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Ecuador: Andes to the Amazon

An unforgettable journey to the high Andes and deep Amazon

15 November 2021 - 27 November 2021

Price: 5395 EUR

Full Money-Back Return Policy During Covid-19 (Click for details)

General Information

This is a truly a unique tour where we at Terra Photography Expeditions has held nothing back. We will be exploring and photographing some of the most beautiful and unique landscapes in Ecuador and even in the world. We will travel to the high Andes mountains and the deep Amazon rainforest to explore wildlife and landscape photography!


  • The tour connects the deep impenetrable Amazon jungle with the cold and glaciated peaks of the high Andes.

  • Be inspired by beautiful sunsets and sunrises surrounded by some of the world’s largest active volcanos

  • Explore virgin jungle whilst watching amazing animals in the most biodiverse place on the planet (not an exaggeration)

  • Swim in soothing natural hot springs

  • Enjoying exciting Ecuadorian food, culture and hospitality


This is a unique opportunity to feel inspired, to travel, to photograph, to make new friends and to discover the warmth of Ecuador. Join us on an unforgettable adventure.

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Guides

Veronica Rojas Paurell

National Guide of Ecuador

Veronica was born and raised between the Andes mountains and the Amazon jungle in Ecuador. She is passionate about trekking and mountain running and her dreams have taken her to explore the world. Veronica's local knowledge will open doors to the experiences the typical tourist never sees. 


More info here.

Jonas Paurell

Creative Guide & Expedition Leader

Jonas is the founder of Terra Photography Expeditions. He has been a photographer for well over 20 years. He is a certified International Mountain Leader (UIMLA) that has spent a lifetime exploring the world's wild areas. Jonas will be leading the expedition.


Jonas loves working with developing photographers to strengthen their technical foundation and support them to unleach their inner creativity. Jonas achieves this through engaging lectures, educative assignments and hands-on teaching in the field.


More info here.

Itinerary

Day 1 | Arrival day in Quito

Arrival and acclimatisation day - Quito is situated in the Andes at 2850 meters (9350 ft). Organised airport pick-up and hotel check-in throughout the day, follow by a tour briefing and welcome dinner. The hotel is centrally situated in the beautiful and lively old colonial city centre.


Day 2 | Quito

After a good night’s sleep and a relaxed breakfast, we will visit the highlights of the historic centre, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The capital of Ecuador was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city. Despite several earthquakes, the city has the best-preserved, least altered historic centre in Latin America. There will be plenty of opportunity for interesting street photography in the old colonial city centre. After a day exploring, we will have an early dinner at one of our favourite restaurants with an amazing view overlooking the old town and the volcanoes in the distance. This is a much-needed day to acclimatise to the altitude and also serves as a crash course in the beautiful Ecuadorian way of life (trust us, you will understand what we mean on arrival).

Trekking: Approx. 3 hours city tour


Day 3 | Quito – Sigchos – Isinliví

Morning departure to the town of Sigchos (2h30 drive), which will mark the start of a three-day trek to El Quilotoa Lagoon - an epic sapphire-blue crater lake situated in an extinguished volcano. The trail goes through the Andean mountains, valleys, villages, over rivers and past genuine Quechua communities to ultimately end up at an El Quilotoa Lagoon after three days. The trail starts at the town of Sigchos where we will be dropped by our support vehicle, which will continue with our bags to the small village of Isinliví. We will have plenty of opportunities for photography before arriving to our cosy family-run eco-lodge. It is a perfect route to acclimatise, giving us the opportunity to get used to the altitude. We will have a sunset photography session from a viewpoint offering beautiful views of the Andes. At night, a warm and delicious dinner will be waiting for us and perhaps a visit to the small cosy spa.

Trekking: 10 Km (6.2 miles), +450 (+1476 ft), -430 (-1410 ft), highest point at 2900 m (9514 ft)


Day 4 | Isinliví – Chugchilán

The day’s hike is from Isinliví to the village of Chugchilán. From Isinliví the trail follows the beautiful lush Toachi canyon, offering amazing landscapes along the river, then climbs up to the typical high Andean plateaus and through small villages before arriving to Chugchilán.

Trekking: 12 Km (7.4 miles), +740 (+2427 ft), -480 (-1574 ft), highest point at 3220m (10564 ft)


Day 5 | Chugchilán – Quilotoa Crater – Parque Nacional Cotopaxi

The day’s hike is at points steep, wild and at high altitude. Following a wholesome breakfast at the eco-lodge, we will descend to the valley floor to cross a river before we can begin our climb up to 3900 meters (12795 ft) and El Quilotoa Lagoon. As we have had previous acclimatisation, this should not be a problem but be prepared to work for the reward - just imagine an azure-coloured crater lake surrounded by steep shadowy mountains. The landscapes along the route and the views from the crater rim will make everything worth it. Following our arrival to the crater, we will get into our support vehicle and drive over to the Parque Nacional Cotopaxi (2h30 drive), which is centred around one of the world’s highest active volcanos – El Cotopaxi. We will arrive in the afternoon and have some time for relaxation – the national park is considered one of the most beautiful places of Ecuador. Since 1738, Cotopaxi has erupted more than 50 times resulting in the creation of numerous valleys formed by mud flows around the volcano, making the surroundings of El Cotopaxi just amazing. A variety of wild animals live in the park such as Andean foxes, bears, rabbits, Andean condors, and the beautiful wild horses. The mountain lodge where we will be staying is situated at almost 4,000 meters (13123 ft).

