Drive (5 hours) south from Cuenca to the charming city of Loja, located in the southeastern province of Ecuador. This trip will pass through interesting Saraguro Indian villages and beautiful highlands. Arrive in Loja (2100 m), a pleasant city, where some famous Ecuadorian poets and writers come from. Upon arrival we will be allocated in a local comfortable hotel. Later on we will enjoy a guided tour of this clean and picturesque city. We will stroll down into the "Churches Street" starting with a visit to the Cathedral and later on arriving at the Plaza San Sebastian, a beautiful area with colonial houses and a nice central park from where we will walk down on the charming Lourdes street. Back to the hotel.
After breakfast we will drive southeast towards the entrance to the Podocarpus National Park, famous for its high degree of endemic species, found nowhere else; apparently because the complex topography combines with a mixture of Andean and Amazon climate zones that creates unique microclimates throughout the park. There are up to 90 different tree species, including three species of the park's namesake genus, "Podocarpus" (Ecuador's only native species of conifer tree). There is also Andean spectacled bears, mountain tapirs, pumas, deer and Andean foxes, among others. Box lunch is included. In the afternoon continue your drive to the Sacred Valley of Vilcabamba, also known as the "Longevity Valley" because of the old age that most of the inhabitants easily reach (over 100 years of age). On the road see the plantations of corn and sugar cane fields, fruit orchards and cattle pastures. Lodge in a local Hostel. (B,BL).
After breakfast we'll drive towards Cotopaxi National Park to admire Cotopaxi, described as one the highest active volcanoes in the world. In the late afternoon we'll continue our journey to Baņos town for stay overnight in a local hotel. (B, BL).
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