Adventures / Wild Hikes

Trek Across the Ecuadorian Andes

A 100km hike through the volcanic peaks and paramos of the Andean mountains

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Trip Ref #10353

Adventures / Wild Hikes

Trek Across the Ecuadorian Andes

A 100km hike through the volcanic peaks and paramos of the Andean mountains

DURATION

9 nights

LOCATION

Ecuador

ANNUAL LEAVE

6 days off work

SEASON

Year round

GROUP SIZE

Up to 14 people

MEETING POINT

Dan Carlton Hotel, Quito

ACCOMMODATION

Hotel · Lodge · Hostel · Guesthouse · Wild camping

DIFFICULTY

Challenging

You'll need to be fit and able to hike mountainous terrain all day with some steep and challenging sections

Hike crater to crater over the famous Avenue of Volcanoes, past turquoise lagoons and through remote communities

Follow the incredible route of Balthazar Ushca, the last ice maker of Ecuador, peepers open for Andean condor overhead

Trek to the glacier under the Chimborazo Stratovolcano - the furthest point from the centre of the Earth

What's it like?

    See the photos our community shared

    All our reviews are verified

    We only invite travellers to leave a review if they have booked this trip with Much Better Adventures.

    Kimberly, February 2022

    Ecuador is such a gorgeous country! The hikes through the Andes were gorgeous-- each day more challenging than the next and the itinerary made the acclimation much easier than I was prepared for. Paul and Jose were WONDERFUL at communicating with us and ensuring that we were alright. (I hiked on the slower side and always felt completely taken care of--never that I was a burden for lagging a bit behind.) Jose also cooked us some of the best meals--better than the restaurants we went to! The haciendas were lovely (and I would LOVE to return to LluLluLlama in the future! What a sweet place!)

    Stephen, February 2022

    I loved each day and everything we did on this tour, but if you are not used to high altitude, be prepared for a few days of headache and struggling up and down trails. I'm a strong hiker but this was not an easy multi-day trek by any means. Paulo and Jose were our guide/driver/cook. They were wonderful; always available, patient, knowledgeable, positive. To give you an idea of how good they were, I told them I was Pescatarian but that it was ok if they could only served meat, I wouldnt complain. To my shock surprised me with fresh fish on most days while out on trail! I would 100% request them again on another adventure. The Lulullama Hostel was amazing and adorable but the historic Hacienda Andulaza near the Chimborazo volcano was my favorite place by far! It was filled with an amazing collection of Spanish/colonial artwork and other antiques that you could just walk around exploring in for hours. You can ride horses, get a massage in a beautiful spa, feed the domesticated bunnies in the courtyard. We stayed there for three nights and it never grew old. If you enjoy a challenging physical hike with solid views, great homemade food, this is for you. I only got to spend 1 day in Quito exploring- I regret that we could not stay longer. S. Ryan, Brooklyn NYC

    Jamie, December 2021

    This was a great week and a bit exploring the Avenue of the Volcanoes. Great food, great guide and just the right level of intrepid adventure. Great insight, too, into Ecuadorian Sierra. Some ropey moments thanks to COVID-19 (cancelled flights; 2 of a party of 3 having to isolate for the last two days), but all in all, I'm missing it. The level of care and support from Adventure Journeys was high: regular meals are a highlight. Recommended if you like walking, fresh air, hills, views and mountains. Trip was in four 'legs': Parque Nacional Cayambe-Coca, Quilota Loop and El Altar.

    Lori, December 2021

    Our trip was awesome! Our guide was knowledgeable, funny and friendly! His encouragement at the challenging spots really made a difference! The food was really good. Our day on Chimborazo to the ice mine was a highlight! Even after the trip, the staff in the Quito office helped us enormously in figuring out our logistics really appreciated the efforts of Henry!!

    Included

    Guides

    Certified, English speaking guides

    Accommodation

    3 nights in a hotel, 3 in a hacienda, 1 in a mountain lodge, hostel and camp

    Meals

    All breakfasts, 8 lunches and 3 dinners

    Transfers

    To and from the start and everything in-between

    Equipment

    Hiking poles if you need them

    Not Included

    Flights to and from the meeting point

    Travel insurance

    Personal expenses

    Tips for your guides

    Some meals as described

    The Area

    map

    Logistics

    Starts

    Dan Carlton Hotel, Quito

    18:00 on day 1

    Ends

    Dan Carlton Hotel, Quito

    Anytime on day 10

    Transfers

    Your adventure begins at 18:00 on Day 1 when your host will meet you in the lobby at Dan Carlton Hotel, Quito. On the final day of the trip, you can depart at anytime. The airport is around a 45min journey to downtown Quito.

