Ecuador is chock-full of diverse wildlife and dramatic volcanic landscapes, and with 12 days to explore, you can experience the best of both on a trip to Quito and the Central Andes. Those looking to spend time in the rainforest and on tropical islands can split their days between Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve and the Galápagos Islands. In contrast, those looking to take a deep dive into the country's culture should opt for a road trip itinerary from Quito to Guayaquil.

Itinerary #1: Ecuador Exploration: Quito & Central Andes

A journey perfect for first-time visitors to Ecuador looking to cover the must-see highlights at a leisurely pace, this 12-day Ecuador exploration takes you from the artsy neighborhoods of Quito to the lush jungle near Baños, with plenty of adventures in between. Enjoy an ideal mix of relaxation and exploration as you soar above canyons in a cable car, indulge all your senses during a traditional cooking class, and hike around Cotopaxi National Park. Plus, with opportunities to relax in natural hot springs, you'll leave your trip happily refreshed.

See the majestic birds and butterflies that are Ecuador natives
See the majestic birds and butterflies that are Ecuador natives
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito & City Tour Quito
Day 2 Quito Views & Cooking Class Quito
Day 3 Mitad del Mundo & Transfer to Mindo Mindo
Day 4 Mindo Waterfalls & Butterfly Reserve Mindo
Day 5 Mindo Chocolate Tour & Transfer to Quito Quito
Day 6 Quito Urban Bike Tour Quito
Day 7 Cotopaxi National Park & Transfer to Baños Baños
Day 8 Baños Adventure Excursion Baños
Day 9 Explore Baños: Canyoning & Casa del Árbol Baños
Day 10 Transfer to Quito Quito
Day 11 San Pablo Lake & Otavalo Market Otavalo
Day 12 Cuicocha Lake, Transfer to Quito & Depart  

Welcome to Ecuador! Begin your journey in the historic capital, Quito, where a guided tour, thrilling cable car ride up the Pichincha volcano, and traditional cooking class immerse you in local culture. Before departing the city, visit the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the Earth) monument and then head to Mindo. In this charming town, known for its lush cloud forests, enjoy a scenic cable car ride over Río Nambillo, a trek to waterfalls in Mindo-Nambillo Reserve, and spot beautiful butterflies in Mariposario de Mindo. After a relaxing final morning in Mindo, return to Quito for a bike tour exploring parks and artistic neighborhoods.

Enjoy an early night as Day 7 whisks you away to the awe-inspiring Cotopaxi National Park, followed by a transfer to Baños de Agua Santa for a three-night stay. Nestled amid mountains and jungle, indulge in soothing hot springs, an exhilarating canyoning adventure at Río Blanco waterfall, or conquer one of the area's many hikes. Next, transfer to Otavalo, stopping for a night in Quito along the way, and uncover the stunning landscapes of San Pablo Lake and Imbabura volcano. Before catching your flight home, spend your last morning hiking or boating Cuicocha Lagoon. Learn more

Itinerary #2: Outdoor Adventures in Ecuador: Quito, Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve & the Galápagos

Split your time between lush rainforests and wildlife-filled tropical islands on this activity-filled trip to Ecuador. By day, you'll explore stunning landscapes on foot, two wheels, or boat, and in the evening, you'll relax in beautiful jungle lodges while keeping an eye out for fascinating wildlife. With four nights each in the Amazon rainforest and the Galápagos Islands, you'll have plenty of time to settle in and connect with Ecuador's vibrant culture and wildlife.

Boating in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
Boating in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito & Tour Mitad del Mundo Quito
Day 2 Enjoy a Bike Tour & Cooking Class Quito
Day 3 Soak in Papallacta Hot Springs, Transfer to Cosanga Cosanga
Day 4 Travel to Rainforest Lodge & Night Walk Cuyabeno  
Day 5 Hike in the Jungle & See a Parrot Clay Lick Cuyabeno 
Day 6 Canoe on the Río Cuyabeno & Cultural Activities  Cuyabeno  
Day 7 Visit Observation Tower, Transfer to Quito Quito
Day 8 Fly to Isla San Cristóbal, Interpretation Center, Frigate Hill & Snorkeling Isla San Cristóbal 
Day 9 Snorkel at Kicker Rock Isla San Cristóbal 
Day 10 Boat to Isla Santa Cruz, Charles Darwin Research Station Isla Santa Cruz
Day 11 Excursion to an Uninhabited Island Isla Santa Cruz
Day 12 Transfer to Isla Baltra, Depart  

Your trip begins in Quito, where you'll cycle through the city's northern neighborhoods, exploring urban art and architecture before learning to prepare traditional Ecuadorian dishes in a cooking class. Settled in, you'll trade Quito's bustling streets for endless green forests near Cosanga in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Early the next morning, your adventure continues with a motorized canoe ride down the Río Aguarico to a jungle lodge tucked deep in the rainforest. Two incredible days of hiking, bird watching, canoeing, and relaxing will fly by, but there are more places to explore, so late on Day 7, it's back to Quito.

