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Less than two hours from Quito and a stone's throw away from the famed Otavalo Market, you will find Hacienda Zuleta, a working colonial farm dating back to the late 16th century. Here the Plaza family oversees the production of 8,000 liters of milk a day and runs a renowned cheese factory that stocks local grocery stores and exports its artisanal cheeses as far as New York. A tour of the boutique cheese factory is a must as you will be served the award-winning cheeses at every meal. Spend a day exploring the miles of signposted trails over the 5,000-acre property, with a guide or on your own. During your trek you may spot some of the 2,000 sheep or hundreds of cows and horses that are kept on the estate. Keep a lookout for Andean Condors flying along the ridgelines and pay a visit to the Condor Huasi rehabilitation program located on the grounds. After dinners of homemade, organic Ecuador cuisine with ingredients produced on site, spend restful evenings in one of the fifteen unique guestrooms, many with their own fireplace or wood burning stove.
- DAY 1: QUITO - HACIENDA ZULETA
- Travel north from Quito toward the Otavalo region and on to Hacienda Zuleta, a historic working colonial farm set on 4000 scenic acres. Choose from an array of activities during your stay at this lovely property. All activities can be arranged upon arrival. In addition to the 60km of self-guided hiking trails, guests are free to wander through the grounds which include a Paramo garden, cheese museum, organic vegetable garden, milking sheds, and more. A variety of horseback riding activities, mountain bike rentals, fishing tours, guided hikes, cooking classes, and guided tours of the surrounding areas such as the famed Otavalo Market and Cuicocha Crater Lake can all be arrange upon arrival for an additional cost. (L,D)
- DAY 2: HACIENDA ZULETA
- Today, explore the grounds of Hacienda Zuleta. The friendly staff can guide you in choosing your adventures for the day. After a hearty breakfast, you may decide to hike the self-guided trails on the property, sample fresh cheese from the creamery, wander the gardens or explore the Condor Reserve. There is a small co-op on site where you can browse and purchase the beautiful embroideries handcrafted by local individuals. The Hacienda has many cozy common areas should you prefer to read a book by the fire or enjoy some tea. (B,L,D)
- DAY 3: HACIENDA ZULETA - QUITO
- After your final breakfast and morning activities, your driver will transfer you back to Quito or to the airport, depending on your itinerary. (B,L)
WeatherWhen to Visit
Due to fairly stable seasonal weather conditions in Ecuador, travelers can enjoy year-round travel to the country. Some areas have better weather at certain times of the year, but it is always a good time to travel to Ecuador. Ecuador has a surprising variety of climates. The weather can be very localized and tends to change quickly because of the country’s unique geography. Located on the Equator, Ecuador is divided into four main regions: the Andes, the Amazon, the Coast, and the Galapagos Islands. Within these four regions of this small country, roughly the size of Colorado, elements of all four seasons can occur in a single day.
The Andes (Highlands)
Visitors can experience the Andean Highlands year-round, though June to September and late November to mid-January tend to be the drier months. February to May and October to mid-November are considered the rainier season. During the rainier months, one will find warm sunny weather in the morning followed by almost daily showers in the afternoon. Temperatures show little variance throughout the year with averages in the 60s during the day and 50s at night, though sunny days may get into the 70s and cooler nights may drop into the 40s. Despite these averages, it is common to have rainy streaks in the dry season and nice sunny weather in the wet season. It is best to come prepared for both rain and sun, as visitors will likely run into both during any month of the year. Warm days and cool nights are normal so packing layers is essential.
The Amazon basin is what you would expect of a tropical rainforest: wet, hot and humid. January marks the beginning of the less rainy period, which extends through March. Calling this the dry season would be a misnomer as it still rains quite frequently. March through July tends to be rainier than the first two months of the year, with July tending to be the rainiest. August through December is known as the fluctuation season. During this time, it is nearly impossible to predict weather patterns. One minute could be hot and sunny with clear blue skies and then the next minute a heavy downpour could begin. Temperatures year-round range in the 80s (27-33°C) and rain, sometimes even cool rainstorms, can be expected most days in the afternoon, as the Amazon basin is truly a rainforest. Any time of year is great to visit the Ecuadorian Amazon despite the level of rain. Contrary to what one may think, the months with higher averages of rainfall are great times to visit. Higher levels of rain increase fruit production, which results in more activity from monkeys and other fruit eating species. The Amazon is an unpredictable environment from both a weather and wildlife standpoint. The best approach for visitors to have an excellent Amazonian experience is to come prepared for the unexpected and to have an open mind!
