Multi-Day Tour | Independent

Ecuador - From the Andes to the Islands (10 days)

Rico Tours - Central & South America + Cuba

Ibarra, Ecuador To Galapagos, Ecuador

Valid for Departures Now Through: 05 Feb 2019

Ecuador - From the Andes to the Islands (10 days)


Day 1
Ibarra, Ecuador
Hacienda Zuleta Breakfast

Private transfer from the airport to Hacienda Zuleta with English speaking driver/guide.

You will drive 2 hours to the north and arrive at Hacienda Zuleta, a treasure of four centuries of Ecuadorian history seeped in Pre-Colombian, Spanish, and Ecuadorian tradition. Dating from the late 17th century, Haciena Zuleta is a colonial working farm of over 4,000 acres that has been owned and operated by the family of Mr. Galo Plaza Lasso, former president of Ecuador, for over 100 years.

Located in the stunning Andean valley at 9,600 feet, Hacienda Zuleta is easily reached from Quito and only a short drive from the famous Otavalo market. Fifteen beautifully decorated guest rooms, each with their own fireplace, are complemented by flower filled gardens and cozy common areas such as the great family room and the Presidential living room. Family recipes, passed down through the generations and prepared with organic locally grown ingredients provide guests with a true “farm to table” culinary experience.

Hacienda Zuleta produces over 17 varieties of artisan cheese, which are served to guests at every opportunity. A visit to the on-site cheese factory is a must! The hacienda also offers a fascinating landscape to discover through a variety of onsite actives. The stables are home to over 100 specially bred “Zuleteno” horses that can be ridden traditionally or used with a horse drawn carriage.

You arrive at Zuleta in the afternoon and with luck you will have stunning views of the snowcapped volcano, Cayambe, which is just a few miles away. Your hosts will welcome you and once you are settled in your suite, one of the family owners or managers will personally tell you about the activities available and answer any questions over tea or coffee. After planning your stay, enjoy the house and see ex-presidents Lasso’s private library, the chapel or wander through the beautiful gardens.

Day 2
Ibarra, Ecuador
Hacienda Zuleta Breakfast

If you are an early riser, you might want to enjoy a short walk around the property prior to breakfast. There is a variety of bird life attracted to the gardens and adjacent to the main courtyard the milking barn is usually full of activity at daybreak as some of the more than 300 Holstein dairy cows are being milked. After an exquisite farm fresh breakfast of eggs, pancakes, muesli, fruit, and homemade bread, take a guided visit to the cheese factory to learn more about the cheese and how the process has changed throughout history. Zuleta’s cheeses are sold both domestically and internationally.

Mornings are usually sunny throughout the year, so take advantage of this time for a morning hike, ride, or biking tour of the property and experience the Condor reserve. This project is located a short 3 miles from the guesthouse and is also accessible via vehicle, horseback or foot. Learn about the foundation’s efforts and see rescued condors in the aviary or visit the nearby trout farm.

Enjoy a fresh lunch followed by coffee on the patio while admiring the giant hummingbirds that come frequently to feed. In the afternoon you may opt to visit the Zuleta Embroidery project and workshop to learn about the project for local artists. The project aims to keep this art form alive in the community through education and by providing local people a sustainable form of income. There are other more challenging options such as hiking up to Condor viewpoint where it is common to spot the Andean Spectacled Bear. End the day with a nice hot bath prior to dinner.

Day 3
Quito, Ecuador
Casa Gangotena Breakfast

After breakfast depart for a visit to Otavalo City, famous for its indigenous market. This market occurs everyday, but Saturdays are the biggest. It is an ancient tradition and cultural exchange site among the community. Also visit Cotacashi Village famous for its leather. Visit Cuichocha Crater Lake for a hike before returning to Quito for overnight.

Day 4
Quito, Ecuador
Casa Gangotena Breakfast

This interesting city tour goes through diverse neighborhoods for a look at both colonial and modern Quito and includes visits to historic plazas, churches and colonial buildings such as Independence Square, the Presidential Palace, the municipal building and the Cathedral and Compania church, one of the most impressive in Latin America. Finally ascend to Panecillo viewpoint for an overview of the city.

In the afternoon, continue to the Middle of the World, famous for the study of the exact curvature of the planet. This mission was managed by the French scientist Charles Marie de la Condamine and the Ecuadorian scientist Pedro Vicente Malonado.

