Ecuador: Clean Water and Kichwa Communities | 10 DAYS


  • Meet with water specialists
  • Visit Kichwa communities
  • Explore local & global water issues
  • Build clay water filters
  • Conduct clean water workshops

Join Andean Discovery Student Expeditions in Ecuador to focus on one of the most crucial issues facing our world: water. On both a local and global scale, access to clean water is key to public health, infrastructure, economic security, and development. As we concentrate on water management, access to clean water, and conservation challenges that confront indigenous communities in the Andes and Amazon, you will learn about ongoing initiatives and debate newly proposed solutions and how these models may be replicated in other parts of the world.

This program takes a holistic and comprehensive approach to understanding water security, and connects the themes at play in Ecuador to the same civic struggles playing out in other parts of the world, such as Flint, Michigan in the United States. To better understand the issues, students will meet with government officials and local water specialists in the capital city of Quito. They will compare local and international water quality standards, identify water-born diseases, and participate in a workshop to build water filters using clay and other sustainable materials.

Travel to the Andean highlands and Amazon basin and meet with Kichwa communities to better understand water accessibility on a local level, and distribute water filters to families in need. Visits to reservoirs, hot springs, watersheds, and riverbeds give students a full understanding of the complex network of systems that must be taken into consideration with any successful water management plan.

The issue of access to clean water is poised to play a vital role in global health and safety initiatives over the course of the next century, and this program explores Ecuador through the lens of this universal struggle.



Itinerary >>

Detailed Itinerary >>

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Positioned just a few miles shy of the equator in a narrow valley surrounded by volcanoes Quito, Ecuador, is a spectacular city. At 9,350 feet above sea level, it is the second highest capital city in Latin America, and maintains a pleasant spring-like climate all year round. Upon arrival you will meet your Student Expeditions to Program Leader and transfer to your hotel.

To start the discussion about water you will visit a sacred site where ancient Kichwa communities took ceremonial baths. Here you will discuss the importance of water conservation and have general overview of current events related to water in Ecuador and around the world. This afternoon conduct experiments with water on the equator line and challenge the theories of the Coriolis effect.

Today you will roll up your sleeves and spend the day in a workshop with local builders who will teach you about water filtration and how to construct innovative, ceramic water filters.  Mold clay and other local materials to produce efficient and cost-effective water filters that you will take with you on your journey to Andean highlands and Amazon basin.

This morning travel north to the province of Imbabura, a region known for its ancient volcanoes, pristine highland lakes, and thriving indigenous culture. This fascinating area is home to the Otavaleños, Kichwa-speaking Indians famous for their traditional garments, ancient handicrafts, and expansive outdoor markets.

The first stop is Laguna Cuicocha, literally translated, “Lake of the Guinea Pigs.” This stunning lake sits in a volcanic crater at 10,072 feet above sea level, and is known for its emerald-green waters and the pair of islets at its center that resemble cuis, or guinea pigs.

This afternoon visit Otavalo’s legendary outdoor market, one of the largest and oldest in South America. This indigenous market has been a communal, cultural, and commercial hub for farmers and artisans in the surrounding areas since long before the arrival of the Spanish.

Accommodations: Community Stay

Conduct Clean Water Workshop with community members in the local school and hand out water filters to participating families. This afternoon divide into small groups and work directly with families to help them install concrete floors in their homes.

Clean Floor Project

In rural communities in the Andean highlands of Ecuador, most families live with dirt floors in their homes, lacking any type of hard flooring.  In addition to being uncomfortable and unpleasant, this living environment poses health risks for families and can lead to a host of preventable diseases, parasites, and worms.  Dirt floors are impossible to clean and accumulate pathogens that enter houses on shoes.

During free time play soccer with the children in the community and teach English through art and games.

Today’s journey will take you upwards of 13,000 feet above sea level as you cross over the Eastern Andes mountain range. Notice the landscape change  as you drive through the Páramo, a fragile neo-tropical ecosystem that is home to over 5,000 species of plants, many of which are endemic. Stop for soak at the thermal baths of Papallacta, which are heated naturally by the surrounding volcanoes and examine some of Ecuador’s most important watersheds. Discuss water management and visit the reservoir that supplies Quito with water.  Descend east into the Amazon basin.  The dramatic rise in temperature and lush ecosystem is proof of your arrival into the tropical lowlands. Transfer to a native Kichwa community whose principal livelihood is farming cacao and other local crops.

This morning you will meet with families in the community and learn about their use of water and the challenges they face with regard to access to water. Participants will conduct a Clean Water Workshop with community members in the local school and hand out water filters to participating families.

Later this morning you will work together with members of the community to make improvements to the elementary school or another community center, depending on the needs at the time.  Additional activities include and trail maintenance.

This afternoon help families with their crops, such as plantains, yuccas, and medicinal plants. Learn about the cultivation of cacao beans, including harvesting, drying, and exporting through fair-trade chocolate cooperatives. Discuss the challenges farmers face and why they have organized with other organic farmers.

Today you will float down the rapids of the Upper Napo River where 16th century Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Pizarro once traveled in search of the fabled city of El Dorado.  The Upper Napo River, known locally as Río Jatunyacu, is one of the main tributaries feeding the Amazon River.  As you travel down river, learn about illegal gold mining dredges other threats to access to clean water.

Later this afternoon, proceed back over the Eastern Andes range to Quito in time for dinner.

This morning you will be transferred to the airport in time for your international flight.


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Andean Discovery is a flexible, reliable, and affordable travel company that organizes authentic cultural experiences. They organized two life-changing Ecuador trips for our high school students. They follow through on every detail, which makes for a safe and well-planned adventure. Our guide, Antonio, was extremely knowledgeable, fun, and related well with the kids. Andean Discovery is not one of the large cookie-cutter travel companies that provides generic experiences for high prices. It is big enough to have the needed resources and support, but small enough to customize your experience to match your needs and goals. They don't try to provide trips in every country. They are specialists and experts on Ecuador and Peru. 
David Meissner, Director of International Programs, Alexander Dawson School