Multi-Day Tour | Private

Ecuador Gastronomic Program (Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil) (16 days)

Abercrombie & Kent Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador To Guayaquil, Ecuador

Valid for Departures Now Through: 14 Dec 2018

Itinerary

DAY LOCATION(S) HOTEL MEALS DESCRIPTION
Day 1
Quito, Ecuador
Casa Gangotena None

Welcome to Quito!


Upon arrival in Quito you will be received by your A&K guide and transferred to your hotel.


Quito, nestled at the foot of 15,696-foot Volcán Pichincha, is known for its eternally spring-like climate and for the beauty of its well-preserved colonial centre. Originally settled by the Quitu tribe in the first millennium, Quito was eventually integrated into the Inca Empire before being destroyed and re-founded in 1534 by Spanish Conquistador Sebastian de Benalcázar. For nearly three centuries, the arts and intellectual societies flourished under Spanish colonial rule, a fact evident in the historic centre’s splendidly restored colonial buildings and churches lining narrow, cobbled streets. In 1809, Quito established the first self-governing junta in the colonies and the liberator Simón Bolívar led the country as part of the Republic of Greater Colombia until 1830, when the Republic of Ecuador announced its independence. Due to the city’s preservation of its blended past, UNESCO declared Quito the first of its World Heritage Sites in 1978.  The city is beautifully situated in an Andean valley at 9,300 feet, making it the 2nd highest capital city in the world.

Day 2
Quito, Ecuador
Casa Gangotena Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast, begin your tour of colonial Quito. This morning's sightseeing demonstrates some of the reasons why Ecuador's capital earned its honour as the first UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Begin your tour with a visit to the San Francisco Church and its museum of religious art, La Compañía and the seven tons of gold gilding its glittering walls, and the bustling Independence Plaza, flanked by the Presidential Palace and the Cathedral of Quito. Rich in art treasures, fine woodcarvings, and flowering balconies, the historic centre is the lifeblood of Quito.


There’s no better way to get to the true heart of any culture than through food. After your cooking classes at the Casa San Marcos, you’ll not only know how to prepare a few Ecuadorian delicacies, but you’ll also have had the chance to see perhaps the most impressive private collection of art and antiques in all of Quito. While relatively simple to make, ceviche is complex on the palate, and it’s a true specialty of the Ecuadorian coast (though Peruvians might want to argue that point!). As the Andes are home to more types of potato than most care to count, Llapingachos (potato patties) are a fitting addition to your classes. Usually filled with cheese, these little morsels are the perfect comfort food!


While you’re at the Casa San Marcos, you’ll have the chance to wander around this charming 17th Century property. Located in the heart of Quito’s Old Town, the historical centre of the city, it is a haven for connoisseurs of art and culture, as well as those looking for a ‘different’ place to visit while exploring the city.


Afterwards you will have some free time to explore the city on your own.


In the evening, join us for a welcoming degustation dinner at one of our unique gastronomic restaurants in town. (Includes bilingual guide for translating and cultural gastronomic experience)

Day 3
Otavalo, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador
Hacienda Zuleta Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After a relaxing breakfast, drive north from Quito through dramatic mountain landscapes dotted with tiny villages to Cochasquí, a ceremonial site at the foot of Mojanda Mountain built by the Cara-Quitus people. Considered the most important archaeological site in Ecuador’s northern Andes, Cochasquí features a burial pyramid and mounds which belonged to Quito's first inhabitants. The pyramids were made of local volcanic material called cangahua and the pre-Inca structures remain a testament to the religious ceremonies of Caranqui natives.


Lunch holistic experience in Sacha Ji Wellness. This mountain-top wellness sanctuary located in the northern Ecuadorian Avenue of the Volcanoes combines scenic magnificence and sustainable, feng-shui based design to create an experience where art meets nature. The intimate setting, personalized service, organic Andean cuisine, and an array of wellness, has already created, and will continue to create, a holistic journey our guests never forget.