Visit the Intinan museum and the Mitad del Mundo monument where the Ecuador line crosses. Your device will read zero degrees latitude and longitude.

Day 5
Quito, Ecuador
Hacienda La Alegria Breakfast

Today’s destination is the world’s highest active volcano: Cotopaxi which elegantly adorns the Cordillera Real of the Ecuadorian Sierra. Take a short hike in the Cotopaxi National Park to see the biodiversity of the pine forest, lagoon and slopes of the magnificent Cotopaxi Volcano.

Arrive at your home for the next two nights: Hacienda La Alegria - a family working farm with an emphasis on horses and hospitality with a touch of luxury.

Day 6
Quito, Ecuador
Hacienda La Alegria Breakfast

Hacienda La Alegria specializes in horseback treks in the beautiful surroundings of the high Andes. Gabriel Espinosa comes from a family steeped in equestrian tradition and his enthusiasm for riding and horses is at the core of his Hacienda. Your experience here can be for experienced riders and total beginners. The hacienda also has a large herd of llamas.

Day 7
Riobamba, Ecuador
Hosteria La Andaluza Breakfast

Welcome on board the most exclusive way to discover the Andean region to the coast. Board the train directly at Hacienda La Alegria and begin the journey south along the Avenue of the Volcanoes where, if weather permits, you can spot up to twenty volcanoes from the train. The Andes range splits into two arms that run parallel south with the fertile valley trapped between these stone walls and hosts a treasure of biodiversity. From the comfort of the luxury train you’ll watch the vegetation and landscape change as you climb the Andean highlands to Urbina, the highest point in the itinerary at 11,800 ft above sea level as you climb the mythical Devil’s nose. After a climb of almost 2,000 ft in just 12 kilometers, the train reaches the quaint village of Alausi. Continue to Riobamba crossing colorful quinoa fields and visit a community that breeds llamas.

Day 8
Guayas, Ecuador
Hacienda La Danesa Breakfast

Depart Riobamba towards Colta, where the Spanish conquerors built their first settlement in Ecuador. Cross colorful quinoa fields in purples, yellows and reds alternating with endemic species of flora and wildlife, indigenous settlements, and the remains of ancient cultures.

Visit the Guamote market, one of the last in the Andes then continue south towards the Devil’s Nose pass, a descent of 2,000 ft on a zig zag track from the highlands to the coastal plains and the Chancan River gorge and cloud forest to the temperate city of Bucay.

Day 9
Guayaquil, Ecuador
Hotel del Parque Breakfast

Learn about the growing and harvesting of the best coca beans in the world and how chocolate is made and enjoy a delicious lunch from locally grown products.

The landscape changes again as the train leaves the tropical forest behind and is replaced with rice, sugar cane, pineapple and banana plantations and arrive at the Pacific Ocean and the city of Guayaquil.

Day 10
Galapagos, Ecuador
TBD Breakfast

Private transfer to the Guayaquil airport for the 1 hour 40 minute flight to Galapagos. We have several different Galapagos Island packages to offer as an extension to this 9 night program. Contact us to plan your multi-day adventure in Galapagos!

Tour Features


  • Adventure
  • Culture, History & Arts
  • Family Vacations
  • Food & Wine
  • Rail Journeys
  • Sightseeing
  • Wildlife & Nature


Ecuador may be relatively small, but in addition to it’s many giant volcanoes, Amazon destinations, beach towns, and cloud forest, it offers exclusive access to a true natural wonder of the world: the unique Galapagos Islands. Train routes pass through the dramatic highlights of the Andes, including the impeccably preserved colonial centers of Quito and Cuenca, then descending thousands of feet towards the coastal metropolis of Guayaquil. This country is full of unique experiences and this program takes you through the very best!



Imbabura provice is famous for its beautiful lagoons, the best of Ecuador’s northern Andes Peaks, and towns full of a diverse culture. The capital of Ibarra and town of Otavalo offer indigenous textile markets and many culinary specialties thanks to a large Kichwas population.

Quito and Surroundings

Quito is the capital of Ecuador located high in the Andes at just over 9,300 ft above sea level and flanked by the active Pichincha volcano accessible via cable car. Its primary attraction is a beautifully preserved historic quarter where grand colonial era churches and the presidential palace are all situated within a dozen square blocks of narrow streets. Also within a hour of downtown is the Middle of the World monument that marks the international Equator line.


