- Swim and soak in the healing geothermal waters of Termas de Papallacta
- Take a bike tour along Ecuador's "Avenue of Waterfalls"
- Go ziplining through sky-high forest canopies in San Martin Adventure Park
- Ride horses along the lush greenery of the historic García Moreno Road
|Day 1||Arrive in Quito, Termas de Papallacta Spa & Hot Springs||Quito|
|Day 2||Quito Family Cooking Class||Quito|
|Day 3||TelefériQo Cable Car Experience||Quito|
|Day 4||Free Day in Quito: Local Landmarks, Historic Districts & Chocolate||Quito|
|Day 5||Transfer to Baños, Pailón del Diablo Family Hike||Baños|
|Day 6||Explore Baños: Tungurahua Hot Springs & Casa del Árbol||Baños|
|Day 7||Biking & Waterfalls Adventure||Baños|
|Day 8||Ziplines & Hikes at San Martin Adventure Park, Return to Quito||Quito|
|Day 9||Fly to Cuenca, Family Pottery Class||Cuenca|
|Day 10||Self-Guided Tour of Cuenca||Cuenca|
|Day 11||Horseback Riding Excursion at a Traditional Hacienda||Cuenca|
|Day 12||Hiking in El Cajas National Park||Cuenca|
|Day 13||Transfer to Guayaquil, Guided City Tour||Guayaquil|
|Day 14||Depart Guayaquil|
Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Termas de Papallacta Spa & Hot Springs
Welcome to Ecuador! Your flight lands in the capital city of Quito, located in the foothills of the Andes. Quito is home to a rich cultural history, with picturesque plazas, historic architecture, and an impressive culinary scene. Upon arrival, your driver will collect you from the airport, and after you and the kids have a chance to rest and regroup, it's time to start your exploration of this amazing country.
If you're looking to decompress after the long plane ride, head out to Termas de Papallacta, a spa made up of eight natural geothermal pools located just one hour outside of the city. Take a dip in the warm water and let any stress from your travels melt away as you admire the views of polylepis trees and the Antisana volcano in the distance. The hot springs are considered to have therapeutic properties due to their high mineral content, and both kids and adults will enjoy the healing waters. You can also take advantage of their spa amenities, pool, and restaurants.
Day 2: Quito Family Cooking Class
Take a deep dive into the local traditions and the amazing gastronomy of the region with a family cooking class. Whether you're a family of experienced cooks or just starting out, a cooking class in Quito can be a great way to learn about local cuisine and spend quality time together!
Step into the kitchen of a local chef and learn to prepare some typical Ecuadorian dishes, including ceviche, empanadas, and tamales. Sample a variety of seasonal ingredients while the instructor shares stories about the history and culture behind each dish. There's a special menu for younger family members, and at the end of the class, you'll sit down with your fellow chefs and enjoy the meal you created.
Day 3: TelefériQo Cable Car Experience
Enjoy a bird's-eye view of Quito and the surrounding countryside today with a ride on the TelefériQo, a cable car that traverses the slopes of Pichincha volcano and ascends more than 12,000 feet (3,600 m)—making it one of the highest aerial lifts in the world. The cars run from the northwest side of the city center up the side of the volcano, a ride that takes about 18 minutes, and the large windows in each gondola make the incredible visuals accessible to kids of all ages and sizes. At the top, you can stop in at the snack shop there for a bite to eat or continue your ascent with a hike to the summit of Cruz Loma.
Day 4: Free Day in Quito: Local Landmarks, Historic Districts & Chocolate
See more of the city on your own today, taking in some of the sights around Quito. Start with a visit to local landmarks such as the Baroque La Compañía de Jesús and the soaring La Basílica del Voto, the largest neo-Gothic church in the Americas. Then, take a walk down La Ronda, located just south of the historic district and one of the oldest streets in the city. Visit neighborhoods such as Guapulo, a small district built on a hillside that has charming, winding streets and lots of shops, or the vibrant La Mariscal, known for its historic Quiteño architecture and lively nightlife.
And if you've ever wanted to stand in both the Northern and the Southern Hemispheres at the same time, be sure to stop at the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) monument. In 1736, a French expedition determined that this spot was the location of the equator. The true equator line was about 650 feet (200 m) north of that line, but by the time the mistake was discovered, the huge monument had already been built! Despite the slightly "off" location, this remains a popular attraction, with several exhibition halls and lots of fun photo ops for you and the kids.
