Avenue of Volcanoes, Quilotoa Loop and Amazon Basin Tour
A 3- or 4-Day Self-Guided Motorcycle Adventure
Photos from the Avenue of Volcanoes, Quilotoa Loop & Amazon Basin Tour:
In this 3 day tour, you will get a good sense of the incredible variety of landscapes, climates and cultures that are available in the small country of Ecuador. The tour takes you through two distinct regions of Ecuador - the Andes and the Amazon Basin. You will ride through the astonishing "Avenue of Volcanoes", taking you past the highest active volcanoes in the world and to the spectacular Quilotoa Crater Lake and its distinct blue-green mineral waters. Then, you will experience a ride through the Amazon jungle, packed with lush vegetation and ample opportunities for rafting, kayaking and hiking along the way. The route and accomodations have been carefully selected to provide not only safety, comfort, and great food, but also opportunities to experience other activities such as birdwatching, hiking, horseback riding, swimming, volcanic baths, rappelling, kayaking and cave exploration along the way.
Quito-Lasso-Sigchos-Chugchilan-Quilotoa Crater Lake-Tigua
Distance Covered: 131 miles / 211 km (25% cobblestone or unpaved road)
After a briefing and orientation to acquaint you with the customs and rules of the road in Ecuador, you will head out on the motorcycle of your choice that has been pre-programmed with each day's route. You will be shown how to operate the GPS and given a paper map as a backup. Your hotel for each night has been reserved and paid for in advance. All you need to do now, is hop on the bike - and enjoy the ride - safe in the knowledge that you will see some of the best sights and the best roads in Ecuador!
You will roll out of Quito on the Panamerican highway, passing incredibly green high-altitude pasturelands and then after a few miles, you will find yourself in a valley surrounded on both sides by two massive mountain ranges. This is the beginning of the famous "Avenue of Volcanoes." You will feel tiny as you roll through this valley with snow-covered volcanoes at either side. On the left you will get an increasingly closer and closer view of the majestic Cotopaxi Volcano, which rises to almost 4 miles in height and is the world's tallest active volcano.
You can stop for a fantastic lunch at the famous "Cafe de la Vaca" in Mochachi.
The GPS unit will indicate where you will take a right, onto a stretch of road known as the "Quilotoa Loop." This road will take you through many traditional Andean villages with friendly and helpful indigenous people and eventually to the Quilotoa Crater Lake. For now, you will be treated to some incredible cobblestone roads, challenging (but fun) hairpin turns and majestic views.
You will pass through the town of Sigchos, a colonial city founded in the 1500's. and then continue on dirt road towards the friendly town of Chugchilan. You'll arrive at an amazing lake created by a meteorite collision that left behind extraterrestrial minerals that now give the lake an odd blue-green color. After gazing in awe at the lake, you will head south through a fertile valley and more picturesque traditional indigenous villages such as Zumbahua,a farming town known for its artisan market of foods, textiles, wool and handmade knives. If it is Saturday it is market day in Zumbahua, and even more worthwhile to stop to see the market.
Tonights carefully selected accomodations are at the Posada del Tigua - a family-run farmhouse converted into a cozy bed-and-breakfast inn. The family that runs this inn will show you to your private room and then invite you to join them for a healthy, organic meal created from the produce of their farm. This will be one of the best meals you will have in Ecuador.
Tigua-Ambato-Chimborazo Wildlife Refuge-Riobamba-Banos
Distance Covered: 157 miles / 254 km (15% unpaved road)
After a great farm breakfast youw will re-attach your GPS and start heading towards the east. You will rise in altitude, crossing high altitude grasslands where wild alpaca and llama graze freely. It will be chilly here so be sure to bring an extra layer of clothes. Then you will descend into a valley and arrive in the city of Latacunga, where you will re-join the scenic Avenue of Volcanoes
With fantastic scenery at all times, you continue along the Avenue of Volcanoes around the Chimborazo Volcano, which soars above at a height of 6,310 meters (20,702 feet). This is the highest mountain in the Americas and is the highest land mass on earth when you take into account its proximity to the equator.
Your ride around Chimborazo will take you through the Chimborazo wildlife refuge. where if you hadn't gotten a glimps of wild alpaca earlier, you will be sure to see plenty here! There are also wild guinea pigs and other wild animals. You will then go over a high mountain pass at 14,173 feet (4,320 meters) - so be sure to have your warm gloves on. The views will be stunning!
You will then cross through the colonial city of Riobamha and continue eastward, following the Chambo River and scenic valleys. The road will become a dirt road about 15 miles, but easy to ride and a completely different terrain, of shifting faultlines and high cliffs.
You will then arrive in the town of Banos - one of the best adventure capitals of the world. Be sure to soak away the day's ride in the volcanic baths that are kept at varying temperatures and then grab a meal at one of the town's fantastic restaurants.
You will be staying in the carefully selected Posada del Arte which has excellent service and access to all of the things that Banos has to offer such as rafting, hiking, canyoning, rappelling, kayaking, and bungee-jumping.
Distance Covered: 228 miles / 367 km (99% asphalt road)
After a refreshing night in Banos you will begin a long curvy descent into the Amazon basin, passing by several stupendous waterfalls and through a few narrow unlit tunnels (take off your sunglasses!). As you continue downhill, the temperature and humidity in the air increases. Different tropical plants will give you aromas you haven't sensed before on this trip. You will have arrived in the Amazon region, and the small city of Puyo, the capital of the Pastaza province where you will notice a distinctly different culture and climate than of the Sierra. The Amazon Basin is home to seven indigenous nationalities along with the mestizo population. Their forms of living, food, music, and religion, as well as their languages are quite different from their highland counterparts.
From Puyo, you will ride through the Amazon Basin jungle on really fun, well-paved rolling roads and across some tremendous rivers carrying water to the Amazon river. If you have the time, stop here and go on some rafting or jungle expeditions (you can always extend your rental!). The route will take you for a short detour out to the town of Puerto Misahualli - which is the most western navigable port of the Amazon river basin. From here, you could take a boat all the way to the Atlantic ocean via the Amazon river. (Please don't though - we want our bike back!). Puerto Misahualli has a mischievous monkey population that loves to play with the local dogs and tourists. Be sure to bring your camera!
Further up the road are the Jumandi Caves, created by the river currents. There are guides there that can show you around the caves, but you will need to wade through water - so be sure to have a pair of shorts handy.
You will pass through the rainforest town of Baeza and start the climb back into the Sierra. Then you can have another stop and opportunity for bathing and swimming in the thermal springs of Papallacta before heading over a high (and chilly) mountain pass at 4,200 meters (about 14,000 feet) and an easy ride back into the magnificent capital city of Quito.