The second half of your trip promises to be just as enthralling, starting with a short flight to Isla San Cristóbal, one of the oldest of the Galápagos Islands. After an educational afternoon at the Interpretation Center, see the island's sea lions and tropical fish during a snorkel at Kicker Rock. Next, transfer to Santa Cruz, the second-largest island and the perfect base to visit the Charles Darwin Foundation and embark on a day trip to one of the nearby uninhabited islands. Spend your last day in the Galápagos at your leisure; then, it's across the Itabaca Channel to catch your flight home. Learn more

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Itinerary #3: Exploring Ecuador: Andes, Rainforest & Pacific Coast

This nature-focused trip, complete with rainforest hikes, expeditions through mangroves, and a day learning how to surf, is well suited to the active traveler. Throughout the itinerary, visits to Cotopaxi National Park, Archidona, and the quiet coastal town of Ayampe are complimented with exciting days in the large cities of Quito and Guayaquil. Plus, with numerous cooking classes and time to unwind on crowd-free beaches, this trip is the perfect way to mix adventure with relaxation.

Sunset on the beach in Ayampe
Sunset on the beach in Ayampe
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito & Cooking Class Quito
Day 2 Tour Quito & Mitad del Mundo  Quito
Day 3 Explore Cotopaxi National Park, Transfer to Baños Baños
Day 4 Discover Baños, Ecuador's Adventure Capital Baños
Day 5 Visit Pailón del Diablo Waterfall, Transfer to Archidona & Rainforest Hike Archidona
Day 6 See Ushpayacu Waterfalls, Cooking Class & Chocolate Workshop Archidona
Day 7 Transfer to Quito via the Papallacta Hot Springs Quito
Day 8 Fly to Guayaquil, Transfer to Ayampe Ayampe
Day 9 Enjoy a Free Day in Ayampe Ayampe
Day 10 Learn to Surf in Ayampe Ayampe
Day 11 Visit Isla de los Pajaros & Cocoa Plantation, Transfer to Guayaquil Guayaquil
Day 12 Depart Guayaquil   

Your trip begins with a warm welcome in Quito, strolling through the city's historic center and cooking traditional Ecuadorian dishes alongside friendly hosts, followed by a trip to stand in two hemispheres at Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World). Leaving the city behind, venture to Cotopaxi National Park before continuing to Baños, renowned for its iconic "Swing at the End of the World" and plentiful ziplining and canyoning activities. Next, it's time to head deeper into the Amazon basin to Archidona for two days of admiring the waterfalls of Ushpayacu and getting to know locals through a cooking class and chocolate workshop.

As you wake up to the second half of your trip, you'll say goodbye to the rainforest by giving a helping hand at the Río Hollín Reforestation Project, then transfer back to Quito, where you'll catch a flight to colorful Guayaquil. After a busy day wandering Puerto Santa Ana and Parque Histórico in Ecuador's largest city, the quiet town of Ayampe awaits. Enjoy a day relaxing in small cafés followed by an exciting day learning how to surf; then, tour Isla de Los Pájaros, famous for its mangrove birds, before transferring back to Guayaquil to catch your onward flight. Learn more

Itinerary #4: Ecuador Road Trip From North to South: Quito, Cotopaxi & Baños

Hit the road and explore Ecuador from top to bottom on this self-drive, faster-paced itinerary. Starting in Quito, Ecuador's colonial architecture and high-elevation landscapes are explored in leisure. Then a drive through the "Avenue of Volcanoes" showcases the country's snow-capped peaks and rugged wildlife, and culminates in Guayaquil after a two-night stay in Cuenca in the Ecuadorian Andes.

