VALENTINE’S DAY 2020 IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WORLD

FIVE REASONS TO SPEND VALENTINE’S DAY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WORLD

  1. UNIQUE, EXOTIC AND LUXURIOUS – this is not your regular trip out of the country. This isn’t your standard resort or crowded cruise. You’ll enjoy the service of a five-star resort across several different locations with intimate settings. Your eyes will feast upon incredible scenery from magnificent mountains to exotic rainforests.
  2. INTIMATE – this trip is designed for six to eight like-minded couples. The properties where you will stay are not big chain hotels, but small, boutique cozy first-class accommodations along with different cities and small towns.
  3. THE BEST VALENTINE’S DAY GIFT – make this experience a milestone of romance for you and your partner with a truly profound experience learning about different cultures and enjoying the Ecuadorean hospitality.
  4. THE BEST VALUE – we are not salespeople; we have no sales tactics. We simply feel the need to share the beauty and wonder of our country. We guarantee that it will be the trip of your lifetime.
  5. ESCAPE THE COLD WEATHER – Ecuador’s climate is one of the most remarkable in the world. Being on the equator means that our temperatures stay the same year-round, and the country is blessed to have one of the most comfortable climates on earth. Experience year-long Spring-like weather, while escaping the February cold from back home.

In this trip you will:

– Hike around crater lakes

– Learn the arts and crafts of indigenous cultures

– Try new flavors from the exquisite Ecuadorean cuisine

– Visit our coffee plantation and learn about Ecuador’s biodiversity

– Enjoy the view of hundreds of hummingbirds

– Visit historical monuments from the 1600s

– Travel like a local with Martin and Cristina

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THE ITINERARY FROM FEBRUARY 7TH – 15TH, 2019

DAY 1- FRIDAY – FEB 7th: ARRIVAL TO QUITO

  • Flight from Atlanta to Quito via Delta’s direct flight. (There’s only one daily direct flight to Quito from Atlanta).
  • Arrival at 10:30 pm
  • Transfer to a boutique hotel only 15 minutes from the airport.

DAY 2 AND 3: IMBABURA PROVINCE – LAKES, LUSCIOUS GARDENS, HANDCRAFTS, FINE LEATHER GOODS, CULTURAL EXPERIENCES

Recently UNESCO officially added Imbabura Province to its list of World Geoparks. A geopark is a defined geographical area where landscapes and places of international geological relevance are managed from a concept of protection, education, and sustainable development, which involves local communities.

We’ll spend two nights here enjoying the magnificent lakes, volcanoes,  and luxurious accommodations. We will have the opportunity to meet local artisans like weavers and leather manufacturers.

Be prepared to be amazed by the beautiful craftsmanship of the local artisans at such low prices you won’t believe.

DAY 2 – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 8th THE REAL MIDDLE OF THE WORLD, LUNCH AT LAKE, HANDCRAFTS

The trip begins with a scenic drive to the north of Quito through the Andes mountains.  Our first stop will be the only monument to the Middle of the World, located on the equatorial line. This solar clock is the best way to explain how the mechanics of the sun work and how the solstices and equinoxes work. Remember to take pictures of one foot in the Southern Hemisphere and foot in the Northern Hemisphere.

Here you have an excellent opportunity to take pictures standing with one foot in each hemisphere. We’ll have lunch at San Pablo del Lago on the slopes of the Imbabura volcano.

In the afternoon, we will visit Jose, who, along with five other weavers, create beautiful traditional weavings with vivid colors and designs. At his home, we will learn about the history of the Kichwa people, the ancient art of weaving, from the dyeing with natural ingredients to the carding, spinning and loom weaving.

  • Overnight at a romantic garden hotel.
  • Meals included: Breakfast –  Dinner

DAY 3: SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 9th

After a very relaxing night and an excellent breakfast surrounded by luscious gardens and hummingbirds, we will head in the morning to visit Cuicocha, a crater lake in the Cotacachi volcano. The view of the lake will take your breath away. We will do a short hike through one part of its rim, and we will take a boat to go around the lake to have a better view of the islands located in the middle of the lake.

Afternoon walk along Cotacachi’s  “Leather Street,” a vibrant avenue famous for its quality leather wallets, jackets, and much more. Shopping here is cheap, and most importantly, products are of high quality. We will be ready to help you negotiate for better prices.

  • Overnight at a romantic garden  hotel.
  • Meals included: Breakfast – dinner

DAY 4: MONDAY, FEBRUARY 10th –  TIME TO RELAX AND GET HEALTHY AT THERMAL SPRINGS

We will drive southeast towards our destination, the Thermal Springs of Papallacta, located at 10’000 feet above sea level,  in the Andes just off the Eastern Cordilleras on the road, which leads into the Amazon jungle.

