See the many faces of Ecuador on this epic, 13-day adventure that takes you through the Andean foothills and the Ecuadorian coast to the rainforests of the Amazon. You'll witness colonial history in Quito, journey into the cloud forests of Mindo to discover birds, chocolate, and waterfalls, and head to the Pacific coast to swim with the marine life. Settle into an Amazon lodge to hike through El Gran Cañon and go whitewater rafting, then stop at hot springs and crater lakes on the way back to Quito.


  • See the major sights of Quito before climbing the Pichincha volcano
  • Be on the lookout for colorful birds, butterflies, and flowers in Mindo's cloud forest
  • Relax on the Pacific coast of Ayampe and observe birds and marine life
  • Discover Cajas National Park and go whitewater rafting and hiking in the Amazon

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito, Quito City Tour Quito
Day 2 Climb Pichincha Volcano, See the Center of the World & Transfer to Mindo Mindo
Day 3 Explore Mindo's Cloud Forest Mindo
Day 4 Free Day in Mindo: Rainforest Hikes & Waterfalls Mindo
Day 5 Mindo Chocolate Tour, Transfer to Ayampe Ayampe
Day 6 Free Day in Ayampe: Boat Ride, Snorkeling, or Whale Watching Ayampe
Day 7 Transfer to Cuenca via Cajas National Park Cuenca
Day 8 Transfer to Archidona via Ingapirca Ruins Archidona
Day 9 Explore El Gran Cañon, Natural Caves & Traditional Cooking Class Archidona
Day 10 Rafting, Night Walk & Campfire Archidona
Day 11 Transfer to Otavalo via Papallacta Hot Springs  Otavalo
Day 12 Visit Cuicocha Lagoon & Peguche Otavalo
Day 13 Visit Otavalo Market, Transfer to Quito & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Afternoon City Tour

Basilica of the National Vow, Quito
Night view of Quito and Cotopaxi 

Welcome to Quito, the capital of Ecuador! Upon arrival at the airport, meet your driver for a ride to Quito's downtown and your hotel. Explore the city with a guided tour, and see why it's designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At 9,350 feet (2,850 m), Eucador's capital is one of the highest cities in the world, with plazas organized among Andean peaks. See the Baroque La Compañía church with its gold-covered interior and neo-Gothic La Basílica. Take a walk down La Ronda, one of the oldest streets in the city, then head to Panecillo Hill for skyline views.

Visit the historic Old Town to discover the colonial church of San Francisco 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 nearby Pichincha volcano for dazzling views over the city at 12,942 feet (3,944 m).

Day 2: Climb Pichincha Volcano, See the Center of the World & Transfer to Mindo

View of Quito from Rucu Pichincha volcano
Hiking trail along the Rucu Pichincha volcano

Start today with a ride in a cable car up to Pichincha volcano on the eastern side of Quito. From there, take photos of the city and Pichincha's highest peaks, Wawa Pichincha and Ruku Pichincha. Later visit Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), where you can take photos of the monument, see the various exhibition halls, and have fun jumping from one hemisphere to the other. Learn about the world of Andean agave at Casa Ágave, a museum, shop, and bar. See the process for making agave juice and liquor. Explore the garden, museum, and distillery before tasting its many forms, including miske, similar to mezcal.

The nearby Inti Ñan Museum is an exciting and interactive site where you can participate in interesting experiments and learn about ancient Ecuadorian culture. In the afternoon, travel two hours west to Mindo, where you'll find a lush cloud forest. After checking into your hotel, explore the forest with its numerous bird species, butterflies, and orchids and learn about their native habitat. You could ride a cable car over the Río Nambillo, follow trails to waterfalls, or even take a zipline through the forest. 

Day 3: Explore Mindo's Cloud Forest

A Morpho butterfly
A  blue morpho butterfly

Mindo is set amid the beautiful Ecuadorian cloud forest, which is home to more than 20% of the world's bird species and an excellent destination for nature lovers. You can choose from various activities today. If you are looking for action and adrenaline, go ziplining, soaring from tree to tree through the spectacular forest. If you're into authentic cuisine, participate in a chocolate tour where you'll learn about the entire process of chocolate making, from the bean to the bar.

Hike to small, beautiful waterfalls to enjoy more of the incredible nature. You could also visit Mariposario de Mindo, a butterfly farm where you can marvel at hundreds of butterflies in their different life stages. With a guide, learn about these winged creatures in their habitat. Be on the lookout for hummingbirds and other colorful residents as you explore the gardens. 

Day 4: Free Day in Mindo: Rainforest Hikes & Waterfalls

Waterfall in Mindo's cloud forest

Today is free for you to explore, and the best way to do so is to hike in the rainforests. Head for the outskirts of Mindo, where you can ride a tarabita cable car across the canyon. From there, hike at your own pace, from 30 minutes to three hours, to reach waterfalls of all sizes. Bird watchers will marvel at the colorful display of avian species hidden in the lush jungle. Be sure to bring food for a picnic lunch by the falls. As you soak in this sumptuous atmosphere, take time to breathe the fresh air, relax, swim, and then continue exploring the cloud forest. 

Day 5: Mindo Chocolate Tour, Transfer to Ayampe

Cocoa beans
Cocoa pods in Mindo

Learn about Ecuadorian chocolate today in a session introducing how cocoa beans are processed into chocolate bars and other products. See the transformation of the bean, grind cocoa by hand, and taste chocolate in its many forms, from bitter to sweet. Afterward, your driver will pick you up in Mindo, and you'll make the epic, nine-hour journey to the Pacific coast, where you'll reach the small village of Ayampe. Get ready for a dramatic change of scenery as you leave the dense forests toward the clear turquoise-blue waters of Ecuador's shores. 

