Land of the Imbayas Biking Adventure 5 Days
Activities: Mountain Biking and Hiking
Land of the Imbayas Biking Adventure 5 Days
Explore the Andes in Northern Ecuador through carefully selected biking venues rich in experience, culture, and scenery. This area, inhabited for centuries by the Imbayas and their descents, is still alive and wonderfully diverse. This tour delivers exceptional riding with stunning volcanic scenery, crater lakes, cloud forests, ancient ruins, and Indian and African-Ecuadorian rural villages. Discover an extraordinarily diverse country, both in terms of its ecosystems and cultures. The biking adventure is further accentuated by stays at fine colonial haciendas, a scenic train ride, and a visit to one of the largest indigenous markets in the world.
- Explore rural villages and mountainous landscapes on Ecuador’s best biking routes.
- Admire volcanoes and crater lakes as you travel along the Avenue of the Volcanoes.
- Visit the ancient fortress of Quitoloma and its secluded surroundings.
- Bargain for handicrafts at Otavalo, one of the largest markets in Latin America.
- Take a scenic train ride through a dry forest ecosystem and fruit plantations.
- Ride through the unique and endangered Giant Espeletia forest.
DAY 1: BIKE TUMBACO VALLEY & VISIT QUITOLOMA
DAY 2: RIDE TO OTAVALO MARKET
DAY 3: CHOTA VALLEY SINGLETRACK & SCENIC TRAIN RIDE
DAY 4: EL ANGEL RESERVE & SPELETIA FOREST
DAY 5: MOJANDA CRATER LAKES DOWNHILL
DAY 1: BIKE TUMBACO VALLEY & VISIT QUITOLOMA Our first ride starts just 20 minutes outside of Quito. The trail follows an abandoned railroad track that was once used to transport goods out of Quito and into Ecuador’s rural north. The scenery is beautiful, with flowers and hummingbirds along the tracks, and we pass under a series of tunnels, over a river, and through quaint rural towns. The ride is slightly uphill, but it is very easy. The slight climb helps us build endurance and acclimate, and the wide, flat trail allows us to grow familiar with our bikes before heading to more remote and difficult terrain. We enjoy a picnic lunch along the way.
Weather and energy dependent, we head towards Quitoloma in the afternoon. Quitoloma is one of the world’s largest pre-Inca ruins, but it remains mostly unexcavated. After exploring the ruins, we hop back on our bikes and begin a short but tough climb. At 3,838 m (12,668 ft), we crest and begin an exhilarating downhill ride, during
which we will descend about 1,050 m (3,500 ft). Along this spectacular descent, we enjoy views of glaciated Volcan Cayambe, known the mountain of light. We end our ride at the equator, where we learn about the mythology and powerful significance of the equator to pre-Inca cultures like the Imbaya. We enjoy dinner and spend the night at Hacienda Miraflores. (B, L, D)
DAY 2: RIDE TO OTAVALO MARKET After enjoying views of Cayambe during breakfast, we head to the nearby village of Zuleta, home to some of the most renowned indigenous embroiderers in Ecuador. As we appreciate their work and learn about their techniques, we also sample the town’s famous cheeses. After a pleasant visit, we begin our ride, passing through indigenous farmland as we cruise down the slopes of Volcan Imbabura. As we ride, we admire magnificent views of Lago San Pablo and the surrounding volcanic peaks.
We then continue down a narrow path past the town of Peguche and on to Otavalo, home to one of the largest indigenous markets in Latin America. The Otavaleños are particularly famous for their textiles, and the market is full of ponchos, sweaters, tapestries, and blankets. Artisans also sell panama hats, paintings, jewelry, and more. On the edges of the market, restaurants serve local dishes like fritada and llapingachos. With its delicious aromas, bright colors, and traditional music, the Otavalo market is a true feast for the senses. After getting our fill of shopping and bargaining, we head to Hacienda Pinsaqui, a colonial hacienda with over three centuries of history, for the night. (B, L, D)
DAY 3: CHOTA VALLEY SINGLETRACK & SCENIC TRAIN RIDE This morning, we drive to the small city of Ibarra, where we begin our ride. Today we cycle through a dry forest ecosystem filled with cacti and elongated
acacia trees, very different from the paramo and cloud forests of the previous days. We ride a fun singletrack trail down into the valley of the Chota River, whose fertile riverbanks are a stark contrast to the surrounding dry forest. The Chota valley has a strong Afro-Ecuadorian presence, and is famous for producing great footballers. After a leisurely ride through this unique area, we trade bikes for the rails, taking a scenic train ride back up into the higher lands of Salinas de Ibarra. As we steam along this historic route, we admire the scenic landscape of fruit plantations and small Afro-Ecuadorian towns. We dine and spend the night at Polylepis Lodge. (B, L, D)
DAY 4: EL ANGEL RESERVE & SPELETIA FOREST For a change of pace, we start the day with a hike through nearby El Angel Ecological Reserve. El Angel is home to two unique, endemic forests. Our hike starts through one of Ecuador’s best-preserved Polylepis forests. The Polyepsis is a strange tree that grows above the natural tree line and has multi-layered, papery bark. Oddly enough, its closest relative is the rose. We ford a river and climb a waterfall before arriving at another endemic ecosystem, the Giant Speletia (Frailejon) forest. With their long hairy leaves, these bizarre bushes make for a truly unique landscape. After our hike, we enjoy lunch at Polylepis Lodge and drive to the other side of the reserve, where we begin biking through more Giant Speletia forest. Our route takes us through classic Andean scenery and several tiny rural villages that seem untouched by time. After arriving at the town of Inguesa, we return to our vehicles and head back to Hacienda Pinsaqui for our last evening in Northern Ecuador. (B, L, D)
DAY 5: MOJANDA CRATER LAKES DOWNHILL For our last ride, we head to Mojanda, a group of three beautiful crater lakes at 3,500 m (11,600 ft) of elevation. We drive over some rough terrain to reach the trailhead, but this ride will be well worth the long and difficult approach. The trail starts off shallow, but before long we are blasting down a steep downhill, weaving along narrow trails and enjoying incredible views of the volcanic landscape. It won’t take long for you to realize we’ve saved the best for last. As we descend, the high mountain cloud forest transitions to dry forest, and eventually we end up in the village of Collagal. The locals here are always surprised to see cyclists in their tiny agricultural village, and we’re sure to get some hoots and odd looks as we ride through town. We enjoy a celebratory lunch at Guayllabamba, famous for serving the best Locro de Papas (potato soup) in Ecuador, and return to Quito in the afternoon. (B, L)
Accommodations: Colonial Hacienda Hotels and Mountain Lodge
NCLUDES: Adventure/Naturalist guide, private transportation, quality mountain bikes (Shimano deore 27 speed, front suspension, disc brakes), helmet, gloves, accommodations based on double occupancy in Andean haciendas and lodge, entrance fees, and meals as described (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Not INCLUDE: Beverages at restaurants or hotels, tips
TRAVEL TIME: 1-3 hours per day
BIKING TIME:3-5 hours per day based on skill
ALTITUDE: 1,600 to 4,000 meters (5,300 to 13,300 ft)
AVERAGE TEMPERATURE: DAY 4-31 C
SUGGESTED: Warm layered clothing, biking gear, rain shell, sunglasses, hat, sunblock, mosquito repellent.