2017 “Crash Course!” Ecuador
Day 1Monday, QuitoMonday morning begins bright and early at 8 AM, following breakfast in our tour hotel, with a welcome and tour overview session where you will meet your guides and the other members of the tour. We will have an introductory session to expat life in Ecuador and begin to learn basic Survival Spanish with Susy. We’ll visit Colonial “Old Town” and see the changing of the guard at the presidential palace. A little later we’ll have an “almuerzo” (inexpensive lunch) at a very popular Quito cafe. In the afternoon, back at our “classroom”, we’ll delve a little bit more into basic Spanish and then our guest speaker Andres Paredes of the Universidad Politecnica National will talk about Ecuador’s politics and current events. Afterwards – – a fantastic wine and cheese service at our hotel!
Day 2Quito and CotacachiSusy will get our morning started with more Survival Spanish, followed by a fun and informative History of Ecuador, presented by Sarah. Next, Leonore Caballero from the School of International Training will speak to us about the cultural differences we will experience here in Ecuador and how to successfully adapt. Afterwards we’ll have some delicious Ecuadorian snacks, coffee, and tea . . . and then begin our journey northward to the province of Imbabura, driving through the picturesque northern Andes. We’ll have a picnic lunch and stop at Latitude 0-0-0, the Equator line, and you will have your chance to get the classic photo straddling the equator. We arrive to Cotacachi mid afternoon, giving you time to explore this quaint and quiet town, famous for its leather crafts and its growing expat population. In the evening we will have an informal and informative get together with Cotacachi expats with samples of local foods and indigenous dancers.
Day 3Cotacachi, Cuicocha, IbarraAfter breakfast we begin the day with more Survival Spanish. Rafael Cachiguango will speak to us about indigenous life and culture and we’ll visit a local community, a rural school and a traditional indigenous house, with the opportunity to try some of the local cuisine, including guinea pig (cuy),the ‘national dish’ of Ecuador. Then a drive through the rural countryside up to scenic Cuicocha Crater Lake, to join more Cotacachi area expats for lunch overlooking the lake. The expats will discuss the nuts and bolts of life in Ecuador and help you understand the joys and challenges of expat life. After lunch, an optional trip through Cotacachi and the surrounding area to visit some of the real estate developments and expat housing, or a chance to relax or explore the town on your own, shopping for leather goods or just strolling around. To wrap it up for the day join us for an optional visit to the bustling provincial capital of Ibarra.
Day 4Cotacachi, Otavalo, MindoWe start again with more Survival Spanish, then a walk to the Cotacachi market to try out our new language/cultural skills, shopping for fruits and vegetables. We’ll then take a 25 cent bus ride to the nearby town of Otavalo, known worldwide for its indigenous culture and handicrafts,including textiles and jewelry. After a visit to a family run weaving workshop we’ll then have a chance to shop at the sprawling Otavalo market, the largest artisan market in South America. Mid day departure for Mindo, a small village nestled in the cloud forest, famous for its butterflies, orchids, and birds. A stop in Nanegalito for lunch and hummingbird viewing. Expat Cynthia will join us for a discussion of life in Mindo.
Day 5Mindo to the Coasts of ManabiBreakfast and free time to visit an orchid and butterfly reserve and/or a chance to visit an artesanal chocolate maker. Late morning departure to the coast, descending from the misty cloud forest to the tropical plains and continuing on via the “new road” to Pedernales, where we will catch our first glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. Picnic lunch at the beach of ‘La Division’ and continuing south we will pass through the small towns of Jama and El Matal, both areas which are attracting expats and “gringo developments.” Expat Lisa will be joining us to share her experiences as an artist living on the coast and we will visit her beautiful and unique house on the river. Late afternoon arrival to Canoa, just in time to watch the sunset.
Day 6Canoa, Bahia de CaraquezThis morning, a chance to rest and catch your breath. You can spend the day relaxing on the beach and exploring Canoa or join us for an optional excursion to the mangroves of Isla Corazon, where we’ll experience this important ecosystem and it’s abundant bird life. ($12 entry fee) – highly recommended!
