Combine cultural sightseeing with two bucket-list nature cruises for the ultimate two-week adventure in Ecuador. You'll start in Quito, with day trips to Mindo and Otavalo, then journey deep into Yasuní National Park for a multi-day cruise through the Amazon rainforest. Fly to the Galápagos for another four nights of cruising to uninhabited islands and unspoiled beaches—witnessing volcanic landscapes and remarkable wildlife as you explore the hidden corners of this biodiverse paradise.
See pink dolphins in Yasuní National Park
Explore the city of Quito on a walking tour
Observe Galápagos tortoises in their natural habitat
Swim, snorkel, and kayak, alongside sea lions at Gardner Bay
Arrive in Quito
Expedition to the Mindo Cloud Forest
Day Trip to Otavalo Market & Cuicocha Lagoon
Fly to Coca, Transfer to Yasuní National Park & Board Amazon Cruise
Explore the Río Napo, Pink Dolphin Encounter
Kichwa Family Visit, Amazon Cooking Class
Observation Tower Visit, Explore the Primary Forest
Transfer to Coca, Fly to Quito
Colonial Quito City Tour, Mitad del Mundo Monument
Fly to the Galápagos, Board Cruise Ship, Visit Interpretation Center
See the Tortoises of Galapaguera, Afternoon at Cerro Brujo Beach
Cruise to Isla Española: Gardner Bay & Suarez Point
Cruise to Isla Floreana: Cormorant Point & Post Office Bay
Charles Darwin Research Station, Fly to Quito & Depart
Day 1: Arrive in Quito
Welcome to Quito! Upon arrival, your private driver will meet you at Mariscal Sucre International Airport and take you to your accommodation in the city center. Ecuador's capital stands at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,850 m) and is home to vibrant nightlife, an impressive culinary scene, picturesque plazas, and colorful markets. The local cuisine is fantastic too, with fried plantain, ceviche (fish cured in citrus juice), and fanesca (a stew) being some appealing options.
You've got time to explore Quito today if you have the energy after your journey. One of the highest capitals in the world, its UNESCO-listed historic center is filled with standout landmarks and easily explored on foot. You could also stretch your legs after the flight on a local hiking trail, look around one of the city's more than 50 museums, or hop onto the TelefériQo cable car, which takes you to a height of 12,943 feet (3,945 m) on the slopes of the Pichincha volcano.
Day 2: Expedition to Mindo Cloud Forest
First thing today, you'll set off on a day trip to the Mindo-Nambillo Ecological Reserve to explore the cloud forest in the subtropical Mindo Valley. Located at around 4,100 feet (1,250 m) above sea level, its position at the intersection of the Chocó lowlands and the tropical western side of the Andes has made this a mild-weathered, rainy, and therefore incredibly biodiverse region. The reserve has around 400 species of birds, which you can look out for as you walk, including hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and the elusive Andean cock-of-the-rock.
After exploring, you could meet the Michigan couple behind Mindo Chocolate Makers, and even have a go making your own! The enterprise harnesses the region's perfect cocoa-growing conditions to create small-batch chocolate, using pure and ethically-sourced ingredients. Alternatively, visit a butterfly farm, where there are up to 1,000 species of butterflies at all life cycle stages. Feeling adventurous? Get your adrenaline pumping by tubing down whitewater rapids, or fly from one tree to another on ziplines.
Day 3: Day Trip to Otavalo Market & Cuicocha Lagoon
Today, travel by road for around two hours north of Quito to visit Otavalo and the nearby Cuicocha Lagoon. While in Otavalo, visit the Plaza de los Ponchos and shop in its world-famous market. The market is busiest on Saturdays, but you can find vendors here throughout the week. Many stalls are run by Otavalo people (the Indigenous people of the region) who are best known for their colorful, hand-woven textiles. Many market stalls sell tablecloths, blankets, scarves, and more. Nearby towns have their own specialties too—Cotacachi, for example, focuses on leather goods —but there's plenty of variety in Otavalo alone.
