This 13-day tour of Ecuador will tap all of your senses, from seeing historical sights to tasting local chocolate and smelling fresh coffee. Start in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, to see the Cathedral and Plaza de San Francisco and participate in a chocolate tour. Outside of the city, learn about the process of how coffee is made at a local farm. Take the Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose) train ride to see the scenic countryside, and stay in the colonial-era city of Cuenca known for its nightlife and dining.

Highlights

  • Visit the city of Quito and take a chocolate tour
  • Head to Baños to see the Waterfall Route
  • Learn how coffee is made at a local farm
  • Take a ride on the Devil´s Nose train
  • Tour the colonial-era city of Cuenca

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito Quito
Day 2 City Tour with Art & Chocolate Quito
Day 3 Full Day Experience at a Coffee Farm Mindo
Day 4 Horseback Riding, Hiking in the Highlands & Cooking Class Cotopaxi
Day 5 Waterfall Route, Cable Car & Casa del Arbol in Baños Baños
Day 6 Baños to Mt. Chimborazo & Overnight in Riobamba Riobamba
Day 7 Day of Chocolate at Salinas de Guaranda Riobamba
Day 8 Devil's Nose Train Ride & Local Coffee Markets Cuenca
Day 9 Cuenca City Tour & Panama Hat Factory Cuenca
Day 10 Coffee Tour & Arrive In Loja Loja
Day 11 Explore El Cajas National Park Cuenca
Day 12 Visit Cacao y Mango Farm Guayaquil
Day 13 Depart from Quito  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito

View of Quito and the Cotopaxi Volcano
View of Quito and the Cotopaxi Volcano

Welcome to Quito, the capital of Ecuador! Arrive at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), where your driver will meet you to transfer to your accommodation in the city center, a one-hour trip. Along the way, you'll get a short introduction into Quito´s history and a quick briefing on the next day's activities.

The entire city of Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, standing at an altitude of 9,350ft (2,850m). It welcomes visitors with its picturesque plazas situated between mountain peaks. The city has an abundance of market stands, shamanistic healers, and fourth-generation hat makers, as well as a vibrant and sophisticated culinary and nightlife scene.

Day 2: City Tour with Art & Chocolate

The Plaza San Francisco in Quito's Old Town, with the Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco behind it

You'll walk through beautiful narrow streets showcasing the architecture from the colonial times and visit the Plaza de San Francisco, the Plaza Grande and the Panecillo Hill. Start your chocolate tour at the artisanal chocolate factory Chez-Tiff for a chocolate class and tasting. Afterwards, visit the Carmen Alto Monastery, the Street of the 7 Crosses, the atrium of the first Cathedral, and the coffee gallery where you'll have a second chocolate tasting. Later, continue the tour to the laboratory and museum of República del Cacao. Wrap up the day at Crustum 2850, a bakery and artisanal chocolate factory. 

Day 3: Full Day Experience at a Coffee Farm

Cherries containing coffee beans

After breakfast, head northwest from Quito where you'll spend the day on a coffee farm. Here, you'll learn about the process of making coffee from the seed to the cup. Walk around the plantation and learn about the early stages of growing coffee. After a short coffee break, participate in post-harvesting activities: pulping, washing, drying, threshing and stacking. Have lunch on the farm, then participate in a coffee tasting and learn about their preparation. Buy some souvenirs at the farm before returning to Quito.

Day 4: Horseback Riding, Hiking in the Highlands & Cooking Class

Cotopaxi Volcano
Cotopaxi Volcano

After breakfast, you will go horseback riding for 2 hours with a chagra (Ecuadorian cowboy) through a hacienda and highlands. You will hike for an hour to Manto Blanco waterfall, then return to the hacienda for the day and take a cooking class.

Day 5: Waterfall Route, Cable Car & Casa del Arbol in Baños

Devil´s Pot Waterfall
Devil's Pot Waterfall

After breakfast, head to Baños and visit the beautiful Waterfall Route, which highlights some of Ecuador's incredible waterfalls, including the Devil's Pot Waterfall. For a different view of the scenery, take a ride on the Tarabita cable car. 