On coast, the dry season runs from about June to December with a temperature drop to the high 70s. The garua, a damp mist, has a tendency to cast itself over the coastline and the sun. The sun can disappear for three months at a time. Then in January to June, temperatures go up and despite the occasional heavy rain, the days will be bright and sunny.
The great weather of the Galapagos Islands makes them a fantastic destination for travel year-round. Every month of the year is a good time to enjoy a tour of the region. The Galapagos Islands have a subtropical climate that is almost completely determined by sea currents. Although most believe the Galapagos to be a very hot destination, the cool water currents in the area keep the climate fairly temperate year-round. The mild variations in weather from month to month result in an overall climate of warm days, cool nights and low humidity. Anytime is a great time to travel to the Galapagos; while visiting one can expect to see plenty of sunshine, blue skies and a possible chance of light rain.
Min-Max Air Temp
*Year Round Temperatures in °F, Rainfall in Inches
Min-Max Air Temp
*Year Round Temperatures in °F, Rainfall in Inches
Most Popular Ecuador Trips & Tours
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Specials >> Ecuador
- Trip Dates
- This tour operates year round.Available
I have traveled many places in the world but the trip put together by Southern Explorations may well be the best. The amazing biology we saw on the Galapagos and in the Amazon, wonderful guides both on the Eclipse and at Sacha lodge, excellent food, and great coordination of the different parts of the trip made for an incredible journey. - Marilyn Parsons, USA (Amazon & Galapagos Island Cruise)
Fabricio is a great guide. He really keeps it fun yet he is on top of all arrangements. We were very lucky to have a private trip with him. At the Napo Wildlife Center, the guides were also great, very knowledgeable and personable. They helped us out a lot by setting up a personal itinerary for my wife and me since we wanted to hike more than the rest of the group. On both tours, we got individualized attention. We wanted to hike more than the normal program and in both locations we were accommodated. We really appreciate the extra hiking that was planned; we got to complete a 15 mile day hike through the rainforest that I will not soon forget. - Dan and Mary Greenblatt, Wyoming (Amazon & Galapagos Island Land Tour)
Just want to thank Jon ...it was the best vacation ever! - Neet Shah (Ecuador & Galapagos Island Cruise)
When planning our trip to South America we could find few companies providing tours of Ecuador. I came across Southern Explorations on the internet and, knowing nothing about them, took a chance. This turned out to be the best decision we made for the entire trip. This was by far the best experience of our six weeks in South America – due entirely to the organization and our superb guide. From the moment we were picked up we were made to feel that everything was being done to meet our needs and wants. From time spent at markets, roadside stops, food, to photo-stops and ice-cream treats – everything was about what we wanted rather than following a restrictive timetable. Our guide was so good at predicting our needs, picking up on our interests and facilitating these wherever possible. Half-way through our tour we were asking our guide about other Southern Exploration tours. We live a long way away, but I don’t think this will be our only Southern Explorations adventure. Thank you all, we had a fantastic time. - James McCallum, Australia (Ecuador)
Thumbs up to Southern Explorations! We went to the Galapagos and Ecuador and everything was perfectly planned from A to Z. The choices of the boat, the restaurants and the hotel were perfect. The guides were excellent. And out trip coordinator did a fantastic job when planning the trip with us. We absolutely recommend Southern Explorations and hope to travel with them again. -The Tamers family, Miami (Galapagos Island Cruise & Ecuador)
I have traveled with many travel companies to over 45 countries and all 7 continents. I don't usually travel with the same company more than once because I am very picky about my itinerary and I also want a good value for my money without the hassle of traveling with a group. Southern Explorations provided the flexibility to develop my own itinerary, even if it required modifying the excursions that they had available. Once the itinerary was developed to my specifications, I still didn't know how it would turn out until it was done. Now that I'm home, I can say that my trip to Ecuador was executed flawlessly. Everything was exactly as described and planned. The guides were knowledgeable, efficient, prompt, and showed a definite interest in and enthusiasm about their country. Each of the places I visited was exceptional. I got a wonderful trip for a reasonable rate and I would definitely travel with Southern Explorations again. - Anne Marie Lewis, USA (Ecuador & Galapagos Island Cruise)
