Depart Australia to Santiago and overnight at Airport hotel.
Ecuador is a place that brings together our love of traditional ways of life, history and stunning scenery. So, for our pre-conference tour we take you on an adventure from Quito through the Andes all the way down to sea-level at Guayaquil. We’ll wend our way through the verdant pastures of the highlands through little villages where traditional Indian life continues; spy dramatic volcanoes; walk past crashing waterfalls; clamber over Inca ruins; explore beautiful colonial towns; take one the world’s most amazing train trips; and barter for locally-made handicrafts at colourful markets.
Fly to Quito and transfer into town. Free evening to explore town.
Quito and the Center of the World monument tour.
San Francisco Church and Convent
Recognized as one of the largest architectural structures within a historic centre in the Americas, the San Francisco Church and Convent earned the nickname of El Escorial of the New World. Despite the changing stylistic trends throughout its 150 years of construction, its talented architects and engineers managed to create a harmonious combination that gave way to a continental gem of architecture. The edifice serves as a repository of more than 3,500 pieces of colonial art, most notable of which are those from the famous Quiteno School of Art. The Legend of Cantuna, which tells the story of a cunning indigenous worker that managed to deceive the Devil, originated here too.
La Compania de Jesus Church
A lustre of gold hits visitors well before they’ve even crossed the doorstep of the La Compania Church, known also as South Americas Temple of Solomon. Its the crown jewel of Quito Historic Centre and one of the most important manifestations of baroque architecture in the world. It also incorporates other architectural styles given that it took 160 years to complete after having begun in 1605. The church is the product of a European vision combined with the in situ work of its talented Ecuadorian labourers, who incorporated their own view of art and spirituality. It is a masterpiece and one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city of Quito, the facade alone inviting all to come in.
Located in the Historic Centre, Independence Square also known as the Main Square was the starting point for the planning and development of the city. It consists of four structures that serve as the corners of Quito society: the Presidential Palace (Carondelet), the Archbishops Palace, the Cathedral of Quito, and the Municipal Palace. Standing tall at the centre of the square, the monument built in honour of the countrys independence inspires the squares name. It was constructed out of marble and bronze in 1906. This is one of the few places in Quito that allows you to wholly experience the wide diversity of people that inhabit this beautiful city.
San Francisco Plaza
San Francisco Plaza, located in the Historic Centre of the city of Quito, is considered one of the most iconic urban settings in the country’s capital. It is believed to have been built on top of the indigenous market known as the Tianguiz. During colonial times, its central well supplied water to the surrounding neighbours for centuries. It is one of the largest religious centres of the Americas, dominated by the imposing facade of the San Francisco Church and Convent with its grandiose steps that connect the plaza to the atrium and hide a labyrinth of secret corridors that are worth exploring.
In pre Incan times, this hill was the site of a Sun Temple known as Shungo loma or Yavirak, which means hill of the heart. During their conquest, the Spanish named it Panecillo (little bread) due to its resemblance to a small loaf of bread. It is located in the centre of Quito Colonial District and rises to a height of 3,035 m (9,950 ft) above sea level, offering sweeping views of the city. Visitors to this scenic viewpoint will find the Virgin of Quito statue which was built in 1976 by the Spanish artist Agustín de la Herrán Matorral. It is 45 meters (147 ft) tall and was constructed using around 7,000 pieces of aluminium.v3
Middle of the World
A trip to Ecuador wouldn’t be complete without a photo depicting one foot in the northern hemisphere and another in the southern hemisphere. Middle of the World City, located just 13.5 km (8.3 mi) north of Quito, stands to honour the Geodesic Mission that established latitude 0 in the 18th century. The central monument delineates the imaginary equatorial line and houses the Ethnographic Museum, which is filled with ethnographic and interactive exhibits about Ecuador. Depending on the time available, visitors will be able to see the surrounding, small village which offers various attractions including hand crafted houses, the train station, the Cacao Plaza, Colonial Quito and the Planetarium.
