- Visit the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) and step foot in both hemispheres
- Look for wildlife like llamas, vicuñas, wild horses, and the elusive Andean condor
- Hike down to a turquoise crater lake and kayak among 360-degree views
- Visit Ecuador's most important Inca ruins on your way to a UNESCO-listed city
|Day 1||Arrive in Quito, Free Day||Quito|
|Day 2||Day Trip to Mojanda Lake & Mitad del Mundo||Quito|
|Day 3||Hike the Rucu Pichincha Volcano, Transfer to Cotopaxi||Cotopaxi|
|Day 4||Explore Cotopaxi National Park, Transfer to Isinliví||Isinliví|
|Day 5||Visit Quilotoa Lagoon, Transfer to Riobamba||Riobamba|
|Day 6||Explore the Chimborazo Wildlife Reserve||Riobamba|
|Day 7||Visit the Ingapirca Ruins, Transfer to Cuenca, City Tour||Cuenca|
|Day 8||Visit El Cajas National Park, Transfer to Guayaquil, City Tour||Guayaquil|
|Day 9||Transfer to Quito, Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Free Day
Welcome to Quito, the capital of Ecuador! Upon arrival, you'll have the rest of the day to explore one of the world's highest cities at your own pace. Start by wandering through the colorful UNESCO-listed Old Town to discover the colonial churches of San Francisco and La Compañia de Jesús, plus other historical landmarks. Admire the centuries-old architecture and the expansive Plaza de la Independencia, the city's main square.
Alternatively, if you're feeling adventurous, ride a cable car up the slopes of the nearby Pichincha volcano for dazzling views over the city from 12,942 feet (3,944 m) above sea level.
Day 2: Day Trip to Mojanda Lake & Mitad del Mundo
After breakfast at your hotel, you'll head to the little-visited Mojanda Lake, which has a beautiful location at the foot of the extinct Fuya Fuya volcano. If you are up for a challenge, you can hike to the top and enjoy the views. Though it's not a technical climb, the altitude requires endurance.
Your next stop is the exact place in Ecuador that divides the Southern and Northern Hemispheres. Aptly named Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), you'll find a stone monument and a painted yellow line where you can take selfies with one foot in each hemisphere. There are also various exhibition halls, including an Ethnographical Museum, to learn about Ecuador's multifaceted culture and history. Following the day trip, you'll return to your hotel in Quito.
Day 3: Hike the Rucu Pichincha Volcano, Transfer to Cotopaxi
Today is your chance to summit the beautiful Rucu Pichincha volcano near Quito, which is an exciting and challenging hike. To start your adventure, ride the teleferico (cable car) up to the Cruz de Loma viewpoint at 13,123 feet (4,000 m). From here, you can hike to the summit at 15,413 feet (4,698 m), which takes approximately three to five hours.
During the first part of the ascent, the path leads you through wild páramo (typical Andean vegetation). The second half is more technical as the terrain gets rockier and steeper. Once you reach the summit, enjoy the views and then make your way back down. From here, your driver will head south to the outskirts of Cotopaxi National Park, where you'll stay overnight.
Day 4: Explore Cotopaxi National Park, Transfer to Isinliví
Today your adventure takes you inside Cotopaxi National Park. The star attraction here is the Cotopaxi volcano, one of Ecuador's highest active volcanoes at 19,393 feet (5,911 m)—and the views of its perfectly-shaped cone and surrounding volcanoes are incredible. The park is also home to wild horses that can sometimes be spotted. With some luck, you might even glimpse an Andean condor, the largest flying bird in the world.
After a walk around Limpiopungo Lagoon, you can trek upward toward the refuge of Jose Rivas at 15,748 feet (4,800 m)—and even farther to the base of the glacier. Your driver will then transfer you to Isinliví, an authentic village in the Andean mountains, where you'll stay overnight.
Day 5: Visit Quilotoa Lagoon, Transfer to Riobamba
Today you'll drive through the beautiful Andes as you make your way to the stunning turquoise crater lake of Quilotoa, the most western volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes. Here you'll have the chance to hike down into the crater, which takes about 45-60 minutes. At the bottom, you can rent a kayak and paddle into the middle of the lake for striking 360-degree views. Of course, you'll need to hike back uphill after you're done. Alternatively, you can follow the path along the crater rim to enjoy various viewpoints.
Then it's time to continue the journey to Riobamba, a colonial town known to attract hikers and mountain climbers given its proximity to outdoor attractions. History buffs will appreciate that this was the first city in Ecuador to be founded by the Spaniards in 1534.
Day 6: Explore the Chimborazo Wildlife Reserve
Today you'll have free time to explore the Chimborazo Wildlife Reserve. This protected area is on the slopes of the mighty Chimborazo, Ecuador's highest volcano, which rises a staggering 20,702 feet (6,310 m). You'll have time to explore hiking trails while keeping an eye out for wild vicuñas in the foothills. If the altitude doesn't affect you, hike to the refuge and enjoy spectacular views from the top. At the end of the excursion, you'll return to Riobamba.
Day 7: Visit the Ingapirca Ruins, Transfer to Cuenca, City Tour
Your Ecuadorian adventure continues south as you make your way to Cuenca. Traveling 160 miles (259 km) from Riobamba, there will be a stop along the way to visit Ingapirca's pre-Colombian ruins. Learn about Cañari culture, known for its resistance to the Inca empire, and how its location at 10,498 feet (3,200 m) above sea level was strategic to control and secure it. Look for llamas roaming freely as you climb through the settlement ruins.
Then finish the drive to Cuenca, also called by its full name: Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca. This charming UNESCO-listed city is Ecuador's third-largest metropolis and is best known for its stunning colonial architecture. Due to its high elevation at 8,400 feet (2,560 m), preparing for changing weather conditions is wise before you tour the city's cobblestone streets.
With a local guide, you'll see the city's main square, Calderón Park, the blue-domed Catedral Nueva, and the 16th-century Catedral Vieja. Spend some time at the Museo y Parque Arqueológico Pumapungo and examine artifacts from the Inca city Tomebamba. Then visit a local workshop to see how Panama hats are woven. Finish the day with a relaxing dip in thermal hot springs.
Day 8: Visit El Cajas National Park, Transfer to Guayaquil, City Tour
It's time to leave the highlands today and head toward the Pacific Ocean. On the way there, you have an opportunity to explore El Cajas National Park. Here, glaciers over thousands of years have formed hundreds of smaller and bigger lagoons that connect directly with the Pacific. With its countless lagoons, valley, and peaks, El Cajas is an excellent place for hiking. With some luck, you'll spot endemic or endangered species that call the park home, like the Andean condor, the spectacled bear, or the giant hummingbird.
Your driver will continue the drive toward lower elevations and eventually the coast. Notice how the weather gets warmer, and the vegetation changes drastically from bare grassland to lush banana plantations.
Upon arrival in Guayaquil, a local guide will show you some of the city's highlights. At the Parque Histórico, discover some native species, such as sloths, monkeys, and parrots, in a park that recreates a natural mangrove habitat. The next stop is the Cementerio General, an early 20th-century cemetery, where artistic tombs showcase the prospering cocoa trade of that time. Finally, you'll walk the historic cobblestone streets of Puerto Santa Ana and the busy boardwalk called Malecón 2000 along the Río Guayas.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 9: Transfer to Quito & Depart
The day has come to say goodbye to Ecuador! At the appointed time, a driver will transfer you to Guayaquil Airport for your flight to Quito. From here, you'll connect to your onward departure. Safe travels!