With such a wide range of landscapes, wildlife, and metropolitan areas, it's nearly impossible to see all of Ecuador in one trip, but this 15-day itinerary comes close. Start off in Quito, the nation's capital, before exploring volcanoes, crater lakes, waterfalls, and Cañari and Inca ruins across the highlands. Then, fly offshore to the Galápagos Islands, where you'll spend several days sailing, snorkeling, and hiking among some of the most stunning natural places in the world.


  • Tour Ecuador's capital city and the Monument to the Equator
  • Ride horses in the shadow of the Cotopaxi volcano
  • Bike between waterfall along Baños' famous Ruta de Cascadas
  • Admire the colonial architecture and Inca ruins in Cuenca and Ingapirca
  • Spend several days among the flora and fauna of the Galápagos Islands

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito, Explore Quito
Day 2 Tour Quito, Take a Cooking Class & Tour Ciudad Mitad del Mundo Quito
Day 3 Transfer to Cotopaxi & Ride Horses in Cotopaxi National Park Cotopaxi
Day 4 Hike Quilotoa & Transfer to Baños de Agua Santa Baños
Day 5 Biking the Waterfalls Avenue in Baños Baños
Day 6 Transfer to Riobamba & Tour the Chimborazo Volcano Riobamba
Day 7 Transfer to Cuenca via Ingapirca Cuenca
Day 8 Tour Cuenca Cuenca
Day 9 Transfer to Guayaquil via Cajas National Park Guayaquil
Day 10 Fly to Isla Santa Cruz & Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station Isla Santa Cruz
Day 11 Ride a Speed Boat to Isla Isabela & Snorkel at Los Túneles Isla Isabela
Day 12 Hike the Sierra Negra Volcano Isla Isabela
Day 13 Go Paddleboarding in Puerto Villamil Bay & Transfer to Isla Santa Cruz Isla Santa Cruz
Day 14 Explore One of the Uninhabited Galápagos Islands Isla Santa Cruz
Day 15 Transfer to Isla Baltra, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Explore

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

¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Ecuador! Your flight will touch down in Quito, Ecuador's capital city. After settling into your hotel, you'll have the rest of today to explore the city on your own, from the incredibly well-preserved colonial center to the lively bars and nightclubs around Plaza Foch. Take a walk through Parque Metropolitano Guangüiltagua, the largest urban park on the continent, or ride the TelefériQo to the top of Cruz Loma for dramatic skyline views.

Day 2: Tour Quito, Take a Cooking Class & Tour Ciudad Mitad del Mundo

Two rows of colonial-style buildings in Quito with a view of the Virgen de Quito statue on Panecillo Hill
A street with colonial architecture in 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 El 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. 

Around lunchtime, take a cooking class with a local chef. Learn how to make traditional queteño dishes and about the staples of Ecuadorian cuisine, like empanadas de viento ("wind empanadas" stuffed with onions and cheese) and seco de pollo (Ecuadorian chicken stew), as well as star local ingredients like green plantains, cuy (guinea pig), and yuca. Your work won't go unrewarded—the dishes you make will come together as a wonderful lunch.

Later, head north to visit the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), 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.

Day 3: Transfer to Cotopaxi & Ride Horses in Cotopaxi National Park

Cotopaxi volcano with horses on a slope in the foreground
Horses grazing under Cotopaxi 
Early this morning, head south from Quito for an adventure in Cotopaxi National Park. Saddle up at a traditional hacienda (ranch) and explore the Andean landscape on horseback, admiring the symmetrical, snow-capped peak of Cotopaxi. As your horse picks through terrain formed by ancient eruptions and high-altitude forests, keep an eye out for hawks, condors, weasels, and other wild animals. After a day of adventure in one of Ecuador's most iconic natural areas, relax and unwind back at the hacienda.

Day 4: Hike Quilotoa & Transfer to Baños de Agua Santa

Quilotoa Lagoon
Aerial view of Quilotoa on a sunny day

Head west from Cotopaxi National Park to visit another volcanic wonder: Quilotoa. This 2-mile-wide (3 km) crater lake is 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 exploring the lake, 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 5: Bike Along the Ruta de Cascadas

bird's-eye-view of the Pailón del Diablo waterfall
Pailón del Diablo

This morning, join a guided bike ride along the 59-mile (18 km) Ruta de Cascadas (Waterfall Route) from Baños to the village of Río Verde. Twenty minutes into your ride, stop at Agoyán Waterfall, one of the tallest waterfalls in the Ecuadorian Andes. Catch your breath and take photos of the 131-foot (40 m) falls before continuing on to the Manto de la Novia, named for its resemblance to a bride's shawl. Hop aboard a tarabita (cable car) to cross over the Río Pastaza and get a better view of the falls.

The last leg of your bike ride takes you to 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 (The Devil's Cauldron). Here, the water cascades 265 feet (81 m) down through the cloud forest. Have lunch in the village and then head back toward Baños via car to take a dip in its thermal pools, check out its many Catholic churches, or visit the Casa del Árbol to soar on a swing placed at the edge of a mountain. 

Day 6: Transfer to Riobamba & Tour the Chimborazo Volcano

Chimborazo Volcano from the road on a sunny day
Snowcapped Chimborazo from the road

Today, head south from Baños to Riobamba, the capital of Chimborazo Province. From here, visit the province's namesake volcano, the inactive Chimborazo. 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 can catch incredible views of the sprawling landscape below you. Then, head to another part of the Reserva de Produccion Faunistica Chimborazo (Chimborazo Wildlife Reserve) to hike around La Chorrera, a group of beautiful cliffs in view of the volcano. 

Day 7: Transfer to Cuenca via Ingapirca

The Temple of the Sun in the Ingapirca ruins
Ingapirca's Temple of the Sun
After breakfast, head south toward Cuenca, the capital of Azuay Province. Along the way, stop at 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. Then hit the road again to finish your journey to Cuenca and spend the night as you'd like.
Plan your trip to Ecuador
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 8: Tour Cuenca

Aerial view of Cuenca with the New Cathedral
The Catedral Metropolitana de la Inmaculada Concepción's blue and white domes
This morning, join a tour to better know Cuenca. