Cloudforests, Coast, and Craters Tour
A 7-Day Self-Guided Motorcycle Adventure
Distance: 1,343 kilometers / 835 miles
Paved Route: 99% paved route (we can provide an optional dual-sport ride with up to 25% paved rotues if requested)
Time Needed: 7 days / 6 nights
Climatic Zones: Cloudforest, Tropical Rainforest, Tropical Grasslands, Desert, Paramo, Super Paramo, Dry Forest
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!
Quito - Intiñan - Pululahua Crater - Mindo
103 km / 64 miles on 100% asphalt
You'll begin this 7-day / 6 night “Cloudforest Coast & Craters” tour from our shop in Quito, Ecuador. In 1978, Quito became the first place on the planet to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for having the best-preserved historic center in all of Latin America. Quito is high on the Antiplano Plateau (the second highest in the world) in the Andes at 9,350 feet. We suggest that you arrive a day or two early to experience our magnificent capital city while getting acclimated to high altitude before beginning the tour.
During the first morning of the tour you’ll be outfitted with the motorcycle of your choice and given a thorough orientation answering all questions concerning local customs, rules of the road, and what to do if something unexpected occurs. You will be shown how to operate your pre-programmed GPS unit with daily routes and be given a "Road Book" with details and points of interest for each day. You will also be provided an "emergency kit" containing a pre-paid cell phone, first aid kit, tools and other items to ensure your ride goes smoothly.
Inti-ñan means “path of the Sun” in the Kichwa language and the Inti-ñan Museum is situated directly on the Equator. The indigenous peoples have revered this magical site for thousands of years and you will learn how ancient people came to understand that this was the center of the world - centuries before the advent of modern geography or GPS devices. During your first stop directly on the “red line” you will experiment with gravity, and witness how water drains either clockwise or counter-clockwise depending on which side of the Equator you are standing. You will also have the opportunity to see how the indigenous populations of Ecuador in various regions live by visiting models of their homes. This will enable you to better understand the cultures and ways of life that you will experience as you pass through various regions of Ecuador.
Departing the Inti-ñan Museum you are now officially outside of the Quito metropolitan region, and have begun riding in the Northern Hemisphere. Your second stop is to view the beautiful Pululahua Crater Geo-Botanical Reserve, a crater formed by a volcanic eruption 2,500 years ago. From there, head onto the western slopes of the Andes that are full of dense, green forests and steep mountains. The roads have been recently paved and riding these sharp curves is certain to be exhilarating fun.
OPTIONAL: For those who enjoy riding dirt roads, you'll have the option to turn off the pavement and ride deep into the Cloudforest 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. You can have a rest stop at 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
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. We highly recommend taking the chocolate tour to learn how organic chocolate is grown, harvested and processed into different products. You'll get a chance to taste fresh chocolate which is known to be some of the best in the world.
You will stay tonight at the comfortable and friendly Dragonfly Inn, known for its fabulous food, it is located in the center of town.
Mindo - La Concordia - Pedernales - Jama - Canoa
293 km / 182 miles on 100% asphalt road
After a hearty breakfast, you will start your ride by climbing in elevation and then once back on Route 25, you will start your descent along Ecuador's western slope. The fog that occurs in the cloudforest morning will disapper as you descend below the clouds 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. You'll enjoy new scents of wild orchids and ripening cacao (chocolate) beans.
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. You'll have a stop here and a chance to take a hike through this megadiverse natural area. The trail through the jungle, coffee and teak plantations will end at the Cascada Verde and Laguna Azul - a beautiful swimming hole with warm, mineral rich waters. After the hike, you can refresh with a class of freshly-pressed sugar cane / lime juice to restore your energy before getting back on the bike.
We suggest you stop for lunch at a special place near Puerto Quito, accessible only by crossing a wire suspension bridge. We'll provide this address to you in the GPS system.
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 (ask us for pricing). Our carefully selected accomodations are at the Canoa Beach Hotel, right on the beach and with a great atmosphere thanks to its friendly helpful and fun staff.
Canoa - Bahia de Caraquez - Vinces
245 kilometers / 152 miles on 100% asphalt road
Enjoy a last swim on the beautiful beach in Canoa and a filling breakfast. This morning's ride will continue down the coastal road also known as "ruta del sol" 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 may hear and perhaps 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.
