Ecuador boasts a wide variety of geographical regions, each with its own distinct landscapes and ecosystems. Spend 15 days exploring the country from the shores of the Isla de la Plata to the verdant rainforests of the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. Along the way, you'll hike past volcanoes, crater lakes, and Inca ruins in the highlands and visit some of Ecuador's largest cities, like Guayaquil and Quito.


  • Explore Guayaquil, the "Pearl of the Pacific" and Ecuador's largest city
  • Snorkel off the shores of Isla de la Plata
  • Tour the Cañari and Inca ruins of Ingapirca near Cuenca
  • Hike on the slopes of the extinct Chimborazo volcano
  • Ride a canoe through the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Guayaquil, Explore Guayaquil
Day 2 Tour Guayaquil, Transfer to Montañita Montañita
Day 3 Explore Montañita, Transfer to Puerto López Puerto López
Day 4 Isla de la Plata Boat Tour, Transfer to Guayaquil Guayaquil
Day 5 Transfer to Cuenca via El Cajas National Park Cuenca
Day 6 Tour Cuenca & the Ingapirca Ruins, Transfer to Guamote Guamote
Day 7 Explore Chimborazo Volcano, Transfer to Baños Baños
Day 8 Visit the Pailón del Diablo, Transfer to Quilotoa Quilotoa
Day 9 Hike Quilotoa, Transfer Overnight to Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve Overnight Bus 
Day 10 Take a Canoe Ride into the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
Day 11 Tour the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
Day 12 Sunrise Hike, Transfer to Quito Quito
Day 13 Tour Quito, Transfer to Otavalo Otavalo
Day 14 Visit the Otavalo Market & Peguche Waterfall, Transfer to Quito Quito
Day 15 Explore Quito, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Guayaquil, Explore

Cityscape of Santa Ana Hill Church with the chapel and colorful colonial housing, Las Peñas district, Guayaquil, Ecuador.
The chapel atop Cerro Santa Ana

Welcome to Guayaquil, the "Pearl of the Pacific" and Ecuador's main port. With an elevation of only 13.2 feet (4 m) above sea level, this is one point of entry to Ecuador that definitely won't make you feel the altitude. Once you land, a private driver will take you to your accommodations in town, and then you can explore the largest city in Ecuador at your own pace.

Consider a stroll down the Malecón 2000, a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) boardwalk along the riverfront built to revitalize the old Malecón Simón Bolívar. Go farther north to visit Las Peñas, a neighborhood whose pastel architecture reflects 19th-century abundance and whose history stretches back at least 400 years. Climb the 444 steps from Las Peñas to the top of Cerro Santa Ana to find a petite chapel, a lighthouse, and gorgeous views of the city skyline and the Gulf of Guayaquil beyond.

Day 2: Tour Guayaquil, Transfer to Montañita

Garden seaside Malecon 2000 park and pedestrian walkway with Santa Ana Hill in background, Ecuador
View of Santa Ana Hill from the Malecón 2000
Join a guided tour of the city today, starting at Parque Seminario, a petite park bordering the neo-Gothic Catedral Metropolitana de Guayaquil. The park itself is famous for the green iguanas that call it home; they trod along its pathways and relax in sunspots in the trees.

From here, take in some of the city's famous government buildings and monuments, like the Palacio Municipal de Guayaquil in the Plaza de la Administración and La Torre Morisca and La Rotonda, a monument depicting the 1822 meeting between Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín along the Malecón 2000. Climb the stairs of the Torre Morisca to observe stunning views of the cityscape. Then move on to Las Peñas to follow the staircase to the top of Cerro Santa Ana.
Later today, a private transfer will take you about two hours north along the Pacific coast to Montañita, a village famous for its surfing and laid-back vibe. Grab dinner at one of the many thatched-roof restaurants and bars, try your hand at surfing, or dance the night away at one of the nightclubs in the area.

Day 3: Explore Montañita, Transfer to Puerto López

The rocky shore of Moñatita Beach, daytime
Waves crash on the rocky shores near Montañita Beach
Spend a free morning exploring Montañita. Relax at the beach or take a surfing lesson to catch its famous waves. This afternoon, a private transfer will take you about an hour north to your next destination, Puerto López. Check into your hotel in this small fishing village by a bay, and then spend the evening how you'd like. Hit the beach, sip on a cocktail at a seaside bar, or, if you have the time, head out on a hike from Los Frailes Beach, part of the nearby Machalilla National Park.

