Experience two of Ecuador's most remarkable ecosystems in style on this adventurous, 10-day itinerary. Starting from the capital of Quito, set off into the wilds of the Amazon and board a three-night luxury river cruise through Yasuni National Park. Spot primates, parrots, and piranhas as you explore the rainforest by kayak and on foot, returning to the comfort of your ship each evening. Then it's time to switch gears and fly to the Galápagos for an itinerary of island hopping, snorkeling, and wildlife encounters.

Highlights

  • Board a luxury Manatee cruise for an unforgettable Amazon adventure
  • Explore Pañacocha Lake by kayak & visit the mythical Piranha Lagoon
  • Learn about the unique ecosystem of the Galápagos at the Charles Darwin Station
  • Snorkel with penguins & sea lions in the stunning Las Tintoreras Islet
  • Spend a day on the coral sands of Tortuga Beach

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito, Explore the Capital Quito
Day 2 Fly to Coca, Board Manatee River Cruise Yasuni National Park
Day 3 Explore Pañacocha, the Mythical Piranha Lagoon (Manatee Cruise) Yasuni National Park
Day 4 Parrot Clay Licks & Amazon Communities (Manatee Cruise) Yasuni National Park
Day 5 Return to Puerto Providencia, Transfer to Coca, Fly to Quito Quito
Day 6 Fly to the Galápagos, Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station Puerto Ayora
Day 7 Speedboat to Isabela Island & Wildlife on Las Tintoreras Islet Puerto Villamil
Day 8 Speedboat to Santa Cruz Island & Kayaking on Tortuga Bay Puerto Ayora
Day 9 Day Trip to an Uninhabited Island Puerto Ayora
Day 10 Fly to Quito & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Explore the Capital

Views over Quito and Cotopaxi
Views over Quito and the towering Cotopaxi Volcano
Welcome to Quito, the capital of Ecuador! Upon arrival at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), your driver will meet you for the one-hour transfer to your accommodation in the city center. The entire city of Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, standing at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,850 m) and welcoming visitors with its picturesque plazas situated between mountain peaks. The city has an abundance of market stands, shamanistic healers, fourth-generation hat makers, and a vibrant and sophisticated culinary and nightlife scene.

Spend today exploring the city at your own pace. Visit the historic Old Town to discover the colonial churches of San Fransisco, La Compañia, and other historical landmarks, or head to the fascinating Equator Monument, which also houses the Ethnographical Museum. If you're feeling adventurous, ride a cable car up the slopes of nearby Volcán Pichincha for dizzying views over the city from 12,942 feet (3,944 m).

Day 2: Fly to Coca, Board Manatee River Cruise

Ecuador's Napo River, a tributary of the mighty Amazon
Ecuador's Napo River, a tributary of the mighty Amazon
Early in the morning, your driver will be waiting for you at your hotel to take you back to Quito's Mariscal Sucre International Airport. You'll catch a 30-minute flight to Coca, where your rainforest adventure begins! A transfer takes you to the city's dock, where you'll board a motorized canoe for a 90-minute journey down the river. Take in the lush beauty of the Amazon and Yasuni National Park en route before reaching the Manatee Amazon Explorer and receiving a warm welcome aboard.

You'll be joined on the ship by local expert naturalist guides, who will provide you with a brief, informative introduction to the Ecuadorian Amazon. Afterward, guests will have the opportunity to explore the cruise ship and admire the rainforest landscape as you glide down the Napo River. After a delicious dinner, take a nighttime forest walk to hear the sounds of the rainforest and observe nocturnal wildlife before returning to the cruise for a restful evening on the river.

Day 3: Explore Pañacocha, the Mythical Piranha Lagoon (Manatee Cruise)

Kayak along Amazon tributaries and lagoons
Kayak along Amazon tributaries and lagoons 
Travel downstream today to reach the Pañayacu River Delta, where you'll embark on a canoe trip to Pañacocha Lake. Known as "Piranha Lagoon" in the native Kichwa language, this rich ecosystem is flooded by river water, creating the perfect habitat for piranhas, paíche or pirarucu (one of the world's largest freshwater fish), white caiman, and hundreds of other aquatic animals. The surrounding protected rainforest is home to primates and various bird species, which you will be able to spot during a walk with your guides.

Recharge your energy with an Amazon-style barbeque at a community camp, and after a short rest, enjoy some more aquatic activities such as kayaking and/or swimming. Back on board the Manatee, your guides will give another engaging talk on the region before dinner.

Day 4: Parrot Clay Licks & Amazon Communities (Manatee Cruise)

Watch colorful parrots flock to the area's natural clay licks
Watch colorful parrots flock to the area's natural clay licks
Set out early in your motorized canoes to witness one of the most incredible sights on this side of the western Amazon—the famous parrot clay licks. This unique place is rich in minerals and attracts hundreds of colorful parrots, parakeets, and Amazon birds who meet up here to lick the clay, which provides a healthy boost to their digestion.

