Cloudforests, Coast, and Craters Tour
A 7-Day Self-Guided Motorcycle Adventure
Distance: 1,237 kilometers / 769 miles 75% paved road / 25% unpaved road
Time Needed: 7 days / 6 nights
Climates: Cloudforest, Tropical Rainforest, Tropical Grasslands, Desert, Highlands Pampa, Dry Forest
Recommended Gear: Raingear, camera, waterproof saddlebags, suntan lotion, insect repellent, sunglasses, summer and winter weight gloves.
This tour is a combination of our most popular tours and will take you on some of the best roads and to the best sights in Ecuador. You will pass through several climatic zones, including the cloudforests, coastal savannah, beach, desert, and the rainforest on the eastern and western slopes. You will ride through some of the most bio-diverse parts of the world, seeing rural parts of Ecuador that few visitors get to see. Experience warm sandy beaches and volcanic spring baths. Plus a variety of foods and cuisines along the way!
Day 1: Quito - Nono - Mindo
81 km / 50 miles on 25% asphalt/ 75% unimproved road
After an orientation and safety briefing, you will head out of Quito (you should depart before 3:00 pm), rising in elevation as you climb the foothold of the Pichincha volcano, getting absolutely spectacular views of the city below. Soon you’ll be on the "Route of the Hummingbird" or "Ecoruta del Quinde." This route is famous for its incredible natural beauty. It has won several awards from the Audubon Society for the large number of bird species that can be seen. Although the area is relatively small in size it is one of the most bio-diverse on the planet, counting thousands of species of butterflies, plus hundreds of different reptilian, amphibian and bird species - including several types of toucans and hummingbirds.
Once over the pass, your surroundings will go from urban to country in an instant. You are now surrounded by green pastures and the sounds of the city are replaced with the sounds of rolling brooks and streams and chirping birds. You will descend into the small village of Nono - a quaint, friendly little place that feels a world away from Quito.
Once outside of Nono you may want to stop for a swim in the beautiful Guagrapamba Waterfall. which is just along the route and can be reached after a short hike.
Your ride will continue along these country roads with virtually no traffic bringing you high into the elevations until you reach the "Virgen de Camino Mirador" overlook. Stop here and get some great views of the valleys below. Then you will descend along a rolling river of cold, clear water and into the rainforests for a completely new biological habitat. You may catch a glimpse of some wild toucans or brightly colored frogs.
You will pass by the world famous Tandayapa Bird Lodge. You may decide to stop here for lunch in their restaurant or just sneak a peak at their amazing balcony while being surrounded by hundreds of hummingbirds in a show that will fascinate you.
Back on the road, the aromas and sounds of the rainforest you experience will stay with you long after this ride is over.
If you didn't get a bite to eat at the Tandayapa, you can also stop for lunch in the Bellavista Cloudforest Bird Lodge. They offer an incredible over-the- canopy environment where you can get a great meal while watching hundreds of bird species. Their restaurant is excellent.
Then you will head from the cloudforests into the warm microclimate of the town of Mindo. This funky, eclectic town offers great restaurants, bars and activities such as zip-wire canopy tours, a butterfly zoo, a chocolate tour and innertube rides down white water Mindo river.
You will stay tonight at the comfortable and friendly Hotel Caskefessu, known for its beautiful courtyard and fabulous food.
Day 2: Mindo - La Concordia - Pedernales - Jama - Canoa
293 km / 182 miles on 100% asphalt road
After a hearty breakfast, you should get on the road by 9 am today. Head out of Mindo, climbing first in elevation and then once back on Route 25, you will start your descent along Ecuador's western slope. It may be a bit foggy as you pass through the cloudforest and descend into the tropical rainforests. From San Miguel de Los Bancos you will continue the long, gradual descent towards the coast. You will feel the temperature of the air around you begin to rise as you roll down the curves, crossing some roaring rivers and experiencing breathtaking views along the way.
Watch, and you will begin to see palm trees and more "junglesque" growth along the road. The leaves of the plants will grow in size. When you enter Manabi Province you will begin to see that horses are a more common mode of transport than cars and buses as you head into the tropical grasslands.
La Concordia is a commercial city, a trading center for the area's biggest crop - palm oil. The palm groves that surround this city are almost magical.
