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Andean Flora of Ecuador

Tour Code: ECU01

An exciting and pioneering 16-day holiday in search of the orchids and other special plants of this beautiful Andean country.

16 days from £4495(inc flights) Land Only Price: £3895 SRS: £450


Ecuador is a dream destination for any plant enthusiast. Straddling the equator and bisected by the Andes Mountains, the range of habitats we explore on this holiday includes recent lava flows, subtropical forest, cloudforest, temperate (elfin) forest, wet paramo, arid plateaux and high craggy passes. We’ll enjoy such highlights as an imposing terrestrial bromeliad, rare amaryllis, ericads, bromeliads, moss-like dwarf gentians and a dazzling variety of orchids. We’ll also drive through stunning landscapes such as the ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’, and the 4,000-metre high Papallacta Pass. The

  • Over 3,700 species of orchid – the largest number of any country!
  • Moss-covered cloudforests full of Yellow em>Odontoglossum/em> orchids
  • Tiny Pleurothallis & Brassia orchids in the cliffside crevices of Cerro Toledo
  • Showy terrestrial orchids in old lava flows & Podocarpus National Park
  • em>Bomarea/em>, em>Gentianella/em>, em>Polylepis/em>, & em>Ceiba/em> trees
  • Tree-sized flowering mistletoes in temperate forests
  • Andean Condor at Papallacta Pass, & Spectacled Bear is a possibility
  • Wonderful photo opportunities – & plenty of chances to practise with your macro lens!
  • Enjoy markets & attractive colonial architecture in the tranquil city of Loja
  • Led by expert local botanist guide br />

Food

All included in the price, except evening meals in Quito.

Accommodation

A variety of excellent hotels and lodges, all with private facilities.

Meriana hernandoi  (Jack Lamb)

Meriana hernandoi (Jack Lamb)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Quito

Day 2/4 Baños

Day 5 Quito

Day 6 Loja

Day 7/8 Vilcabamba

Day 9 Loja

Day 10/11 Papallacta

Day 12/13 San Isidro

Day 14 Quito

Day 15/16 Fly London

Ecuador, bisected from north to south by the mighty Andes and from east to west by the equator (after which the country is named), offers wonderful botanising amidst magnificent scenery. Once part of the Inca Empire that stretched from Chile to Colombia, and later a Spanish colony until it gained independence during the last century, Ecuador possesses an extraordinary range of environments, and harbours the highest biodiversity for an area of its size in South America. In fact, its orchid list is the longest of any country in the world, regardless of size, with over 3,700 species!

On this holiday we will visit many of the main montane habitats along the central spine of the country. We will tiptoe around fragile alpine cushion plants near the snow-line, search for orchids and treesized flowering mistletoes in cold, moss-covered temperate forests, marvel at the lushness of the rich subtropical forests on the lower slopes of the mountains, and reach the edge of Amazonia with a visit to the extremely diverse transition zone between rainforest and cloudforest. The diversity of plants (not to mention the birds!), welcoming people, short travel distances and good accommodation make a natural history holiday here a delight.

We begin our journey by driving south along the ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’s, the arid central plateau of the country. If the weather is clear we will have fantastic views of the highest active volcano in the world, Cotopaxi. Further on, from Ba?os, in east-central Ecuador, we will have views of another active volcano, Tungurahua, and perhaps witness one of its frequent small eruptions. Past volcanic activity has sculpted a tortuous landscape here, with geologically recent lava flows covered with desert-like vegetation. The most conspicuous element of this semi-arid flora is the Puya, an imposing terrestrial bromeliad. Two rare amaryllis relatives (Phaedranassa schizantha var. ignea and P. viridiflora) can also be found here and lava flows host many orchids, mostly with inconspicuous flowers. If we are lucky, we may even find a flowering plant of the strange ‘slipperless’s lady’s slipper orchid, Phragmipedium lindenii, with its stringy petals up to a foot long.

The hills to the east of Ba?os are covered by extremely wet cloudforest (from where over 40 new orchid species have recently been described!). We will spend the next two days exploring this area from the lovely hotel above Ba?os called Luna Runtun (Fortress of the Moon). The forests here are heavily clad with orchids and bromeliads, and the scenery is spectacular, with waterfalls on all sides. The slopes are covered with big purple Sobralia orchid flowers and forests full of endemic species, many still awaiting discovery.

