"Introduction to Ecuador Self-Guided GPS Tour" (12 days)
Ecuador is one of the most geographically, culturally, and biologically diverse countries in the world. Amazing landscapes encompassing rainforests,Andean mountain ranges, coastal ranges, deserts and tropical grasslands make this South American country a haven for astonishing wildlife, stunning panoramas as well as rich anthropological and cultural sites.
This tour will take you to all of the best that continental Ecuador has to offer on this absolutely unforgettable motorcycle adventure.
We will visit all of the major regions of continental Ecuador - the Andes, the Coast and the Amazon Basin. We will have time to explore the major cities of Quito, Guayaquil, Loja, Manta, Esmeraldas and Cuenca, including many places declared "World Heritage Sites" by the United Nations. We will experience the various cuisines and cultures of Ecuador such as the creole cuisine in Esmeraldas, fresh coffee from plantations in Loja, fresh chocolate from the cacao plantations near Guayaquil, hearty soups of the Andean highlands, and steamed fish wrapped in Amazonian jungle leaves.
One of the things that sets a motorcycle trip apart from other types of tourism are the scents, fragrances and aromas that you can experience while riding - you can't experience these while travelling in a bus or car. Ecuador provides you with a feast for all your senses - you will pass through brilliant fields of multi-colored roses, see wild orchids in the rainforests, smell the eucalyptus and pine forests, ripening bananas, and ride through salty mist along the shore. You'll smell the fresh, wood-oven baked bread in colonial cities.
The tour will also take you off the beaten track to explore some of the wild areas of Ecuador. It is one of the most adventurous tours that you can do, giving you access to untouched wildlife and unforgettable insight into how native Ecuadorians have lived for centuries.
12 Days / 11 nights (with two rest days)
Total Distance Covered: approximately 2,662 kilometers / 1,654 miles
Average distance per day : 266 kilometers / 165 miles (10 riding days)
99% asphalt road / 1% dirt, gravel or cobblestone roads
4-5 star hotel accomodations including unique luxury hacienda and boutique hotel accomodations
Detailed Road Book with daily route sheets
Pre-programmed daily GPS routes
Quito - San José de Minas - Cuicocha Lake - Cotacachi - Otavalo - Lake San Pablo
Distance covered: 120 kms / 75 miles -- 100% paved
or optional 50% pavement 25% cobblestone 25% dirt/gravel roads route
You’ll begin your twelve day “Introduction to Ecuador Tour" from our shop located in Quito, Ecuador - 2850 meters (almost 2 miles above sea level) in the Andes Mountains. Quito is the capital city of Ecuador with about 1.5 million residents and has some of the best examples of Spanish colonial architecture in Latin America. Quito was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the 1970's for having the best preserved and least altered historic centre in all of Latin America. We suggest you arrive a day or two early to experience this amazing town and to get used to the altitude before your ride.
On the morning of the tour departure you’ll be outfitted with the motorcycle of your choice and given a thoughtful presentation that will answer all your questions concerning local customs, rules of the road, riding signals, etc. You will be shown how to operate the GPS and how to bring up the daily pre-programmed routes.
The first day's ride is intended to give you a sampling of the different types of roads you will be riding, so that you can become quickly accustomed to your motorcycle. You will have a chance to ride on asphalt, dry gravel, ancient Incan cobblestone roads as well as unpaved farm roads.
Your first stop will be in the middle of the world. The Inti-ñan museum is situated right on the Equator. Inti-ñan means "path of the Sun" in Quechua, a native language of Ecuador. Take a tour of this magical site, a place that the indigenous peoples have revered for thousands of years. Learn how the ancient people came to understand that this was the center of the world, centuries before "modern" geography or GPS devices. You can play with gravity here and perform experiments to learn about the Coriolis effect caused by the Earth's rotation. You will also get to know how the indigenous populations of Ecuador live and visit some typical homes. This tour will give you some excellent background information on Ecuador so that you will better understand the cultures as you pass through the various regions of Ecuador over the next twelve days.
After the visit at the Inti-ñan museum, you will be riding in the Northern Hemisphere. You will first pass through a dry desert road that will bring you into a deep canyon. Then, out of the canyon into lush, green patchwork of fields of vegetables, roses and dairy cattle. You will want to stop in the charming little town of San José de Minas with its beautiful stone church and well-manicured central park.
From San José de Minas, climb in altitude on spectacular roads through pristine natural areas, with grand vistas of the serene farmlands and forests below. Youwill experience great aromas as we pass through eucalyptus and pine forests.
Then, stop to add a layer of clothing as you ride up to a height of over 12,000 feet (3714 meters) to view the majestic Mojanda Lake surrounded by the Fuya-Fuya mountain which overlooks the majestic body of water.