You will arrive at the coast in the city of Pedernales, sometimes referred to as the "Wild Wild West" because of its chaotic markets, plentiful restaurants, nightclubs, and fun-loving residents. This is the closest beach to Quito and it has a festive atmosphere. This is also Ecuador's shrimp capital and we suggest you try a shrimp lunch here at one of the oceanside restaurants. It will be probably the freshest and most delicious shrimp you will ever have in your life.
Once you leave Pedernales you will be riding along the coastal road, passing by several natural, wild and undeveloped beaches and shrimp farms. You will pass through the quiet town of Jama - a throwback to a simpler time, where the tides and fishermen set the pace.
You will finish today's ride in the town of Canoa. Canoa is home to a mixed population of native fishemen, transient surfers and expatriate retirees who are seeking sun and relaxation. We strongly recommend taking an extra rest day here in Canoa. Our carefully selected accomodations are at the Coco Loco Hostel, right on the beach and with a great atmosphere thanks to its friendly helpful and fun staff.
Day 3: Canoa - Bahia de Caraquez - Quevedo
229 kilometers / 142 miles on 100% asphalt road
Enjoy a last swim on the beautiful beach in Canoa, have a good breakfast and be on the road by 10 am. Your morning ride will continue down the coastal road also known as "Jellyfish Drive." After crossing the Bahia de Caraquez on Ecuador's newest bridge and through the city of the same name, you’ll begin to head away from the coast, passing through many cacao, rice and cattle farms and through the town of Portoviejo. This part of the country is full of fishing birds of all types and a natural forest kept intact by the locals, where hundreds of South American squirrels live in the wild. You will definitely hear and may be lucky to glimpse the famous howling monkey. The population in this area of Ecuador make their living from agriculture, mostly rice, cacao plantations, and cattle. You’ll spend the night at the Olimpico Hotel in the city of Quevedo. Quevedo was the first Chinese settlement community in Ecuador and many of the Chinese restaurants date back to the 1920’'s. We highly recommend a Chinese feast at the Jade Restaurant, the best Ecuadorian Chinese cuisine in Quevedo (and probably in all of Ecuador).
Day 4: Quevedo - El Corazon - Facundo Vela - Salinas de Guaranda
136 kilometers / 85 miles on 5% asphalt / 95% unimproved dirt roads
Today's ride may not be very many kilometers long but will be somewhat challenging as it will be primarily on unimproved dirt and gravel roads. You should be sure to head out of the hotel by 9:00 am. You will start the ride leaving the bustling city of Quevedo on a dirt road through miles of palm tree, cacao and banana plantations. The fragrances of ripening bananas and cacao beans roasting in the sun will waft through your helmet. You will climb in elevation on spectacular country roads, arriving in the small town of El Corazon - where they brew and bottle their own unique brand of moonshine - a flavored alcohol that is quite good, yet inexpensive. El Corazon is a very friendly town and a good place to stop for lunch.
From El Corazon you will again face some challenging dirt roads that wind through thick jungles and arrive in the colorful, isolated village of Facundo Vela, a place that seems like it hasn't changed much in the past 100 years. The town is usually full of horses with not a single car to be seen. You may feel as though you have ridden into a time warp - and it is now 1911...
Taking the dirt road out of Facundo Vela you will continue to ride and gain altitude on a series of switchback cobblestone trails. The air through this section of cloudforest is scented with wild orchids and tropical plants and will get cooler and cooler as you continue the climb. In this part of Ecuador farming is still done without modern machinery. You'll see plenty of oxen, horses and donkeys. The indigenous inhabitants wear traditional dress and enjoy a simple life here. They are usually pretty surprised to see foreigners come through their villages.
You'll cross a high mountain pass at around 11,000 feet before arriving in the village of Salinas de Guaranda. This town is unique in Ecuador as it has a Swiss heritage. Here they make chocolate and cheese in the Swiss tradition and you can have a dinner of fondue and raclette at a local restaurant. At the Hotel El Refugio you can warm yourself at the big fireplace and get a good night sleep in a room overlooking the village.
Day 5: Salinas de Guaranda - Chimborazo - Riobamba - Banos
150 kilometers / 93 miles on 90% asphalt road / 10% unimproved dirt road
You will wake up in the high altitude "Swiss" village of Salinas - you should have some additional layers ready for today's ride - you will be riding through some extreme temperature and climate changes - so be prepared. You should leave the hotel by 9 am today in order to be able to end your day relaxing in the therapeutic volcanic spring baths in Banos.