This afternoon, make a stop at a place the kids are sure to love–a local chocolatier! Chocolate has long been a rich part of Ecuador's history, going back thousands of years to cacao plants in the Amazon. Take the opportunity to taste some of that history by visiting a local chocolatier and sampling various chocolates, as well as delicious cups of hot cocoa. End the day at the Parque Metropolitano, a gorgeous green space with walking paths, viewing decks, and room for the kids to run and play. The park is also home to urban wildlife, such as hummingbirds and a roving herd of alpacas!
Day 5: Transfer to Baños, Pailón del Diablo Family Hike
Your next destination is the city of Baños, named for the natural hot springs in the area and sitting right at the foot of the Tungurahua volcano. Your driver will pick you up from your hotel in the morning, and your family will start the three-hour drive, with plenty of stops along the way so the kids can stretch their legs and you can take advantage of all the great photo ops! After hotel check-in, it's off to the nearby Pailón del Diablo (Devil's Cauldron) waterfall for a family hike.
Driving south from Baños, you'll follow the Río Pastaza, which courses through the valley of the same name. After passing a number of smaller waterfalls, you'll reach the village of Río Verde, where you'll disembark for your hike. The trail takes you into the gorge of the river and through lush vegetation, eventually reaching the entrance to the falls. You'll immediately see how aptly this waterfall was named as you take in the power of the immense 262-foot (80 m) crashing waters.
There is a staircase carved from the cliffs that you can ascend for a closer view, and if you and the kids don't mind getting wet, there's also a small trail that follows the cliffs uphill to a viewing platform. The hike is considered moderate for most skill levels, although if you have very small children, you may want to plan to carry them. Relax at your hotel tonight before continuing your adventures in Baños tomorrow.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 6: Explore Baños: Tungurahua Hot Springs & Casa del Árbol
This morning, take a trip to Casa del Árbol (The Tree House), to ride its famous "swing at the end of the world." This long swing is installed at 8,530 feet (2,600 m), with incredible views of the Tungurahua volcano on the other side of the valley. If anyone in the family is leery of heights, don't worry—although it looks like the swing flies over a cliff, it's more of a steep slope when you get up close. So strap in, and away you go!
Next up is a visit to what is easily Baños' most popular activity (and namesake), the local hot springs. Spend some time soaking in the healing waters of El Salado hot springs, which are heated directly from the volcano and are always 72ºF (22ºC) or more. There are showers and changing areas, and a shop where you can purchase water toys for the kids, as well as the required bathing caps.
Afterward, head to the thermal baths at La Virgen, located just a short walk from the city center at the foot of a waterfall. The waters here vary in temperature, from cold plunge pools to an intense 118°F (42°C), and the nearby waterfall makes for exceptional views. The facility also offers changing areas and other amenities. This evening, explore more of Baños on your own with a stroll around town and dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 7: Biking & Waterfalls Adventure
Outdoor enthusiasts in the family will rejoice as you head out via guided bike tour to explore what is known as the "Avenue of Waterfalls." You'll have a chance to see more of the incredible waterfalls of the region, as well as take another look at the impressive Pailón del Diablo. Depart from Baños in the morning to Río Verde, an 11-mile (18 km) jaunt that is mostly downhill and an easy ride for kids and adults alike.
After stopping at some of the smaller falls for photos, you'll continue to the Manto de la Novia waterfall, where a tarabita (cable car) will transport you across the canyon, offering breathtaking views of the river and waterfall. Bike from here to the Río Verde, ending at Pailon del Diablo. Have a snack at a restaurant in Río Verde, then return to Baños by car.
Day 8: Ziplines & Hikes at San Martin Adventure Park, Return to Quito
Make the most of your last day in Baños with a visit to San Martin Adventure Park. Located just 10 minutes outside of town in the San Martin sector, this adrenaline-themed park offers a variety of guided outdoor activities for the whole family. Take a tarabita through lush forest canopies or a heart-stopping 3,000-foot (850 m) zipline ride. Walk the Tibetan bridge, which spans nearly 300 feet (90 m), go rock climbing, and rappel down the surrounding cliffs. Afterward, have lunch in town, and then your private transfer will take you back to Quito to overnight.
