There's no need to choose between cultural exploration and outdoor thrills on a trip to Ecuador—this six-day itinerary offers both! Base yourself in Quito as you get to know the capital city, day-tripping to Papallacta to soak in thermal waters. Then ride a cable car high into the mountains to hike Rucu Pichincha Volcano. Finish the trip with a trek to the summit of a volcanic mountain and a brief exploration of Cotopaxi National Park.


  • Stand on the line of the equator at Mitad del Mundo
  • Soak in the volcano-warmed waters of Termas de Papallacta
  • Hike around a pair of massive volcanoes
  • Enjoy an al fresco breakfast in Cotopaxi National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito, Explore the City Quito
Day 2 Enjoy a City Tour & Mitad del Mundo Quito
Day 3 Day-trip to Termas de Papallacta Quito
Day 4 Hike Around Rucu Pichincha Volcano, Transfer to Cotopaxi Cotopaxi
Day 5 Climb Iliniza Norte Cotopaxi
Day 6 Explore Cotopaxi National Park, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Explore the City

Views over Quito and Cotopaxi
Views over Quito and Cotopaxi

Welcome to Quito! You'll arrive at the airport and meet your driver, who will transfer you to your hotel in the city center. After taking some time to get settled in, explore the historic center. This UNESCO World Heritage Site stands at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,850 m) and welcomes visitors with its picturesque plazas between mountain peaks.

Stroll through its narrow streets and visit some of the city's most important churches, such as the Baroque La Compañía, with its incredible gold-covered interior, and the neo-Gothic La Basílica. Take a walk down La Ronda, one of the oldest streets in the city, then head to Panecillo Hill for incredible panoramic views.

For more ideas and inspiration, read The Perfect Day in Quito.

Day 2: Enjoy a City Tour & Mitad del Mundo

Colonial Quito City Tour - Cooking Class with a Local Chef &  the Middle of the World
Visit the Middle of the World
After breakfast, your guide will pick you up from your hotel and take you on a walking tour of the city. In the afternoon, you'll visit the equatorial monument known as Mitad del Mundo. It's located just 16 miles (26 km) north of the capital city in the spot where French scientists determined the position of the central line many years ago. You'll have the chance to stand on the line of the equator and strike a pose with one foot in each hemisphere! Visit the adjacent museum, featuring a planetarium, cocoa and chocolate exhibits, and a small-scale model of Quito.

Read about How Many Days to Spend in Ecuador.

Day 3: Day-trip to Termas de Papallacta

Day Trip to Papallacta
Peaceful Papallacta
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Today you'll head to Papallacta, located high up in the Andean grasslands outside Quito and renowned for its hot springs. At the Termas de Papallacta resort and spa, you can relax and enjoy a network of pools naturally heated by volcanic hot springs. Have a leisurely lunch by the water's edge. If the weather is clear, you'll be able to see the giant Antisana Volcano in the distance. Return to Quito in the afternoon.

Day 4: Hike Around Rucu Pichincha Volcano, Transfer to Cotopaxi

Hiking Rucu Pichincha Volcano - Cotopaxi
Hiking Rucu Pichincha Volcano 

Leave the city this morning and transfer to Rucu Pichincha Volcano with your guide. You'll board the TeleferiQo cable car to travel up into the mountains to the hike's starting point, taking in outstanding views over the city on the journey.

Today's hike takes about six hours in total. During the first part, you'll pass through typical Andean landscapes. The trail gets steeper as you make your way to the summit. Take some time at the top to soak up the incredible vistas and enjoy a snack and drink with a view. You'll trek back down to the cable car station, returning by aerial tramway to the starting point. From there, you'll travel by car to Cotopaxi, where you'll spend the night.

Find out more about the Best Things to Do in Ecuador.

Day 5: Climb Iliniza Norte

North Illinizas Climbing
North Illinizas Climbing

After breakfast, you'll travel with your guide to the starting point for a hike to Iliniza Norte, one of a pair of volcanic mountains in the Illinizas Ecological Reserve. The trek will begin at a high elevation, leading you through the Ecuadorian highlands. After a challenging hike with spectacular views, you'll descend and return to Cotopaxi in the afternoon.

Read this article about going off the beaten path while traveling in Ecuador.

Day 6: Explore Cotopaxi National Park, Depart

Cotopaxi National Park -  Quito Airport
Cotopaxi National Park 

Start your day at the border of the Cotopaxi National Park, enjoying a delicious traditional breakfast. Visit Lake Limpiopungo and take in spectacular views of Cotopaxi Volcano. Keep your eyes open for various birds and possibly even wild horses on a short walk around the lake.

In the afternoon, you'll head to the airport in Quito to catch your flight. Safe travels!

More Great Ecuador Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Ecuador? Check out these other Ecuador itineraries, explore different ways to spend six days in Ecuador, or discover the best time to visit Ecuador.


Map of Active Cultural Adventure: Quito & Cotopaxi - 6 Days
Map of Active Cultural Adventure: Quito & Cotopaxi - 6 Days