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We call our signature tour the Ecuador Crash Course to convey that we consider it a learning experience, not simply a tour. It is an opportunity to learn about what makes Ecuador distinctive and unique…its lifestyle, history, culture, heritage and its people. We do not try to “sell” Ecuador as a place to retire….but instead show you the country and help you interpret the culture, so you can make informed decisions about relocation and to gain invaluable knowledge that will help make your experience successful!
Example Itinerary for ECUADOR CRASH COURSE
NOTE: The itinerary below is only a sample and subject to change.
Our first 4 days, we call Ecuador 101. During this time, we will have speakers and discussions covering the topics that we believe are important for anyone considering making Ecuador their home:
- An orientation to ECUADOR- the country, its geography and its diverse population. We will have an overview of Ecuador’s history and its culture, helping us to understand particularly those aspects that differ from North American culture. We will learn about current issues and what is on the mind of Ecuadorians…..its economy, politics and current issues, We will talk to Ecuadorians and explore indigenous culture with a visit to an indigenous community.
- An introduction to Survival Spanish – we will begin speaking Spanish from Day one. The focus will be on day to day practical language skills…learning to greet, shop, take transportation, count and tell time. Susana our “profe de espanol” will make Spanish learning fun and practical, combining language with cultural skills.
- Practicalities of Relocation – A lawyer who specializes in Visas and Expat legal issues will discuss the legalities of moving to Ecuador. We will also address a variety of other issues: safety, health care, the real estate buying and rental process, bringing pets, starting a business, food, communications, cultural adaption etc.
We will meet expats living in each of the areas that we visit during the tour….Quito, Cotacachi, Canoa, Bahia, Saliinas, Manta, Cuenca, Vilcabamba.
In addition to the formal sessions the first 4 days, we will complement and continue with our learning Spanish and all about Ecuador and moving here, on the bus as we travel and explore Ecuador!
Monday,January 13th – Quito
After breakfast, we will meet for introductions and a chance to get to know each other. We will review our tour booklet, logistics and give a brief overview of what is in store for the next 10-12 days.
Sarah will present an Ecuador Overview-its geography, people and what makes it special.
Midmorning, we will head to Quito´s “Old Town” to watch the Changing of the Guard, a weekly event where you can get a sense of Ecuador´s politics and government…..and if we are lucky, we will see Ecuador’s President, Rafael Correa. We will have a short walking tour of Quito´s historic colonial district, visiting the principal churches and plazas. For lunch, we will eat what most Ecuadorians eat at midday….. a typical $2.50 almuerzo.
In the afternoon, we begin our Spanish Learning with Suzie, followed by an introduction to expat life in Quito, Ecuador’s capital city by Quito expat Daphna.
Our last speaker of the day will give an overview of Ecuador’s recent political history and current issues.
Andres Paredes (from the Universidad Politecnica National) speaking on Ecuador´s Politics and Current Events
5:30 pm: “Welcome to the Crash Course”….Wine and Cheese
Tuesday, January 14th- Quito and Cotacachi
Suzie will get our morning started with a little more Survival Spanish and we will continue with our overview of Ecuador:
- Health and Safety Issues
- A very quick “History of Ecuador”
Guest Speaker Leonore Caballero (SIT Cultural Coordinator) speaking on… Ecuadorian Culture, understanding its differences with our own and how to make a positive integration.
Around noon, we will depart the city, passing by the parks and neighborhoods of north Quito. We will take the Pan-American highway north to the province of Imbabura, stopping at the Guachala Equator monument and then at Hacienda Guachala, the oldest hacienda in Ecuador, where the owner will talk about the history and culture of the area. We will arrive in the late afternoon to Cotacachi, giving time to walk around and get a feel for the town.
Wednesday, January 15th- Cotacachi, Otavalo área, Ibarra
We will start the day with a little survival Spanish, followed by a get together/ Q and A with expats living in and around Cotacachi…they will share their experiences and give us an orientation to life in this charming town that approx. 300 North American expats call home. We will also touch on topics such as shipping your things, bringing pets, activities and businesses of expats etc.
Guest Speaker on the real estate buying and rental process in Ecuador who will also give an overview of the rental and purchase market in Cotacachi.
There will be the option of taking a bus ride through Cotacachi and the surrounding area to visit some of the real estate developments and see houses of expats. Or you can feel free to explore the town on your own…. shopping for leather or just strolling around.
Optional visit to beautiful Cuicocha crater lake, where we will have lunch at a restaurant overlooking the lake.
Afternoon visit to the provincial capital of Ibarra and then back to the hotel.
Guest Speaker Dr Santiago Andrade, a lawyer who specializes in expat issues will give an overview of the visa process and other legal considerations for expats living in Ecuador.
Thursday, January 16th- Cotacachi, Otavalo and back to Quito
After starting the day with more Survival Spanish (of course), we will walk to the Cotacachi market and try out our language/cultural skills, shopping for fruits and vegetables. We will then learn how to become comfortable with local transportation, taking a 25 cent bus ride to the nearby town of Otavalo, famous for its indigenous culture and handicraft market.
