If you want to relax and be surrounded by greenery, then this is the trip for you. This trip takes you to the small town of Otavalo in Ecuadorian Andes and then to Amazon jungle. Amazon rain forest extends outside Brazil into Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Colombia. Trip starts and ends in Quito
Getting to Otavalo
Transport to Otavalo
If you arrive at Quito during the day you can take a taxi to Carcelen bus terminal in the north of the city and then take a bus to Otavalo. The taxi fare is around $25 and it takes around 40 mins and the bus fare is around $3 and takes around 2 hrs. You can take any bus going to Ibbara which run every 10-15 mins. The last bus is around 10pm.
If you arrive at Quito later in the night then I recommend taxi all the way to Otavalo instead of spending a night in Quito. The taxi costs around $65 and the hotel you are staying at Otavalo can arrange it.
Casa de Luis
This guesthouse is on the banks of Lago San Pablo and 25 mins from center of Otavalo and inexpenisve. The bus fare to get to Otavalo is $0.50 and there is a bus every 10 mins. There are not many restaurant options in this part of the city except for the grand Lago Cabanyos which is also a great place to stay.
There are many hotels in Otavalo but area around Lago San Pablo fells more like country side and is closer to nature. You can also go boating and kayaking in the lake.
Make sure you spend a Saturday in Otavalo so that to can witness the hustle and bustle of the main market at Plaza de los Ponchos.
There is a colorful produce and meat market, do try some of the fresh fruits and I also recommend a meal here. The artisans market presents some of the best bargains on colorful sweaters, hats, scarfs etc. I spent a lot on sweaters and boots. Carry cash with small denominations. US Dollar is the currency of Ecuador. Read about how that came to be, it's interesting and gives a sense of history of the country.
There is an animal market, where you can exchange your cow, llama or buy a dozen chickens. The animal market is about 15 min walk from the main plaza and anyone can point you in that direction.
Casa de Luis
Same as day 1.
Hike Mojanda Lakes
Mojanda Lakes are made of 3 crater lakes around 3 peaks and is about 40 min away from Otavalo. A taxi can cost around $15 one way. You can arrange with your driver to wait or come back after some hrs to get picked up after the hike.
There are different hikes one can do, Hotel La Luna has excellent hiking map of the routes. La Luna is on the way to the lakes and you can stop by to pick up the map. The steep climb to Fuya Fuya which takes a couple of hr is a very popular hike. I highly recommend the circuit around Cerro Negro which takes about 5 hrs. A word of caution, all hikes take you past 4000m in altitude which can cause mild altitude sickness. It can also get very cold at the top, we even got hailed on so dress accordingly.
Casa de Luis
Same as day 1.
It's a nice refreshing waterfall in the town of Peguche. You can take a northbound bus towards Ibbara from Otavalo and get off at Peguche. The waterfall is 15 mins walk from where the bus will drop you, there are directions all along the road. Casa de Sol is a nice restaurant close by to grab lunch.
It's a beautiful carter lake and great way to round up the day. Either take a bus from Peguche/Otavalo to Cotacachi and taxi from there on to the lake for about $5 or take a taxi all the way for about $12-$15 one way.
When you get there you can just walk part of the rim and enjoy the scenery or walk the entire circuit in about 4 hrs. Do whatever feels good, the view is amazing. It can get cold so dress warmly.
Otavalo to Quito
Take the bus from Otavalo to Quito. It will drop off at the Carcelen, the north bus terminal at Quito.
Quito to Lago Argio
This is part of the Amazon trip. This is not the most comfortable journey as it tends to start very late at Quito and drop off early in the morning at Lago Argio. It's about a 6 hr overnight journey. This bus is mostly arranged by the travel agency or the lodge in the Amazon jungle. For more information keep reading.
Amazon Day 1
Lago Argio to Cuyabeno National Reserve
Staying in the Amazon rain forest was the highlight of our trip. It sounds rugged but the whole experience was very relaxing. We did a 4 day trip at Nicky Lodge organized by Ecuatraveling. The lodge has basic accommodations but very impressive for where it is situated. They have private as well as dorm style rooms.
After being dropped off at the random hotel in Lago Argio which is the closest big town near the Cuyabeno reserve, someone from the lodge picks you up and drives for another 2 hrs to the reserve.
This is where the adventure begins. Only transport in the rain forest is on a canoe in the meandering Cuyabeno river. It's a 3 hr mesmerizing motor canoe ride on the river to the lodge surrounded by greenery, colorful birds, many butterflies and just a lot of life. We stopped many times to spot monkeys, birds and even an Anaconda.
Always carry an hat, sunscreen, insect repellant and rain jacket in the forest.
Amazon Day 2
Amazon Day 3
Amazon Day 4
Lodge to entrance of the reserve
It's again a 2-3 hrs ride back. Savor every second of it. A bus takes to back to Lago Argio from the reserve. The same bus that dropped you off at Lago Argio will pick you up to take you to Quito. You will reach Quito around 9 pm.
Hump Day Hostel
The hostel is right in the heart of old city and walkable to all the main attractions. Also if you booked the Amazon trip with Ecuatraveling, you get a night free at Hump Day Hostel for beds in the dorm but you can use the credits to get a discount for a private room.
Free Walking Tour
The free walking tour at Community hostel is the best thing to do in Quito. It's take you around the old town with an experienced guide who can speak to the history and the architecture of the city. The tour runs everyday except Sunday and takes about 3 hrs.
Bike down Cotopaxi Volcano
Cotopaxi is an active volcano south of Quito and a very popular biking destination. How many times do you get to bike down a volcano? There are many tours to choose from that hike up and bike down or drive up and then bike down based on your comfort level.
Fly out of Quito
Bye Bye Ecuador.