My trip coordinator, was Fabulous!! She was always available to answer questions and followed up with us many times to ensure everything was in order with a very energentic personality, very friendly and was a great help to coordinate our trip on short notice. I'd definitely work with her again if we book with Southern Exploration. - Jan Filipiak, USA (Ecuador)
Thank-you for the trip of a life time and I have already recommended you to everyone who asks! -Wendy Williams, Canada (Galapagos Island Cruise, Amazon & Machu Picchu)
The Ecuador Highlights was a trip of a life-time! I have traveled the world but this trip ranks as one of my best ever. So, come on fellow ‘Boomers,’ depart the States (and the grandkids!) and see what is see is happening in such an exciting part of South America…Ecuador. - Linda Owens, Oregon (Ecuador)
Southern Explorations provided my family with an adventure of a lifetime...we have traveled to Asia,Africa and South America with other companies and S.E. surpassed all of them in regards to activities, lodgings and personnel that they have aligned themselves with. We truly felt we saw Ecuador as it is meant to be experienced, we loved the people, the food, and the scenery, an amazing country that I hope everyone gets to enjoy at some time in their life. This trip was unbelievable! Thank you. - Mary Jane Mumford and family (Andes, Amazon & Galapagos Island Land Tour)
We had a great trip - very impressed with Southern Explorations. Jorge, your representative in Quito was super. He was always on time, friendly and informative as well as a great ambassador for his country. All the connections were on time and well planned- would consider another trip with Southern Explorations. Roger & Priscilla Beaver, Indiana (Galapagos Island Cruise & Amazon)
Southern Explorations planned our trip without a lot of advanced notice and did an excellent job in meeting our needs and budget. We were very impressed with their responsiveness and willingness to customize. - Susan Lebowitz (Custom Ecuador)
We had a wonderful experience in Quito and the Galapagos Islands. Southern Exploration’s people in the United States and in Quito did their utmost to make our travel experience memorable and comfortable. - Ben Freiberger (Ecuador & Galapagos Island Cruise)
We had a wonderful trip. During the planning stage, Jonathan was easy to deal with and extremely helpful. During the trip itself, Felipe was a treasure. And the call afterwards from Justin was icing on the cake. We feel like we're part of the Southern Explorations family now. Add to that the wonder that is the Galapagos, perfect weather and pleasant trip-mates, and the whole thing was beautifully memorable. Thank you so much for a trip of a lifetime. - Gwen Ruta and Paul Buchanan-Barrow (Ecuador)
We just got back from our trip and we wanted to thank you, the tour was excellent and exceeded all of our expectations. Juan was outstanding, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable and really helped us while hiking. We really enjoyed the cruise onboard the Legend. The room was great, with fantastic views of the islands, and the food was superb. We travel extensively and visiting Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands was the ideal trip. Thanks again for your expert advice and great support. We will be traveling again with you soon! - Jerry Smith, Minnesota (Ecuador & Galapagos Island Cruise)
Everything was excellent. We were both thoroughly happy with our trip and our tour guide. We learned a lot about the culture as well as were busy doing fun activities. We will recommend Southern Explorations and our guide to others. Thank you. - Sheila and Reena Krishnan, Missouri (Ecuador)
This was my first time traveling to South America and although it was very last minute, Southern Explorations made everything a breeze. Kapawi was truly a special place and I'll always remember this trip. - Rushita Jampani (Kapawi Amazon Ecolodge)
Thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the trip. Southern Explorations agent was excellent in helping with trip. Thanks so much for everything. - Jean Audet, USA (Ecuador)
We took this trip to celebrate my boyfriends 50th birthday and we had the time of our lives! The guides were really seemed to care about us and ensured we having a great time! Thank you! - Tammy Rogers (Andes, Amazon & Galapagos Multisport)
- Ecuador - Frequently Asked Questions
