Visit the cities and volcanoes of beautiful Ecuador on this 12-day adventure. Start in the nation's capital, exploring its well-preserved colonial center and other cultural highlights. Then, head out on a busy tour through small towns like Cotacachi, enjoying several indigenous markets and villages along the way. You will also check off wondrous volcanoes like Pasachoa and Cotopaxi, as well as the unique paramo ecosystem of Chimborazo. The final leg of the trip takes you to Ecuador's lovely third city, Cuenca, before going full circle and ending in Quito again.

Highlights

  • Tour colonial streets in Quito and Cuenca
  • See five of the country's famous volcanoes
  • Visit nature reserves and national parks
  • Go to Ingapirca Village, the largest Inca City in Ecuador
  • Ride the Cross-Andean train

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito Quito
Day 2 Quito Full Day City Tour Quito
Day 3 Cotacachi Volcano & Surroundings Otavalo
Day 4 Nature Around Pasochoa Volcano Machachi
Day 5 Cotopaxi Volcano to Chugchilan Chugchilan
Day 6 Quilotoa Volcano to Baños Baños
Day 7 Chimborazo Volcano to Riobamba Riobamba
Day 8 Journey on the Cross-Andean Train Ingapirca
Day 9 Tour Ingapirca & Cuenca Cuenca
Day 10 Trek Cajas National Park Cuenca
Day 11 Flight Back to Quito Quito
Day 12 Depart Home  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito

Quito, the Ecuadorian capital
Quito, the Ecuadorian capital

Welcome to Ecuador, the land of volcanoes! At your arrival in Quito, a representative will greet you and transfer you to your hotel.

Depending on your time of arrival, you will have the afternoon and evening off to explore the capital city and enjoy some local cuisine.

Day 2: Quito Full Day City Tour

Quito, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador

Your adventure begins in Quito with a comprehensive city tour. You will visit the historic center of the city, with its beautiful narrow streets, colonial churches, and many more interesting landmarks.

You'll then do a short stop at the top of El Panecillo hill, from where you can get a spectacular view of Quito. In the afternoon, go to the Monument to the Equator, which marks the exact placement of the equatorial line. Then, visit the Ethnographic Museum to learn more about the history of the country and of the people who have inhabited it.

Day 3: Cotacachi Volcano & Surroundings

Cuicocha Lake
Cuicocha Lake

It's time to leave beautiful Quito behind and head north to Cayambe to try the famous “Biscochos” biscuits on your way to the city of Otavalo.

After checking in at your hotel, you will visit the beautiful Cuicocha Lake, formed on a volcanic crater. You will then have some free time to shop in nearby Cotacachi, which is set at the foot of its homonymous volcano and is famous for its quality leather goods.

Finally, visit the indigenous village of Peguche, where you'll have the opportunity to meet and have a cultural exchange with the Otavalo Indigenous people before ending the day back at Otavalo.

Day 4: Nature Around Pasochoa Volcano

Mojanda Lake
Mojanda Lake

In the morning, you will visit the famous indigenous market in Otavalo, where you can buy food and crafts.

Your day will continue up in the beautiful highlands of the Mojanda Lake Reserve. On the way, you will enjoy great views of the Ecuadorian Andes and countryside.

Afterward, you'll ride south towards the foothills of the Pasochoa Volcano. Hike through the Pasochoa Forest Reserve, taking in gorgeous views and catching glimpses of the country's vast biodiversity.

Head to Machachi town to rest for the night.

Day 5: Cotopaxi Volcano to Chugchilan

Cotopaxi Volcano
Cotopaxi Volcano

From Machachi, you'll travel southwards along the Pan-American Highway to see the slow and constant activity of the legendary Cotopaxi Volcano, one of the tallest in the world. Your guide will take you to one of the best photo spots so you can get some truly amazing shots of this natural wonder.

Enjoy a hike around the Limpiopungo Lagoon, located at 12,467ft (3,800m) above sea level. You'll then continue along scenic highlands of the western Cordillera de los Andes towards the town of Sigchos. This small Andean town is typically colonial,  so it's the perfect place for a leisurely walk and enjoying local snacks.

From Sigchos, you'll continue driving for about 40 minutes until arriving at Chugchilan town.

Day 6: Quilotoa Volcano to Baños

Quilotoa Volcano and its lagoon
Quilotoa Volcano and its lagoon

After breakfast, you will make a short journey to the Quilotoa Volcano, inside of which you will find a beautiful lagoon. Hike to the lagoon's shore or go around the rim of the crater while enjoying magnificent views of the Andes.

Afterward, you will drive to Zumbahua, one of Ecuador's best-preserved highland areas of Ecuador. Take in the scenery and, if you happen to arrive on a Saturday, shop at the town's local market. Later, pass through the village of Pujili and the city of Ambato on your way to Baños. This picturesque city near the jungle is renowned for its thrilling "swing at the end of the world."

Day 7: Chimborazo Volcano to Riobamba

Vicuñas and Mount Chimborazo
Vicuñas and Mount Chimborazo

Today’s tour will take you up to the beautiful paramos of Mount Chimborazo. This inactive volcano sits at 20,700ft (6,310m) and is the highest and largest mountain in Ecuador.

Observe graceful vicuñas against the backdrop of Mount Chimborazo, and attempt to walk up to the Whymper Hut, the country's highest-altitude lodging.

You'll then continue towards Riobamba for the night.

Day 8: Journey on the Cross-Andean Train

Cross-Andean Train journey
Cross-Andean Train journey

Wake up early in the morning and start our journey to the Alausi train station. You will have the opportunity to travel on the famous Cross-Andean Train, which goes through the almost perpendicular “Devil’s nose.” The rail is considered an impressive feat of 19th-century engineering, given the challenges of building the track.

Admire beautiful Andean landscapes until arriving at the small town of Huigra. Here, you'll take a car to Ingapirca Village, which boasts the remains of the largest Inca city in Ecuador. 

Day 9: Tour Ingapirca & Cuenca

Ingapirca Inca City ruins
Ingapirca Inca City ruins

After a morning walking tour to the Inca remains of Ingapirca, we will drive towards Cuenca. One of the most picturesque cities in Ecuador, Cuenca is dotted with typical colonial houses, fascinating museums, and delicious local restaurants.

Visit the city and admire its cultural life on a short tour before checking into your hotel.

Day 10: Walk through Cajas National Park

Andean Condor mid-flight
Andean Condor mid-flight

In the morning, visit the beautiful Cajas National Park, a protected area where you'll find mesmerizing landscapes and lakes. Keep your eyes open for different species of highland birds, Andean flora, and, with luck, the impressive—and elusive—flight of the condor.

Return to Cuenca overnight.

Day 11: Flight Back to Quito

Basilica of the National Vow, Quito
Basilica of the National Vow, Quito

After breakfast, you will be transported to the airport for your flight back to Quito.

Enjoy a free afternoon in Quito. Take the city's famous cable cars, shop at some local markets, or visit the gorgeous Basilica of the National Vow.

Day 12: Depart Home

Quito Cable Car
Quito Cable Car

After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport to continue your onward journey. 

¡Buen viaje!

Map

Map of Ecuador Cities & Volcanoes: Quito to Cotopaxi - 12 Days
Map of Ecuador Cities & Volcanoes: Quito to Cotopaxi - 12 Days