Day 4: Isla de la Plata Boat Tour, Transfer to Guayaquil

A blue footed booby on a cliffside of Isla de la Plata, Ecuador
Many blue-booted boobies live on Isla de la Plata
Today's adventure takes you offshore to Isla de la Plata ("Silver Island"), part of Machalilla National Park. While the island gets its name from a legendary history of pirates and buried treasure, its current value is tied to the large variety of animals that thrive here. Take a walk around the island to spot sea lions, blue-footed boobies, and albatrosses, and then dive below the water to snorkel around the coral reefs surrounding the island.
On the boat ride back to Puerto López, keep your eyes peeled for migrating humpback whales and pods of dolphins—whale watching reaches its peak from mid-June to October here. Upon arrival ashore, you'll head back to Guayaquil for the night. Take the evening to explore parts of the city you missed before, or just relax back at the hotel.

Day 5: Transfer to Cuenca via El Cajas National Park

A stone building on the shore of a lake in Cajas National Park
One of the many lakes in El Cajas National Park
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After breakfast, head southeast toward Cuenca, the capital of Azuay Province. Along the way, stop at El Cajas National Park, a 110-square-mile (285 sq km) area of hundreds of high-altitude lakes and cloud forests. Take a hike through the páramo (high Andean landscape) to visit Luspa, the largest lake in the park. After exploring this unique ecosystem, a private transfer will take you the rest of the way to the city. Check into your hotel and gear up for another day of adventure tomorrow!

Day 6: Tour Cuenca & the Ingapirca Ruins, Transfer to Guamote

The Temple of the Sun in Ingapirca on a sunny day
The ruins at Ingapirca 
This morning, join a tour to better know Cuenca. Start with the Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno ("Modern Art Museum") and its colorful gardens, and then head to Cuenca's famous pair of cathedrals: the Iglesia El Sagrario, also known as the "Old Cathedral," and the Catedral Metropolitana de la Inmaculada Concepción, aka the "New Cathedral." While the old cathedral has been converted into a museum, the new one, with its famous blue and white domes, is still a working church.
Then head north from the city toward the Ingapirca ruins. At 10,498 feet (3,200 m) in elevation, the site was important to the Cañari people and the Inca, as they coexisted peacefully for many years. Among the ruins, you could find the Temple of the Sun, ancient terraces, and a Cañari tomb. From here, head toward Guamote. During the 2.5-hour drive, consider a stop in Palmira, a desert known for its gorgeous sand dunes. 

Day 7: Explore Chimborazo Volcano, Transfer to Baños

The Chimborazo Volcano from the road
Views of Chimborazo from the road
This morning, head north from Guamote toward Chimborazo, an inactive volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes. Since it's located on the equatorial bulge, its summit is the farthest point from the center of the earth! You won't be making a summit attempt today, but you can hike up to the Carral Hut, sitting at 15,748 feet (4,800 m). From here, you'll catch incredible views of the sprawling landscape below you. After exploring the volcano, it's time to travel south to Baños de Agua Santa, a city on the edge of the Amazonian basin known for its hot springs and nearby waterfalls.

Day 8: Visit the Pailón del Diablo, Transfer to Quilotoa

bird's-eye-view of the Pailón del Diablo waterfall
El Pailón del Diablo
Start today with a trip along the scenic Ruta de Cascadas ("Waterfall Route") toward the village of Río Verde. When you arrive in town, take a short hike to one of the better-known waterfalls in the area, El Pailón del Diablo ("Devil's Cauldron"). Here, the water cascades 265 feet (81 m) down through the cloud forest. Then, head back toward Baños to take a dip in its thermal pools, check out its many Catholic churches, or visit the Casa del Arbol ("Treehouse") to soar on a swing placed at the edge of a mountain.
At the end of the day, a private transfer will bring you to your next destination, Quilotoa. This mountainside village sits beside Quilotoa Lagoon, which you'll visit tomorrow.

Day 9: Hike Quilotoa, Transfer Overnight to Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

Aerial view of Quilotoa Lagoon
Quilotoa, a crater lake
Head out from the village this morning to Quilotoa Lagoon, a 2-mile-wide (3 km) crater lake filled with 820 feet (250 m) of mineral-rich green water. Hike along the lake's outer rim, enjoying the views from three lava domes, or follow a path to the lake itself. Hiking in the area, especially uphill, can be challenging, so consider renting a mule for some help along the way. After your visit, you'll be transferred to Quito.
From here, catch a bus for an overnight ride from Quito to the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. In the morning, the bus will drop you off at El Puente, the entry point of the reserve. Try to catch some sleep tonight for your Amazon adventure tomorrow!