Our Cuisine is part of the experience of Sacha Ji. It is mainly organic, made from local ingredients and oriented towards a vegetarian diet, though meat-based menus are also available. Many of our ingredients come from our organic fruit and vegetable orchard, which you can access directly from the dining area. Menus have been designed by our collaborator and prestigious Ecuadorian Chef, Henry Richardson. Chef Richardson has over twenty-five year experience re-creating and re-discovering the great variety of traditional dishes originated in the highlands, coasts and jungles of Ecuador. For him, cooking “is an art that involves the five senses” and it is also “a fundamental balance between taste, texture and color”.


We also offer natural herbal teas from our orchard that can benefit your digestive system, help you sleep better or boost your energy.



Continue via north to Zuleta. This hacienda, built in 1691 is the centrepiece of a 4,000 acre working farm that was once owned by two Ecuadorian Presidents, and currently belongs to their descendants.  Besides the farming area the family hacienda has a  remarkably successful condor-recuperation and raising project, archaeological remains from 800 AD, a dairy and cheese factory, an organic garden, a tree nursery, a trout farm and an embroidery workshop owned by the indigenous community that live and work in the area.


You will be given a tour around the main building, teaching you more about Zuleta’s history as you wander through ex-President Galo Plaza Lasso’s private library, the chapel, and the beautiful gardens. As the sun sets it gets chilly at Zuleta, so a nice glass of wine in the living room, a roaring fire, comfortable sofas, and a book from the library will entertain you until dinner time.

Day 4
Otavalo, Ecuador
Hacienda Zuleta Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Note: This day, guests will be on their own, without A&K guide & driver


If you are an early morning person you might want to enjoy a short hike before breakfast to try and spot some of the countless birds on the property, including rare species such as the black-crowned night heron or the black-chested buzzard eagle. After an exquisite breakfast with eggs, pancakes, muesli, fruit, homemade bread, and marmalade you will be able to visit the cheese factory and learn more about how Zuleta’s semi-aged cheeses are produced from the farm’s fresh milk in the small factory near the guest house.


As mornings are usually sunny throughout the whole year, it’s a great time to hike, bike, or take a horseback ride to the Condor Reserve. The early part of the day is the best time to see a wild condor soaring majestically through the mountains. You’ll go directly to a valley with native forest located about 5km from the guesthouse. Here, you will learn about the foundation’s effort to bring the condor back to this part of the Andes, see some of the rescued condors in the aviary, visit the interpretation centre, and stop by the nearby trout farm. The tour back to the main building takes you through pasture land where you hike or ride between ancient monuments of the Caranqui culture; you will see small burial mounds dating to AD 700 and giant square ceremonial truncated pyramids from the 13th Century.



After breakfast you can choose between several activities that are included in the program:


Cheese Factory: If you are interested in cheese, you can visit the cheese museum and learn how Zuleta’s semi-aged, handmade cheeses are produced from the farm’s fresh milk and carefully processed in the small factory near the guest house. Find out about the steps from milk to cheese and how the process has changed throughout history.


Sewing demonstration: At “El Taller,” you will find a workshop of Zuleta’s famous and beautiful embroidery work. “El Taller” is managed by the Galo Plaza Lasso Foundation, a non-profit organization involved in helping the surrounding communities. The embroideries are made by hundreds of Zuleteña women who use their spare time to contribute to their agrarian family income.  Francisca Carlosama, the head of the Zuleta Women’s Cooperative, can demonstrate the process, and you are welcome to buy or order tablecloths, placemats, curtains, blouses, and many other beautiful items.


Organic garden visit: We invite you to visit the organic garden to learn about permaculture and to discover the origin of your lunch ingredients. Within three hectares, we grow seventeen different kinds of vegetables, five different kinds of fruit, and several herbs, spices, and medical plants.  Everything is produced without chemicals and the humus used as fertilizer comes from our own worm farm.


Milking lessons: Hacienda Zuleta has over 300 cows that support Zuleta’s milk production. Milking takes place at 3pm in the afternoon (or at 5am in the morning!) and we invite you to come to the milking sheds to experience the process, feed the calves, see giant bulls, and talk to the vaqueros (local cowboys). If you are interested in a private milking lesson, Rosa and her cow Esperanza are happy to teach you to milk by hand.


