Day 1: Quito -- Ibarra or Otavalo (L, D)
After pickup from your Quito hotel, relax aboard a comfortable coach as you head north along Pan Americana – the Pan-American Highway – stopping in towns along the way.
First, visit the vilage of Calderon and see the typical mazapan handicrafts – elaborate figurines made from wheat or the inside of bread loaves and then baked in the oven. Learn about the intricate craftsmanship as you watch women sculpt the dough and paint the tiny collectables.
Next, make a brief stop in Cayambe, a town situated on the equator at the foot of Cayambe Volcano, and snap some photos while standing astride the line dividing northern and southern hemispheres. Then, continue to Otavalo, two hours north of Quito.
Head to Otavalo’s Indian Market, located on the Plaza de Ponchos and nestled in a valley under Imbabura Volcano. Explore the open-air market, renowned for its typical crafts and textiles, including brightly woven Alpaca scarves and tapestries woven with indigenous designs, as well as embroidered blouses, tagua-nut jewelry and more!
Enjoy lunch (included) in Cotacachi, an indigenous town at the foothills of Cotacachi Volcano and famous for its high-quality leather goods at bargain prices. In the afternoon, browse the shops or market for leather handbags, jackets, boots, belts, wallets and shoes. Then, head to a nearby village for dinner (included), with the evening free at a restored 17th century estate to explore at your leisure. Depending on the day of the tour, you'll stay in either Ibarra or Otavalo.
Overnight: Puerto Lago hotel (or similar) (category - tourist)
Day 2: Ibarra or Otavalo -- Quito (B)
After breakfast, visit a workshop for making the musical instruments of the Andes, such as panpipes and flutes created from the canes of aquatic reeds. Watch a demonstration and then admire the beautiful foliage of a local flower plantation before ending your tour at an ice cream-making shop.
Here, see how helados de paila (ice cream or sorbet made from fruit juice, sugar and water or milk) is made by hand, stirred in large copper bowls over a basin of salted ice and straw. Top yours off with traditional bizcochos (biscuit fingers) – yum! Finally, return by coach to Quito in the afternoon.