In the afternoon, stop to visit the Kichwa Women's Community Project, where you'll learn about the indigenous lifestyle and ancestral culture along the Napo River. You'll also have the opportunity to support the local community by purchasing handicrafts, local products, and souvenirs, as well as participating in the Charapas Turtle Conservation program.

Day 5: Return to Puerto Providencia, Transfer to Coca, Fly to Quito

The scenic journey back to Coca by motorized canoe
The scenic journey back to Coca by motorized canoe
Savor a final morning on the river as your Amazon adventure comes to an end. After returning to Puerto Providencia, you'll disembark from the Manatee Amazon Explorer and ride back to the city of Coca in the motorized canoe. Landing at Coca, you'll be met and transferred to the airport to catch a short flight back to Quito. Upon arrival at Mariscal Sucre International Airport, your driver will be waiting for you to take you to your hotel for the evening.
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Day 6: Fly to the Galápagos, Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station

Pinnacle Rock in the Galapagos Islands
Pinnacle Rock in the Galápagos Islands

The big day is here! Today you will be taken to the airport to catch your flight to the Galápagos Islands. After arriving at Baltra Airport, your guide will be waiting to transfer you to nearby Santa Cruz Island. Enjoy lunch at a local farm in the highlands, followed by observing giant turtles in the wild. Then, continue to Puerto Ayora to check into your hotel. 

In the afternoon, you'll head to the Charles Darwin Station, where scientists from all over the world meet and work together on environmental projects such as water analysis, animal protection, and the effects of tourism on nature. Here you can pay a memorable visit to the turtle rearing station, where the animals are raised before being released into the wild. Make sure to keep an eye out for the many basking land iguanas that live around the station.

Day 7: Speedboat to Isabela Island & Wildlife on Las Tintoreras Islet

Flamingos in the wetlands of Isabela Island
Flamingos in the wetlands of Isabela Island
Start your morning with a two-hour public speed boat trip to Isabela Island. After arriving, make your way to the Flamingo Lagoon or the Giant Tortoise Breeding Station to learn about the local wildlife.
 
After lunch, join a group tour to visit the Tintoreras Islet for a short hike and some snorkeling. Here you can see Humboldt penguins, marine iguanas, sea lions, and sharks, which rest in the natural channels formed by lava flows. As you snorkel in the turquoise waters, you'll spot colorful fish, sea turtles, rays, and penguins. The rest of your evening is free, with an overnight stay on Isabela Island.

Day 8: Speedboat to Santa Cruz Island & Kayaking on Tortuga Bay

Experince one of the archipelago's most pristine beaches at Tortuga Bay
Experience one of the archipelago's most pristine beaches at Tortuga Bay
Early this morning, take the speedboat back to Santa Cruz Island, where you'll spend the day exploring this area on foot and by water. Start with a 45-minute hike from Puerto Ayora to the heavenly Tortuga Bay. Famed for its soft coral sand and spectacular scenery, this stretch of coast is considered one of the archipelago's most picturesque spots.
 
Take a kayak out onto the water to see marine life up close and admire the coastline from a different perspective—observing colonies of marine iguanas and marine birds, as well as mangroves, cacti forests, and fascinating coastal flora. After kayaking, sunbathe on the beach or head back under the waves for some afternoon snorkeling before returning to Puerto Ayora for the evening.

Day 9: Day Trip to an Uninhabited Island

Marine iguanas sunbathing on the shore
Marine iguanas sunbathing on the shore

Today, you'll travel by yacht to an uninhabited island near Santa Cruz. Depending on the weather, scheduling, and permissions granted by the national park, you'll visit one of the following islands: Santa Fé, South Plazas, Bartolomé, or North Seymour.

Each island is unique, offering spectacular scenery and opportunities to see rare wildlife. Santa Fé and South Plazas are home to endemic land iguanas, while Bartolomé is known for its beautiful lava flows. On North Seymour, look for frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. In the evening, return to Puerto Ayora to enjoy some free time.  

Day 10: Fly to Quito & Depart

Cobblestone path to the beach of Tortuga Bay in Puerto Ayora
Cobblestone path to the beach of Tortuga Bay in Puerto Ayora
If there is enough free time before your transfer to the airport, do some last-minute souvenir shopping or take a final stroll through Puerto Ayora. At the designated time, your driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the Itabaca Channel, which you will cross on a ferry. For the last part of your trip to the airport, take the public shuttle bus to the terminal, where you'll catch a flight back to the mainland and continue your onward journey. Safe travels!

More Great 10-Day Ecuador Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Ecuador? Check out these other 10-day Ecuador itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights.

Map

Map of Amazon Luxury Cruise & Galápagos Island Hopping - 10 Days
Map of Amazon Luxury Cruise & Galápagos Island Hopping - 10 Days