Feel the freedom of the open road as you navigate through Ecuador
Feel the freedom of the open road as you navigate through Ecuador
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito Quito
Day 2 Free Day in Quito Quito
Day 3 Drive to Otavalo & Cuicocha Lagoon Hike Otavalo
Day 4 Drive to Cotopaxi & Cotopaxi National Park Cotopaxi
Day 5 Drive to Baños, Hot Springs & Waterfalls Baños
Day 6 Free Day in Baños, Ecuador's Adventure Capital Baños
Day 7 Drive to Riobamba & Explore Chimborazo Riobamba
Day 8 Drive to Cuenca & Hike Ingapirca Ruins Cuenca
Day 9 Explore the City of Four Rivers Cuenca
Day 10 Drive to Guayaquil Guayaquil
Day 11 Guayaquil Neighborhoods Tour Guayaquil
Day 12 Depart Guayaquil  

After picking up your rental car, your road trip begins with two days in Quito, touring the colonial churches of San Francisco and La Compañia de Jesús and visiting the Ethnographical Museum. Adjusted to the altitude, you'll hit the road and continue to Otavalo for a day sampling street food and exploring the shoreline of beautiful Cuicocha Lagoon before driving through the "Avenue of the Volcanoes" to Cotopaxi National Park. Next, carry on to Baños, where an adult playground of bungee jumping, hiking, mountain biking, and canyoning adventures fill your two days.

Your road trip continues west, stopping by Carrell and Riobamba to admire views of the Chimborazo volcano and visit the pre-Inca ruins of Ingapirca. Heading through Ecuador's Andes, you'll next come to Cuenca, a town famous for its four rivers. Spend a day admiring this historic town's colonial architecture and sampling street food at a local market before another day on the road brings you to Guayaquil. Your last three days have you exploring Seminario Park and Isla Santay and meandering along the picturesque waterfront until it's time to return your car and catch your flight home. Learn more

Itinerary #5: Explore Quito & the Galápagos Islands

Spending more time in the Galápagos Islands than on Ecuador's mainland, this 12-day Quito and Galapagos adventure nicely blends sun, sea, and wildlife. With two or more nights each on Isla Santa Cruz, Isla Isabela, and Isla San Cristóbal, you'll discover your fair share and more of beautiful bays, volcanic landscapes, and wildlife havens. Plus, with a stay in Quito at the beginning and end of the itinerary, there's time to admire the historic city's impressive architecture and artsy neighborhoods.

Spot marine iguanas in the wild
Spot marine iguanas in the wild's of the Galápagos Islands
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito, Explore the City Quito
Day 2 Fly to the Galápagos Islands Isla Santa Cruz 
Day 3 Explore an Uninhabited Island Isla Santa Cruz 
Day 4 Discover Isla Pinzón & La Fé Isla Santa Cruz 
Day 5 Enjoy a Wildlife Tour on Isla Isabela  Isla Isabela 
Day 6 Kayak in Puerto Villamil & Bike in Cave Sucre Isla Isabela 
Day 7 Hike Around Sierra Negra Volcano & Boat to Isla Santa Cruz Isla Santa Cruz 
Day 8 Boat to Isla San Cristóbal, Bird-Watching at Tijeretas Hill Isla San Cristóbal 
Day 9 Snorkel at Kicker Rock Isla San Cristóbal 
Day 10 Spot Wildlife on Isla Española  Isla San Cristóbal 
Day 11 Fly to Quito & Tour the City  Quito
Day 12 Depart Quito  

Begin your trip in Quito, shrugging off any jetlag with a stroll through the city's narrow streets and a walk up Panecillo Hill; then, it's straight to the Galápagos Islands the following day. After a short flight, you'll begin your island escape on Isla Santa Cruz, known for its Charles Darwin Foundation and Fausto Llerena Breeding Center of giant tortoises. Discover the island's wildlife on a guided trip to an uninhabited island, and join a snorkeling adventure in Penguin Bay and La Fé before taking a speedboat to Isla Isabela for a two-night stay complete with kayaking excursions and a hike up Sierra Negra volcano.

After a night back on Isla Santa Cruz, you'll catch a speedboat to Isla San Cristóbal, your home, for the next three days. During your time on the island, tick off the must-do highlights of Kicker Rock and the Interpretation Center. Get even more off the beaten path with day trips to Isla Española and Gardner Islet to spot albatross, blue-footed boobies, and sea lion pups. Sun-kissed and refreshed, it's time to fly back to Quito to enjoy your last evening strolling the artsy La Floresta neighborhood and admiring city views from the top of Pichincha until it's time to catch your flight home. Learn more

More Great 12-Day Ecuador Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Ecuador? Check out these other 12-day Ecuador itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 


Map of 12 Days in Ecuador - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Map of 12 Days in Ecuador - 5 Unique Itinerary Ideas