8: Horse riding in Cotopaxi then return to Quito (B,L)

This morning we travel to the Cotopaxi region to enjoy a horse riding activity in the shadow of this spectacular snow-capped volcano.

For horse riding we are kitted out in chaps, ponchos and helmets before getting acquainted with our horses.

Our 2-hour horse ride through the beautiful & stark paramo scenery takes us onto the foothills of the Rumiñahui Volcano, with panoramic views of Cotopoaxi, Pasochoa & Sincholagua Volcanos. This activity is suitable for beginners.

After lunch at the hacienda we begin our return journey to Quito.

Overnight in Hotel Vieja Cuba.

Day 9: Tour ends (B)

Today your tour ends, or continue your travels.


Prices From $2,140 / £1,815 per person

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What's Included?

Private transportation, English-speaking naturalist guide, all accommodation as specified with breakfast, 7 lunches & 6 dinners, activities specified – horse riding, rafting & mountain biking, entrance fees to hot springs, Guango Reserve and Pailon del Diablo, local guide in Cuicocha Lake and all local taxes.

What's Not Included?

International flights (we can look for these for you), personal travel insurance, alcoholic and soft drinks, any extra activities at the haciendas, tips and personal expenses


Accommodation

We use 2-3* hotels in towns and cities with private bathrooms, upgrades available at extra cost – please ask.

The cloud forest lodge is a bit more rustic but has hot water shower, private bathrooms and flush toilets.

The Amazon lodge we use has spacious cabins with private bathrooms and large communal areas, including a swimming pool.

Tour Staff

Tour leader throughout the tour, a local, bilingual Ecuadorian guide with many years’ experience.

You may also meet local guides with specialist knowledge at certain points e.g. rafting.

Our local drivers and support staff have worked with us for many years.


Meals

Almost all dietary requirements can be catered for – please ask us for more information.

Breakfasts at hotels will feature teas, coffees and juices to drink, plus cereals, fruit, eggs, toast and jams etc.

While out on tours, we either supply a packed lunch of sandwiches, snacks, soup, fruit etc, or we eat at a local restaurant. These are often buffet style with soups, rice, pasta, potatoes and then puddings/fruit.

Evening meals are often in a local restaurant or at the accommodation, depending on where we are.

Bigger towns have international and local Ecuadorian options.

Activity Level

Parents and children of all ages will enjoy this multi-activity vacation. We recommend most activities for children of 12 years +, but can adapt for younger children.

You need to have a reasonable level of fitness and mobility for the trip.

You will be out and about every day, viewing Ecuador, although there are no days of extensive exercise.

Most activities last 2-4 hours at a reasonable pace, and some can be shortened if need be.

People with no experience can try all of the activities, as instruction is given for every activity.

Enquire about booking

Practical Information

Introduction to Ecuador

Ecuador is the second smallest South American country, and one of the most varied.

It comprises three main geographical areas: the coast, highlands and Amazon plus is home to the Galapagos Islands.

Because of its relatively compact size, it makes a great holiday destination as you can move from highlight to highlight fairly easily and rapidly.

Weather in Ecuador

Ecuador lies between latitudes 4º south and 2º north. Overall, climate varies according to time of year, altitude and region.

 

The Sierra 

In the Ecuadorian highlands, there is little temperature variation by season as temperature depends largely on altitude.

In Quito, shade temperatures range from 6 to 10ºC in the morning and from 19 to 23ºC in the afternoon, with cool nights. In the lower basins between mountains, it gets significantly warmer.

Rainfall depends on whether an area lies closer to the eastern or western Andes. To the west, June-Sept is the dry period and Oct-May the wet (with often a short, dry spell in Dec or Jan).

The best period to visit Quito and trek and climb volcanoes such as Cotopaxi is the west Andean dry season of June-Sept and Dec/Jan. This is also Ecuador’s high season. During the Oct-May wet season, most rainfall is in the afternoons.

To the east, Oct to Feb are dry and Mar-Sept are wet. Overall, the southern highlands are drier than the northern highlands.

 

The Coast

On the Pacific coast, rainfall becomes less from north to south. The coast can be enjoyed year-round, although from June-Sept mornings are often grey with the garua mists.