Day 10: Take a Canoe Ride into the Cuyabeno Reserve

A canoe with plastic seats in a river in the Amazon rainforest
A motorized canoe in an Amazonian river

Early this morning, your overnight bus will drop you off at El Puente de Cuyabeno, otherwise known as the Cuyabeno Bridge, the entryway to Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. Take a ride along the Río Cuyabeno in a motorized canoe to reach the ecolodge you'll call home for the next few days. Keep an eye out for tropical birds, monkeys, even otters and river dolphins. Cuyabeno, like most of the Amazon, boasts high biodiversity, but many of its residents are unique to the park, given its unusual climate.

Once you arrive at the lodge, take some time to rest or take a peek around the area to get a sense of the landscape. Have dinner at the lodge and rest up for an early excursion tomorrow.

Day 11: Tour the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest

A blue and black toucan on a tree branch in the rainforest
A colorful resident of the rainforest

Cuyabeno's wildlife is most active in the small hours of the morning, so get an early start today and explore the forest. A guide will take you on foot or via canoe through the reserve, pointing out snakes, frogs, birds, monkeys, and other animals, as well as medicinal plants first identified by local Indigenous people.

Unlike other parts of the Amazon, Cuyabeno abuts the Andes, so it's a bit cooler and more prone to flooding. This afternoon after lunch, your guide will lead you via canoe into its blackwater-flooded forests. Look for birds like toucans and macaws and epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants) like orchids and bromeliads among the palms and tropical trees. 

Tonight, your guide will show you the rainforest at another busy time: nightfall. Grab a flashlight and keep an eye out for creatures that typically hide out during the day, like various species of frogs, snakes, and even some mammals. Then it's time for dinner back at the lodge before falling asleep to the sounds of the rainforest.

Day 12: Sunrise Hike, Transfer to Quito

Sunrise over the river in Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
Sunrise over Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
At sunrise this morning, if the weather is calm, take one last hike in Cuyabeno to catch a gorgeous sunrise over the river and surrounding rainforest. Then it's time to say goodbye to the wildlife reserve. After breakfast, pack up and ride the canoe back out of the reserve to El Puente. A shuttle bus will bring you back to Quito, arriving later tonight. Grab a late dinner before checking into your hotel and enjoying some well-earned rest.

Day 13: Tour Quito, Transfer to Otavalo

Aerial view of Quito with green mountains in the background
View of Quito

Today, join a walking tour of the famous colonial center of Quito, named one of the first UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites in 1978. Admire the intricate stone carvings of La Compañía and wander the cloisters of the Iglesia San Francisco. Wrap up the historical center leg of your tour with a walk down La Ronda, once a pre-Columbian walking trail, now a romantic destination full of cafés, live music, and eclectic shops. 

Later on, head north to visit the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo ("Middle of the World City"), a park dominated by the 98-foot (30 m) tall Monument to the Equator created in honor of the Spanish-French Geodesic Mission to find the circumference of the Earth at the equator. Stand on the yellow line marking the equator, posing with one foot in each hemisphere (though the true equator is a few hundred feet away), or visit the planetarium, a small-scale model of Quito, and museums.

After the tour, private transportation will take you north into the Imbabura Province to Otavalo, your next destination. Rest up in your accommodations for a day of exploring and shopping tomorrow.

Day 14: Visit the Otavalo Market & Peguche Waterfall, Transfer to Quito

A market stand full of colorful textiles on shelves with hanging hammocks on display
The Otavalo market is famous for its textiles

While in Otavalo, be sure to visit the Plaza de los Ponchos for a chance to shop around its world-famous market. The market is busiest on Saturdays, but you can find vendors, primarily Otavalos, the Indigenous people of the region, throughout the week. The Otavalo people are best known for their colorful, hand-woven textiles, and many market stalls offer tablecloths, blankets, scarves, and more.

After shopping, head just north of Otavalo to visit the Peguche Waterfall. Located in Bosque Protector Cascada de Peguche ("Peguche Waterfall Protected Forest"), the 50-foot (18 m) waterfall attracts tourists and the local Indigenous people, who use pools around the falls for purification baths before important holidays. After admiring this natural wonder, return to Quito via private transfer for the night.

Day 15: Explore Quito, Depart

Sunset over Quito with Cotopaxi Volcano smoking in the background
The sun sets over Quito

On your final day in Ecuador, consider taking a last stroll around Quito to say goodbye or visit new places for the last time. For example, climb to the hilltop of El Panecillo, where the Virgin of El Pacenillo stands tall. The madonna is a 147-foot (45 m) tall monument of 7,000 pieces of aluminum. Eventually, a private transfer will take you to the airport so you can catch your flight and head home or off to your next adventure. Hasta Luego! See you later!

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Map of Ecuador's Pacific Coast to the Andes & Amazon - 15 Days
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