From there, ride down through the colonial city of Otavalo, famous for its expansive indigenous market. You can stop here to view the various crafts, textiles and other unique colorful items for sale here.
You will finish the day's ride along the calming shores of Lake San Pablo and settle in for the night in a private lakeside cabin at the Hosteria Cabanas del Lago.
Lake San Pablo - Ibarra - Borbon - Esmeraldas - Atacames - Tonchigűe
You will begin your ride today with a vist to the handsome Spanish colonial city of Ibarra, founded in 1606 and at an altitude of 2225 meters (7,300 ft). It still has a unique charm with white-washed colonial houses, cobbled streets and shaded plazas.
You'll then head off the beaten path, on a sinuous, recently paved highway that gradually descends from the Andean mountains, through farms ofpapaya, mango and other exotic fruits. You will have entered Esmeraldas province, home to the majority of the Afro-Ecuadorian population. You will pass through miles of giant coastal mangroves and witness more incredible biodiversity.
You will get a glimpse at the lively and noisy city of Esmeraldas, northern Ecuador's major port and coastal city. You can stop for lunch to try out some of the creole cuisine, unique to this part of Ecuador.
Once past Esmeraldas you will pass the thatched roofs of the festive beach town Atacames.
Keeping along the coast , you will end the day's ride at the Cumilinche Club. This French-owned resort has comfortable cabins and a private stretch of beach of unspoiled natural beauty. You will be able to go for a swim in the warm Pacific Ocean and explore the natural caves that surround the beach. You''ll partake in a gourmet Franco-Ecuadorian dinner.
In the morning, you will want to take a walk to admire some of the incredible birds, crabs and other coastal wildlife along this isolated and quiet empty stretch of coast.
Distance covered: 290 Km / 180 miles - 85% asphalt / 15% dirt roads (with an optional challenging river crossing
You will start the day riding along miles of the Ecuadorian coast and past many shrimp farms and then through rolling hills of the tropical grasslands of the coastal lowlands. You will see that the preferred form of transport here is horseback. You will stop for lunch in the somewhat chaotic little city of Pedernales. Known as the capital city for shrimp harvesting and trade in Ecuador (the country's third most important export) here you can enjoy some of the great restaurants serving the freshest shrimp you will have ever tasted in your life!
You will continue your ride down the unspoiled coastline of empty, sandy beaches and into the warm, friendly fishing village of Jama. Then, you will head inland for a ride on some of the serene, undisturbed countryside of Manahi, passing cattle farms. You will be challenged with a deep river crossing without using a bridge (optional).
After passing through the isolated farming village of San Isidro, you will head towards the sunset, and onto the warm, sandy beach of Canoa. Canoa is home to a mixed population of native fishemen, transient surfers and expatriate retirees who are seeking sun and relaxation. You will settle into the friendly and super comfortable Canoa Beach Hotel and get ready for your day off from riding...
"Rest" Day in Canoa
Break Day! Relaxation and sunshine! Canoa has one of the best beaches on the Ecuadorian coast and is a very popular place for surfing (boards and lessons available from Canoa Thrills). You can rent a sea-kayak and explore the coastal caves. Other available activities include paragliding, parapenting, whale watching, horseback riding or fishing.
Or, you can just pull up a chair at some of the great hang-outs, beachside bars and restaurants and enjoy a restful day away from the bike.
Distance covered: 260 km / 162 miles on 100% asphalt paved roads.
With a day of rest behind you, you will head south, crossing Ecuador's newest and longest bridge that spans the Bahia de Caraquez and brings you into the new and modern city of the same name. You will stop in the town of Montechristi for a quick tour of a coffee roasting plant (another important Ecuadorian export). Montechristi is also famous for the fine straw hats they produce there - mistakenly known as a "Panama hat." You may be tempted to buy one of these hats, which can be folded into the size of a match case and carried with you on the motorcycle.
Then, you'll head into the fishing and seafaring city of Manta, famous for its bustling seafood market, excellent restaurants and one of the few places in the world that still build wooden boats by hand. Then, you'll head inland, passing through the town of Jipijapa and surrounding rice paddies, cattle ranches and coffee plantations.
You'll roll into Ecuador's biggest city, the port city of Guayaquil and park the bike at the newly-built Wyndham Hotel You'll have some time to safely stroll along the city's beautiful waterfront park (Malecon 2000) and to climb to the top of the Santa Ana Hill, known for its colorful houses and quaint streets and for the cool breeze at the top of the hill with spectacular views of the grand city below.