Cotopaxi province, volcano and national park are within easy reach of Quito and at 19,347 ft above sea level, the active volcano is one of the highest in the world – visible from most parts of Quito. When not billowing ash and smoke, climbers can practice in optimal conditions from December to April with rented crampons, picks and local guides. Spectacular summit views include many other majestic peaks, while the surrounding protected area features condors, falcons, llamas, deer, foxes, pumas and with some luck, the Andean speckled bears. Latacunga, the capital of the province and Saquisili a short drive away, offer authentic markets, festivals, cuisine and highland culture. Cotopaxi is recommended for relaxation and adventure.


Chimborazo province’s greatest asset is also the national treasure, a perpetually snow-capped volcano and world’s highest peak. At a staggering 20,547 ft above sea level, “El Chimborazo” is a postcard favorite and daily spectacle for the residents of Riobamba, the major city and near by based camp (plenty of hotels with volcano views here). To see the plethora of impressive peaks in the region, a train ride is highly recommended. Alausi is a historic town on the train route and has an very authentic market on Sundays.


Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city, port, and financial center, but also features charming cathedrals, cobbled streets, and riverfront parks. The tropical Pacific climate is manageable during the day and perfect for walks and open-air dining after sunset. Marketplaces and cafes offer a taste of the relaxed culture and seems a wold away from the lofty Andean cities. The mighty Guayas River provides an ideal backdrop for a stroll along the Malecon boardwalk or head to Iguana Park for a selfie with an iguana or visit the botanical gardens and flower markets, Santay Island or local mangroves by boat.

Galapagos Islands

The legendary Galapagos Islands are Ecuador’s main attraction, accessible only by direct flights from Quito or Guayaquil. This vast archipelago of volcanic islands is home to abundant wildlife on land, air, and underwater – all carefully protected to showcase ecosystems just as they were thousands of years ago. Giant tortoises, playful sea lions, blue-footed birds, turtles, penguins, flamingos and iguanas are just some of the memorable highlights. Whether on an all-inclusive cruise, island hopping, or from the comfort of a hotel, visitors can enjoy magical experiences on any budget at their leisure. Retread the steps of Charles Darwin on his Beagle voyages, this time with digital photography.

About Us

Rico Tours offers custom itineraries in Central America, South America and Cuba. In Central America, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize, Panama, and Honduras are our specialty. In South America, we specialize in Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Brazil. At Rico Tours, we believe your travel should be comfortable and enriching. That is why we custom design each of our itineraries to cater to each traveler's needs. We take care of every detail, from ground transfers, domestic air, private charters, hotels, villas, rental cars, tours, volunteer opportunities, and more.

Insider Tip

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

Terms & Conditions

Terms and conditions vary by tour; details will be provided upon booking.

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Reviews and Recommendations for Rico Tours - Central & South America + Cuba


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Highly Recommend

By: Geneva

Reviewed on: 04 Jan 2014

I highly recommend Rico Tours-Custom Itineraries. We knew what we were going to be doing at all times, not a step was missed. Everything was set up and done exactly like the itinerary said. Never did I have to question what to do next or with whom I was suppose to be meeting. Great job, thank you.

Highly Recommend

By: Jesse

Reviewed on: 27 Mar 2014

fantastic trip, accomodations were excellent, arrangements were smooth.

Nicely Done

By: Kathy

Reviewed on: 29 Apr 2014

All our transfers and arrangements were seamless.  All the drivers were personable, very informative and just really nice folks.  Thanks for making all the arrangements and making this such an easy vacation for us!
Travel Advisor:  Peg Aikman

Month in Costa Rica

By: WilliamsonFamofFive

Reviewed on: 05 Aug 2014

Rico Tours is definitely the 'go-to' tour operator for travel to Costa Rica. We didn't realize this before we set out on our adventure with 3 kids ages 11, 9 & 6 for a month in CR, but while we were conversing with owners of hotels & other excursion operators they all said that Rico Tours has been in CR for a long time and has a great reputation. We would certainly recommend utilizing their expertise on future trips back to CR, or to anybody who is considering travel throughout the country. Pura Vida!
Travel Advisor:  Sam McClure

Rico = Reco

By: ManhattanTravelers

Reviewed on: 05 Dec 2014

Our transportation services thru Rico Tours (Jacamar) was top notch. The drivers were very knowledgeable and articulate. They were on time and the vehicles were clean and cool. Our transfers ended up being more informative and fun than I would have expected.
Travel Advisor:  Trish Mercer