After browsing the stalls, head to Cuichocha Lagoon to discover a crater lake formed by an eruption of the Cotacachi volcano thousands of years ago. Wander along a path on the lake's steep shores taking in the scenery, or go on a boat ride past the two islands formed by lava domes. After your busy day, return to Quito for the evening to relax.
Day 4: Fly to Coca, Transfer to Yasuní National Park & Board Amazon Cruise
You'll travel to the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest this morning for a remarkable few days of adventure. Your driver will be waiting for you at your hotel to take you to Quito's airport to catch a flight to Coca. Upon arrival, guides will whisk you deep into Yasuní National Park.
Travel down the river in a motorized canoe, taking in the nature surrounding you on your journey. Then you'll board an Amazon cruise ship, your home for the next four nights. Onboard, you will be joined by local naturalist guides, who are experts in the area and will provide you with an introduction to the Ecuadorian Amazon. Afterward, enjoy settling into the ship and admiring the landscape outside as you glide down the Río Napo. After dinner onboard, head out on a nighttime forest walk to spot nocturnal wildlife and listen to the sounds of the forest after dark.
Day 5: Explore the Río Napo, Pink Dolphin Encounter
First thing today, you'll head out to explore the lower part of the Río Napo by canoe. The river flows from the eastern slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes toward the border with Peru. With a local guide helping, you'll spot different bird species on your adventure, such as woodpeckers, eagles, and oropendolas.
In the afternoon, you'll find out all about the pink dolphin conservation program in Yasuní National Park, which allows these legendary creatures to live and feed without the risk of being hunted. This is run together with the Martinica community in the Cocaya area. Afterward, you'll learn how to make traditional cassava bread with the Indigenous Secoyas people who live nearby.
Day 6: Kichwa Family Visit, Amazon Cooking Class
Your day will start with a visit to a Kichwa family on the banks of the Río Napo, who will teach you about the local community, life in the Ecuadorian Amazon, and their lifestyle. Then, you'll board your ship again for a cooking class with an expert chef who will walk you through preparing traditional Ecuadorian food.
Later, you could try out some traditional crafts or take the chance to relax in the boat's open-air hot tub. If you're feeling energetic, explore more of the surrounding nature by kayak. In the evening, head to the observation deck to stargaze, then treat yourself to a drink and dinner before settling down for the night.
Day 7: Observation Tower Visit, Explore the Primary Forest
Start your day in an observation tower for a unique, 360-degree view over the treetops. Built in a giant millenary kapok tree, you'll appreciate the vastness of the Amazon from here and will discover a whole new treetop world that you can't see from the forest floor. Look out for birds such as macaws, toucans, honeycreepers, tanagers, flycatchers, and hummingbirds, as well as howler and squirrel monkeys.
Plan your trip to Ecuador Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
In the afternoon, explore the primary forest below with an expert guide and look for the hoatzin bird, which is known locally as the “stinkbird” due to its smell that's caused by its diet. You'll also spot and learn about the different plant and wildlife species that you pass. Return to the ship in the evening and enjoy a final night adrift in the Amazon.
Day 8: Transfer to Coca, Fly to Quito
It's the last day of your Amazon cruise today as you approach Puerto Providencia, where you'll disembark from the boat. You'll then ride back to Coca in a motorized canoe before being transferred to Francisco de Orellana Airport to catch your flight back to Quito. After arriving at Mariscal Sucre International Airport, you'll be picked up by your driver who will take you to your hotel in Quito to relax for the evening.
Day 9: Colonial Quito City Tour, Mitad del Mundo Monument
Discover more of Quito's UNESCO-listed Old Town today on a guided walking tour. You'll start in Plaza de la Independencia to see Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, an elaborate 17th-century church with a central nave decorated in gold leaf and wooden carvings. Next, you'll visit La Basílica y Convento de San Francisco, which is considered to be Ecuador's most important religious landmark for its scale and history. Finish by strolling along La Ronda, a pre-Columbian walking trail that is now brimming with cafés, live music, and boutiques.
North of the city, you'll visit a monument, Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), that commemorates the discovery of the point where the Northern and Southern Hemispheres divide. You can also stop by its planetarium, a scale model of Quito, several museums, an old train station, and a small chapel.