Guayaquil - Machala - Pasaje - Zaruma
Distance Covered: 273 Km / 170 miles on 90% asphalt road / 10% unpaved gravel road
More adventures ahead! You will head across the great river Guayas and roll across great coastal plains with plenty of fishing birds and rice paddies. You'll see the agriculture and landscape change as you enter El Oro Province. The smell of ripening bananas and cacao plantations will fill your senses. You could have a quick ride through the coastal city of Machala, known for being the "Banana Capital of the World" - where a large portion of Ecuador's banana trade and market activities occur.
Onward, you will then head back inland, through mangroves and farmlands and into the hills that were once one of the wealthiest regions of the Spanish Empire.
You'll end today's ride in the town of Zaruma. Zaruma was founded in 1549 and still boasts some of the finest examples of early colonial Spanish architecture in all of South America. Zaruma is also known for having the most beautiful women in Ecuador. You will find a nice, cozy room at the Roland Hotel.
Zaruma - Portovelo - Piñas - Cisne - Vilcabamba
Distance Covered: 242 km / 150 miles on 95% asphalt paved / 5% unpaved roads
Heading out from Zaruma, you can stop in Portovelo to visit the gold mines there, some of the world's biggest and most productive. You can visit the mine by riding one of the carts used to transport the raw ore.
Then, as you head back on your bike you will ride through some changing landscapes on rural mountain back roads forest. You will pass through the town of Pinas, known for its beautiful orchids.
You'll climb in elevation once again, riding through the picturesque Spanish colonial towns of El Cisne, with its magnificent cathedral and the charming town of Catamayo.
You'll finish today's ride in the peaceful, hippy-mecca town of Vilcabamba in what is known as the "Valley of Longevity" because the population here is known to live very long lives. With lush green scenery, a mild year-round climate, and fresh mountain air, it is no wonder that Vilcabamba has been a popular vacation spot for hundreds of years. Once a retreat for Inca royalty, foreigners discovered Vilcabamba in the 1970s after a series of articles were published including one in "National Geographic" that highlighted the long lives of the locals.
Since then the area has been known as the Valley of Longevity and has turned into one of the most popular destinations in Ecuador. Because most people come to Vilcabamba to relax, the town has managed to keep its small town appeal with only a cluster of small restaurants and internet cafes surrounding the sleepy town square. The tranquil atmosphere, perfect weather, and an endless array of outdoor activities has combined to create a place where people often come for a weekend and end up staying a month.
Check into the comfortable award-winning (Best Hotel and Spa in Ecuador) Madre Tierra Eco Resort- a very well-managed, American owned and operated hotel and spa with beautiful grounds and spectacular pool. The rooms are very comfortable and the swimming pool is beautiful. They also offer great massages and spa treatments if you would like to un-do some of the effects of riding.
Distance Covered: 250 km / 155 miles on paved road
Today's ride is going to be in high altitudes so you will want to add an additional layer of clothing.
You will head north on the Panamerican highway and experience some of the beautiful high altitude vistas below the dark blue sky that are found only when above 10,000 feet. You will run through the gorgeous colonial city of Loja, full of Universities, cafés and plazas with street musicians. Then head north along one of the most scenic stretches of the Panamerican highway, with tremedous views and exhilirating curves and climbs.
Once in the indigenous town of Saraguro, you'll want to stop and take a stroll through the famous market there.
After a hearty lunch you are back on the bike, with breathtaking scenery fighting for your attention as you keep your eyes on the curves and swoops. You will climb to over 11,500 feet at the Tinajilla Pass as you cross the high altitude pampa. Keep a careful eye out for wild llama and try to capture them with your camera.
On today's ride you will roll into Ecuador's third largest city and arguably its most charming -the city of Cuenca. Cuenca is recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site as its historic centre is a well-preserved example of Spanish Colonial architecture. You will be staying in the luxury colonial Casa del Agula hotel right in the historic center of this beautiful city.
Cuenca - Alausi - Chimborazo Volcano - Baños
408 km/ 253 miles on 100% paved road
This is a long riding day, so you will need to get up early in the morning and get on the road after a great buffet breakfast. You will head out on the Panamerican highway towards the north, first passing through dense pine and eucalyptus forests. The scent of these forests will be something that will stay with you long after the ride. Continue on these mountain roads, passing through high altitude paramo and crossing chilly high altitude mountain passes at 11,000+ feet. After some breathtaking views, you will turn right onto a road that will take you through scenic farmlands. The people here use centuries-old farming techniques. It is a ride through the past.
The road will take you to the largest Incan ruins in Ecuador - Ingapirca. Otherwise known as Ecuador's "Macchu Picchu" - you can visit the ruins of this Incan Solar temple and marvel at their advanced irrigation techniques.