Trekking: 11 Km (6.8 miles), +1000m (+3280 ft), -350m (-1148 ft), highest point at 3900 meters (12795 ft) feet


Day 6 | Parque Nacional Cotopaxi

We will head out early to photograph the sun rising over the volcano Cotopaxi. After the early session we head back to the lodge to enjoy a hearty breakfast. Afterwards we pack our bags for a day of trekking in the national park. Our goal for the trek the Manantiales (the small streams of glacial meltwater from Cotopaxi) which are often visited by the beautiful herds of wild horses. We will enjoy a packed lunch and stay out the whole day. In the afternoon our 4x4 vehicles will pick us up and drive us across the park to the lava fields where we will scout for landscapes and wildlife like the numerous birds, Andean fox, rabbits, condors, and the beautiful wild horses. As the sun sets, we will return to the lodge for a great big dinner and some canelazo (a local alcoholic beverage made from sugar cane and cinnamon that shouldn’t be missed). If anyone has energy left after this full day, we can spend some time shooting for the stars with astrophotography.

Trekking: 7 Km (4.3 miles), +100m (+328 ft), -100m (-328 ft), highest point at 4000 meters (13123 ft)


Day 7 | Parque Nacional Cotopaxi

Another bright and early start as we ascend the slopes of the volcano El Rumiñahui. The goal is to reach a plateau that provides almost surreal views of the wild landscape below with Cotopaxi at the horizon. We will bring a packed breakfast and eat after sunrise. We trek back down to the lodge, have some rest and enjoy a big, cooked lunch. In the afternoon we will be transported up the slopes of Cotopaxi itself and ascend up to the Jose F. Rivas refuge situated at approx. 4800 meters (15748 ft), which is rich with mountaineering history. This will be the highest point of the entire tour. We will enjoy a local herbal tea or a strengthening coffee at the hut and then head out to await sunset some way down towards the parking where our 4x4s are waiting. After sunset we will be shuttled back to the lodge for our final dinner at Cotopaxi National Park.

Trekking: 7 Km (4.3 miles), +500m (+1640 ft), -500m (-1640 ft), highest point at 4800 meters (15748 ft)


Day 8 | Cotopaxi National Park - Yasuní National Park

In the morning we will drive back to Quito (2hrs drive) and the airport for our 30 min flight to the port city of Coca - set deep in the Amazon and the departure point for the next part of our adventure – it is time for the rainforest! This is a travel day and we do recommend having a good book packed, (two good recommendations with the stories set in Ecuador could be: "The old man who read love stories," by Luis Sepulveda, or the "Map Maker’s Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon," by Robert Whitaker). The last part of the journey is by river boat (around two hours). It will take us deep into the Amazon rainforest and finally we will reach our eco-lodge by canoe (around one and a half hour). We will now be far from civilisation and deep in what is estimated to be the most biologically diverse place on earth! This is truly a unique experience that we think everyone should experience once in life. With the guidance of local nature guides we set out in search of unique images and memories for life. The home for our stay - The Yasuní National Park has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1989. The park is home to at least 596 bird species (that is one-third of the total native bird species for the entire Amazon rainforest), 121 reptile species, 382 fish species, 117 bat species, and over 100,000 species of insects – and this is only what has been documented so far. Yasuní National Park will be our home for four nights so that we get an opportunity to explore the forests, rivers and lagoons by foot and canoe to photograph landscapes and animals and to have a truly unique experience.

Trekking: local trails


Day 9-11 | Yasuní National Park

We stay at the reserve making day trips by foot and canoe to see endless varieties of birds, reptiles, monkeys, toucans, parrots, sloths and hopefully the jaguar. Besides the wildlife we will spend time documenting wild landscapes full of unique plants and trees. We will also make visits to meet local communities.

Trekking: local trails


Day 12 | Yasuní National Park – Papallacta

After having spent a few days in the deep rainforest, we will head for the crisp air of the high Andes again. We are heading to Termas Papallacta, which is a spa lodge situated high in the mountains on top of natural volcanic springs. At the pools the temperature ranges from 36°C to 38°C and contains a natural mix of sulphates, sodium, calcium, chloride and magnesium. The baths will rest our bodies and minds for the night, but for the keen there are also lots of opportunity for photography in the surrounding area, which has rivers, canyons, and a spectacular view of the Antisana Volcano. This is our last night together and it is time to celebrate our adventure and photographic achievements – a special meal will be prepared, and the feast will continue until last person standing!