The thermal pools are right outside your cozy cabins! Time to spend the afternoon and evening relaxing and enjoying the healing properties of these odorless waters. With a volcano in the background, the setting is almost surreal! We highly recommend the spa treatments; we’ll help you book them in advance.

  • Overnight at thermal springs resort.
  • Meals included: Breakfast

DAY 5: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 11th – AVENUE OF THE VOLCANOES AND BAÑOS

Head south along the “Avenue of the Volcanoes,” which is sheltered by two parallel mountain ranges.

If the day is bright or sunny on the way, we can see several snow-capped volcanoes on both sides of the road.

We will stop for lunch at a tasty road-side restaurant and will continue on our way to Baños de Agua Santa.

At our boutique garden resort spa, we’ll have to rest, wander around the beautiful gardens, have some cocktails and relax in the pools.

Spa treatments are available until 9 pm. Be prepared to enjoy the best views you can imagine!

  • Overnight in Baños
  • Meals included: Breakfast –  Dinner

DAY 6: WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 12th – MAGNIFICENT WATERFALL

We’ll head east to Rio Verde, located about 30 minutes from the hotel. In this rainforest area, we will make an easy hike down to the spectacular waterfall called Devil’s Cauldron. Here we will have a fantastic view of an otherworldly set of stairs carved out of the cliffs adjacent to the waterfall.

Lunch at a quaint restaurant surrounded by beautiful tropical flowers.

Afternoon free to enjoy the beautiful gardens, spa treatments, pools, and views from our hotel.

  • Overnight in Baños
  • Meals included: Breakfast – Dinner

DAY 7: THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 13th – COTOPAXI – INCA HACIENDA

In the morning, we will leave to our next destination, a historic and unique hacienda, built on the site of an Incan fortress. The current hacienda is set on the site of a 15th-century Incan palace, which was also once an Agustin convent.

We’ll have a gourmet lunch at this ancient, historic hacienda followed by a guided tour of the historical, archaeological site, and a couple of surprises that we’ll tell you once we’re there.

  • Overnight at a boutique hotel located in the Heart of Financial District in Quito
  • Meals included: Breakfast – Lunch

DAY 8: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 14th – EXPLORING QUITO AND VALENTINE’S DAY CELEBRATION

Our excursion through Quito starts with a visit to a farmers market, where we will learn about the different fruits, medicinal herbs and vegetables that are typical of our country. Then we will drive to the Gothic Basilica Church to enjoy its impressive architecture and a unique panoramic view of the Historic Center.

After this visit, you will take a walking tour through small, winding streets and romantic plazas to reach the Independence Square to continue to explore some of the most famous temples, with magnificent gold-covered interiors, that are a part of the many significant architectonic icons of this World Heritage Site.

Lunch at a typical restaurant with the best view of the Colonial City. Gourmet Valentine’s dinner at a lovely sleek restaurant on one of the lively streets in Quito.

  • Overnight in Quito

Meals included: Breakfast – Gourmet Valentine’s dinner – surprise celebration after dinner

DAY 9: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 15th – VISIT TO “TAMBOQUINDE,” OUR COFFE-GROWING PROPERTY IN THE CLOUD FOREST – FLIGHT BACK HOME

With over 1,600 species in an area smaller than the state of Arizona, Ecuador’s diversity of birds is among the highest in the world. The country’s location on the equator means that migrating birds will visit from both the northern and southern hemispheres, and its range of elevations, from sea level to over 20,000 feet, provides a great variety of habitats.

Twelve years ago, Martin’s parents bought 115 acres of pristine cloud forest in the Tandayapa valley located about 1½ hours Northwest of Quito.

To sustain this property we planted coffee bushes without cutting any tree, and nowadays we sell the coffee in farmers markets and online here in the USA: www.tambocoffee.com

Perhaps the most characteristic trait of this region is the richness of birdlife in a range of 350 different varieties species including cock of the rock, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, etc.

Lunch at a hummingbird paradise

Dinner at a small  upscale neighborhood downhill from Quito.

Transfer to the airport.

  • Meals included: Breakfast – lunch

Reserve now, space limited to 6 couples.

Regular price: $1,995 per person in double occupancy –

Special Promotion: $1,695 per person in double occupancy

Includes:

  • 8-night accommodations
  • All transfers
  • Private transportation during the whole trip
  • 16 meals
  • Sightseeing per itinerary with a professional tour guide (Cristina)
  • Entrance fees per itinerary

Not included:

  • Airfare Atlanta – Quito – Atlanta (We suggest Delta Airlines as it has direct flight) – Average price in February is $600
  • Meals not mentioned above
  • Alcoholic and soft beverages
  • Gratuities
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FREQUENT ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)

What’s the best way to fly to Quito?

Delta Airlines has daily direct flights to Quito. October is considered low season so you can find reasonable airfares for $650 or less.