There will be time to shop in the market (the largest handicraft market in South America) and then visit a weaving workshop. Lunch will be in an indigenous community near Otavalo, where our local guide Rafael will introduce us to the culture and customs of the Otavalenos.
We will have a traditional lunch (including cuy….guinea pig…of course) and will also talk about the foods of Ecuador and learn a bit about herbal medicine from our shaman host, Don Mario.
Mid afternoon return to Quito hoping to beat the rush hour traffic!
During the rest of the tour, we will continue with Survival Spanish and talk about culture, customs and additional aspects of expat life on the bus.
Friday, January 17th : Quito to the Coasts of Manabi
We will start out early on our ride from Sierra to Coast, beginning in the high Andes, and descending through the cloud forest to the tropical plains. We will stop for snacks and hummingbird watching in Nanegalito and continue on the “new road” to Pedernales, arriving to the Pacific for a picnic lunch on the picturesque beach of “La Division”, joined by expats who live in the area of Jama.
After lunch we will continue down the coast, passing through Jama and possibly Matal, both areas which are attracting expats and “gringo developments.” Expat Lisa will be joining us to share her experiences as an artist living on the coast and we will visit her house on the river. We will arrive in Canoa late afternoon, just in time to watch the sunset!
We will stay at beautiful Canoa Beach Hotel owned by expat Greg.
Saturday, January 18th- Canoa, Bahia de Caraquez
Today is a chance to rest and catch your breath. We will spend the day in beautiful Canoa, and for once, you will have a chance to sleep in! Our host Gregg (who is an architect) will talk to the group about life on the coast and give pointers on real estate and building in Ecuador.
You can spend the day relaxing on the beach and exploring Canoa or opt for an excursion to the Mangroves of Isla Corazon, where you can see the ecosystem of the mangroves and abundant bird life ($10 entry fee).
In the late afternoon, we will visit Bahia de Caraquez, where you will have the option of crossing over the “new bridge” or taking the ferry ride across the Chone river. In Bahia, we will tour the city and have dinner with several Northamerican Bahia residents, who will talk about expat life in this coastal town.
Sunday, January 19th- the Coast from Canoa to Salinas
We will depart early this morning in our private bus to travel down the coast, visiting some of the most beautiful beaches and fishing villages of Ecuador. Our first stop will be Manta, where we will have a chance to meet and talk with Manta expats over breakfast. We will continue on to Puerto Lopez, where we will make a brief stop. From there we will continue south along the coast stopping at the beach town of Olon and continuing to Montanita, “Ecuador´s party beach”, where you can shop for souvenirs and have lunch. From here we will continue into Guayas province, seeing lots more of the coastline…and arriving in Salinas mid to late afternoon. In the evening we will have dinner with a few Salinas expats who will share their experiences.
Monday, January 20th- Salinas, Guayaquil, Cuenca
After breakfast, we will head into the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador´s largest city and industrial center. We will make a stop to see the sites of the renovated downtown area and to have lunch. From there, we will head up the Andes to Cuenca, passing through beautiful Cajas national park. Arrival in Cuenca late afternoon or early evening.
Tuesday, January 21st- Cuenca
We will have breakfast with a group of Cuenca expats, who will share their experiences with a few short presentations on expat life and relocation to Cuenca. We will have a walking tour of the downtown area followed by a city tour on the double decker bus. After lunch there will be an optional 3 hour outing to visit the towns in the area surrounding Cuenca….Gualaceo, Chordeleg …and to see the traditions of the IKAT weavers.
In the evening we will have wrap things up and have our Crash Course “graduation”.You made it!!!!
Wednesday, January 22nd- Cuenca
Morning is free to explore Cuenca. Optional visit with guides to Cuenca’s 10 de Agosto market and the Panama Hat museum.
For those continuing south to Loja and Vilcabamba
Wednesday, January 22nd
Late morning departure from Cuenca in private transportation to Vilcabamba. We will stop for a picnic lunch in the town of Saraguro. Saraguro is an interesting indigenous town where we’ll have time to visit the park, market and handicraft stands. We will have a brief stop in Loja and then continue on to Vilcabamba. Orientation to Vilcabamba!
Thursday, January 23rd
A day to explore the area of Vilcabamba. Optional activities (horseback riding, bike rentals, spa visit incurr an additional cost) hiking. In the afternoon we will be joined for dinner by Vilcabamba expats at the Izchayluma hotel with a beautiful view of the town and countryside.
Friday, January 24th
Midmorning departure to Malacatos. Explore the area for an hour or so and continue on to Loja. We’ll have a typical lunch in Loja and have several hours to explore this small city. For those returning to Quito, we will go to Catamayo to catch the 6pm flight (Jonathan will make this reservation if you have requested it…approx $70-90).