Santa Lucia features comfortable cabins with views over the wooded, wildlife-rich valleys. This community-owned eco lodge is one of Ecuador’s hidden jewels.
You have the chance to see more than 390 species of birds and 300 of orchids, the Andean bear, Cock-of-the-Rock and Toucans, to name a few.
Enjoy organic food grown in the fertile land around Santa Lucia lodge, taking your meals by candlelight.
Read Tom’s blog about his visit there.
More than 80% of the Santa Lucia’s 1,800-acre cloud forest reserve is primary, and ranges from 1,300m-2,800m, giving incredible bio-diversity.
Keep a look out for puma, snakes, frogs, tarantulas and more in this, the Choco region.
The up-and-down nature of a lodge atop a mountain, plus more than 42km of trails, means this is the perfect place for people that wish to combine some walking – from easy to more strenuous – into their cloud forest stay.
Your luggage is carried in by mule, so you need only carry a day pack.
The lodge is staffed by members of a dozen local families who have set up Santa Lucia to protect the precious cloud forest in which it sits.
Santa Lucia is perched in a privileged position, atop a mountain with wonderful views.
Varied altitudes means incredible bio-diversity through its differing climatic zones.
Protected area set up by, cared for and worked by the thirteen families of the Santa Lucia community.
Wonderful wildlife, from spectacled bears to hummingbirds to cock-of-the-rock and more.
Beautiful forests full of orchids, flowers and ancient trees.
Intimate main lodge and comfy cabins with spectacular views over the forests.
The walk up was well worth it. We were the only people at the lodge. Our guide was the best we had in all our South America travels, he showed us so much.
The cabin had a beautiful view. I wish we could have stayed longer.
E. Sanchez, Santa Lucia
Pick up from Quito at 8am, arriving at the trailhead at 10.30am.
Two-hour guided hike through the forest to the lodge. You meet your guide at the start of a path that climbs 500 metres in altitude up to the lodge.
Keep your eyes and be rewarded with spectacular panoramic views. There are some steep sections, but the path is good and your guide will explain the forest that you pass.
After lunch and settling in at the lodge, you can relax or hike a circular trail, taking in the orchid garden and giant tree swing with an explanation of Santa Lucia’s conservation ethos.
Spend the afternoon watching the sunset or spot up to 15 species of humming birds coming to the feeders – spectacular.
After dinner there is the option of a night walk to see and hear the sounds of nocturnal animals and birds of prey.
The lodge has some solar panels to allow people to charge cameras. You’ll need a head torch or a candle for everything else, as you go back to nature and enjoy the surroundings, away from the glare of everyday lights.
Every day you have lots of options, depending upon your interests, the weather and wildlife activity around the lodge. These days are an outline of what is possible.
Activities at Santa Lucia include:
The Cock-of-the-Rock lek involves a 4am start if you wish to see the bird mating ritual (best time June-Nov).
After breakfast we hike down through the forest passing through the banana plantation with shade grown coffee trees, to the Umachaca River where you can walk upstream to a waterfall which cascades into a beautiful pool (seasonal option depending on the flow of the river).
A good spot for your box lunch.
Then take the pre-Inca trail, used by the Yumbo people as a trade route.
Much of the trail is in the form of a deep trench called a “culunco,’’ made by the Yumbo people – look out for tracks of wild pigs and the elusive Puma.
The trail opens out into lush meadow. A car will be waiting at 2pm to go back to Quito.
Prices From $416 / £353 per person
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Entrance to Santa Lucia Reserve, cabin with private bathroom, full board from lunch on the first day to lunch on the last day, English-speaking guide at lodge, Quito-lodge-Quito transfers, mules to carry luggage up/down from lodge, water, rubber boots
Alcoholic and hot drinks, insurance, personal items, flights (we can look for these) hotels in Quito, tips, personal expenses
Private cabin with private bathroom and great views.
There are hot showers and a flush toilet in the private rooms.
In 1976, local families decided to buy the lands that are now part of the Reserve St. Lucia. They formed an agricultural cooperative and began clearing jungle areas to turn them into crops.
However, after a while of being deforested, the land of cloud forest degraded rapidly, and environmental problems resulting from agriculture became evident.
In 1988, the area was declared part of protected forest by hunting and logging are illegal, threatening families in their survival. Members of the cooperative began to look for other ways to earn a living with their land and 90s, decided that ecotourism would allow them to protect the forest and generate income. In 1999 they began building the cottage with wood from fallen trees, trails within the reserve, with the precious help of volunteers, and other organisations.
Now the lodge is staffed by locals from the communities – including guides – albeit some specialist guides from Quito do work here from time to time.
The local families all draw a modest income from the project.
Local guides will speak English and Spanish and show you around the forest. Specialist birding guides available at extra cost.
Lodge meals are large and feature bread, vegetables, meats and hot drinks, rice and pasta dishes.
Almost all dietary requirements can be catered for – please contact us for more information.
As much produce as possible is grown in the Santa Lucia organic gardens, or in the family’s farms in the valleys below.
Breakfast usually features eggs, bread, cereals, fruit juices and hot drinks.
Lunch, while out walking or back at the lodge, will be either sandwiches or meat and cheese with crackers, with fruits etc, like a picnic.
After an hour or so for lunch – depending on weather conditions – you will continue, usually 3-4 hours more, depending on sunset time and wildlife activity in the area.
After eating, you can choose to socialise with other guests, relax in your room, or take in the views.
Dinner will usually be a soup followed by a main of pasta, rice or potatoes, all home made that day.
You need a good level of fitness for this trip as there is a 1.5-2 hour uphill hike to get to the lodge.
This lodge is aimed at people that want to be a bit more active than at other lodges. It’s wonderful trails do undulate as they cross the mountain, so the fitter you are, the more you will enjoy the trip.
