Between the high Andean plateaux studded with snow-dipped volcanoes and the sultry rainforest of the Amazon basin, the eastern foothills and valleys of Ecuador are stifled with the giant ferns, creepers and orchids of misty cloud forest. Winding its way south through this ethereal landscape, parallel with the Andean spine and tracing what is known as the ‘eyebrow of the jungle’ is a newly-paved road, Route 45. The improvements to this road mean that places once almost inaccessible to visitors are now brought within easy reach of Quito and the country’s principal highland cities.
The traffic is relatively light and the route is wondrously scenic throughout, creating for independent drivers a brand new opportunity to discover a little-visited region by self-drive hire car. We’ve designed an innovative itinerary for you where you travel under your own steam down this road staying at forest-based lodges along the way, with opportunities to take a dip in thermal pools, go river rafting, jungle trail walking and wildlife spotting, while visiting local indigenous communities and their farms to immerse yourself in their way of life.
Climbing back up to the high Andes you’ll return north to Quito along the famed Avenue of the Volcanoes, a completely different environment of wide open spaces blanketed by sprawling pastures and haciendas pitted with the perfect cones of a string of ice-clad mountain peaks, some still fizzing with activity. You'll pull over to discover the dazzling colours of an indigenous market and venture off the paved road to explore safely the sublime Cotopaxi National Park, the most beautiful in the country.