Day 10: Fly to the Galápagos, Board Cruise Ship, Visit Interpretation Center
The next phase of your adventure begins today, as you're taken to the airport this morning to catch a flight to the Galápagos Islands. Your private driver will meet you early enough to allow you plenty of time to prepare for your flight, and purchase a transit control card (TCT), required for entry. You'll land on Isla San Cristóbal, where your local guides will meet you and take you to the harbor to board a motorized raft called a panga, which will take you to your cruise ship.
After a welcome by the crew and lunch onboard, you'll make the first stop of your cruise at the Interpretation Centeron San Cristóbal. Here you can learn about natural history, conservation, and the geological and human history of the islands. After looking around, wander on its surrounding paths, taking in the beautiful ocean views, then return to the ship for the evening.
Day 11: See the Tortoises of Galapaguera, Afternoon at Cerro Brujo Beach
Start your day observing Galápagos tortoises in their natural habitat at Galapaguera in the southeastern part of San Cristóbal. The large beach here is a prime nesting zone for marine tortoises, and between January and May it's common to see the footprints of the female tortoises that have climbed to the sand dunes to deposit their eggs. Keep an eye out for the island's many other endemic species such as the San Cristóbal mockingbird, lava lizard, and Chatham leaf-toed gecko.
In the afternoon, head to Cerro Brujo, a picturesque white coral beach where you can swim, snorkel, and watch birds and sea lions. San Cristóbal was the first island that Charles Darwin visited in 1835 and in its marvelous lava landscape, you're likely to spot unique blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, herons, frigatebirds, and shorebirds.
Day 12: Cruise to Isla Espanola: Gardner Bay & Suarez Point
Your first excursion today will be to Gardner Bay on the northeastern coast of IslaEspañola. You'll be able to relax on the beach, swim, snorkel, or kayak, and observe sea lions. You may also spot sharks in its crystal-clear waters. There are three species of Darwin's finches here too: Geospiza fuliginosa, Certhidea fusca, and Certhidea olivacea. As well as its plentiful resident and migratory bird species, this zone is also important for nesting marine tortoises.
After lunch, you'll head to Suarez Point, which is a great area for spotting blue-footed boobies, albatrosses, and Nazca boobies. A memorable scene here is seeing the large waved albatrosses use the cliff as a launching pad. You'll also get the chance to take some fabulous photographs of the blowhole here that spurts water high into the air.
Day 13: Cruise to Isla Floreana: Cormorant Point & Post Office Bay
You'll be taken to one of the best flamingo lagoons in the Galápagos today at Cormorant Point on IslaFloreana. Between two lava cones, you'll be able to spot various species of shorebirds alongside colorful flamingoes, including common stilts and white-checked pintail ducks. There are two distinct beaches here—the "Green Beach" which gets its name from the high percentage of olivine crystals in the sand, and the "Flour Sand Beach" which is made up of coral.
Later in the day, you'll travel to Post Office Bay. A wooden barrel was placed here in the 18th century by the crew of a whaling ship. It has since been used by mariners and tourists as a post office where letters are collected and hand-delivered. The site was also the landing point for some of the first colonists. Drop a few postcards to friends and family, then head to the north of the island to enjoy the beautiful view from Baroness Lookout. Apparently, the eccentric silent filmmaker Baroness Eloisa Von Wagner loved it here and the ruins of what is thought to be her house are a walk away.
Day 14: Charles Darwin Research Station, Fly to Quito & Depart
It's time to disembark on Isla Santa Cruz, but before you leave the Galápagos, you'll visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn more about the protection and conservation of the islands. While you're here, you can visit its Exhibition Hall where you can see the skeleton of a Bryde's whale, and the tortoise breeding and rearing center, where these animals are raised before being released into the wild. Look out for land iguanas, which are also common in the area.
Afterward, a transfer takes you to the Itabana Channel, where you'll catch a ferry to the neighboring Isla Baltra and catch a flight back to Quito, where you can connect with your onward flight. Safe travels!