Condor Rescue Centre: Many guests ride or hike to Condor Huasi, the condor rehabilitation project, located about 5 km from the house in a valley surrounded by native forest. At Condor Huasi, the only reproduction and liberation site licensed by the governmental condor protection agency in Ecuador, you will be able to observe eight condors in captivity and, with luck, wild condors flying above you or even landing on the aviary.


Visit to the local community:  Zuleta is a small town nestled in the northern part of the country and famous for handmade embroidery. The local language is Quichua, and a high percentage of this community speaks Spanish.  Housing is made of straw, bahareque, and tapiales. The field work is performed by men, who grow barley, quinoa, potatoes, and other crops.  These products form the base of their diet.  Women dedicate time to elaborate embroidery, with designs focusing on nature or patriotic symbols.  Currently, many members of this community are engaged in the cultivation of flowers for export.


Alternative activities (with extra costs):

• Biking

• Horseback riding

• Sewing classes

• Guided bird watching

• Fishing excursions to San Marcos lagoon or Cayambe National Park

Day 5
Quito, Ecuador
Otavalo, Ecuador
Casa Gangotena Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Optional activity: Animal Market Visit (Only on Saturdays Starts at 5am)

Early in the morning, we will go to the local animal market. Here you will see the local community market for large animals such as cows, horses, sheep, and many more.


After a healthy breakfast we will visit the town of Otavalo. This small town, with a population of about 50,000, is justly renowned for its friendly people and their world-famous market, a gathering that has occurred here since pre-Incan times. Otavaleños are the most prosperous Indian group in the country -- surely because their weavings, carpets, colourful ponchos, Indian jewellery and needlework are so attractive!  You can also visit the colourful and authentic produce market, which gives you the opportunity to see many of the unique fruits and vegetables of Ecuador.


After lunch at a local hacienda, you will visit Hacienda La Compañia. This gorgeous property originally belonged to the Jesuit order and is now in the hands of lovely owners Francisco and María Gloria.


First, you will be shown around the spectacular rose plantation.  Ecuador’s roses are perhaps the best in the world, and the flowers at Hacienda La Compañía clearly demonstrate why. You will learn about the entire process, including growing, harvesting, packing, and shipping. The speed and skill of the workers is a marvel. The estate is engaged in responsible social practices, and is allied with UNICEF and the Flowers for Kids educational initiative. From the plantation, we’ll drive a short distance to the home and chapel.  The house itself was constructed in 1919 in a French Republican style, and the interior is lavishly decorated with antiques and incredible rose displays. While exploring the home, enjoy tea or coffee and a delicious homemade snack. Next door is the original 16th Century chapel, where María Gloria and Francisco themselves were married. Across a small lane is the granary, which has been converted into a flower showroom. The arrangements are truly unbelievable.


Afterwards we continue our drive south to Quito.


In the evening, learn and taste the different types of chocolate.

Day 6
Quito, Ecuador
Cotopaxi, Ecuador
Casa Gangotena Breakfast, Lunch

The local gastronomic concept in the haciendas was to share traditional dishes with the family and guests. At Hacienda Hualilagua you will have a tour of the hacienda and a small hike in their gardens and moorlands.


We will begin with a welcome and a brief history of the hacienda. Then proceed to lunch.


After lunch time we will learn about how to make a traditional dishes using traditional utensils. We will have a few options such as empanadas de viento, tamales and small empanadas with dulce de leche.


Finally we will enjoy our freshly made goodies with hot chocolate and bizcochos (small biscuits) near the bonfire.


Return to Quito afterwards.

Day 7
Yasuní, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador
Napo Wildlife Center Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Depart from Quito for a spectacular 30 minute flight over the eastern Andes mountain range to Coca. After landing and completing airport procedures, a local chiva (hired bus) will pick you up from the airport and deliver you to Puerto Francisco de Orellana, 5 minutes away.  Here, you will board a comfortable covered motor canoe and begin the two hour trip down the Napo River to your destination – the Napo Wildlife Center. Lunch is served along the way and birds like herons, kingfishers, and many others can be spotted. After arriving at the Napo Wildlife Center’s outer dock, you’ll have a small break before embarking on a majestic and peaceful dugout canoe ride to the lodge itself. You’ll be surrounded by trees overhead as your canoe is paddled along a narrow creek that connects to the lake where the lodge is located. The sounds of civilization are soon forgotten here – only the dip of the paddles and the myriad sounds of the surrounding rainforest. There are good possibilities of monkey sightings as well as large birds like toucans, parrots, and macaws. Soon you’ll emerge onto Añangu Lake and spot the lodge spectacularly situated on its shores. Before long, you’ll have a welcome drink in hand as you settle in to your luxurious cabana. After a delicious dinner, head back to the water for caiman spotting and observation of the natural night sounds of the rainforest.


