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Ecuador orchids tours - search for orchids in collections & in the wild

Sample itinerary orchid tours

One of the best reasons to travel Ecuador is of course the orchids! recent field research has suggested that more than 4,000 orchid (240 native generae) species live in the wilds of Ecuador, in fact, its orchid diversity is the highest of any country in the world regardless of size. Ecuador is steeped in biodiversity, with an amazing number of orchid species easily viewed, if you know where to look. Our guides are extremely familiar with nearly every corner of this country. They know where to stop and which areas to bypass. Our tours are personal and we cater to the desires of our clients. We design tour routes with your input and strive to show you the plants in flower that you want to see. If it's orchids you want, we deliver!

We offer a rich suite of orchid tours nationwide with specialized guides. Our orchid tours are oriented toward both research and recreation throughout the country.  Our carefully trained guides offer top quality orchid tours in one of the most beautiful natural environments in the world: Ecuador.

Below is a sample itinerary for your review:

Day 1 - Quito

Arrival in Quito, transfer in from the airport to your boutique hotel.

Day 2 - Quito - El Pahuma - Mindo - Quito

Today we will enjoy our first outing in the surroundings of Quito, we will head northwest of the city into the Andean subtropical valley of Mindo, on our way to Mindo we will visit the El Pahuma Orquid Reserve and its Orchid Botanical Garden with flowering orchids mounted on the trees and placed in the vegetation along the trail, consistent with each species' habitat. Labels identify each specimen. Then, a hike on a trail through lush, epiphyte-laden cloud forest, alongside a lively, sparkling creek to the 50 meter (165 foot) Pacaya waterfall. The El Pahuma Orchid Reserve is a privately owned forest of an Ecuadorian family who is searching for a viable economic alternative to destructive activities such as logging or cattle raising, and it protects over 600 hectares (over 1500 acres) of tropical montane forest. Over 170 species of orchids have been identified within the reserve, which lies in a region with some of the highest rates of plant endemism in the world. Orchids, bromeliads, heliconias, ferns, vines, mosses and lichens grow in abundance here.

After a full morning at El Pahuma, we will enjoy lunch (optional) closeby at a small lodge in the town of Mindo. After lunch we will visit the Mindo orchid farm, this private orchid garden is located right in the center of the small town of Mindo. Many of the local orchid species have tiny flowers which only can be seen under a magnifying glass. The owner of the garden, collects hundreds of these wonderful flowers from the nearby cloudforest and puts them up for display and will also explain them to you. After visiting the farm we will enjoy a short walk in the cloudforest.

Return to Quito in the late afternoon, lodging at your boutique hotel.

Day 3 - Quito - Banos

After an early breakfast we head south this morning down the "Avenue of the Volcanos", 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.
After about three hours we will begin our descent to Baños in east-central Ecuador, where we will have views of another active volcano, Tungurahua, and perhaps we will witness one of its frequent small eruptions. Past eruptions have sculpted a violent 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 be found here. The lava flows host many orchids, mostly with inconspicuous flowers. If we are lucky, though, we may find a flowering plant of the strange “slipperless” ladyslipper orchid, Phragmipedium lindenii, with stringy petals up to a foot long.

We have three nights at a lovely hotel overlooking Baños called Luna Runtun (Fortress of the Moon), with wonderful views of Volcano Tungurahua.

Day 4 - Banos

In contrast to the arid vegetation to the west of Baños, the Andean foothills east of the town are covered with extremely wet cloud forest. Today we will travel down the Andean slope to the lowland tropical rain forest on the edge of the Amazon basin. This forest is extremely species-rich in aroids, bromeliads and orchids, and the tree diversity is exceptionally high. This ecological zone is fabulous habitat where local scientists have described over 40 orchid species new to science! The forests here are heavily clad with orchids and bromeliads, and the scenery is spectacular, with waterfalls on all sides. One of the special species we will hope to see is a colony of hundreds of a rare green and white ladyslipper orchid that only grows on rocks along certain rivers, Phragmipedium pearcei. Along the road we shall also see an amaryllis relative endemic to Baños, Phaedranassa tungurahuae. We return to Baños for a second night.

Day 5 - Banos - Chimborazo

Chimborazo, a few hours drive from Baños, is the highest point on earth, as measured from the earth’s centre. The broad flat plains below Chimborazo’s snowcap host an amazing variety of alpine plants, including the endemic
rosette plant Viola polycephala and many species of Asteraceae such as Loricaria and chuquiragua.
We shall botanize this plain at our leisure, moving slowly so as not to feel the effects of the high altitude. We will be accompanied by herds of vicuña, a wild relative of the llama, feeding and playing between us and the glaciers. The vastness of the landscape and richness of the flora will make this an unforgettable day.