You should book a Delta flight to leave from Atlanta to Quito on February 7th and to return to Atlanta on the 16th (flight leaves from Quito at 12:45am on 16th and it early in the morning to Atlanta)

What Time Is It in Ecuador?

Mainland Ecuadorian time is GMT -5 hours, which is the same as US Eastern Standard Time Zone (ET).

Since Ecuador is near the equator, you can expect approximately 12 hours of daylight each day. It is dark by 6:30 pm.

Galápagos Islands time is GMT -6 hours, which is the same as Central Standard Time.

What is the Currency in Ecuador?

The Ecuadorian currency is the U.S. American dollar, which replaced the former sucre in the year 2000. All commercial and economic transactions are made with US dollars. The most widely used notes are the $1, $5, $10, and $20, while the $50 and $100 bills are mainly for big transactions. You should try to take small denominations of bills or coins and be aware that some businesses (gas stations, some restaurants, and even some shops) do not accept bills over $20.

On the other hand, it is generally very easy to pay with all major credit cards, most commonly Visa and MasterCard, but only in the more important towns.

The unit money in Ecuador is the USA $1 bill, or the USA $1 coin (also known as the Sacagawea dollar); both are widely used. Ecuador mints its own 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, and 50 cent coins, and they have the same size, shape and weight of the USA coins. Ecuadorian coins feature different designs than those of the US American coins and are of no value outside Ecuador. US coins can be used in Ecuador.

You can use your credit card to withdraw money from ATMs located everywhere in major cities.

Do we need travel insurance?

Yes. It is essential to buy a fully covered personal travel insurance to protect against financial loss due to 1) Trip Cancellation 2) In-country Emergency Medical and Dental assistance 3) Emergency Medical Transportation 4) Missed Connection/Travel / Trip Delay 5) Baggage lost, stolen, damaged or delayed coverage.

Do we get a refund if we cancel the trip?

Once you make the first payment, we enter into a contract with hotels, transportation, and restaurants on your behalf and we must pay for those services. If you  If you cancel the trip 60 days or more in advance, 50% of the deposit value will be refunded. If the cancellation is received less than 60 days before the start of the trip, you will forfeit 100% of the total tour value.

What happens if the itinerary changes?

We have planned this trip in detail, but we must consider that there may always be circumstances of force majeure such as protests, strikes, natural disasters, decisions of the public authority or another extreme event. We, therefore, we may need to cancel or modify the itinerary.

How much cash should we take for the trip?

It depends on how much shopping you want to do. For the meals that are not included in the price, you will need around $300 per person for the whole trip, but all those meals can be paid with credit card.

For tips: see below

What about taxes and tipping?

For the bus driver, we suggest a tip of $10 per day per couple. Our driver always keeps the bus clean, and you can leave your belongings inside the bus knowing that the driver is going to take care of them constantly.

A hotel’s bellboy receives $1 per bag and housekeepers about $1 as well.

Spa staffs $3 – $5 per hour of treatment.

The governmental tax is 12% (VTA) and applies in most cases for goods that visitors buy. An extra 10% applies for services at restaurants. By law, the 12% IVA tax is included on all prices for the public.

If a restaurant doesn’t add 10% service charge on the bill, we suggest a 10% tip in cash that you give directly to your server.
If you had great service and want to add a tip on top of the 10% service, you can offer a small tip of 5% in cash.

Customs and alcoholic beverages

Each traveler can import three liters of alcoholic beverages, 300 cigarettes, and a reasonable quantity of perfume. All these articles are free from taxes.
Imported alcohol is expensive in Ecuador, and selection is limited.

In 2009 the regimen started to increase regulations and imposed a greater burden of tax and customs fees. And that means that you may be paying double/triple price for booze, including wine from Chile and Argentina. For example, a bottle of Jack Daniels, 750 ml, cost around $27 in the USA, $70 in Quito. Tequila (“Silver Patron”) approximately $30-$36 in duty-free stores in the US, $89 in Quito.

With a new trade agreement with Europe, European wine and spirits are less expensive than the North, Central, and South American ones.

If you like a Czech Pilsner-style beer, you are in luck. Pilsner and Club, brewed by Cervezas Nacionales in Ecuador, is cheap and sold everywhere.

If you prefer other alcoholic beverages, like bourbon, whiskey or tequila, we highly recommend you buy some at the airport duty-free before your flight to Quito.

At some of the hotels we are staying around the country, we will have the opportunity to sit down and socialize in the evenings; we can bring our booze and ask the hotel for mixers and prepare our cocktails.

Will I need an adaptor for my electronic devices?

NO. Ecuador electricity is 110 V A.C. 60 Hz and the outlets are type A – same as in the US.

How available are Wi-Fi spots?

