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Andes Hacienda Extension

Discover indigenous cultures and meet local artisans in the scenic foothills of the Andes
Note: This is extension is offered in conjunction with our scheduled and our independent Galapagos Islands trips. The itinerary below is for a pre-Galapagos extension, but it can also be arranged as a post-trip extension as well. Please see Dates & Fees for pricing.

Day 1: Exploring the Highlands / Hacienda Pinsaqui
Drive into the volcanic highlands north of Quito, a lush land rich in indigenous cultures, historic haciendas and sparkling lakes. En route to Otavalo we stop in the crafts village of Calderon, famous for its charming bread-dough dolls. Continuing along the Pan American Highway, we travel through Guayllabamba, where roadside produce stands sell subtropical fruits and avocados grown nearby, and Cayambe, famed for its local cheese and the buttery biscuits called bizcochos that often accompany it.

It was in this area that the French geodesic expedition of 1736 marked the Equator, from which Ecuador takes its name. We’ll stop to visit the huge solar clock that sits directly on the Equator. Our lunch stop is at Guachala, the oldest hacienda in Ecuador, dating to 1580. This afternoon we visit Peguche for a “behind-the-scenes” look at where the Otavalo Indians create their famous weavings sold at the Otavalo Market. From here, we’ll take an easy hike to the sacred Peguche waterfalls, 50-foot-high cascades where the Indians purify their bodies and spirits prior to ceremonial rituals. After a rich day of discovery, we reach Hacienda Pinsaqui, our destination for the next two nights, in time for dinner.

Stately white gates, swishing palms, lush gardens and cobblestone courtyards mark the entrance to the gracious hacienda, which exudes classic historic ambience. Built in 1790, Hacienda Pinsaqui housed many famous guests during its 19th-century heyday, including Venezuelan general Simon Bolivar, who led the quest for liberation from Spain throughout northern South America. Today, this former colonial textile enterprise is one of Ecuador’s loveliest inns.

Day 2: Freedom Train / Hacienda Pinsaqui
Drive to the well-preserved colonial city of Ibarra this morning to board the “Tren de la Libertad,” or Freedom Train, for a 90-minute ride to the village of Salinas. The train follows a section of the old railroad line built to connect the northern highlands of Ecuador to the province of Esmeraldas on the coast. On our scenic journey we’ll cross a number of high bridges and tunnels dug with pick-ax and shovel, passing natural landscapes and scenes of traditional agricultural life. Once we reach Salinas, the Afro-Ecuadorian community welcomes us with a lively cultural display of local music and dances. After lunch, we visit the woodcarving center of San Antonio de Ibarra before returning to Hacienda Pinsaqui. If time permits, guests may have an opportunity for an optional horseback near the hacienda. We enjoy another hearty dinner in the hacienda’s cozy restaurant before retiring for the night.

Day 3: Otavalo Market / Quito
Today we experience the famous market in Otavalo, which has taken place every week for more than 400 years. As the oldest and largest such craft market in South America, Otavalo is a vibrant display of artisans’ handiwork, particularly the colorful textiles of the indigenous weavers who have won world recognition for their talent. Wander the labyrinth of lanes and stalls to find woolen ponchos, blankets, wallhangings, handknit sweaters and hats, silver jewelry and traditional Andean folk music instruments. After time to wander the market, we connect with the rest of our group with whom we will travel on to the Galapagos tomorrow. We'll enjoy lunch together at another distinctive Andean estate, the 17th-century Hacienda Cusin, near Otavalo, before driving back to Quito this afternoon.

Upon arrival in Quito, we will join Day 2 of our Galapagos Islands trip in preparation for tomorrow morning's flight to the islands.

Physical Rating: Easy

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