Overnight in Quito
Otavalo Handcraft Tour
Mira Lago is a warm and inviting touristic rest stop that offers unparalleled views of the San Pablo Lake and the imposing Imbabura Volcano. It is conveniently located on the northern Pan American Highway as one heads from the province of Pichincha into that of Imbabura, just south of Otavalo. Its a worthwhile stop, allowing visitors to admire one of the most stunning views available in the Northern Highlands of Ecuador while sampling some typical local delicacies at the restaurant. Its also a great place to buy artisanal crafts.
The history of the Otavalo Market, also known as the Plaza de los Ponchos (Poncho Plaza), goes all the way back to the 16th century, when the indigenous merchants played a crucial role as traders and travelling salesmen. In 1870, former President Gabriel Garcia Moreno declared the opening of a formal market for the sale of artisanal goods from the town of Otavalo, which gradually developed into the market we know today, one of the biggest and best known in Ecuador. Nowadays, its exceptional offerings textiles, jewels, musical instruments, crafts and more make it a must see for shopping but also for an authentic market experience that has remained alive for centuries.
The city of Otavalo is known for its myriad markets that fill it with life and movement. After checking out the incredibly dynamic Animal Market and losing yourself in the sea of crafts at the Plaza de Ponchos craft market, why not dive in even further? Ecuadors rich culinary culture invites you to get up close and personal with the hundreds of ingredients and products that form the basis for some of its most traditional dishes right here at the Vegetable Market. Take a shot at bartering with the vendors to get the best price on some of Ecuadors top fruits and favourite vegetables. Be sure to sample some exotic fruits, such as passion fruit, the capuli (Andean cherry), or tree tomato.
Miguel Andrango Workshop
The traditional waistband loom dates back to the XVII century, to the times of the Spanish colonization. Visit artisan Miguel Andrangos workshop for a closer look into the process of producing these intricate textiles that the master weaves with apparent ease. Observe how the yarns are brushed, threaded and dyed before being woven into colourful traditional designs. Every step of production is open for visitors to watch and both the process and the resulting stunning textiles stemming from it are quite a show to see.
Behind store windows, the colourful masapan bread figurines from the town of Calderon (located 15 km/9 mi north of Quito) draw the eyes of every visitor that walks down its main avenue. Often seen on the Day of the Dead, the figures are crafted in the shape of people, horses, llamas, fish, flowers and others, each with their own distinct texture and decoration. In the same vein as guaguas de pan (bread babies), these figurines are connected to rituals related to agriculture and/or death. To our ancestors, these figurines represented the prolongation of life and the negation of death; to us, they are a decoration in our home that brings back happy memories of a magical journey to Ecuador.
While in the small community of Peguche known for its healing waterfalls and long musical tradition visitors will have the chance to visit the Ñanda Mañachi Andean Instruments Workshop. This family-run business, founded over 46 years ago, invites visitors to see how some of the most iconic Andean instruments are built. Watch one of the family members give a musical demonstration and get a closer look into this lively culture of the northern highlands of Ecuador
The town of Cayambe is surrounded by sweeping views of lush landscapes, many of which are used for agriculture or as grazing fields for the notable milk industry. Named after the majestic volcano that looms over the town, Cayambe is inhabited by mestizos that descended from the Kayambi a pre Inca people that fought fiercely before being conquered by Huayna Capac and then the Spaniards. It is famous for its impressive flower industry that contributes substantially to Ecuadors GDP as well as its bizcochos (traditional biscuits), queso de hoja (leaf wrapped cheese), dulce de leche caramel, and hot chocolate make Cayambe an exceptional place to visit for tourists and locals alike.
Overnight in Quito
Cotopaxi National Park
The breath taking Cotopaxi volcano one of the most recognized and beloved landmarks of the Avenue of the Volcanos is located within the National Park that carries its name. The wide plain dominated by the massive volcano, measuring 5,897 metres (19,347 ft) above sea level, is only 60 km (37 mi) away from Quito. It is one of the countrys most photographed landscapes. Observe the flora and fauna of this amazing place as you hike around Limpiopungo lagoon and marvel at the sight of the surrounding mountains, including Rumiñahui and Sincholagua.
