- Experience Quito's culture and colonial history
- Trek along mountain paths between Andean villages
- See exotic wildlife, such as vicuñas and Andean condors
- Hike up active volcanoes like Quilotoa and Chimborazo
- Visit Pailón del Diablo, Ecuador's second-tallest waterfall
|Day 1||Arrive in Quito, Optional Activities||Quito|
|Day 2||Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park, Warm-Up Hike||Isinlivi|
|Day 3||Transfer to Toachi Canyon, Hike to Chugchilán||Chugchilán|
|Day 4||Transfer to Quilotoa||Quilotoa|
|Day 5||Hike to Quilotoa Lake||Riobamba|
|Day 6||Hike Chimborazo, Transfer to Baños & Hot Springs||Baños|
|Day 7||Hike the Avenue of Waterfalls, Transfer to Quito||Quito|
|Day 8||Depart Ecuador|
Day 1: Arrive In Quito, Optional Activities
Welcome to Ecuador! You'll arrive in the capital of Quito, which was founded in 1534 over the ruins of a prominent Inca city. Today, Quito is the largest and most well-preserved colonial city in South America. Its historic center is so impressive, in fact, that it earned UNESCO World Heritage status in 1978.
When you arrive at the airport, a driver will transfer you to your hotel in the city. Then you can head out and see Quito's historic buildings for yourself. Highlights include colonial churches like La Iglesia de la Compañía and the Convent of San Francisco. There are also pre-Columbian ruins on the outskirts of the city like Pucará de Rumicucho. To learn more about the region's history, visit the National Museum of Ecuador, which boasts a fine collection of artifacts. Just be sure to take it easy. After all, Quito sits at 9,350 feet (2,850 m) above sea level, so you'll need to acclimate to the altitude.
Day 2: Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park, Warm-Up Hike
Your driver will pick you up in the morning for the ride south from Quito to Cotopaxi National Park. During the scenic drive, you'll be treated to magnificent views of the namesake Cotopaxi volcano (19,347 ft/5,897 m). Once inside the park, you'll arrive at a trailhead and embark on a two-hour acclimatization hike around Limpiopungo Lake. Located at 13,000 feet (3,962 m) above sea level, this is a good warm-up as the route is filled with stunning scenery and exotic wildlife such as wild horses. After the hike, get back in the car for the drive to the Andean village of Isinlivi, where you'll spend the night.
Day 3: Transfer to Toachi Canyon, Hike to Chugchilán
After an early breakfast, you'll leave Cotopaxi and transfer west to the Toachi River Canyon. Today's hike will take you on an 8.4-mile (13.5-km) out-and-back loop. During the excursion, you'll hike downhill to the Río Toachi and then back uphill up to the main road, with stops along the way at local villages and viewpoints to enjoy the stunning vistas. From there, the main road takes you past agricultural fields to Chugchilán, a small town located in the middle of the Quiltoa trail loop. Here, you'll check into your eco-friendly accommodations and can spend the afternoon exploring the village at your leisure.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: Transfer to Quilotoa
Get an early start and embark on a 7-mile (11 km) trek along rough footpaths that wind their way through the mountains. The basic trails here were created by locals who've traveled through these highland canyons for generations to trade products and goods with neighboring communities.
Follow this rustic trade route down deep into the river canyon, then hike back to the top of the crater rim of Quillota, the westernmost volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes. Here, you'll enjoy incredible 360-degree views over the volcano's famous crater lake, whose waters are tinged in vivid hues of turquoise and green. At the end of the excursion, you'll transfer to your lodge in the village of Quilotoa, where you can enjoy some traditional Andean cuisine.
Day 5: Hike to Quilotoa Lake
Leave after breakfast for a hike right up to the shores of Quilotoa. It begins with a downhill hike to the bottom of the crater along a path that offers beautiful views of the lake. Don't worry, as there will be plenty of opportunities to stop and take photos of the lake's glassy turquoise waters.
Once at the bottom of the crater, you'll hike around the basin of this mythical, active volcano. There's even the option to paddle around the volcanic waters in a kayak and go for a swim. If you're feeling adventurous, rent a mule for a ride up the steep, challenging trail to the top of the crater. In the afternoon, transfer south to the highland city of Riobamba, where you'll overnight.
Day 6: Hike Chimborazo, Transfer to Baños & Hot Springs
It's another early start this morning, as you'll hop in the car for the drive past rural farms and valleys to the Chimborazo volcano. With an elevation of 20,700 feet (6,309 m), this is the highest mountain in Ecuador, and its peak is the world's farthest point from the center of the earth. On a clear day, you can see the snow-capped cone of Chimborazo from miles around.
Start today's excursion with a short hike of just over half a mile to reach an elevation of 16,400 feet (4,998 m), where the glacier ice begins. During the trek, you'll likely spot endemic wildlife such as caracaras, wild vicuñas, and (if you're lucky) the Andean condor. After the hike, leave the rocky and rugged landscape of Chimborazo and drive north to the tropical town of Baños. Nestled in the foothills of the active Tungurahua volcano, this is one of the most popular vacation spots in the country. People flock here for outdoor activities including canyoning, horseback riding, hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and rafting.
Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel. Then give your muscles a break with a nice long soak in the natural hot springs. In the evening, perhaps indulge in the town's famous nightlife.
Day 7: Hike the Avenue of Waterfalls, Transfer to Quito
Today, take a tour of the famous waterfalls around Baños. Visit the magnificent Bride's Veil waterfall and take the tarabita (cable car) to cross the Río Pastaza. From there, an hour's hike leads to the Pailón del Diablo waterfall, the second highest in Ecuador at 262 feet (80 m). After a day full of adventures in the cloud forest, relax and enjoy the scenic drive back to Quito.
Day 8: Depart Ecuador
Today is the last day of your great trekking adventure in Ecuador! Enjoy a leisurely breakfast as a reward for the previous week's effort and perhaps do some last-minute souvenir shopping. At the appropriate time, your driver will transfer you to the airport for your flight home. ¡Buen viaje!
More Great Ecuador Itineraries
Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Ecuador? Check out these other Ecuador itineraries, explore different ways to spend eight days in Ecuador, or learn about the best time to visit Ecuador.