Free Wi-Fi is standard in populated locations in Ecuador. So many Ecuadorians own smartphones and rely on Wi-Fi connections to use apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp that restaurant, hotels, and cafes often provide Wi-Fi without a password.

How safe is Ecuador?

Ecuador is a beautiful country, but like most destinations, pickpocketing is particularly problematic for tourists, especially in the cities.

Petty thievery in Ecuador’s cities is not higher than in any large city in the US. Common sense is important. Use the safety deposit box at your hotel for your passport and extra money (carry only as much as you might spend) and leave jewelry and expensive watches at home.

What’s the weather like in Ecuador?

The weather in Ecuador is tough to predict. There are countless microclimates due to extremely varied topography causing highly varied weather in neighboring geographical locations. Weather patterns are different west and east of the Continental Divide. It is important to remember that Ecuador is located right on the Equator and, therefore, it does not have four seasons but two, somewhat different, climate periods during the year—a rainy and a dry season.

In Quito, we wake up with cool weather (50 F) and the temperature slowly rises to around 65 F–72 F, and then it can drop down to the 40s. Since we are right on the Equator when the temperature is in the 70s you’ll feel a lot warmer because it’s dry and closer to the sun.

The temperature in the cloud forest can go up to the 80s and it’s very humid. It is important to dress appropriately. Many adventure companies, such as Columbia, produce high-quality pants and jackets that are light and quick-drying.

The temperature in Cuicocha and Papallacta is very cold, so think about a jacket and maybe a scarf.

We will provide you with a day by day list of what to wear and what to bring.

What is Ecuadorian Food Like?

Ecuador has a vibrant, plentiful, and varied gastronomic culture. Ingredients, seasonings, and influences from elsewhere in South America, Europe and other parts of the world have blended to create some unique tastes. Unlike the much spicier Mexican cuisine to the north, Ecuadorians generally do not like highly spiced food. The Ecuadorian “salsa picante” or “Ají” is made of chili peppers and is served in a small side dish.

Ecuadorians typically eat a diet rich in carbohydrates. In addition to potatoes, Ecuadorians cook and serve meals with corn, quinoa, barley and hominy. Some varieties of corn have large kernels, and these often round out simple, rustic meals. Soups and stews are served as a main dish or appetizer. Ceviche, a local favorite, is a cold seafood soup soaked in lemon juice. Roasted and fried pork, fish, potato pancakes and grilled steak are also typical.

It is highly recommended to drink only bottled water, widely available throughout the country. When eating in a less fancy restaurant in the countryside, stay away from uncooked vegetables or fruits that you haven’t peeled yourself.

We take very good care of your health and will give you recommendations of what is safe to eat and what is not.

Is It Easy to Get a Sunburn in Ecuador?

It’s easy to get sunburned in Ecuador because the country is right along the equator (the sun is stronger the closer you are to the equator). It’s especially easy to get burned while at high altitudes like Quito and its surrounding towns. Bring your SPF lotion and hats.

The sun in Ecuador can be very intense, particularly around midday. Intensity is highest near large bodies of water such as the ocean, rivers, and lakes. At high elevations, the effect of the sun’s rays is more intense, especially when reflected by snow, water, or sand. You can get serious sunburn in less than an hour even under misty conditions or overcast skies.

Is the water safe to drink?

Tap water is generally not safe to drink in Ecuador. Bottled water is readily available at tourist sites, hotels, and restaurants. We even recommend using bottled water to brush your teeth, just to be on the safe side. When ordering juice, it’s essential to ask whether it was made with bottled water. Always remember to order your drink without ice, by saying “sin hielo” (sounds like seen yellow).

We will have plenty of purified water to refill your reusable water bottles.

What about altitude sickness?

Quito sits at nearly 10,000 feet (or 2850 meters) altitude above sea level. And we will be visiting sites at 12,000 feet on several occasions. Some people can feel the effects of the altitude upon arriving there, although there is a good chance you may not feel anything.

If you do, you may experience shortness of breath, fatigue in your muscles, and possibly headaches – sensations that can feel similar to sleep deprivation. These symptoms are not usually long-lasting. It just takes a little time (a day or so) for your body to acclimatize to the new heights.

If you suffer from altitude sickness, you may want to ask your doctor for high altitude medication such as Acetazolamide or Dexamethasone.

What about stomach bugs?

Martin and I have a lot of experience with foreigners and know pretty well what you can eat and what not. However, it won’t hurt if you bring some medication (Pepto Bismol and Immodium) for stomach bugs and diarrhea, just in case.

Do we need malaria vaccinations?

A malaria vaccine is not necessary for the areas that we are going to visit.

Are there any passport and visa requirements?

Ecuador requires visitors of all nationalities to have a valid passport with an expiration date of at least six months after the date of departure from Ecuador. Visas are not required for USA tourists.

Quinde Travel LLC    |    travel@quindetravel.com