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Because of its altitude, Quito has a perfect climate. Average daytime high temperature in July is 71º F and average nighttime low is 49º F. It’s a nice respite from the summer heat and humidity of most of the U.S., and you’ll understand why they call it the “Land of Eternal Spring.” It really is gorgeous, all the time, and July is the driest month of the year, with an average of only an inch of rain for the month.

We’ll explore El Centro Historico, the colonial old town center of Quito with churches and buildings dating back to the 1500’s. You’ll get to see the Basilica there, which they call “the Notre Dame of South America.” I’ve been to Paris and this one really is just as spectacular.

The gondola lift, el Teleférico, will take us to the top of Pichincha for an amazing view of the city below. It’s one of the highest aerial lifts in the world, rising up to 12,943 feet, and you can hike up further for an even better view if you choose.

In some scheduled down time, you can wander around el Parque Carolina, the “Central Park” of Quito (all of Quito is very safe), soak up the ambiance of La Plaza Independencia, or take a stroll down La Ronda, the oldest street in Quito, with shops and restaurants along the narrow cobblestone walkway. (While this is a group tour and we’ll be showing you the way, we’re also making sure you have a little time to yourself, too.)

After a couple days in Quito, we’ll head out on a day trip to Mindo, a small village an hour away in the cloud forest. Ecuador is one of 17 megadiverse regions worldwide, with an incredible amount of plant and animal species, and Mindo is a nature-lovers’ paradise. You’ll have a chance to canopy through the trees, tube down the river, or take a cable car between two mountaintops.

Back in Quito, we’ll take another day trip to La Mitad del Mundo, literally “the half of the world” – the equator. Photo opportunity! (One of hundreds on this trip.) You’ll be able to have one foot in the Northern Hemisphere, one in the Southern Hemisphere.

We’ll also see one of only two inhabited calderas in the world, Pululahua. 40 families actually live inside this volcanic crater! They grow corn and quinoa and raise cattle and don’t seem concerned about the risk. Like clockwork, the clouds move in and cover the entire area every day between 2 and 3 pm. If you’re up for it, you can hike down into the crater to experience it yourself (a two-hour hike up and down).

Next, we’ll trek down to Baños, the gateway to the Amazon River Basin area. We’ll spend two nights at the Sangay Hotel and Spa, and soak in the healing, natural thermal baths there. The “swing at the end of the world” is one highlight, and the nighttime tour of Tungurahua (assuming it’s not erupting) is another, complete with a canelazo toast. Our venture into the jungle area is one you won’t forget.

From Baños we’ll head to Otavalo for the largest open-air market in all of South America. I’ve traveled the world over and have never seen anything quite like this! Bring an extra piece of empty luggage to Ecuador because you’ll fill it with quality, hand-made (and quite inexpensive) Ecuadorian goods.

I’ve bought alpaca wool jackets for $20 and wool scarves for $3. Emida has bought lots of beautiful jewelry there, all made by indigenous people who live in the mountains and come down for the weekly market.

And, of course, this is the place to get the world famous Panama Hats, which are all made here in Ecuador.

After one day and night in Otavalo, we’ll head back to Quito for the last two days of the trip.

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