Enjoy lunch on your own in town, then visit the Casa de Arbol and unleash your inner kid on the Swing at the End of the World

Day 6: Baños to Mt. Chimborazo & Overnight in Riobamba

Vicuñas on the Ecuadorian plateaus
Vicuñas on the Ecuadorian plateaus

In the morning, you'll begin your car ride toward the city of Riobamba. Stop at Ecuador's highest mountain, Chimborazo, then enter the park to enjoy some beautiful hiking in the area. If you're lucky you may even see a few vicuñas on the plateau landscapes. 

After your hike, continue the trip to Riobamba, arriving in time for dinner. Spend the night in town.

Day 7: Day of Chocolate at Salinas de Guaranda

Sweeping views of Salinas de Guaranda

After breakfast, depart for Salinas de Guaranda where you'll visit the Bolivar Chocolate Social Program El Salinerito and spend most of the day learning about chocolate production. This will be followed by a short drive back to the hotel in Riobamba where you'll overnight.

Day 8: Devil's Nose Train Ride & Local Coffee Markets

View from the Devil's Nose train ride

The Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose) train ride near Riobamba is one of the continent’s best-known train trips, known for its vertiginous series of switchbacks up a sheer rock bluff, an engineering feat that took years to build. The train journey also stops at the quaint Andean town of Alausí, poised just above the switchbacks. You can begin your train ride from Riobamba, or you can take a bus to Alausí (total travel time 2 hours) to pick up the train for the out-and-back ride to the Nariz del Diablo.

Alausí straggles up the mountainside near where the train line plunges over the bluff of the Nariz del Diablo. It's good for soaking up traditional highland life. The town has several simple restaurants serving typical Ecuadorian highland food such as cuy (guinea pig) for lunch. 

The tour then continues from Riobamba to the colonial-era city of Cuenca (a 2-3 hour drive), a UNESCO-listed gem perfectly positioned for a number of day trips into the tradition-steeped countryside close by. Cuenca boasts the best nightlife outside Quito in Ecuador, with excellent bar and restaurant options. There are a range of hotels, guesthouses and hostels to choose from. For the evening, try artisan beer sampling at a local brewpub, or catch a performance at the city theatre, Teatro Sucre. The dining scene is cosmopolitan, with Ecuadorian, Thai or Italian among the options.

Day 9: Cuenca City Tour & Panama Hat Factory

Cuenca
Domes of the New Cathedral in Cuenca

This morning, you'll head out on a walking tour of Cuenca, one of the most beautiful cities in Ecuador.

You will meet your guide in the center of the city, and you will tour the cathedral, main historical buildings, and the Las Conceptas Museum, which is housed in a former 16th-century convent. Inside the museum, you can see a unique display of colonial-era religious art and a permanent exhibition of photographs.

The tour continues with a stop at the Panama Hat Factory and ends with a visit to the colorful flower market. You can spend the rest of the afternoon on your own, or you can book a guide for additional sightseeing.

Day 10: Coffee Tour & Arrive in Loja

Gates of Loja

In the morning, have a nice breakfast followed by a drive to the city of Loja. On the way, you will visit “La Papaya Farm”—producers of various types of high quality coffee—in the Saraguro region. After this activity, you will go to your hotel in Loja to get some rest, or you can continue to explore the city as you please.

Day 11: Explore El Cajas National Park

El Cajas National Park

After breakfast, you will visit El Cajas National Park which lies in Ecuador's highlands. If you'd like, you can take a hike to soak in the natural scenery like its many beautiful lakes and small forests of the high-altitude polylepis tree. Birdwatchers will be able to spot the giant cone bill, the dacnis, the grey-breasted mountain toucan, and a variety of enchanting hummingbirds. After the visit, you will go back to Cuenca.

Day 12: Visit Cacao y Mango Farm

After breakfast, you will depart visit Cacao y Mango Farm in Guayas. You can observe plantations of cacao and fruits from the coast of Ecuador. After lunch, you will head to your hotel in the city of Guayaquil.

Day 13: Depart from Quito

Quito Cable Car
Cable car ride overlooking Quito

Today you are free to explore Quito on your own and shop for souvenirs before your flight home. At the designated time, meet your driver at the hotel for the transfer to the airport.