Then, arrive in the Andean town of Alausi, which is known for its warm and welcoming indigenous population who wear brilliantly colored clothes. The town is also known for its architecture. The town has a very active market and some great restaurants serving fresh trout, locally grown produce and other regional specialties. This is a good place for lunch.
You continue up the Panamerican highway, and climb to 4,500 meters (14,500 feet). The route will go around the Chimborazo Mountain (6268 meters – nearly 4 miles high - the highest peak in Ecuador) and through the Palmira Desert, the largest and fastest growing desert in Ecuador. It will pass through the Chimborazo National Wildlife refuge where you will see will many wild guinea pigs, hunting birds such as the condor and wild vicuña, a relative of the camel and llama that run wild here. This area will make you feel like you are on another planet.
You will ride through the outskirts of Ecuador's fourth largest city, Ambato and head through lush farmlands and valleys, dorpping to an elevation of 5,000 feet inthe adventure tourism mecca of"Banos de Agua Santa", famous for its health-giving thermal springs. The town is set in the shadow of the mighty Tungarahua Volcano, which is a very active volcano that occasionally erupts with pyroclastic emissions and thick ash. Banos is located in what is known as "magnetic vortex," a unique place where the planet's 4 essential life elements - Air, Earth, Water, and Fire - are found. You will check into theLa Floresta Hotel and enjoy access to the great restaurants, hot springs and activities that Banos has to offer.
¨Rest¨ Day in Baños
Today is another chance for some additional great adventures! Baños is one of the world's best centers for adventure and extreme sports. With so many inexpensive, experienced guides and tours available, we strongly encourage you to take full advantage of them in order to experience the incredible natural beauty that surrounds this town.
You can go for a day of rafting or kayaking on some world-class rapids, do some bungee jumps, go canyoning (rapelling down waterfalls), take a jungle tour, ride down a volcano on a mountain bike or improve your rock-climbing skills. If none of those activities appeal to you, Baños has some great hangouts, restaurants and bars and and an exciting nightlife, too.
This is the perfect spot for a rewarding rest day no matter what you choose to do
Banos - Puyo - Cotococha Amazon Lodge
82 miles / 132 km on 100% paved road
You can feel free linger a little longer than normal this morning, taking another volcanic bath and enjoying a full breakfast at the La Floresta hotel before you head back on the road. You will leave Banos and head eastward - riding down what is known as the "Route of the Waterfalls" through the eastern slopes which will eventually descend into the Amazon River Basin.
You will see the vegetation change dramatically as you descend along the eastern slopes of the Andes into the Amazon rainforest. The air will become warm as you arrive in Puyo - and you are now officially in Amazonia. You will take the rolling hills of highway 45 north, and with great views of the Sierra to your left.
You will turn onto a road that follows the Napo River, and go deeper into the Amazon jungle and arrive at the Cotococha Amazon Lodge and check into your riverside bungalow for the night. Each bungalow is built according to traditional architecture in harmony with the surrounding rainforest. All bungalows are equipped with a private bathroom, a private veranda with reclining chairs or hammocks in which to relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of Ecuador's Amazon.
Afterwards you will enjoy a special welcome drink, relaxing around the elegant fireplace, to coordinate and discuss your next day’s activities with the local crew. This is a very special place set in a peaceful setting filled with the sounds of the Amazon jungle. You'll sleep well tonight as the Napo River purrs in the background.
Cotococha - Puerto Misahualli - Tena - Quito
225 km / 140 miles on paved road
After another healthy breakfast at Cotococha, you will board a motirized canoe to take a ride up the Napo River. A native guide will hike with you through the Amazon jungle, giving expert explanations of the the wildlife, insects, flowers and vegetation that grows there as well as explain their tradional and medicinal uses . You will end your hike with a refreshing swim in a clear waterfall and beautiful lagoon. Then, you'll float back to the lodge on an innertube in the Napo river, pack up the bike to continue your ride along the Napo River. You will cross a narrow wire bridge into the town of Misahualli. This is a port city - the beginning of the navigable parts of the Amazon basin. From here you could take a boat to the Atlantic. The town is a lot of fun because of their mischievous monkey population which loves the attention of visitors and teasing the local dogs. Bring your camera.
Then, head back westward on the other side of the Napo river, and through the kayaking capital of the Americas, Tena. From Tena, you will continue your ride along the edge of the Amazon jungle with dense vegetation all around. Begin your ascent into the eastern slopes once again as we pass through the rainforest town of Baeza. Here you will want to add some additional layers of clothing for the chilly air that you will face as you climb to over 13,000 feet. With fantastic views of the city below, you will coast into Quito to return the bike the follwing day.
ANY day ANY time of year, with advanced reservations.