Day 6: Free Day in Ayampe: Boat Ride, Snorkeling, or Whale Watching

Fishing boats at the Pacific coast
Clifftop birdlife in Machalila National Park
Plan your trip to Ecuador
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Ayampe is part of the wetlands located in Machalila National Park, and today you can spend your time relaxing on the beach or take a boat trip for the day to Isla de la Plata (Silver Island). The island is also part of the national park, where you'll find sea lions and blue-footed boobies among the prominent residents to be observed here. Keep your eyes peeled for frigate birds, red-footed and masked boobies, waved albatrosses, and tropicbirds, among others. You can't leave the island until you've gone snorkeling to glide alongside the exotic aquatic life in these protected waters.

If you need an adrenaline rush, try paragliding for stunning coastal views. From May to September, you will also have the option to see humpback whales. Since Ayampe is a popular spot for surfers and beachcombers, you'll find a laid-back atmosphere. In the evening, enjoy a seafood dinner caught fresh by local fishermen.

Day 7: Transfer to Cuenca via Cajas National Park

Cajas National Park
Cajas National Park

Say goodbye to the beach as your driver takes you from Ayampe to Cuenca, leaving the coast behind and heading into the Ecuadorian highlands. On the way between the Andes and the beach, you'll find the El Cajas National Park. Here, glaciers over thousands of years have formed hundreds of smaller and bigger lagoons that connect directly with the Pacific Ocean.

El Cajas, with its countless lagoons, valleys, and peaks, is an excellent place for hiking, and the highway that leads through this area offers great photo opportunities. With a bit of luck, you will spot some of the endemic or endangered species that call the park home, such as Andean condors, spectacled bears, or giant hummingbirds. Make a few stops along the way, take pictures, and stretch your legs. 

Day 8: Transfer to Archidona via Ingapira Ruins

The ancient ruins of Ingapirca 

Your driver will pick you up at your hotel in Cuenca, and you'll make the eight-hour drive to Archidona, located in the foothills of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Along the way, you'll stop to visit the Ingapirca Ruins, one of the most historic sites in Ecuador. Ingapirca, meaning "Inca Wall," is one of the most important ruins from Pre-Inca times. These ruins are the most extensive remains of the Cañari culture, later subdued by the Inca empire, which conquered large parts of South America in the 15th century. Visit the temple and the small museum that houses Inca ceramics, sculptures, and tools.

Upon arrival in Archidona, get settled into your comfortable jungle lodge, where you'll spend the next three days experiencing life in the Amazon.

Day 9: Explore El Gran Cañon, Natural Caves & Traditional Cooking Class

Canyoning in the Amazon
Waterfall on the Río Hollín 

Get ready today to enter the beautiful El Gran Cañon (The Big Canyon) and have fun exploring through towering walls of smoothed rock and emerald tree cover. Cool off in the natural lagoon and discover hidden caves and waterfalls. If you dare, jump into the natural swimming pool and flat amid the sights and sounds of the rainforest.

Return to the lodge, and participate in a cultural night. You'll help prepare your dinner, consisting of local dishes such as maito, fish wrapped and cooked in a leaf. Finish the experience by making your own organic chocolate. Enjoy the entire process, from roasting and grinding the cocoa beans to eating homemade chocolate with fresh fruits.

Day 10: Rafting, Night Walk & Campfire

Rafting in the Amazon
Rafting in the Amazon

Today will be one of the most adventurous days of your trip. You'll spend the day rafting on whitewater rapids surrounded by towering cliffs and dense forests. A delicious lunchbox is served at the edge of the river. As you paddle through the lush green rainforest, keep your eyes peeled for extraordinary wildlife and take in the stunning scenery. The professional and internationally certified guides will make you laugh and enjoy every part of the day while you feel safe and at ease.

Return to the lodge in the afternoon, where you have some time to rest. To top off this day, head out and go on a short night walk to discover nocturnal animals such as frogs and various insects. Let this adventurous day come to an end around a campfire at the river.

Day 11: Transfer to Otavalo via Papallacta Hot Springs

Hot springs of Papallacta
The hot springs of Papallacta
After a last walk through the lodge's beautiful gardens, your driver will pick you up, and you will head back into the highlands. On this three-hour drive, you can make a stop at the hot springs of Papallacta. Following your Amazon adventure, ease those tight muscles with a relaxing bath in the thermal waters against a stunning backdrop of the Andes. Or treat yourself to a massage if you wish before continuing your journey. In the late afternoon, you will arrive in Otavalo, located in the northern Imbabura Province.

Day 12: Visit Cuicocha Lagoon & Peguche

One of the several stands at Otavalo Market
Cuicocha Lagoon

Cuicocha Lagoon sits at the base of the Cotacachi volcano, formed during an eruption approximately 3,000 years ago. Follow a trail on the crater rim and hike around the lake, which takes about five hours. Take a boat ride to the lagoon's lush islands, and visit Peguche, famous for its waterfall and handicraft shops and workshops. This waterfall is a sacred place for the Indigenous people of Peguche and is often the venue for spiritual or traditional events. You can stop by weavers, instrument makers, and other local artists in the area, picking up some one-of-a-kind souvenirs from your Ecuador adventure.

Day 13: Visit Otavalo Market, Transfer to Quito & Depart 

Take a final stroll through the Otavalo market

Spend your final morning in Ecuador, taking a stroll through the bustling traditional market of Otavalo. You can find everything here: traditional food, handmade jewelry, clothes, and more. Dive into the scents, the colors, and the sounds while walking through the narrow passageways. In the afternoon, your private driver will take you to the airport in Quito for your departing flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Ecuador Adventure Loop: Amazon, Pacific Coast & Andes - 13 Days
Map of Ecuador Adventure Loop: Amazon, Pacific Coast & Andes - 13 Days