We next fly south to Loja, a tranquil city officially founded on 8th December 1548 by the Spaniard Captain Alonso de Mercadillo. Loja is one of the oldest cities in Ecuador, its age evident in the rich colonial architecture and narrow streets. The city is situated at 2,100 metres above sea level in the Cuxibamba Valley and enjoys a temperate, spring-like climate all year round. Well off the beaten tourist trail, the province of Loja offers a unique combination of breathtaking vistas, indigenous markets, an amazing ecological diversity, colonial architecture and unparalleled hospitality.

Loja is an ideal base from which to explore high-elevation cloudforests in the Podocarpus National Park. Stunning alpine grasslands are evident here, rich in ericads, bromeliads and orchids, and the environment is very picturesque; we can be absolutely sure that we will be the only botanists on the mountainside!

There is also an extraordinary cold, windy and wet p?ramo near Loja, called Cerro Toledo. We will visit this botanically unique environment, rich in endemic species, although the climate is often so severe that we may not stay at the top for long!

Next we head back to Quito and east, along a route first used in the 16th century when Francisco de Orellana led his expedition from Quito down into Amazonia. Papallacta, a small village perched up on the tree-line, is famous in Ecuador for its hot thermal springs and it really is an Andean paradise. The road affords splendid views of several snowcapped peaks as it winds its way over the 4,000-metre Papallacta Pass and, with good luck, we may find an Andean Condor soaring over the crags. Here we will examine curious clumps of moss-like dwarf gentians and other plants with strange growth forms, highly adapted for life in this extreme environment. We will also visit the enchanting Polylepis forests with their twisted branches and papery red bark, growing at the upper altitudinal limit for woody plants. Lower down we will be based at the delightful San Isidro Lodge where we will explore moss-covered cloudforests full of yellow Odontoglossum orchids and other colourful flowers — a fitting finale to the tour.

We currently don’t have any images for this tour. If you have any suitable image you would like published then please email us.

W.A.
Surrey
The amount of preparation Gustavo had done for our trip was impressive, visiting many distant places to check on the available plants. He's a real expert! He also taught us some tips on photography. Cerro Toledo was magnificent and we spent many hours up there (unlike the trip report we were sent). This was possible because we all brought suitable warm and waterproof clothing as per your list (I had 8 layers on including two thermal vests!). On our last morning Gustavo took us to a lovely reserve with some impressive new species and hummingbirds at feeders. This was one of the best last mornings of any holiday I've done.
D.V.
Hampshire
Overall an excellent holiday, Gustavo was an extremely good leader and endeavoured to keep everybody happy despite varying interests.
E.K.
Devon
Our guide Gustaveo was excellent, cheerful, good company and knowledgeable.
P.B.
Glamorgan
The unsung heroes of the trip were our two drivers Edwin and Jofre...but both of them were very helpful, friendly and put up with all our stops and starts without complaint, and drove very professionally...I have nothing but praise for them.
J. & I.P.
Kent
We had exceptionally good weather at all paramo locations - a wonderful experience. Lou [tour leader] is 24 carat gold - hang on to him at all costs - sensitive and adaptable to the chemistry of the group - I learned enough from him on day 1 to make the trip worthwhile. He and Edwin [driver] worked well as a team and were excellent spotters and knowledgeable guides. We thoroughly enjoyed the contrasting range of habitats and great plant diversity.
M.P.
Lanarkshire
We thoroughly enjoyed our holiday to Ecuador.
R.H.
Sussex
Gustavo was absolutely superb, extremely knowledgeable, helpful and kind and sensitive to our needs. I cant praise him enough.
S.P.
Scotland
Gustavo is excellent, good at plants but also birds and other things, and good with people.
R.B.
Dublin
The enthusiasm, knowledge and exceptional hard word of the leader made it a wonderful trip. There was always a good atmosphere in the group. The leader got on well with everyone we met.
E.B.
Cumbria
Thoroughly enjoyed the holiday and having the time to really look at the plants and begin to know the names, it was marvellous.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Thu 20th September 2018 - Fri 5th October 2018

YES

£4495

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Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £3895 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Ecuador

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Andy Tucker
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01962 733051

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Tour Reviews

The amount of preparation Gustavo had done for our trip was impressive, visiting many distant places to check on the available plants. He's a real expert! He also taught us some tips on photography. Cerro Toledo was magnificent and we spent many hours up there (unlike the trip report we were sent). This was possible because we all brought suitable warm and waterproof clothing as per your list (I had 8 layers on including two thermal vests!). On our last morning Gustavo took us to a lovely reserve with some impressive new species and hummingbirds at feeders. This was one of the best last mornings of any holiday I've done.
W.A., Surrey