If you've only got five days in Ecuador, pick from one of the country's three main ecological zones to maximize your time. Base yourself in Quito and explore the surrounding region, or head directly to Yasuni National Park for four days of wildlife viewing and rainforest adventures. If you prefer remote wilderness, bypass the city and fly directly to the Galapagos to see giant tortoises, snorkel, and visit an uninhabited island.

Itinerary #1: City & Volcanoes - Ruco Pichincha & Pasochoa

For a chance to explore city and mountains, opt for this two-in-one trip plan that combines colonial history and wild volcanoes. You'll explore Quito and head to the surrounding Andes to trek on two high-elevation volcanic hikes: Ruco Pichincha and Pasochoa. 

Hiking on Ruco Pichincha
Hiking on Ruco Pichincha 
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival to Quito Quito
Day 2 Quito Historic Center, Panecillo Hill, & Middle of the World Tour Quito
Day 3 Hiking on Ruco Pichincha Volcano Quito
Day 4 Pasochoa Volcano Trek from Quito Quito
Day 5 Depart from Quito  

Begin in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, for two days of big-city living. Keep in mind that you'll be at a high mountain elevation, so take it easy on your first few days. Your itinerary leaves plenty of time in between sight-seeing to relax at plaza cafes and take it all in. 

Tour the UNESCO-designated city center, where you'll see churches and plazas dating back to the time of Spanish conquistadores. Get a birds-eye view of the city from nearby Panecillo Hill, then head to the Mitad del Mundo site, where scientists established the equator line in the eighties. 

On your third and fourth days in the country hit the trails for some high-elevation hiking. You'll hike through humid cloud forests and on vast highland plateaus, and see glaciated volcanoes close-up. Pack picnics to enjoy on the trek and make the most of your short time in the country. Make sure to keep an eye out for wildlife—Andean condors are common visitors to both volcanoes. Learn more

Itinerary #2: Galapagos Island Hopping - San Cristobal & Santa Cruz

One of Ecuador's main ecological hotspots is the rocky Gapalagos archipelago, with one of the highest concentrations of endemic species in the world found here—and five days is just enough time to catch a flight from Quito to explore the diverse islands on this trip plan

Pinnacle Rock on Bartolomé Island
Pinnacle Rock on Bartolomé Island
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival to San Cristobal Island San Cristobal Island
Day 2 Snorkeling at Kicker Rock San Cristobal Island
Day 3 Speedboat to Santa Cruz & Afternoon Boat Tour Puerto Ayora
Day 4 Day Trip to an Uninhabited Island Puerto Ayora
Day 5 Transfer to Airport on Baltra Island  

Start this five-day stay with a flight from the mainland, either as an add-on to another Ecuadorian adventure or as a stand-alone getaway. You'll arrive at San Cristobal, a sleepy island with a small town, a notorious colony of sea lions, and incredible sunsets. Spend some time on Playa Mann enjoying the water and snorkeling as you get accustomed to the leisurely island lifestyle. 

The next day you'll head out onto the water to nearby Kicker Rock, an incredible snorkeling and diving location. Do be careful, however, as currents here can be quite strong and cold. Look for playful sea lions, colorful fish, rays, and turtles (lucky visitors may also see hammerhead sharks). 

End the trip in Puerto Ayora, the Galapagos' research and traveler hub. It's home to several research stations and rare wildlife breeding programs, but you've got a different adventure planned. Head out for two days on the water, exploring hidden coves, uninhabited islands, and massive seabird nesting colonies. Learn more

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Itinerary #3: Amazon Adventure - Yasuni National Park 

The Amazon rainforest is a rich and diverse landscape for both people and indigenous people, with thousands of species and several distinct ethnic groups calling this landscape home. Learn about both wildlife and local culture on this immersive 5-day trip plan. 

Traditional body coloring of the Kichua people
Traditional body coloring of the Kichua people
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Quito Quito
Day 2 Arrival at Yasuní National Park Yasuni National Park
Day 3 Adventure Day at Yasuní National Park Yasuni National Park
Day 4 Nature & Culture Day at Yasuní National Park Yasuni National Park
Day 5 Depart from El Coca  

Start this trip with your arrival in Quito, the country's capital city. It was recognized by the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century and claimed by the Spanish crown, however, indigenous occupation of the site dates back thousands of years (predating even the Inca Empire). The main ethnic group was the Quitus, as well as several others who lived in various landscapes surrounding Quito. 

From here, head to Yasuni National Park, catching a short flight from Quito to Puerto Francisco de Orellana in the rainforest. Here, you'll transfer to a boat dock, then travel first by motorized canoe and finally paddle canoe to reach the remote forest lodge. 

Spend your time here exploring the surrounding area and relaxing at the lodge. Kayak on the river, enjoy a massage or some quiet time in your room, head onto the trail and water for guided nature and wildlife hikes, and see the forest canopy from a raised walkway. Round out your trip with a morning at a clay lick to see parrots and other birds, followed by a cultural presentation by a local Kichua woman (a unique experience, given how remote the area is). Return to El Coca for a local flight back to Quito. Learn more

More Great 5-Day Ecuador Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your Ecuador trip? Check out these other 5-day Ecuador itineraries, with nature-focused itineraries, rainforest getaways, and best-of trips to hit the highlights. 

Or, describe your ideal trip and we will connect you with a local specialist to make it happen.


Map of 5 Days in Ecuador - 3 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Map of 5 Days in Ecuador - 3 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Written by Sonya Pevzner, updated May 23, 2023