You usually wake early, before dawn if you wish, to catch the wildlife at its best. You can skip pre dawn walks and relax.
After breakfast, packs are prepared and your guide will explain the day’s activities. You are typically out and about for 2-4 hours in the morning before lunch, with a short or break or two en route.
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.
Landscapes vary from the drier south to the more humid north.
The Highlands, or sierra, encompass two Andean Cordilleras (the Central and Western), which run north to south through the country. Ecuador’s largest volcano is Chimborazo (6,310m) whose summit, because of its proximity to the equator, is the closest point on earth to the sun. Several of Ecuador’s volcanoes are still active, and it’s a great area for trekking.
Descending the steep, east-facing slopes of the eastern Cordillera, one passes through a transition zone comprising dense cloud forest and humid high jungle, before entering the Amazon lowlands.
This mainly primary rainforest covers a third of the country, accounts for 5% of the population and stretches across Ecuador, from its Colombian to its Peruvian borders.
The Galapagos Islands are simply unique. Lying 600 miles off the mainland, the archipelago comprises the summits of gigantic equatorial volcanoes.
The flora and fauna of the Galapagos, long separated from their continental cousins, have evolved differently. Charles Darwin used his observations there to develop his theory of Evolution.
Ecuador lies between latitudes 4º south and 2º north. Overall, climate varies according to time of year, altitude and region.
In the Ecuadorian highlands, there is little temperature variation by season; this 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 intermontane basins, it gets significantly warmer.
Rainfall depends on whether an area lies closer to the eastern or western Andes. To the west, June to Sept is the dry period and Oct to 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 to Sept and Dec/Jan. This is also Ecuador’s high season. During the Oct to May wet season, most rainfall is in the afternoons.
To the east, Oct to Feb are dry and March to Sept are wet. Overall, the southern highlands are drier than the northern highlands.
Good kit is vital for every trip.
Book with Andean Trails and get 15% off Páramo’s fantastic ethical and high performance outdoor gear.
It can be very warm in the day, and you can wear shorts and t-shirts, although there are biting insects, so covering up with long cotton shirts and trousers is recommended.
At night, it can get chilly, so you will need a variety of clothing.
Detailed kit list
Please note: Guests should arrive in clothes which they do not mind getting slightly dirty or wet, and should wear footwear that is suitable to walk on a rainforest trail. Sun cream, insect repellent, hat and waterproof clothing should be carried in hand luggage and kept accessible for the journey to the lodge.
You may want to keep your binoculars and camera handy, too.
All bedding, toilet paper etc. is provided at the lodge.
Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.
We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.
We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.
When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.
You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.
What is ATOL?
The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.
And ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.
Who is covered?
To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).
If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.
If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.
Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.
For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.
I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?
If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.
We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.
If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.
You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.
Some 40% of Ecuador’s and is covered by Amazon rainforest.
As well as being rich in wild life, Ecuador’s rain forest is still home to a multitude of indigenous tribes, some of which have opened their communities to ecotourism.
A 4 or 5-day visit to one of the quality lodges will allow you to venture into beautiful primary forest.
Native guides lead you on verdant forest trails where you will see monkeys, tortoises, frogs and an array of birds including toucans and macaws.
Large mammals like jaguar, tapir and giant anteater have been spotted, but are elusive.
Ecuador’s cloud forest covers its rolling hillsides as they descend from the high Andean plateaus into the rain forest or down to the Pacific coast.
Most of this tropical forest lies between 1,200-2,700m/3,937-8,858ft above sea level, an evergreen, lush and moist forest, teeming with bird and insect life.
Much of the cloud forest is readily accessible from Quito making it perfect a 2 or 3-day stay.
There are many lodges with virgin forest, home to a dazzling variety of hummingbirds, refreshing waterfalls for swimming, zip lining and wildlife walks.
The humming birds, Cock of the Rock and the chance of spotting larger mammals such as the spectacled bears are just some of the attractions of spending some time in this amazing ecosystem.
Cotopaxi National Park is dominated by the almost perfect cone shape of Cotopaxi (5,897m/19,347ft), an active volcano and the second highest mountain in Ecuador after Chimborazo.
The national park is well worth a visit for trekking in the foothills, climbing smaller peaks like Ruminahui, downhill mountain biking, horse riding or just enjoying the National Park itself.
The surrounding páramo is good for bird watching – you may see condors soaring above.
There are lots of lovely hacienda and mountain refugios to stay at in and around the park, and from which there are a variety of walks, horse rides and bike rides for all levels.
Ingapirca (meaning wall of the Inca) is just an hour from Cuenca and is the most important Inca archaeological site in Ecuador.
The site is in good condition and consists of a main elliptical building thought to be a sun temple, with typical Inca features such as trapezoidal doorways and niches.
There are Inca trails leading to and from the site, so you can visit on a day trip or incorporate a visit as part of a trekking itinerary.
You can travel here from Cuenca, or make it part of a trip from Baños to Cuenca.
Ecuador’s vibrant capital Quito sits in a stunning location, surrounded by snow capped volcanoes and many of the high peaks of the Andean sierra.
There is plenty to do for visitors of all ages and interests. The old town of Quito is a UNESCO world heritage site, with many beautiful churches and colonial facades, a wonderful range of museums and picturesque squares.
For an over view of the city and along the Avenue of volcanoes to north and south and to help with acclimatising try taking the Teleferico (cable car) up the eastern slope of Pichincha volcano.
At night Quito is a lively city. Head to the modern Mariscal area where tourists and locals alike find a great range of restaurants, bars and night clubs.
01st Jan 2024 - From $416 / £352.768
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2024 price, shared cabin, per person
Shorter/longer stays possible
Single supplement applies
$416 / £353
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