Pleasant drivers


Reviewed on: 07 Jan 2015

It was wonderful to be greeted at the Panama City airport by your pleasant driver and driven to the beautiful Waldorf Astoria. We enjoyed our gorgeous room and the delicious breakfast. Another very pleasant driver drove us from the Wind Spirit's Costa Rica port to the San Jose airport.
Travel Advisor:  Debbie Fairvalley

Made the experience person

By: CSPand

Reviewed on: 10 Jan 2015

Rico Tours was great! They utilized Jacamar tours in Costa Rica and everything went off without a hitch. All their recommendations were just as communicated.
Travel Advisor:  Beth Jenkins

Expert service

By: P&C15

Reviewed on: 12 Apr 2015

Very happy with the itinerary by Rico Tours. They clearly know Costa Rica and it shows.
Travel Advisor:  Randie Rosenberg

Excellent service

By: erino405

Reviewed on: 09 Jul 2015

We had a wonderful time in Costa Rica and all of our excursions and transfers were excellent. The excursions were particularly fun--we went ziplining, white water rafting, and jetskiing. All of our guides were top rate--especially Tom with Wave Excursions in La Fortuna!

Super friendly!

By: GBay21

Reviewed on: 01 Dec 2015

Very helpful and super friendly drivers. Showed you things that you wouldn't have noticed. Vacation was perfect!


By: Claudaisia

Reviewed on: 06 Jan 2016

Rico did a good job putting together the accomodations and travel side of the trip. They chose great hotels for our needs and budget and the transportation company was really great, prompt, friendly, helpful.
Travel Advisor:  Joanne Socha

Great recommendations

By: Mary08

Reviewed on: 26 Feb 2016

Their selections for lodging and tours were perfect for our family. Negotiating the inclusion of the buffet breakfast was a real plus for us.
Travel Advisor:  Debbie Aras

Every detail thought through

By: MaryDG

Reviewed on: 25 Mar 2016

Rico Tours moved my husband and I from Belize City to the Cayo District... from Belmopan to San Pedro... from San Pedro to Belize City -- all of these transfers and flights were super smooth and easy. There were no hiccups and our honeymoon went off without a hitch. The group seemed very knowledgeable of the properties, and made great recommendations for us!
Travel Advisor:  Katherine Gould

Well Planned Out

By: JJantz

Reviewed on: 18 Jul 2016

Rico Tours handled the booking of our recent Costa Rica trip through Brownell Travel. The itinerary was well laid out and we didn't have to worry about anything. The transportation was a major part of this trip and we had great service every time. Very friendly and knowledgeable drivers! The itinerary came well laid out to us and we just focused on the trip.
Travel Advisor:  Deborah Barth


By: Megan

Reviewed on: 09 Aug 2016

We had an amazing experience with Rico Tours! Everything went off so smoothly, and the excursions were high quality and well worth the price. Our drivers were always knowledgeable and friendly, and made the trip so much fun for us!
Travel Advisor:  Katherine Gould

Helpful clean transfers

By: Bibi

Reviewed on: 01 Mar 2017

We used them only for transfers from airport to hotel and back in Nicaragua. The vehicle was clean and the guide was very nice. He spoke excellent English and had good knowledge of the area.
Travel Advisor:  Betsey Brown

Costa Rica Tour Experiences

By: Meredith L.

Reviewed on: 22 Mar 2017

Rico Tours did a great job with our itinerary with only a few pitfalls. We had an issue upon arrival with our drivers knowing where our hotel was, but that was easily fixed. We did three tours and were picked up each day right on time or early! All the tour operators and especially our private guides were wonderful. Their English was fantastic, they were friendly and outgoing and they were knowledgeable of the country. We had fantastic experiences!
Travel Advisor:  Laura Bassett

All good

By: Charman

Reviewed on: 20 Apr 2017

Everything went well and according to plan.
Travel Advisor:  Michelle Cowell

Belize family getaway

By: Stacey

Reviewed on: 22 Aug 2017

We worked with Rico Tours to plan a family trip to Belize. They are knowledgable about the area and helped coordinate everything with our hotel. We loved the travel itinerary package they sent to us before the trip. It was filled with a ton of insights about what to pack and what to expect when arriving in Belize. Our travel advisor (Courtney) and Rico Tours also helped get us quickly rebooked with local transport due to our outgoing flight delay. It was a HUGE headache that we didn't have to deal with - especially when internet service can be spotty in Belize. I'd highly recommend.
Travel Advisor:  Courtney Regan

