Cultures of the Equator Line

Cultures of the equator line

All the cultures of the equator line are special, Ecuador is a multi-ethnic and multicultural country. Although the population was heavily concentrated in the Andes highlands region a few decades ago, today it is divided about equally between that area and the coast. While you’re in Ecuador, you can learn a vast amount of information about local traditions. As you travel through Ecuador, you’ll likely be amazed at its natural biodiversity. Similarly, the country boasts diversity among its people and culture.

Most people travel to Ecuador to see and experience flora and fauna they might otherwise never see, not realizing how unique the culture is here. An interesting fact is that migration toward cities – particularly Quito and Guayaquil increased in the last decades. As varied as the landscapes of the Andes Mountains and the rainforest through which this journey will take you, so diverse are the people you will be encountering here.


From the Otavaleños and Afro Ecuadorians in the north to the Quichua and Shuar in the rainforest, and finally to the Kichwa in the central Andes at the foothills of the mighty volcano Chimborazo. Ecuador’s indigenous population comprises many groups. After the arrival of the Spanish, some tribes were wiped out. Others have dwindled in number due to the loss of land.

Each culture of the equator line strives to maintain its own identity and history, while also charting a meaningful path into the future. Due to Ecuador’s compact and diverse nature, one can experience any number of Ecuador’s distinct cultures within one day. Journeying just a few hours by car or bus, you can arrive in an entirely new community with its own customs and flavor.

In addition to numerous and varied native cultures, Ecuador has a thriving Mestizo culture, and a sizable Afro-Ecuadorian culture, the descendants of African slaves who worked on coastal sugar plantations in the sixteenth century. Ecuadorians rely heavily on their neighbors, even in urban Ecuador, there is a strong emphasis on the nuclear family, due in large part to the pervasiveness of Roman Catholicism. You will experience the diversity of fascinating Cultures on the Equator!

Quito, EC
Tena, EC
Latacunga, EC

Tour Plan

Day 01
Arrival in Quito (Ecuador) (Approximate driving time is 1 hour)

Arrive in Quito and transfer to the hotel. Depending on your time of arrival, you may have time to explore the city. Overnight Casa Sol or similar. No meals are included today.


Quito has been a city of two halves for a long time. Occupying a highland valley flanked by volcanoes, the setting of its historic center and adjoining modern quarters is breathtaking. The formerly dark and run-down colonial heart has been magnificently restored. Cobbled lanes and whitewashed façades, scrubbed up churches, and renovated theaters now gleam and echo with the sounds of the everyday life of its traditional inhabitants. Beyond are the skyscrapers and broad avenues of the contemporary commercial city, with flashy shops, offices, and restaurants.

Day 02
Quito – Otavalo (Approximate driving time is 2 hours)

This morning we will explore the colonial old town of Quito (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Visit the major colonial churches and monasteries including La Catedral, El Sagrario, La Compañía and San Francisco.

Later, visit Independence Plaza flanked by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building, and the Archbishop’s Palace. Continue to the Church of San Francisco, one of the most amazing religious buildings in South America. Its impressive façade and atrium lead to an opulent gold interior, a Baroque influence, with the winged Virgin of Quito at its main altar. Enjoy the historic colonial center of Quito, resplendent with its churches, gilded altars, and religious sculptures and paintings dating from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The tour continues through narrow streets, ancient colonial houses with Moorish-style arches, and mysterious patios to El Panecillo, a vantage point for a stunning view of the city. This afternoon, drive from Quito north to Mitad del Mundo (literally the middle of the world) Where the Equatorial Line Monument is located. Here you can stand with one foot in the Northern and one in the Southern Hemisphere. Leaving Quito behind, continue to Otavalo. Overnight Hotel Santa Fe or similar. (BD)

Day 03
Otavalo - Cuicocha Lagoon – Cotacachi – Otavalo (Approximate driving time is 1 hour)

This morning, we explore the surroundings of the Cuicocha Crater Lagoon during an easy to moderate grade 4-5 hour hike through the flora of the Andean highlands. After a traditional lunch in Cotacachi, visit a small archaeological museum. This afternoon, stroll through the Otavalo market and perhaps try the exotic fruits and vegetables. Overnight Hotel Santa Fe or similar (BL)

Note – Alternatively, clients can take a boat tour of the lagoon instead of hiking.

