My husband and I are travelling to Ecuador on Sunday 26 August, returning to the UK on 23 September (4 weeks exactly). I have planned the start and end sections of our trip and I'm happy with them. For the bit in the middle, our plan is to travel down the central sierra from Quito to Cuenca, then on to Guayaquil to connect with our flight to the Galapagos Islands. What I am struggling with is trying to apportion the time we have (7nights) to each of the places I think we might want to visit in the central/southern sierra. The stopping off points could be:
(i) Banos de Agua Santa (for thermal pools, swing at the end of the world, ziplining and la Ruta de las Cascadas)
(ii) Riobamba (for Chimborazo)
(iii) Cuenca (for architecture, Ingapirca, thermal pools, shopping and relaxing)
Would 2 nights in Banos, 2 nights in Riobamba and 3 nights in Cuenca be a sensible apportionment of time? Or do any of these places merit a longer/shorter stay? I should say that neither of us are avid hikers but we do appreciate stunning scenery, so actually seeing the volcanoes would be good enough for us. We don't need to hike or climb. And we are not interested in El Nariz del Diablo train.
As far as how to travel down the central sierra, we would rather pay for a car and driver than use the buses. So, if we followed the itinerary above (Banos 2 nights, Riobamba 2 nights, Cuenca 3 nights, then to Guayaquil) would it make sense to hire a separate car and driver for each leg of the journey, so that we would not be paying for a driver to hang around for 2 or 3 nights in each place? So we would have:
Driver 1: Quito to Banos
Driver 2: Banos to Riobamba
Driver 3: Riobamba to Cuenca
Driver 4: Cuenca to Guayaquil
On this, can someone please give me a current indicative daily rate for a car and driver? I have seen posts that seem to suggest $160-$180 per day. Is that current and correct?
I also note that we could fly from Cuenca to Guayaquil (via Quito) for a reasonable price and it would take the same amount of time as it would take to drive. Any thoughts on that option? Would we lose out on seeing worthwhile landscape/stopping off points if we take a flight or would we gain something by seeing the volcanoes from above?
I'd appreciate any input from those with relevant knowledge.
Our complete itinerary is:
Day 1: Arrive Quito. Overnight at hotel near the airport
Day 2: Fly to Coca. 4 nights at Lodge
Day 3: Lodge
Day 4: Lodge
Day 5: Lodge
Day 6: Lodge to Coca. Flight to Quito for 4 nights.
Day 7: Quito (go to Otavalo for Yamor Fiesta and Saturday market)
Day 8: Quito
Day 9: Quito
Day 10: Quito to central sierra/southern sierra for 7 nights
Day 11: central sierra
Day 12: central sierra
Day 13: central sierra
Day 14: central/southern sierra
Day 15: central/southern sierra
Day 16: central/southern sierra
Day 17: southern sierra to Guayaquil
Day 18: Guayaquil to Galapagos
Day 19: Galapagos
Day 20: Galapagos
Day 21: Galapagos
Day 22: Galapagos
Day 23: Galapagos
Day 24: Galapagos
Day 25: Galapagos
Day 26: Galapagos
Day 27: Galapagos
Day 28: Galapagos to Guayaquil. Overnight in Guayaquil.
Day 29: Flight Guayaquil to UK