Amazing Cuban Trip

By: Jay

Reviewed on: 12 Nov 2017

Excellent service - literally everything was arranged - from our touchdown at Jose Marti Airport to all of the tours and meals. Alejandro our guide and Emilio our driver were fabulous. And we highly recommend the Kempinski Hotel - great service and amazing daiquiris.
Travel Advisor:  Becky Lamb

Rico Tours

By: Mary

Reviewed on: 11 Dec 2017

i would recommend Rico Tours. Our accommodations were lovely, and the service was excellent.
Travel Advisor:  Rosemarie Spinney

Wonderful Service

By: BK

Reviewed on: 22 Feb 2018

The Rico team was great and they were very knowledgeable. The vans were nice, they provided water during the journey, and would take time to show us wildlife when they spotted it.
Travel Advisor:  Gena Stoll

Costa Rica trip

By: AV

Reviewed on: 16 Jan 2018

Awesome and professional
Travel Advisor:  Jeffrey Audley

Poor Communicator when Issues Came Up

By: Andrew

Reviewed on: 01 Feb 2018

If we hadn't had the weather closure of one of our lodges during our trip I'd be fully satisfied with Rico Tours. The operators they scheduled were pros and good. However, due to large amounts of rain, one of our lodges closed kicking off a frustrating chain of events that wasted half a day in follow up questions that we shouldn't have had to ask. The communications were simply unacceptable and unprofessional. We would ask a question and get a 2 word answer with no details leaving us to guess what we needed to ask. The cancellation resulted in replacing a raft in/out wilderness lodge with miles of on site hiking for a luxury spa hotel that was NOT remotely in line with our preferences. We wanted on site hiking, off the beaten bath and instead got parked in overcrowded Manuel Antonio with no on site activities other than bars and pools. Because of the poor communications we cut our losses and took it, but missed the part of the trip we were most looking forward to.
Travel Advisor:  Jessica Upton

Overall a good experience


Reviewed on: 14 Feb 2018

Outside of the transportation and one tour, we didn't have much interaction with Rico Tours. I think they could have been a little more helpful in choosing what to do, but I also appreciated not being "sold" on everything.
Travel Advisor:  Debbie Fairvalley

Rico Tours

By: SteveB

Reviewed on: 09 Feb 2018

Rico tours was excellent! They made our vacation in Costa Rica the best we ever had. 5 stars all the way.
Travel Advisor:  Lisa Antenucci
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By: Aeb

Reviewed on: 05 Apr 2018

We had a wonderful time. Everything was set up perfectly. Our transportation always arrived on time and our guides were Friendly and knowledgeable.
Travel Advisor:  Amanda Watkins

Well run tours!

By: Nicole

Reviewed on: 11 Apr 2018

Everything was well planned and we were taken care of daily!
Travel Advisor:  Kristen Meckem

A Trip of a Lifetime

By: Martha

Reviewed on: 18 Apr 2018

Sue arranged a trip for may daughter and her son, the first time they had traveled by themselves and they have labelled it "A Trip of a Lifetime". Every detail was planned from meals to transportation and the trip was flawless. Sue accommodated all our needs and was very responsive to us. She was a delight to work with and I look forward to planning my next adventure with Sue. I will never use another travel advisor.
Travel Advisor:  Susan Morley

High quality and personalized tours

By: ktpatt

Reviewed on: 30 Apr 2018

Rico tours booked us extremely high quality tours, hotels, and transfers. I want to highlight the private, VIP touches that Rico booked for us during our time in Costa Rica. One of the curveballs we threw them was an extended family wedding in the middle of our vacation. This wedding was located nowhere near our desired destination resort properties. Rather than compromise on what we wanted to see and do in Costa Rica, Rico Tours booked us a private driver and guide for the day we needed to get from Point A to Point B. The resulting 7 hour drive was one of the highlights of our trip. We had a private drive through Guanacaste in a very nice, spotless SUV with a guide who seemed to know everything about Costa Rican nature, history, and culture. Having a private guide for the day was not something we would have booked for ourselves, but was such a great value given all that we learned and experienced with him. Highly recommend Rico Tours
Travel Advisor:  Julie Snyder