With fantastic scenery at all times you turn onto the Avenue of Volcanoes to ride 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 glimpse of wild llamas earlier, you will be sure to see plenty here today! There are also wild guinea pigs and other wild animals. You will be at an altitude of about 14,500 feet (4,350 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 for 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 - the best time to get to the baths is when they open at 5:00 pm. The baths close at 4 pm every day to change the water so getting there at 5 means a smaller crowd and cleaner water! Once you have soaked away the effects of the road grab a meal at one of the town's fantastic restaurants. Your carefully selected accomodations for tonight are at the friendly and comfortable La Floresta Hotel.
Day 6: Banos - Patate - Latacunga - Pujilli - Quilotoa Crater Lake - Chugchilan
197 kilometers / 122 miles on 85% asphalt / 15% unimproved dirt roads
We strongly recommend that you stay in Banos an additional day in order to take advantage of some of the great activities and tours you'll find there.
You can take another soak in the town's volcanic spring baths before heading out on the road. You should get on the road by 10 am today. The morning will be spent riding some curvy narrow, paved country roads that take you past dairy farms and vistas above the city of Ambato. You will have a brief ride on the PanAmerican highway with great views of the Tungarahua (active) volcano.
You'll pass through the beautiful colonial city of Latacunga with its Spanish colonial historical centre and then ride westward, up into the mountains. You have now begun riding on the famous "Quilotoa Loop." The Quilotoa Loop is known for its beautiful scenery and for its friendly, indigenous people. You might want to stop in the town of Pujilli, which has a great indigenous market - not very touristy but with great textiles and other useful but inexpensive goods.
You will be steadily rising in altitude again and will have a chance to see more llamas and alpacas grazing in the highlands pampa. If just looking at them doesn't satisfy you you can enjoy some llama meat at the Llama cafe just before you get to the town of Tigua. Tigua is known for its colorful paintings and ceramics and this small village has a fantastic gallery - worth a stop at least to see some of the fine art created in this part of the world.
In the town of Zumbahua, you will turn north and ride through a beautiful valley to the Quilotoa Crater Lake. This amazing lake was created by a collapsed volcano that left behind minerals that now give the deep crater lake an odd blue-green color.
From the Quilotoa Lake the road will become unpaved and will wind through some incredibly picturesque countryside. You will stay for the night at Mama Hilda's Hostel in Chugchilan, where the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, has stayed on a few occasions. The hostel will serve you an enormous, homestyle Ecuadorian dinner of pots and pots of food. They also have horses that you can ride in the surrounding countryside if you arrive early.
Day 7: Chugchilan - Saquisilli - Machachi - Quito
151 kilometers / 94 miles on 90% paved roads / 5% cobblestone road / 5% unimproved dirt road
Have a hearty breakfast with Mama Hilda and then head on the road. You will need about 4-5 hours for today's ride (including a lunch stop). For those with offroad riding experience and a desire for a more offroad route home, we can provide you with a route to take you on back roads back to Quito by request.
You will continue on unpaved road until you reach the town of Sigchos. Sigchos was an indigenous settlement long before the arrival of the Spanish who settled it in the early 1500's. Once through Sigchos the road will become an ancient cobblestone road. There are a few of these ancient roads in Ecuador and they are maintained the old fashioned way - by replacing the stones by hand. The work is really impressive.
You will wind through some dizzying switch-back roads, climbing first in elevation and then descending into the town of Saquisilli. Saquisilli is famous for its enormous indigenous market which happens every Thursday morning. If it is Thursday, be sure to stop.
From Saquisilli, you will head north towards Quito on the Panamerican highway, otherwise known as the Avenue of Volcanoes. Along this highway you will be surrounded by towering snow-capped volcanoes - with the Cotopaxi Volcano on one side and the Illiniza on the other.
To end your tour on a festive note, stop at the famous "Cafe de la Vaca" in Machachi. They set the standard for Ecuadorian food and have great Ecuadorian coffee.
You will finish your "Cloudforests, Coast and Craters" Tour where you began - at our offices in the Mariscal Section of Quito. Don't worry- our GPS systems will get you through the Quito traffic efficiently and safely! Now that you have finished your tour we hope you have some memories to last a lifetime...
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