    To make your own way from Quito airport to and from the accommodation, you have a few options. You can request a private transfer from the host. Please see Optional Extras for prices. You can take a public bus for just $2USD, however, this isn't overly straight forward as you need to change buses at Quitumbe bus terminal. A metered taxi will cost you between $25-35USD. You can save some money by taking an 'Aeroservicio' - a privately operated bus service connecting the airport with the city centre. This costs $8USD.

    Travel options

    There are regular flights to Quito from major airports across the UK, Europe and North America.

    Day 1

    Hotel · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 2

    Hotel · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 3

    Lodge · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 4

    Hostel · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 5 – Day 6

    Guesthouse · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 7

    Wild camping · Twin tent

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 8

    Hotel · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 9

    Guesthouse · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 10

    Departure day

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    What is the food like?

    Throughout the adventure, you'll be fuelled by delicious Andean food, such as traditional Ecuadorian potato soup, meat and vegetable dishes utilising local grains such as quinoa and beans and plenty of local fresh fruits. Lunch usually consists of a variety of sandwiches and dinner is always a warm and filling meal after a big day of hiking.

    What is the accommodation like?

    Quito

    During your time in Quito, you'll stay at the Dan Carlton Hotel. Offering a variety of facilities and services, the property provides all you need for a good night's sleep.

    Papallacta

    You'll spend 1 night at the four-star Termas de Papallacta, a hot springs spa resort nestled in a majestic valley of the high Andes. Decorated with wooden walls and gabled roofs, rooms at Termas de Papallacta are fitted with wooden furnishing. You can relax in the thermal pools or try some of the several beauty treatments that are available at the spa.

    Mountain Lodge

    You’ll spend one night at LluLlu Llama Mountain Lodge, a small family lodge situated right on Ecuador’s most famous trekking route, the Quilotoa Loop. Hot showers and good food are available, as well as being surrounded by impressive volcanoes, breathtaking mountain views and traditional highland villages.

    Hostel

    Mama Hilda is a cosy countryside hostel located in Chugchilán, which is the oldest settlement in the area and home to only 30 full-time residents. The rooms are basic in terms of décor and amenities but cosy, with some having an open fireplace. Food is home-cooked and served in a communal dining room, with most dishes created on the premises, fresh pasta and desserts are provided by the Italian monastery just down the road.

    Haciendas

    Haciendas are a highlight on any trip to Ecuador. Hacienda is a Spanish word for an estate, these are generally traditional ranches or homesteads based in rural areas. You’ll spend three nights at La Andaluza Hacienda, located on the slopes of the most beautiful volcano in the inter-Andean alley. The rooms are distributed in four sectors, all of them connected, one part in the old and historic hacienda house, and the other three wings distributed in the rest of the facilities, some with a view of the gardens, others with a view of the majestic Chimborazo.

    Wild Camping

    You’ll spend 1 night camping in a tent under the stars. Sleeping mats and sleeping bags are provided, but you can bring your own if you prefer. There is no shower, and toilets are basic to say the least.

    Upgrades

    Due to the limited number of rooms, it is not possible to request a private room upgrade for this trip.

    Day 1

    Touch down in Quito

    Welcome to the UNESCO World Heritage site, Quito! The rest of the day you are free to explore the colonial city and shake off any jet lag. There will be a group meet up at 18:00 to get to know your guide and fellow adventurers.

    Day 2

    Trekking Agua Y Vida

    Hiking

    5-6hrs · 12km · 600m up · 600m down

    After breakfast, there's a short drive to the village of Papallacta. You’ll then lace up your boots and head off into the Cayambe Coca National Park, an ecological reserve where you’ll trek past lagoons and waterfalls with incredible views along the way. Your hike ends at the Papallacta Hot Springs, a natural hot spring where you can soak the evening away.