Jan-May is the hottest and rainiest time of year.

 

The Amazon

In Ecuador’s Amazonian region, rain can fall at any time, but Dec-March is usually the driest season and Mar-Sept is usually the wettest period.

 

The Galapagos Islands

Galapagos can be visited at any time of year.

The warm season is Jan-Jun, bringing calm, warm waters (around 70°F) and sunny days (72-9°F or 22-32°C), February and March being the hottest and sunniest months with blue skies and sunshine.

The islands receive slightly more rainfall during these months, occasional heavy bursts in the afternoon. Great for snorkelling and you can spend a lot of time in the water without wetsuits, with great, clear waters.

The dry ‘garua’ season is Jun-Dec an it’s a great time for marine life. August and September are the coolest when you may need a jacket in the evenings and the sea can be choppy and temperature drops around 15-24ºC on average.

There can be mist on the islands in the mornings (garua) which usually burns off by midday leaving overcast skies or a sunny afternoon.

Sea temperatures may drop to 60°F- 72°F (15-22°C) during this time and snorkellers will want a wet suit for prolonged periods in the sea.

 

Quick facts about Ecuador

 

Official name: Republic of Ecuador

Country population: 15,000,000

Capital city: Quito (2.51 million)

Largest cities: Guayaquil, Quito, Cuenca, Machala

Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua

Latitude/Longitude: 2º S, 77º 30 W

Official currency: US dollar

Major industries: bananas, shrimp, oil, gold, roses

Time zone: GMT-5 (Galapagos GMT-6)

Altitude

Being at altitude, especially in the tropics, is usually a pleasure as it isn’t so hot, there are few insects and the air is clear.

However, when gaining altitude, air pressure drops and the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs is reduced. Although we build plenty of acclimatisation time into our itineraries, certain ill-effects are possible. Nevertheless, all of these can be minimised or prevented if care is taken.

On reaching heights above 2,500m (approx. 8,200 ft), especially when ascent has been straight from sea level, heart pounding, mild headache and shortness of breath are normal, especially on exertion.

Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a syndrome known locally as soroche, whose symptoms can include of bad headache, dizziness and nausea).

To avoid AMS, you should:

  • Rest for a few hours on arrival at altitude and take it easy for the first couple of days. Note: you may feel fine on arrival and tempted to exert yourself as normal. Don’t be fooled: you might be benefiting from oxygen brought in your blood from sea level.
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (altitude is a diuretic). Coca tea (mate de coca) helps alleviate symptoms.
  • Eat light meals, with high carbohydrate and low fat and protein content. Dine early, allowing digestion time pre-sleep.
  • Avoid over-exposure to the strong highland sun (UV rays are very powerful) – especially in the early stages – making sure you wear a broad brimmed sunhat. Apply lip-salve to prevent chapped lips.
  • Avoid or minimise consumption of cigarettes and alcohol. Avoid sleeping pills.
  • If you do get AMS: Rest, take non-aspirin painkillers (for headache) and coca tea. Symptoms should subside after a day or two.
  • Pregnant women, people with a history of heart, lung, kidney or blood disease or blood pressure problems, should consult their doctor before traveling to high altitude.

Responsible Travel - our ethos

Andean Trails believes in Responsible Travel and actively supports several community projects.

Please see Our Advice and Our Ethos for more, and learn about the Projects We Support.

We operate the Inca Trail, our treks and tours with local firms.

We make sure that on our tours and Inca Trail we employ local staff, who are paid fair wages.

With the Inca Trail, We provide free life insurance to all of our porters. Tented accommodation and meals are provided for all trekking staff as well as foam mats, sleeping bags and rain ponchos. We have also provided the staff with trekking shoes. We ensure our porters carry a maximum of only 20kg. We offer them backpacks and they generally use back supports.

Clean burning fuel is used to cook the meals on the Inca Trail and porters carry gas stoves and butane bottles. We use biodegradable detergents when washing the cooking and eating utensils. If any part of our tour or trek is operated by another company, we try to ensure that high standards are maintained.

Our additional support helps the Huchuy Yachaq project which supports children and families in one of the poorest communities in the district of Cusco.

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