Ecuador is one of the biggest exporters of the best roses in the world. Decoflor, a flower plantation located in the verdant Cotopaxi province, grows this popular flower with the benefit of the areas nutrient rich soils. Walk into the colourful and fragrant world of Ecuadorian roses, a product known mostly for its beauty but that also deserves to be recognised for its contribution to local community employment, specifically of women who are then able to improve their familys situation. The visit will take you around the plantation, where you will be able to see all of its processes. Prepare to be amazed by the great variety of colours of the roses grown in this amazing place!
Overnight in Banos
Baños de Agua Santa
The picturesque town of Baños de Agua Santa, simply known as Baños, is located between steep slopes and beautiful waterfalls. Its well worth a visit to learn about its culture and past. From the towns Main Square (Plaza Mayor) observe its inhabitants comings and goings, admire the traditional buildings and visit the historic Basilica de la Reina del Rosario de Agua Santa. Marvel at its facade before heading in to walk through its naves decorated with colourful paintings that narrate the towns history. Then head out for a walk around town and purchase a variety of the traditional sweets of the Ecuadorian highlands, including hand pulled taffy (melcocha)
Route of the Waterfalls and Pailon del Diablo
The Route of the Waterfalls runs between the cities of Baños and Puyo, taking you on one of the best trips available when it comes to venturing into the Ecuadorian Amazon. Ecological trails, small gondolas and suspended bridges surround over 60 waterfalls that are nestled within the thick canopy of this diverse area. The Route descends from the Andes and gradually transitions into the Amazon, opening the door to some of the countrys most famous waterfalls, such as Manto de la Novia and Agoyán. We will visit Pailon del Diablo, an 80m (260 ft) waterfall which was named after its striking similarity to the face of the devil and has a unique vibe that will fill us with energy.
Nariz del Diablo Train
The train connecting the towns of Alausi and Sibambe travels one of the most exciting routes in the world. As it zigzags up the Andes mountain range, the train reaches a crossroad called La Nariz del Diablo (The Devils Nose), a mountain with perpendicular walls and vertigo inducing views. This incredible feat of engineering built from 1899 to 1902 is admired even today, as it travels through a 500 m (1640 ft) slope in just 12 km (7.4 mi). The impressive trip immerses the visitor in the rich Andean culture and its dramatic landscapes.
Ingapirca an important remnant of a Cañari site later occupied by the Incas is a unique example of the cultural richness that prevailed in the country before the arrival of the Spanish. There are very few pre Hispanic remains as impressive as these ancient ruins, which in Kichwa mean wall of the Inca. Built atop a Cañari adobe base, the Incas brought in andesite stone to build the unusual elliptically shaped ceremonial space, as well as the homes, roads and terraces that comprise this amazing archaeological site.
Cuenca and Southern Highlands Cultural
Pumapungo Banco Central Museum
The Pumapungo Central Bank Museum, otherwise known as the Door of the Puma, is the only archaeological site located within the urban district of Cuenca. This ancient Cañari and Inca settlement, which was later dismantled by the Spanish conquistadors to build their new city, houses a large collection of ethnographic items from the region. These items consist of ancient textiles, clothing, ceremonial garments, jewellery, ceramics, and ritualistic objects that speak of the bygone lives of the former inhabitants of this area. The historical side of this tour is complemented by other halls that display baroque, costumbrismo, and modern styles of art from the first half of the 20th century.
New Cathedral (Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepcion)
The New Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception or Cuenca Cathedral, instantly grabs the attention of every visitor. Its tall brick walls and its three, giant blue domes (brought in all the way from Czechoslovakia) can be seen from pretty much anywhere in the city. The construction of this cathedral began in 1885 and wrapped up 90 years later. With a capacity for 8,000 people, the New Cathedral is one of Ecuadors most iconic structures. Every day, the faithful and travellers come to visit the Cathedral and revel in its unique spaces and its combination of neogothic, Romanesque, and Neo Renaissance styles.