    Day 3

    Trekking Sigchos to Isinlivi

    Hiking

    5-6hrs · 12km · 300m up

    Fuel up on breakfast and start your hike towards the southeast part of town. Navigate trails through farmland, along cornfields and slowly descend towards the river. The views from the valley are stunning and most of the people who live in the villages along the route have lived in the region their whole life and maintain traditional practices. You'll end the day at an eco mountain lodge surrounded by impressive volcanoes, breathtaking mountain views and traditional highland villages.

    Day 4

    Hike Toachi Canyon to Chugchilán

    Hiking

    5-6hrs · 13km · 300m up · 400m down

    Today you’ll trek through the awesome Andean mountain landscape towards the Toachi Canyon and catch glimpses of small villages and indigenous communities working in the fields. Hike down to the canyon of the Toachi River and then on to Chugchilán, a small town located in the middle of the Quilotoa Loop. In the afternoon you can explore the village and mingle with the locals.

    Day 5

    Trekking to Quilotoa

    Hiking

    4-5hrs · 11km · 975m up · 200m down

    Up bright and early today you’ll hit the small trails used by the mountain people who traverse the canyons to reach neighbouring communities, where it’s common to see the traditional custom of exchanging goods. Venture down into the canyon then climb back up to the top of the crater rim, where you will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the Quilotoa Lake, a water-filled volcanic crater. Enjoy a beautiful picnic with the best views from the volcano before jumping into the van and transferring to a magical hacienda in the foothills of the Chimborazo volcano.

    Day 6

    Follow the route of the last ice marker of Ecuador

    Hiking

    6-7hrs · 16km · 1900m up · 1900m down

    Today is a biggy to reach 5000m. You’ll hop into the van and drive through valleys and farming villages to reach the Chimborazo Volcano, the highest mountain in Ecuador with an elevation of 6310m. The summit is the furthest point from the centre of the earth on the entire planet. You’ll hike the incredible route of Baltazar Ushca ‘the last ice maker of Ecuador’ following his paths and learning about glacier ice cutting, on this inactive volcano topped entirely with glaciers. You'll then head back to the hacienda, with plenty of time to relax and recover from the spectacular journey.

    Day 7

    Hiking to El Altar Volcano

    Hiking

    8hrs · 13km · 900m up

    After a hearty breakfast, you’ll hop into the van and be whisked to Hacienda Releche for the start of your El Altar trek, located in the UNESCO Sangay National Park. Strap your boots on and make your way up to Capac Urcu Refuge, at a 900m elevation gain. On the way, pass through different types of Andean paramos (mountain grasslands) until reaching your campsite for the night. Settle into camp and be rewarded with the spectacular vista of the beautiful El Altar crater lake surrounded by dramatic volcano walls. Enjoy a cooked meal and a good night’s sleep under an Ecuadorian night sky.

    Day 8

    Yellow Lagoon

    Hiking

    9hrs · 15km · 400m up · 1110 down

    Wakey, wakey you will start today around 4 am to start the last part of your hike to the Laguna Amarilla (Yellow Lake), at 400m. The goal is to arrive at sunrise and enjoy an incredible show at the El Altar Volcano’s foot and well-earned breakfast. Then it's time to leave the high peaks and make your way back down to the van at Hacienda Releche. In the afternoon, you will return to the beautiful Hacienda La Andaluza to relax or make use of the spa.

    Day 9

    Chimborazo Volcano

    Hiking

    3-4hrs · 9km · 200m up · 200m down

    Start the day with a traditional homemade breakfast before hitting the trail. Today you’ll return to Chimborazo and tackle the hike to the tongue of the Thielmann Glacier. Keep an eye out for a few of the animals that inhabit this volcanic climate such as the Andean condor, caracara, and the timid wild Vicuñas. A delicious picnic will be organised at the base camp just below the glacier. From here you’ll journey back to Quito while reflecting on the mega achievement of the last few days and head out for a farewell feast with your crew.

    Day 10

    Bid farewell to Quito

    Your adventure ends today as you enjoy a final breakfast at your hotel in Quito. You're free to head to the airport in time for your onward flight, or the bus station if you are travelling on to other parts of Ecuador.

    15% Off Outdoor Gear

    In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 15% discount on us to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

    What's included?