Day 9: Fly to Cuenca, Family Pottery Class
Depart Quito this morning for the beautiful city of Cuenca, known for its historic waterfront and artisan arts and crafts. You'll leave from Quito airport, taking a 50-minute flight into the city, where your driver will collect you and deliver you to your hotel. After you've had a chance to relax and maybe grab a bite to eat, learn more about the artistic bent of this city with a family pottery class.A local artisan will welcome you to their workshop and will share insight into the traditions of Ecuadorian pottery, which is sourced from the clay mines of the Sinicay village. The clay is processed to remove impurities, then mixed with water to form a dough before being molded into the desired shape on the potter's wheel. You'll have the opportunity to create your own work of art, and after the finished pieces are dried and baked in the oven, you and the kids will have very special souvenirs to take home.
Day 10: Self-Guided Tour of Cuenca
See more of Cuenca today, starting with a cable car ride up Turi Hill, located in the city center. At the top of the hill, you'll find a small church, a restaurant, and panoramic views of the entire city. This is a great way to take in the region's history, traveling back to the time of the Moors who built Cuenca on the surrounding limestone cliffs. Visit the astounding casas colgadas, or hanging houses, that loom over Huécar Gorge, then head to one of Cuenca's many local markets for a bite to eat. You'll find plenty of food stalls to choose from, and the kids can pick out a toy or other souvenir from a local vendor.
Later, stop at the Museum of Indigenous Cultures, where you can learn more about Ecuador's pre-Colombian history and people. You can also visit the Pumapungo Museum, which combines ethnography and art, showcasing the culture and art of the region. The museum is also home to the Ancestral Park, which has an archaeological section that depicts remnants of the Inca empire and a botanical section with more than 200 varietals of Andean plants and trees.
Day 11: Horseback Riding Excursion at a Traditional Hacienda
Visit a local hacienda (ranch) for a family horseback ride through the nearby valleys. You'll meet up with your guide, and after the kids have had a chance to meet the horses and everyone receives a safety briefing, you'll head out on the García Moreno Road—the first road that connected the coast and the highlands.
The ride takes you past several small waterfalls, and you may also have the opportunity to visit a local village. Return to the hacienda in time for lunch, where the cooks will prepare several delicious meal options that will please even the pickiest eaters in your family. Return to Cuenca in time for a late-day siesta and dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 12: Hiking in El Cajas National Park
Explore the natural wonders of El Cajas National Park, a 69,000-acre (28,000 ha) high-altitude protected area that is known for its endless trails, alpine lakes, rolling hills, and assorted wildlife. Your guide will pick you up in the morning, and upon arrival at the park, you'll have the option of hiking on your own or taking a guided hike with a park ranger. Walk around the lakes of Laguna Toreadora or Laguna Llaviucu, which have fairly easy trails and incredible views, or take one of the more challenging hikes accompanied by your guide.
Along the way, make sure the kids keep their eyes peeled for wildlife, such as herds of wild alpacas, coatis, Andean condors, and curious hummingbirds. It's also important to be aware of the weather—the park can be prone to sudden rain and thunderstorms, so make sure everyone in the family dresses in layers and has proper footwear. If you're looking for an even more adventurous experience, you can even look into camping in the park overnight rather than returning to Cuenca this evening!
Day 13: Transfer to Guayaquil, Guided City Tour
Your private transfer will take you from your hotel in Cuenca today to your next stop, the city of Guayaquil, a busy metropolis that is nestled along the Río Guayas and serves as Ecuador's main port. Enjoy a scenic four-hour drive, stopping along the way for photos and rest breaks for the kids, and after you arrive and get settled at the hotel, you can get better acquainted with this charming city on a guided tour.
Meet up with your guide and start with a visit to Seminario Park, best known for its resident land iguanas, which the kids will love seeing hanging out in the trees and sunbathing in the grass. From here, you'll head to the Metropolitan Cathedral, where you'll have a chance to appreciate its classic Gothic lines, then walk down the Malecón and to the Palacio Municipal (Municipal Palace) and Palacio de Gobernacion (Government Palace).
See the Moorish clock tower, La Torre Morisca, and climb the stairs for views of the entire city, continuing to La Rotonda, a statue that marks the meeting between Simón Bolívar and Jose San Martin in 1822. Then, visit Las Peñas, or "The Boulders," a neighborhood with a history that stretches back nearly 400 years, with pastel architecture that reflects 19th-century abundance. End your tour with a climb to the top of Cerro Santa Ana (Santa Ana Hill), where you'll find a chapel, lighthouse, and gorgeous views of the city and the Gulf of Guayaquil.
Day 14: Depart Guayaquil
It's time for you and the family to say farewell to Ecuador. At the appointed hour, your driver will pick you up and transfer you to the airport for your flight home. Safe travels!
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