Day 6 - Baños - Quito

We will spend some time botanizing the roadsides at high elevations around Baños, which have a surprisingly high diversity of orchids. Some of these are quite conspicuous while others resemble the typical European orchids. A few
actually belong to European genera such as Habenaria. At midday we will leave Baños and return to Quito for the night.

Day 7 - Quito - Loja

We fly in the early morning to Loja in southern Ecuador, where we will stay for four nights. The city of Loja was officially founded on 8th December, 1548 by Spanish 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
located at 2,100 meters above sea level in the Cuxibamba valley and enjoys a temperate spring-like climate all year long.

Well off the beaten tourist trail of Quito/Galapagos, the province of Loja offers a unique combination of breathtaking vistas, indigenous markets, an amazing ecological diversity, colonial architecture, and unparalleled hospitality. After quickly checking in to our pleasant hotel, we will drive to a high-elevation cloud forest in Podocarpus NationalPark. From the bus it is an easy walk to stunning alpine grassland rich in ericads, bromeliads, and orchids. This is a very picturesque environment, where we can be absolutely sure that we will be the only botanists on the mountainside!

Day 8 - Loja

We will make a full day excursion today to some of the special forests near Loja, famous for their high orchid and bird diversity. We will visit a private reserve, Tapichalaca, purchased by the Jocotoco Foundation to protect a newly discovered bird (the Jocotoco Antpitta). The reserve coincidentally protects many endangered plants in its unique forests.

Day 9 -  Loja

Ecuador owes its biodiversity to its densely woven patchwork of distinct and often contrasting environments. The dry vegetation we will visit today will be shockingly different from the wet forests we visited yesterday or the frigid grasslands that will be the subject of tomorrow’s trip. Instead of broad-leaved, epiphyte-laden mossy forests we will be visiting cactus and desert scrub. After two hours of driving we will come to the highlight of the day, the strange baobab-like “ceibo” trees with their fat green trunks and symmetric crowns. With luck they may be in flower, an unforgettable sight.

Day 10 - Loja - Cuenca

There is an extraordinary cold, windy and wet paramo near Loja, called Cerro Toledo. We will visit this botanically unique environment, rich in endemic species, though the climate is often so severe that it is unlikely that we will stay at the top for long! Bring warm clothes and good rain gear! Lower down on this mountain we can escape the winds and study beautiful bromeliad-covered cloud forest.

Today we drive northbound passing extremely beautiful landscapes and indigenous villages and arrive at the colonial city of Cuenca, UNESCO heritage site. We will spend the next 3 nights at a boutique hotel.

Day 11 - Cuenca

A full day will be spent at Ecuagenara (Orchid exporter and laboratory) main farm in Gualaceo. Here you will see many greenhouses full of exotic orchids, learn some of their propagation secrets, and take excursions to sites where they are repopulating the surrounding countryside with orchids. Return to Cuenca and overnight.

Day 12 - Cuenca

Today we will visit the Ecuagenera private nature reserves, these are high Andes jungle reserves naturally stocked with orchids from Mother Nature. In addition we transplant (only Ecuadorian) orchid species specific to that climate to preserve them and make a botanical garden out of the reserves themselves. The habitats are perfect for transplanting orchids from our laboratory to enhance the species count which is now at over 1,000. You wouldn't believe the rich orchid environment perfect for photography and a breathtaking tour of the high Andes jungles. And what you see and photograph in the wild can also be purchased from the nurseries and taken home.

What's this about transplanting?

On our two reserves our staff and volunteers, like you, transplant orchids every week. As time goes on, the reserve complex will be a living botanical garden of most if not all of Ecuador's orchid species. As it is now, Ecuagenera's reserves are indeed the largest orchid reserves in the entire world. They are 100% private and you can enter them! You can volunteer to help us transplant, that way you get a hands on experience in real jungle under the expert guidance of our staff. Also you can feel proud in the fact you helped preserve for future generations to enjoy, this incredible family of flowering plants, the orchid.

Day 13 - Cuenca - Quito

Early morning flight from Cuenca to Quito. After arriving at the airport we will visit Botanical gardens and their orchid collection.  The magnificent new greenhouses filled with orchids collected from the Amazon to the Andes — along with many bromeliads.

The afternoon is free to walk around downtown Quito and enjoy this beautiful UNESCO heritage site. Overnight.

Day 14 - Quito - ?

Transfer out for your international flight. You also have the option to extend your trip and take a Galapagos cruise trip , an Amazon nature tour or a natural history tour of the Choco rainforest.

The above is a sample itinerary prepared for a botanical club. It can be customized to fit the needs and special interests of your travellers.

Main Offices Address: Av. Gral. Rumiñahui , San Rafael

Quito - Ecuador