    • All camping equipment
      Hiking poles

    What do I need to bring?

    BAGS
    Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack
    Daypack (25+ litres)

    CLOTHES
    Waterproof jacket
    Lightweight down jacket
    Waterproof trousers
    Breathable wicking layers
    Thermals (top and bottom, merino ideal)
    Fleece or warm mid-layer
    Lightweight trousers/shorts/skirts
    T-shirts
    Underwear & socks
    Swimwear
    Sunglasses
    Sunhat
    Winter hat
    Gloves
    Something to sleep in
    Waterproof hiking boots (worn-in)

    Eating & Drinking

    • Airtight

    OTHER
    Universal travel plug adapter
    Power bank or solar charger
    Passports (and visas)
    Travel Insurance documents
    Earplugs
    Insect repellant
    Suncream
    Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
    Quick-dry towel
    Alcohol hand-gel
    Headtorch or torch
    Reusable water bottle (x1 litre)
    Biodegradable wet-wipes
    Energy bars and snacks
    Water purification tablets/treatment system

    Pre-trip accommodation in Quito (Single)

    Payable Before Departure

    Pre-trip accommodation in Quito (Single)

    Per Night

    Pre-trip accommodation in Quito (Twin/Double)

    Payable Before Departure

    Pre-trip accommodation in Quito (Twin/Double)

    Per Night

    Optional Private Room & Tent Upgrade

    Payable Before Departure

    Optional Private Room & Tent Upgrade

    Per Person

    We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

    What's the number?
    It works out on average at 212kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

    The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal for 2022 to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

    But what does the number mean?
    Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

    • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
    • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
    • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

    What are we doing about it?
    Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. For every person booked with us since 2016 we’re planting enough trees to suck at least 2x more carbon out the atmosphere than is emitted by their trips. All native trees, as part of amazing projects that are re-foresting degraded land, tackling the biodiversity crisis and supporting local communities at the same time. We go further than that too, also funding re-wilding projects worldwide to help protect important keystone species from extinction. See the reforestation and re-wilding schemes we support. See our carbon action plan.

    Want to know more?
    Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

    Much of the trek is within the capabilities of people with good fitness who are keen trekkers. Still, it is important to note that trekking at altitudes above 3000m/10,000ft is more demanding on the body than walking at low elevations. Some training beforehand will help and we advise doing at least one weekend of back to back days walking. The guide will set the pace and as with all altitude treks, ensure you adjust to the altitude. So although this trek is rated ‘challenging’ there are plenty of hours factored into each day to ensure it is completed by all. Some days are long with steep sections so being used to hiking back to back days is essential. You only need to carry a day-pack each day. The views along the way make the journey more than worthwhile!

    Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

    Tips are not included in the trip cost. These are entirely at your discretion but there is an expectation to tip for good service. Your guide will help with advice, however, we suggest the below as a guideline per person:

    Guides: $10 USD per day

    Of course, you are free to tip more or less, and the amount should be reflective of your perception of service and quality - a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

    The tap water in mainland Ecuador is not always friendly on the stomach for those who haven't been in Latin America for a while. There is purified water in each of the accommodation which you can use to fill up each morning, so be sure to pack a reusable water bottle or two.

    There really is no “best” time to visit the Andes, anytime of year offers a great chance to experience the area. However, December and January are the best months due to low rainfall and far less wind. June and July are the driest months, although they can be very windy. The Andes are also blessed with the highest number of clear days per year in the Ecuadorian Andes.

    Yes, you are able to leave excess luggage in Quito at the start of the trip, to be collected when you return to Quito.

    We recommend checking out the country-specific information here and also talking to a travel nurse.

    When you trek in the mountains, there is always the risk of getting altitude sickness, regardless of how old, young or fit you are. Symptoms can vary from one person to the next – from breathing heavily to numbness in your fingers – and if you experience any of these, you must descend the mountain. Your guide will always be around to help and instruct you to avoid any danger.

    We do not include some dinners on the trek and in Quito as from experience we know that altitude and physical exercise can mean appetites vary hugely. How much you spend per day will vary according to your choice of meal but generally, people spend between $20-$30 per person per day on meals and drinks.

    Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

    Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.

    Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.

    We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

    We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

    If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

    All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

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