Day 04
Kichwa Community – Otavalo

The first excursion today takes you to the community of Kachiviro (San Rafael), where you can witness the processing of Tortora, a plant that grows in Lake San Pablo used by many families to make their handicrafts. Afterward, you will visit the Peguche waterfall, a must for the local people, where you will take a short hike and learn about the importance of this sacred place. To get a deeper insight into the local culture, visit other handicraft workshops (wool processing, a musical instrument workshop), where you can sometimes make your souvenirs! To top off the day, immerse yourself in the use of medicinal herbs. (BL)

Day 05
Otavalo – Papallacta – Archidona (Approximate driving time today is 5 hours)

Enjoy a walk early this morning through the streets of the Andean town of Otavalo to observe the lively market activity in Plaza de Poncho and the Andean culture of the Otavaleños. Continue over an Andean Pass of 4050 m altitude into a valley at 3300 m where thermal springs feed the most beautiful Spa in the country. This afternoon we reach Hakuna Matata, a cozy rainforest lodge in a private protected forest. Overnight Hakuna Matata Lodge or similar. (BD)

Day 06
Archidona – Hike in the rainforest and Pacari chocolate experience

This morning we will take a hike through the protected rainforest of the lodge. Your naturalist guide will point out interesting medicinal plants and talk about the wildlife in the area. This hike destination is the small village of Santa Rita, where a delicious jungle lunch awaits you. Afterward, the experts from Pacari show you how to make delicious chocolate from the local cocoa beans. After returning to the lodge, enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure. Overnight Hakuna Matata Lodge or similar. (BLD)

Day 07
Arajuno River – Quichua Community – Misahualli

Early this morning, head to the Arajuno River, where you will take a canoe trip to a clay lick, where you can observe hundreds of parrots and parakeets. Continue by canoe to the indigenous Quichua community of Santa Barbara to taste many local dishes in a typical jungle buffet with the community. Later, continue to the small jungle town of Misahualli for a traditional “Almuerzo” (Lunch). After a short walk through the village and its surroundings, return to the lodge. Overnight Hakuna Matata Lodge or similar. (BLD)

Note – Those that do not wish to do the canoe ride can opt out and stay by the Hakuna Matata Lodge, taking some short walks and enjoying the jungle directly from the lodge. 

Day 08
Puyo – Macas (Approximate driving time is 2 hours)

After breakfast, you will travel through the rainforest to Puyo, where we visit an Animal Rescue Center to observe tropical animals of the Amazon region and meet some monkeys face to face. From here, continue deeper into the rainforest to the small jungle town of Macau. Here there will be some time to relax at leisure in the afternoon in a mysterious rainforest Hosteria. Overnight  Luzcelinda  Hotel or similar (BD)

Day 09
Macas - Shuar Waterfall – Lagoons of Atillo – Guamote (Approximate driving time is 3 hours)

A short drive takes you to the Shuar territory. Taking a round trip walking of around 3 hours through the forest to a sacred waterfall. You will participate in the spiritual waterfall ceremony of the Shuar, after which enjoy a soak in the waterfall and taste the typical food of the Shuar. In the afternoon, continue to the Atillo Lakes, crossing the Andean highlands to Guamote. Overnight Inti Sisa Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 10
Guamote – Andean Kichwa Community – Riobamba (Approximate driving time 1 hour)

Visit the traditional Andean Market of Guamote early this morning. This afternoon, explore the area of Guamote and visit one of the surrounding small villages to get an insight into the life of the Kichwa population. This afternoon, travel to Riobamba, surrounded by the mountains of Chimborazo, Carihuayrazo, El Altar, and Tungurahua. The city is considered one of the most important agricultural center of the Ecuadorian Andes. Overnight Mansion Santa Isabella or similar. (BL)

Day 11
Chimborazo Volcano (Altitude: 6,267m) – Latacunga (Approximate driving time is 1h50 min)