Trekking: none


Day 13 | Papallacta – Quito

Following a last soak in the natural thermal pools, it’s time for our journey back to civilisation. Our expedition is officially concluded as we arrive at the airport around mid-day.

Curriculum

All Terra Photography Expeditions follow a proven curriculum that aims to teach the theory behind photography in a dynamic way that directly translates into easily actionable processes in the field. As we move through nature we also go through an introduction to the skills and knowledge required to be safe in the great outdoors.

Photography Techniques Covered on the Expedition


  • Storytelling - Telling stories and evoking emotions within the context of landscape photography

  • Composition - A comprehensive introduction to the theory of composition, including the elements of art and principles of design

  • Process - Learning and implementing a process to achieve a consistent quality in landscape photography

  • Focussing - A science based method for focusing to make your images sharp

  • Long exposure and filters - Long exposure and the use of Neutral Density (ND) filters, especially related to moving water and clouds

  • Night photography - Explore the nighttime skies and landscapes to show the world at a different time

  • Panorama photography - exposing and merging multiple images

  • Multiple exposure and graduate filters - Achieving correctly exposed images in challenging conditions using graduated filters and multiple exposures (exposure bracketing)

  • Finding locations - Using maps, weather services and other tools to identify potential photography locations and times

  • Wildlife photography - Settings and techniques

Outdoor Skills Covered on the Expedition


We are first and foremost out to enjoy the mountains and to pursue the art of photography, however, as we are moving toward our locations there is always time to share some outdoor skills.


  • Planning for a day out in the mountains in ever changing conditions

  • Using safety equipment and emergency transponders

  • Map reading

  • Navigation with map and compass

  • Relocation with map and compass

  • Using sighting for fast movement

  • What it means to be a leader in the outdoors

  • Group management skills

Additional Information

The Agenda, Weather and Daylight Hours

The weather in the high Andes is generally very stable, but weather can change quickly and with force. Each day we will study the weather forecast and the local maps over coffee to plan our day. Sunrise will be at approx. 6 AM and sunset at 6 PM. Blue and golden hour will last approx. half an hour at either side of the day, giving us great opportunity for photography.


Food

All main meals are included in this tour. The food is local and delicious (almost so good that we could call this a culinary tour of Ecuador). Typical Ecuadorian food includes traditional dishes like ceviche, fritada and locro de papa. Typical ingrediencies include fish, yuca, rice, beans, shellfish, plantains, chicken, beef, and pork. Ecuadorians love to spice this up with aji, a spicy hot sauce and wash it down with a glass of puntas – a sugar cane alcohol.


Accommodation

All accommodation is in small eco-lodges or haciendas. The lodges we have picked are all beautiful and special in their own way. Single room occupancy is possible in most lodges, but not all. Due to Covid we will use single room occupancy for all guests where possible and be vigilant with hygiene when now.


Leave No Trace Policy

Terra Photography Expeditions has a strict leave no trace policy. This policy is also applied to how we share information about fragile ecosystems that we gently and respectfully visit. This means that we have withheld some locations from the itinerary. This is because we do not want to contribute to large scale tourism to these fragile places. You are welcome to get in touch if you'd like to discuss the itinerary before applying to join. Thank you for your understanding.


Altitude

This tour is a high-altitude tour with lots of fantastic trekking. Your guides have special training for trekking at altitude and will support you to acclimatize safely. We will acclimatize slowly and rigorously to give everyone time to enjoy the adventure. Throughout the entire tour we will have a support vehicle for our luggage and if someone is feeling the altitude, it is possible to skip a day’s trekking and meet up with the group in the afternoon.

How Challenging?

Orange Level.png

This expedition has a High Effort Rating. This is a serious trekking expedition where we can expect 6-8 hours of trekking per day and at altitude. Previous multi-day trekking experience is recommended. More info about effort levels here.

Price & Details

Included:

  • Guided photography sessions

  • Guided treks by qualified International Mountain Leader or Mountain Guide

  • All accommodation during the expedition

  • All main meals

  • Planned transport during the tour

  • Entrance fees to national parks

  • Tips to local guides


Excluded:

  • Photo equipment

  • Outdoor clothing

  • Transport to Quito (e.g. flights)

  • Insurance. All participants are required to have their own insurance appropriate for outdoor activities; such as health, accident, mountain rescue, repatriation, cancellation, personal liability, etc.

  • Trail snack to eat on the go - we recommend that you bring dried fruit, nuts or energy bars to last you throughout the entire expeditions (further info in the packing list)

  • Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages

  • Expenses for extra activities, such as: massages, spas, sauna, hot tub, etc.

Price: 5395 EUR

30% deposit due to secure your reservation, remaining 70% due 60 days before the start of the expedition. Single occupancy not possible.


Participants: 5-8


Start: Quito Mariscal Sucre International Airport, 15 November 2021.

End: Quito Mariscal Sucre International Airport, 27 November 2021, mid-day


We reserve the right to change the itinerary without previous notice due to weather conditions, and unforeseeable circumstances.


This tour is governed by the Terms and Conditions