Back at our hotel, our host Gregg will talk to the group about life on the coast and give pointers on real estate and building in Ecuador. In the afternoon, we’ll visit Bahia de Caraquez, making a brief tour of the city and having dinner with several North American residents who will talk about expat life in this popular coastal town, sometimes referred to as ‘the Waikiki of Ecuador’.
Day 7Down the coast to SalinasToday we cover a lot of ground! An early departure in our comfy bus to travel down the coast, visiting some of the most beautiful beaches and fishing villages of Ecuador and meeting expats who have chosen to live in various coastal communities. We’ll make stops and visit with expats in the quiet fishing village of San Clemente, and as well in the fast growing port city of Manta. We’ll continue on to Puerto Cayo where we will meet the owners of several coastal developments and have lunch. We’ll also visit Puerto Lopez, a laid back fishing village known for its eco-tourism and whale watching. Continuing our journey into the provinces of Santa Elena and Guayas, and arriving to Salinas in late afternoon. In the evening we will have a dinner get together with Salinas expats.
Day 8Salinas, Guayaquil, CuencaAfter breakfast, we head east to Guayaquil, Ecuador´s largest city, port, and industrial center. We’ll visit the beautifully renovated downtown area (Parque Seminario and El Malecon 2000) and have lunch overlooking the Guayas River. From there, we head up once again to the Andes and on to Cuenca, passing through the outstanding beauty of El Cajas national park at almost 13,000 feet. Arrival to our Cuenca hotel late afternoon or early evening.
Day 9CuencaBreakfast meeting with expats who will talk about life in Cuenca, by far the most popular relocation destination for North Americans (and many others) with an estimated expat population of 5000 – 6000. Ecuadorian lawyer Sara Chaca and her husband Adam will present an informative overview of legal issues for expats, visa procedures and more, with time for questions. Walking tour of the historic center city visiting the flower market, Parque Calderon, the Cathedral, the 10 de Agosto fruit and vegetable market, Panama Hat Museum and the artisan market. Then some free time for exploring and lunch, followed by a city tour on the double decker bus. In the evening we will wrap things up with drinks and snacks and have our Crash Course “graduation” party. Congratulations, you survived the Ecuador ‘Crash Course’!
Day 10CuencaFor those not going on to Loja and Vilcabamba the morning is free to explore more of Cuenca or the surrounding areas. Please check in with us for any travel arrangements for your returns to home or for any in-country travel or lodging needs.
For those continuing south to Loja and Vilcabamba: We’ll travel the Pan-American Highway south, approximately a 4 – 5 hour trip to Loja. Get ready for the gorgeous scenery, unique and different from any other part of Ecuador. Visit and lunch in Saraguro, home to the southernmost indigenous community in Ecuador. We’ll meet with an indigenous guide who will talk about the culture of the Saraguros, and then we’ll have about an hour to explore the town, visit the market and shop for the typical beaded jewelry and handicrafts of the area. Lunch will be at ‘EspaiGastronomica’, an incredible gourmet restaurant run by a Saraguran family. We will continue on through Loja, arriving to our Vilcabamba hotel late afternoon. Brief orientation and free time to walk around town and have dinner.
Day 11VilcabambaA day to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of this popular and quirky town. Optional activities include horseback riding, massage, spa services, hiking, or even a pick up truck ride in the surrounding area. We will of course make the arrangements for whatever it is you would like to do.
Early evening dinner and discussion with expats John Curran and Sue Harrington overlooking the beautiful ‘valley of longevity’.
Day 12Vilcabamba – Malacatos – Loja – returning to Cuenca or QuitoAfter breakfast we’ll have a little more free time to enjoy Vilcabamba before a mid morning departure in our private bus to Loja. We’ll stop in the pretty town of Malacatos along the way, and then in Loja we’ll take a double decker bus tour of the city. Later, we’ll have lunch overlooking the city in a restaurant specializing in some of the typical foods of Loja province. Mid afternoon departure to Catamayo airport (for flights to Quito) and our bus will then return to Cuenca.
Please Note: The above is a sample itinerary only. We occasionally make changes to the actual itinerary depending on hotel availability, holidays, road conditions, and other factors. However, once we have sent out itineraries for each ‘Crash Course!’ we strive to maintain that schedule. Thanks!