- Q: How do I choose an itinerary?A: We offer both active and cultural tours that visit different regions including the Andes, Amazon and the Ecuadorian coast. These tours vary in length and level of accommodation. Our Adventure Travel Coordinators would be happy to chat with you to help you find the itinerary that best meets your needs and interests.Q: Can I make changes or additions to these tours?A: Yes! We are happy to put together a custom Ecuador itinerary for you if our existing itineraries are not exactly what you are looking for. You can also check out our extensions in mainland Ecuador to make additions to our existing trips. Contact a trip specialist for recommendations.Q: When is the best time to go to Ecuador?A: Peak tourism season in Ecuador corresponds with North American and European vacation periods over the summer and the winter holidays, rather than the weather, which is fairly consistent with warm and sunny days throughout the year. All of our trips run year-round, but a few trekking or wildlife-specific itineraries are better during some months than others. Please check with your Adventure Travel Coordinator for more details.Q: What is the weather like?A: The weather in Ecuador is pleasant year-round. There is a wet season and a dry season, but this varies depending on which region of the country you are in. Even in the wet season, you will experience plenty of clear, sunny days. The Andean Highlands are a great place to visit year-round with temperatures in the 60s during the day. Occasional light showers can happen anytime, but heavy afternoon rains are common here from January to May. You have the best odds for clear views of Ecuador’s many volcanoes in the months of June, July, August and September, but you will often have views in the morning throughout the year. The Amazon region is hot, humid and wet throughout the year, with the wettest months being from April to June. Please consult the weather tab on your trip itinerary for more details.Q: What is a typical day like on an Ecuador trip?A: A typical day in Ecuador will vary from tour to tour, but generally, you can expect to start your excursions right after breakfast with a full day of scheduled activities or sightseeing. A lunch break is included and you’ll retire to your hotel in the late afternoon with evenings free.Q: How physically fit do I need to be to enjoy a trip to Ecuador?A: Our Ecuador trips vary in level of activity, so the requirements differ based on itinerary. Please check our physical ratings for each itinerary to see what may be required of you when assessing your ability to enjoy a trip. If you have any specific questions, please contact your Adventure Travel Coordinator. We have personal experience with these activities and can help you decide whether a trip is right for you.Q: How much time do I need to visit Ecuador?A: Most of our mainland Ecuador itineraries are at least nine days in length, but we do offer some lodge-based trips and cruises that can be done in a week or less.Q: How far in advance should I book?A: For the best guide availability and selection in hotels, we recommend booking three to six months in advance. Spring and summer holidays book up more quickly, so more advance planning is ideal. For the holiday season, we recommend booking a year in advance.Q: What are your booking and cancellation policies?A: Click here to see our booking and cancellation policies.Q: Do you use certified guides?A: Our guides have been carefully selected for their knowledge, professionalism, experience and ability to effectively manage groups with finesse. We only hire guides who are native to the destination and are licensed or certified in accordance with the government regulations of their country. All are fluent in Spanish and English. Most have advanced degrees in tourism, biology, native culture or other related field. All guides are experienced in the outdoors and trained in basic first aid.Q: What kind of accommodations can I expect?A: In major cities we offer a variety of hotels including several boutique, Ecuadorian-style properties. Throughout the rest of mainland Ecuador we work with a combination of historic haciendas, small Ecuadorian-style hotels and remote lodges. The majority of the properties are family-run or locally owned. All of our accommodations are clean and comfortable, with private bathrooms and hot water. We offer basic or luxury options in many locations, depending on taste and budget.Q: Do tours include airfare?A: Travelers are responsible for their own international airfare. Internal flights are quoted separately from our base trip costs. We will include any necessary internal flight pricing in your quote.Q: How many people are on your tours?A: Most of our Ecuador tours are private, with a guide and vehicle just for your family or group. Visits to haciendas or lodges may include tours with small groups, but do not exceed eight people.Q: Will I get more information on packing, vaccines, currency, electricity, etc.?A: After booking you will receive a link to our online trip portal which includes all of the need-to-know information that is specific to your itinerary. This includes packing lists, restaurant recommendations, tipping guides, FAQs, vaccine recommendations and currency information. Your Adventure Travel Coordinator will also be a great resource for any other information you may need.