In 1541, the very first Europeans set out from Quito to explore the dense jungles east of this ancient Incan capital in search of gold and cinnamon.  Not the jungle nor the natives ever revealed where the precious metal of "El Dorado" was to be found, as they floated for 800 miles down the Napo to come upon what they thought to be the Atlantic.  But it wasn't the Atlantic - yet.  It was the Great Amazon River, fed by over a thousand tributaries, emptying one third of the planet’s fresh water into the sea!


Almost 500 years have passed since the discovery of this magnificent river system that flows through the world's largest primeval forest, containing 10% of all existing trees, 70% of all pharmaceutical compounds, and native Indians that live symbiotically with their unique ecosystem.  This is the habitat of wildlife that is sure to be watching you - or vice versa - if you are lucky: 500 species of birds, half a dozen species of monkeys, caimans, tapirs, 2,500 species of butterflies and much more.

Day 8
Yasuní, Ecuador
Napo Wildlife Center Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Rise early to take advantage of the best time of day for parrot viewing.  One of the best parrot clay licks in Ecuador is located one hour’s journey from the lodge, and you’ll reach it just as the day’s parrot activity kicks off.


A total of 11 species of parrots, parakeets, and macaws can be seen. Later, you’ll hike along a forest trail to visit the nearby Quichua community of Añangu.  Here, you will have the opportunity to share time with a local family and learn about life in the rainforest. Afterward, you will return to the creek and hike through the terra firme forest for about 30 minutes in order to reach a second parrot clay lick. Here, if weather conditions allow, you’ll be able to spot different species of parrots, parakeets, macaws. It’s the perfect spot for a boxed lunch before returning to the lodge in the afternoon.

Day 9
Yasuní, Ecuador
Napo Wildlife Center Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After an early breakfast, depart for the finest canopy tower on the Napo. At 36 metres high, the NWC’s canopy tower opened to guests in November of 2004 and is a spectacular way to experience the life above the forest floor. This is one of two canopy towers at the NWC (the other is attached to the dining hall and provides great views of the lake and its surrounds). The tower you’ll visit today is located about 20 minutes from the lodge deep within the terra firme forest. As you ascend the 12-story tower, take note of the different levels of forest before you emerge on top of a huge ceiba tree. Once on the wooden platform, which is actually built into the tree, you’ll be able to enjoy and experience the view formerly reserved only for the birds. The metal tower itself was constructed to the highest standards, galvanized, and carefully inspected by engineers to ensure safety as a top priority.  Flocks of colourful tanagers pass right through the canopy of the tree, as do blue-and-yellow macaws.  In nearby trees, spider monkeys search for fruit, two species of large toucans call in the early mornings and afternoons, and the life of the forest canopy opens before you. Birds that are virtually impossible to see from the forest floor far below are suddenly right beside you, oblivious to your presence. The canopy tower opens a whole new world.


After drinking in the amazing views of the tower, head back to the lodge for lunch. This afternoon, explore a terra firme trail with possibilities of finding lizards, colourful manakins, or the unique and endemic golden mantle tamarin monkeys. After the hike, explore the lake and creeks by dugout canoe with the likely possibility of running into a giant otter family on the way…

Day 10
Cuenca, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador
Yasuní, Ecuador
Mansión Alcázar Breakfast, Lunch

Today make an early departure for one last canoe excursion back to the Napo River. The creek may reveal new sights of giant otters, monk saki monkeys, or any of a number of rare birds. Upon reaching the NWC docking area, take a short break before embarking on motorized canoe for your return to Coca. Once in Coca, you’ll be transferred to the airport for your return flight to Quito.