We will pass through the friendly town of Santa Ana and through the tranquil countryside of Los Rios and Guayas Provinces.
You'll end the ride outside the town of Vinces. Vinces was settled by French chocolatiers in the 19th century and still retains its French architectural heritage. The region is famous for producing the world's best chocolate, known as "arriba" chocolate. The chocolate is called "arriba" because when the first European chocolate makers came here, they noticed the locals were carrying some of the best smelling and delicious chocolate in their canoes. When asked where the chocolate came from, the locals replied "arriba" which meant up-river, where Vinces is located today.
Enjoy the night on a chocolate and banana plantation. in the luxurious Senor de los Caballos Resort. You'll get a chance to learn how teakwood, chocolate and bananas are grown and cultivated. You'll also learn to make a special drink from chocolate and local spices.
Vinces - Juan Montalvo - Salinas de Guaranda
204 km / 127 miles on 100% asphalt road
Today's ride will involve a drastic change in climate and culture. You'll start the day in the cacao farming of the mestizo culture at sea level and finish at an elevation of over 11,800 feet in an indigenous Andean community. We've purposely made sure that you do the climb back into the Andes so that it will be early in the day, when you are most fresh and less likely to have trouble with the extreme altitude change.
First its a ride on country roads through the palm, teak, banana and cacao plantations. You'll recognize the scents of tree-ripened bananas and cacao beans.turn as
The road will begin to twist and turn as you climb out of the warm, humid air into higher elevations. You'll get a stunning view of the coastal plains below. You'll cross through the city of Guaranda and its seven hills. Then you'll continue on twisty roads through a patchwork of dairy farms, potatoes, carrot and celery farms. In this part of Ecuador farming is still primarily 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 arrive in the village of Salinas de Guaranda. Salinas is a very special town - with a very impressive recent rags-to-riches past. Up until the early 1970's the townspeople were subject to feudal law and they worked long hours in the fields and salt mines of the local landowners for little or no pay.
Since the reforms put into place by President Cordova in the early 1970's, the townspeople have taken ownership of their lands and have created a local economic partnership with the goal of full employment and improvement of the quality of life for its people. With the help of Swiss philanthropists, they established cheese making facilities that produce very high quality cheeses such as Andean Gruyère, Parmesan and Tilsit. The cheeses they make are of exceptional quality and with the success of their cheeses, the townspeople have launched other profitable enterprises such as the manufacture of soccer balls, gourmet chocolates, teas, marmelades and herbal remedies. It is improving the lives of everyone in town.
You'll learn more about this town and its unique economy during short walking tour with one of the townspeople to visit and taste the various chocolates and cheeses. This town is unique in Ecuador as it has a Swiss heritage. You'll stay at the El Refugio Hotel, which overlooks this beautiful Andean Alpine village.
OPTION: We can provide those who enjoy riding dirt roads, an optional route that is 50% unpaved roads through very remote villages. Just ask for the unpaved optional route when booking!
Salinas de Guaranda - Chimborazo - Riobamba - Banos
150 kilometers / 93 miles on 100% asphalt 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. Keep in mind that you'll 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 you will certainly see the rare, wild vicuña! Vicuña hair is a luxury used to make incredibly warm and soft sweaters and jackets. During the reign of the Inca, it was illegal for anyone but the Inca ruler to wear a vicuña jacket or sweater. The vicuña are extremely rare and Ecuador is one of the few places in the world where you can see them in their natural environment, thanks to the country's excellent wildlife protection policies that exceed the protection the Inca provided.
There are also wild guinea pigs and other wild animals. You will be at an altitude of about 14,500 feet (4,350 meters) - to be sure to have your warm gloves and extra layers of clothing 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 newly paved road with stunning views of the Chambo river below.
You will then arrive in the town of Baños - 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 Posada del Arte Hotel.
Banos - Patate - Pujilli - Quilotoa Crater Lake - Chugchilan
197 kilometers / 122 miles on 100% asphalt road
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. 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 which has been recently paved 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.
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. 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 unpaved 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.
You will wind through some dizzying newly-paved 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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