- 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
|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|
Day 1: Arrive in Guayaquil, Explore
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 MontañitaJoin 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.
Day 3: Explore Montañita, Transfer to Puerto LópezSpend 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 GuayaquilToday'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.
Day 5: Transfer to Cuenca via El Cajas National Park
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 6: Tour Cuenca & the Ingapirca Ruins, Transfer to GuamoteThis 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.
Day 7: Explore Chimborazo Volcano, Transfer to BañosThis 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 QuilotoaStart 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.
Day 9: Hike Quilotoa, Transfer Overnight to Cuyabeno Wildlife ReserveHead 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.
Day 10: Take a Canoe Ride into the Cuyabeno Reserve
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.
Day 11: Tour the Ecuadorian Amazon 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
Day 13: Tour Quito, Transfer to Otavalo
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
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
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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