Independent Families: 'Is our budget realistic for a "big" trip to Ecuador?'


Q: Next year, our daughter will be 17 and our son 15, so we want to plan a big holiday for what is possibly our last as a family. We've heard that Ecuador has a bit of everything - mountains, jungle and sea. We enjoy fairly active holidays - walking, seeing sights and a bit of relaxing - but particularly enjoy being off the tourist track. We want to go for three weeks, and our budget is £6,000-£8,000. Is this realistic, and what can you recommend?

Paul Smith, West Yorkshire

A: At just 400 miles long, Ecuador - the little "bump" on the north-west coast of South America, split into two unequal halves by the equator - is no bigger than the state of Nevada. Yet it punches well above its weight in terms of landscape, packing Andean mountains, deep Amazonian rainforest and unspoilt Pacific coastline into an area a quarter of the size of its neighbour Peru. It also works well for visits in the school summer holidays, since these coincide with the dry season - though the weather varies with terrain, from the "eternal spring" of the highland cities, to the humid river-basin and the sea-fogged coast.

Your budget is certainly realistic. Half is likely to go on flights - based on departures this summer, at the time of writing, KLM (08705 074074; www.klm.com) had a best July/August price of £970 return per adult, from Leeds/Bradford to Quito via Amsterdam. Once you're there, though, £50 a day each is enough for mid-range food and accommodation; as the currency is the US dollar, UK travellers get a lot for their money.

Several reputable companies run family tours in the area: the Adventure Company (0845 450 5316; www.adventurecompany.co.uk) and Families Worldwide (0845 051 4567; www.familiesworldwide.co.uk) are just two - but independent parents won't find it hard to make their own way around. The top-end option is to hire a 4x4 with a driver for about $195 (£108) a day. Try Color Bus Line in Quito (00 593 2 2863 349; www.colorbusline.com). Avis, Hertz, etc also have offices in the major cities and airports, with car hire starting at about $78 (£43) a day. But taking the buseta - small, 22-seater buses - is by far the most popular way to travel. These are plentiful, reasonably comfortable, and wildly cheap: express routes between towns cost about $1 (55p) per hour's journey time.

Tourists tend to gather in the capital, Quito, the pretty colonial town of Cuenca to the south, or the market town of Otavalo in the north. All are worth seeing, but it's not hard to arrange things so that you can avoid the crowds. Otavalo is well-known for its brightly coloured blankets, jumpers and hammocks sold at the crowded Saturday market, but is also in the centre of Ecuador's "lake district", an area dotted with water-filled volcanic craters that's perfect for walking. The English-owned, and beautifully restored, 17th-century Hacienda Cusin in nearby Imbaburra (00 593 6 291 8013; www.haciendacusin.com) makes an attractive base for exploring the area, with hikers' route maps, guided horse rides or mountain biking all available. A connecting, four-bed family suite in the flower-filled garden, with colour-washed walls, woven bedspreads and an open fireplace, costs $240 (£133) per night B&B. From here you could take the bus south along the "Avenue of the Volcanoes", a stunning valley along the Pan-American Highway. You will certainly get your fill of volcanoes - Tungurahua, 74 miles south of Quito, is currently spewing ash on such a scale that nearby villages have been evacuated. Other options include visits to the little village of Baños, famous for its springs, and hiring a local guide for a day-long trek along an old Incan trail to Ingapirca, Ecuador's most important pre-Columbian ruins.

Some remote jungle lodges are run by indigenous communities, with accommodation in simple but comfortable wooden huts. They tend to have an ecological bias, and make superb bases for bird-watching - or even a spot of piranha-fishing in the Amazon. Journey Latin America (020-8747 8315; www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk) offers several of these for a variety of budgets - one of the most off-the-beaten track is the riverside Kapawi Lodge, run by the forest Achuar people, who will take visitors on fishing trips or guided jungle walks. Three nights here cost £381 per person full board, including flights and transfer by motorised canoe.

Ecuador's dry-forested central coastal region is particularly quiet, and only just beginning to open up to tourists. But it is very beautiful, and also offers the chance to experience similar wildlife to that of the Galapagos away to the west - though at a fraction of the price. A clean, surf-side double room in a wooden cabin at the Hostería La Terraza (00 593 5 23 00 235; www.laterraza.de) in the fishing village of Puerto Lopez, on the edge of the Machalilla National Park, costs only $25 (£14) a night B&B. From here, take a boat trip to see albatrosses and sea lions at Isla de la Plata; go humpback whale-watching and snorkelling on sandy Los Frailes beach; explore Incan ruins at Agua Blanca, or search for wild orchids on a hike in the cloud forest of San Sebastian. A bus runs daily from Quito to Puerto Lopez; the 11-hour trip costs $12 (£6.50). Or you can fly with Tame (00 593 2 2909 900; www.tame.com.ec) from Quito to nearby Portoviejo for about $100 (£56) return each.

For more information on Ecuador, visit www.vivecuador.com or www.lata.org.

Send your family travel queries to The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or email crusoe@independent.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
film
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
News
peopleWarning - contains a lot of swearing
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project