On this Ecuador chocolate expedition, we will learn about cacao growing and chocolate making from passionate farmers who are committed to preserving Ecuador’s renowned nacional cacao varietal using sustainable agricultural practices. While we will see Ecuador through a chocolate lens, we will also enjoy its many natural wonders and cultural traditions. Highlights include a stay in the cloud forest of Mindo, a drive along the waterfall route on the way to the Amazon rainforest, a visit with an indigenous family, delicious meals made with regional ingredients, hiking, birding and many other local adventures.
Our trip leader and renowned chocolate expert, Jenny Samaniego, Founder of Conexión Chocolate, a company which produces bean-to-bar chocolate using cacao from many different regions in Ecuador, will lead us in tastings of chocolate throughout our journey and provide additional chocolate education, as we delve into different styles of chocolate from rustic to refined.
TRIP HIGHLIGHTS are below, click on ITINERARY to see all the details.
- Immerse yourself in the history and culture of Ecuador
- Learn from cacao farmers about the cultural, historical and agricultural aspects of Ecuador’s famed nacional cacao
- Learn from industry experts about the craft of processing some of the world’s best cacao while enjoying guided chocolate tastings
- Explore Ecuador’s natural beauty, including hiking and birdwatching in the cloud forest.
- Learn about daily life in the Amazon Rain Forest from indigenous families
- Enjoy delicious meals made with local ingredients
Photo: Narci, Chief of Production loving her at Mashpi Chocolate Artesanal, Quito-Ecuador. (Credit: Mashpi Chocolate)
About Jenny Samaniego, Trip Leader & Founder of Conexion Chocolate
Jenny Samaniego founded Conexion Chocolate after nearly 10 years in the industry. She is unique in believing it is possible to produce exquisite, high-end chocolate in the country of origin. What better place to do this than her home country of Ecuador, birthplace of the famed Arriba Nacional heirloom cacao beans. Jenny is one of the only women in the heavily male dominated world of bean-to-bar and couverture chocolate company founders.
In 2008, shortly after moving to New York City, she started working in the world of chocolate for a number of well-known chocolate companies. Since then she has worked in many areas of the industry – production, sales, and founding the sourcing company Cocoa Provisions to name a few – and she has learned the needs of everyone along the way.
In 2013, Jenny started making Ecuadorian couvertures under the company name Chukulat. Three years later, Jenny returned home to expand her offerings and take an even larger hands-on role in production at origin. That is when she decided to rebrand as “Conexion” – to help make the connection between local cacao farmers and consumers of fine Ecuadorian chocolate throughout the world.
Through this connection, the company empowers small family farms. By keeping our chocolate production in the country of origin, we add value to the local economy. Not long after launching Conexion Chocolate, our products won awards from the Academy of Chocolate and the International Chocolate Awards in 2017. Since then, we’ve won a total of 33 awards from the international chocolate community.
Chocolate Experiences Unique to this trip include:
- Enjoy a private tour with To’ak Chocolate and Fundación Guayasamín’s Chocolate & Art Experience, a one-of-a-kind journey in Quito that celebrates the rich history, art, and chocolate of Ecuador.
- Learn how chocolate is made by local chocolate company El Quetzal of Mindo. Owner Barbara Wilson will give us a private, guided tour that includes chocolate tasting.
- A chocolate tour at El Quetzal of Mindo and dinner in their restaurant that focuses on local foods and, of course, chocolate
- Visit an indigenous group of Kichwa cacao farmers in the Amazon rainforest, taste their cacao and their chocolate.
- Enjoy a farewell chocolate making session in Quito with Republica del Cacao
Overview of Itinerary
Meals denoted by B=breakfast, L=Lunch & D=Dinner
Day 1, July 29: Welcome to Quito! Upon arrival, you will be transferred to our hotel where you will be on your own to relax and rest up for your upcoming adventures.
Day 2, July 30: Enjoy breakfast before visiting the famous Equator Line or Mitad del Mundo north of Quito. Next, you will visit Cloud Forest of Mindo with a stop at El Quetzal of Mindo, a small-batch, bean-to-bar chocolate company where you will experience the chocolate-making process and enjoy tastings and pairings with chocolate from the source. Welcome dinner with our trip leader Jenny Samaniego at Quetzal’s restaurant, El Quetzal. (B,L,D)
Day 3, July 31: Spend the day at Mashpi Artisanal Chocolate farm, a small, family farm that has been brought back to health using biodiverse agricultural practices, and then taste their award-winning hand-crafted chocolate bars. (B,L,D)
Day 4, August 1: Enjoy early morning birdwatching at the Paz de las Aves Refuge, and see the famous Lek of the Andean Cock of the Rock. After a late breakfast, we wind our way back to Quito in time for dinner at Zazu, one of Quito’s best restaurants. (B,L,D)
Day 5: We stop at Ecuador’s renowned waterfalls en route to Tena City in the Amazon rainforest, the commercial center of Napo province and enjoy our evening at La Casa del Suizo. (B,L,D)
Day 6: Enjoy a full day of engaging with families in the Kichwa community in the Amazon Rainforest, learning about their ways of life, and later enjoy a choice of optional outdoor activities, such as hiking, canoeing, rafting, butterfly house exhibit and guided nocturnal excursions. (B,L,D)
Day 7: Today is an educational day engaging with the Santa Rita community, which grows Arriba Nacional cacao, Ecuador’s prized, native varietal of fine flavor cacao. We will visit the cocoa chakra and trails inside the nearby forest, leading to petroglyphs, estuaries, spas and a viewpoint, and then enjoy a delicious chocolate prepared with the native guides of the community.
Later, we will drive to Papallacta where we will end our day, taking in the views and relaxing at the beautiful Termas de Papallacta Resort and Spa, for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Day 8: Return to Quito in the morning and explore the beautiful historical architecture of the Government Palace and cathedral. In the afternoon, we will enjoy a private guided tour of renowned artist Oswaldo Guayasamín’s home, art and wine cellar with a chocolate tasting lead by To’ak Chocolate. Afterward, you will return to your hotel where you will enjoy a fun cooking class of delicious typical Ecuadorian food with an expert chef. (B,L,D)
Day 9: Experience Otavalo and learn about Ecuador’s indigenous culture and heritage with a visit to one of Latin America’s most spectatular markets. Later, we explore breath-taking Cuicocha Lake in the Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve before transferring to Quito for a farewell dinner at our hotel by a local Chef. Say goodbye to your Trip Leader Jenny tonight too! (B,L,D)
Day 10: Enjoy your last breakfast in Ecuador followed by a fun chocolate chocolate-making class with República del Cacao Store before evening transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)
About Global Family Travels
Much more than a traditional tour operator, Global Family Travels’ mission is to “Learn, Serve and Immerse” through community-based travel programs. In partnership with non-profit organizations and schools, we offer family-friendly and sustainable travel experiences in support of education, gender equality, access to clean water, preservation of local cultures, conservation and economic growth, all of which foster cross-cultural understanding and global citizens.
Our trips include a unique mix of cultural and educational activities, homestays and participation in local service projects aimed at improving the lives of people in the communities we visit.
Expect to expand your family circle when you embark on a Global Family Travels trip! Visit our website for more information: Global Family Travels
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