Moder Art Museum
Before becoming what it is today, the Museum of Modern Arts building was a number of different things. It began as a centre for recovering alcoholics back in the 14th century and then later became a homeless shelter followed by a senior home and then, lastly, a prison. Nowadays, the Museum houses important collections of art (paintings, ink drawings, engravings, photography, and sculptures, among other things). Additionally, the Museum has temporary exhibits that display the works of renowned local and foreign artists.
Homero Ortega Hat Company
The famous but erroneously named Panama Hat originally comes from Ecuador and the city of Cuenca is the home to many of its top manufacturers. The Magic of the Hat Museum, sponsored by the Homero Ortega hat company, reveals the history and production process behind this beautiful accessory. Located inside the company’s own factory, visitors have the chance to directly participate in the hat making process before perusing the store that exhibits and sells the best models.
Cuenca’s Main Square (Parque Calderon)
Cuencas Main Square has gone by many names over the course of time. Also known as Calderon Park (Parque Calderon) after the Independence hero Abdon Calderon, whose deeds are honored with a statue at the centre of the Square it was actually called the Republic Square (Plaza de la Republica) for 350 years. The Square is surrounded by some of Cuenca’s most iconic buildings: the Old Cathedral (Catedral Vieja), the impressive Court of Justice (Palacio de Justicia), the New Cathedral (Catedral Nueva), and Azuays Government Building (Gobernacion de Azuay). The many restaurants and shops surrounding the area add up to the Squares ambiance, making it one of Cuenca’s favorite meeting points.
San Sebastian Plaza
The beautifully designed gardens, fountains and paths of San Sebastian Plaza (Plaza San Sebastian) make it the ideal spot for an urban stroll. Located next to the Contemporary Art Museum (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo) and the Larrazabal Gallery (Casa Galeria Larrazabal), from San Sebastian Plaza you will be able to admire the traditional Cuencan architecture, including the Spanish style San Sebastian Church (Iglesia San Sebastian) and its single towered facade and dome. This plaza is the perfect location from which to understand Cuencas colonial downtown.
Tomebamba River and el Barranco
The Tomebamba River one of the four rivers that go through Cuenca crosses the city like a silver spinal cord. Dividing the provinces capital into its old and modern areas, the Tomebamba is surrounded by beautiful parks and the famous neighbourhood of El Barranco, with its 120 protected old buildings that make for a beautiful landscape. Walk up Calle Larga and through the Todos los Santos Avenue, and let yourself be carried away by the melody of the Tomebambas waters.
Crowned by the Church of Turi (Iglesia de Turi), the Turi Viewpoint (Mirador de Turi) is one of the best places from which to admire the city of Cuenca. Located but a few minutes away from town, the panoramic view of Cuencas orange tile roofs, modern buildings, big avenues, emerald parks and iconic church towers and domes looks like a labyrinth of colours in which our minds wander and find inspiration.
Talleres de Vega
Located 100 m (328 ft) away from the Turi Viewpoint (Mirador de Turi), the workshop of Cuencas most renowned ceramic artist and muralist, Eduardo Vega, will certainly catch your attention. See how its most amazing pieces are manufactured, before visiting the gallery and shop, where you will find colourful and stylish decorative objects. Take home a beautiful dinnerware set or ceramic painting as a souvenir from Cuenca.
El Cajas National Park
The El Cajas National Park located in Azuay province 40 minutes away from the city of Cuenca is a 28,000 ha (69,189 ac) protected area. Known for its rich flora and fauna, the parks landscapes are filled with lakes and hills that fascinate all who are lucky enough to visit it. Depending on the weather and their physical abilities, guests can hike through one of the many trails that surround the parks lakes. On sunny days, head to the Las Tres Cruces or Avilahuaico scenic lookouts for an amazing view of the landscape. Amongst its Polylepis forests and streams you will find it easy to become one with nature.
Transfer to Guayaquil to overnight stay where you will meet up with main conference group.