Today travel from Riobamba up to the heights of the mighty Chimborazo volcano. On the way, stop at one of the Indigenous Kichwa Communities that live here at an altitude of over 3000 meters. From here, continue to the mountain hut Hermanos Carrel at 4800 meters altitude. The adventurous can hike from here to the Whymper hut at over 5000 meters altitude. Later in the afternoon, arrive at the small town of Latacunga situated at an altitude of 2800 meters. Overnight Villa Tacunga or similar. (BL)

Avenue of the Volcanoes 

The aptly named Avenue of the Volcanoes is flanked by eight dizzyingly-high snow-mantled mountains striding south of Quito down the Andean spine. It passes through a valley rich with a landscape of dense forest and tiny fields plastering impossibly steep slopes. Dotted around is a mix of deeply traditional indigenous and colonial settlements, with horticultural and artisan markets and cottage industries. There’s also a clutch of old estates gifted to conquistadors, where the grandiose buildings are now countryside hotels. This is an ideal hiking country. With trails leading to craters harboring turquoise volcanic lakes, with views of the Chimborazo and Cotopaxi will take your breath out.

Day 12
Latacunga – La Victoria - Zumbahua – Quilotoa Lagoon – Chugchilan (Approximate driving time is 2 hours)

This morning, you will continue to the village of La Victoria, which is famous for the traditional manufacture of ceramics. Continue to the Andean market of Zumbahua and experience the noisy and colorful market before heading to the beautiful crater lagoon, Quilotoa. On a short hike, enjoy the changing views of the lagoon and the surrounding Andes Mountains. Overnight Mama Hilda Hotel or similar (BLD)

Day 13
Chugchilan - Hacienda La Cienega – Cotopaxi National Park – Quito (Approximate driving time is 2 hours)

This morning, drive to the 400-year-old Hacienda La Cienega and enjoy a coffee break in this nostalgic atmosphere before visiting a nearby flower farm to experience the many colors and fragrances. Continue to Cotopaxi National Park and enjoy an easy walk around Limpiopungo Lagoon, learning about the typical vegetation of the Andes and, with good weather, enjoy superb views of the impressive Cotopaxi. Lunch is taken in the mountain refuge Tambopaxi surrounded by the impressive peaks of Sincholagua and Cotopaxi. Before returning to Quito. Overnight Hotel Casa Sol (BL)

Day 14
Departure from Quito

Time at leisure until your transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)

  • Accommodation on hotels in double rooms.
  • Meals are mentioned in the program.
  • Private English-speaking guide and transportation through all the itinerary.
  • Entrance fees to the mentioned places and activities.
  • Domestic and international flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Optional excursions
  • Personal expenses such as tips
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Any other meals, drinks, and/or services not mentioned in the program
  • PCR COVID TEST if applies

Book your tour NOW!

Please note that the category stars given for the accommodations are estimated as local categories that do not fit international standards. Local categories are in all cases alike or higher than the ones given above. 

NB: Please read all itineraries as a guide only. All routes and programs can change without notice due to National Park policies and regulations, weather conditions, seasonal changes, safety reasons, and the wildlife encountered during the travel. Flexibility is the key to the success of any expedition. Nevertheless, the safety and the interest of our passengers is always the first priority.

SERVICES FROM / TO QUITO Local English-speaking tour guide; all transfers in private transportation; entrance fees according to the program; all excursions as mentioned; train ride in Imbabura; 11 nights in hotels, lodge, and guest houses in double room accommodation; meals: 11xB, 9xL/BL, 7xD   

NOT INCLUDED IN THE SERVICES International Flights, meals and beverages not mentioned, tips, any increases of fees and / or kerosene charges after 11.02.18; personal expenses, travel insurance.   

REQUIREMENTS: For this nature and culture trip a healthy fitness level is necessary to be able to enjoy hikes of about 2 hours (depending on the conditions, maybe longer) at altitudes of up to 5000 m and in tropical climates (rainforest). Technical experience is not necessary for the hikes. Hiking boots are recommended.   

PRICES 2022: Prices (in USD $) with English-speaking tour guide (minimum 2 people)

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