Upon arrival in Quito, our local guide will greet you and drive to a local artisan brewery for a tour and tasting.


Afterwards we will stop for a light lunch and back to the airport for our connection flight to Cuenca.


Welcome to Cuenca!


Cuenca is considered by many to be the most beautiful city in the country and is often hailed as “The hidden treasure of Ecuador”. Cuenca was declared by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1999, primarily for having been able to preserve the most valuable cultural and architectural features found in its historic center.

Day 11
Cuenca, Ecuador
Mansión Alcázar Breakfast, Lunch

In the morning, we will tour its cobblestoned streets of the historic center in Cuenca. We arrive to the 10 of August market where we will hand pick the ingredients for your cooking class and tasting.

During lunch time we will enjoy a traditional meal accompanied with a selection of wine and drinks that complement the meal.


In the afternoon we continue the tour towards Parque Calderon, churches (the New and Old Cathedrals), Flower market, and visit the Homero Ortega Panama Hat factory.


Finally, we will end the tour at the Convent of Todos los Santos along with the exclusive company one of the nuns. We will join them for tea of coffee in their terrace.

Day 12
Guayaquil, Ecuador
Cuenca, Ecuador
Hotel del Parque Breakfast, Lunch

This morning you travel by private coach to El Cajas National Park. The park, situated in the majestic Andes mountain range, is one of Ecuador’s natural wonders and a must-see destination for every nature aficionado. El Cajas lies at an altitude between 3,200 and 4,500 metres and boasts 28,544 hectares bursting with numerous species of flora and fauna and impressive rock formations. Its 235 glacial lakes feed into breath-taking waterfalls, some headed toward the Pacific while others flow to the Amazon.  In addition to hiking, you can enjoy freshwater trout fishing while listening to the wild birds singing in the background. There are approximately 125 species of birds in El Cajas, including the endangered Andean condor, violet-tailed metaltails, sword-bills, shining sunbeams, sparkling violet-ears, and many more.


El Cajas is blanketed with páramo (high altitude grasslands) consisting of impressive micro flora with colourful flowers, mosses, lichens, and other fungi. As you trek through El Cajas, you’ll lose yourself in its pristine environment and appreciate every moment of solitude in this little-visited park. El Cajas is included among the world’s RAMSAR reserved areas (wetlands of international importance) and AICAS (bird conservation zones of international importance). For these reasons and more, El Cajas is a paradise for hikers, birdwatchers, and any who love nature.



Welcome to Guayaquil!


Located on the banks of the Guayas River, Guayaquil is Ecuador’s principle port and largest city, with about 3 million inhabitants. Guayaquil’s strong culture and traditions stand in amazing contrast to the modernity of its new constructions. Guayaquil’s port, “Puerto Maritimo”, is the main sea port of the country and is where 80% of the country’s imports and more than 50% of its exports are handled. The commercial and industrial centre of Ecuador, Guayaquil lies about 60 kilometres from the Gulf of Guayaquil and the Pacific Ocean.


In the afternoon enjoy a visit to the Parque Histórico Guayaquil. This is a project of the Banco Central an attempt to recapture our culture for our children.  This visit is an invitation to discover our profound sense of identity, and a mirror in which we can see the traditions that make up our origins as a city and the roots of our culture. Once inside you will find yourself transported to a world where past becomes present.  In one beautiful journey you will see before your very eyes the species that used to populate the ancient province of Guayaquil. From deer to tapirs, monkeys, wild cats, you will discover an amazing world, and at the same time discover that nature is an essential part of our lives, and not just something to admire from afar.  You will also take a trip through the countryside to a hacienda of the day, with its buildings its traditions and its wealth, and discover the way in which the craftsmen used to work.  You can watch or, if you are feeling lively, take part in the duties of the hacienda, and discover this unknown side of coastal life, a side which has remained virtually unchanged since the colonial era.

Day 13
Guayaquil, Ecuador
Hotel del Parque Breakfast, Lunch

Hacienda La Danesa is a traditional dairy and cacao farm with over 145 years of rich heritage and history, located about an hour drive from Guayaquil, Ecuador. Family-owned and managed by the third generation Olsen family, the farm offers a unique selection of tailor-made activities for guests, including horseback riding trails, hands-on artisan chocolate making and other hacienda-related programs. La Danesa is just 30 meters above sea level and it is the perfect adventure to combine with Galapagos excursions without having to worry about altitude sickness.


Cooking demostration, followed by a lunch will be at the farm.


Cacao Plantation: Ecuador is recognized for offering the finest quality cacao in the world. Guests will visit the cacao plantation where they will have the chance to taste raw cacao at different ripening stages and a hands-on experience of making artisan chocolate. (1 hour)


Bicycle Trails: Guests can take our fat-tire bicycles and ride around the farm to explore the beautiful area at any time during their stay. A map and cycling route signs will guide visitors through different trails. (1 hour)


Cow Milking: Hacienda La Danesa celebrates 20 years of recognition to be the best dairy farm in coastal Ecuador. It produces 1,200 litters of high quality milk per day. To make lunchtime even more special, La Danesa presents one of its grass-fed cattle to give a first-hand experience of milking and trying unpasteurized fresh milk. Overnight guests can join the early morning milking session. (15 minutes)


Petting Farm Animals: At La Danesa, taking the best care of it large and diverse stock of farm animals is very important. From goats, horses, cows to birds, chickens, and many more. It is a truly fun experience for both kids and adults to bond with the farm animals and have a taste of an authentic country life experience. (30 minutes)


Optional activities with an additional cost: Horseback Riding.

Day 14
Puerto Cayo, Ecuador
Guayaquil, Ecuador
Las Tanusas Breakfast, Lunch

After breakfast, a driver will be waiting for you at the lobby of the hotel for a transfer to Las Tanusas Hotel in the beach of Puerto Cayo. In the Manabí coast of Ecuador, 2 hours by land from the city of Guayaquil, Las Tanusas is located in a place of breeze and palms.

Day 15
Puerto Cayo, Ecuador
Las Tanusas Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Cooking classes (3 hours)

Be the chef’s special guest and witness how to make the preparation of typical Manabi dishes with the combination of organic vegetables grown in our own garden and own fresh catch of the day.


In the afternoon, you will have a free day at Las Tanusas. If you are looking to connect with nature in its purest expression, you can't miss Las Tanusas. The architecture of the hotel speaks of the place where it is located, combining a local- style design with a contemporary language. Relaxation and tranquillity are the target but we you will inevitable learn as well about the culture and geography that make this place something special.


Sunset Aperitif served on the beach

There is no better way to end the day with a relaxing aperitif served to you by the beach.

Day 16
Guayaquil, Ecuador
Puerto Cayo, Ecuador
None Breakfast

After breakfast, your guide will be waiting at the lobby to assist you with your transfer to Guayaquil’s airport in time for your international flight. You may also continue to one of our Galapagos option extensions.

Tour Features

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Description

Enjoy this adventure throughout some of the most amazing scenarios in Ecuador. This one-of-a-kind adventure won't just allow you to closely experience the many expressions of the quaint Ecuadorian culture, but to taste the colors and exotic flavors of the North Highlands, South Highlands, Amazonia and Coast Regions.

About Us

A&K Ecuador was established in Quito in September 2004, and has now grown to have 20 full-time employees, as well as numerous seasonal staff across the country to handle larger groups and monthly fluctuations. Meaning that we are big enough to handle the largest of operation, such as congresses, incentives and cruise operations, but we are also small enough to offer a specialized, tailor-made and personal service without losing sight of the finer details.

Insider Tip

Contact your Virtuoso Travel Advisor for insider knowledge to help enhance your experience.

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Galápagos Adventure

By: PG


Reviewed on: 13 Aug 2017

Along with our local travel advisor, A&K provided us with a perfect adventure to the Galapagos Islamds and Quito. Our guide, Carlos, spoke perfect English and was an expert in anything we asked from history to flora/fauna of the region. Perfectly planned trip!!!
Travel Advisor:  Catherine Whitworth

Family Trip

By: Bcdbba


Reviewed on: 22 Apr 2018

We had excellent service and was happy with drivers and guides!
Travel Advisor:  Julie Jones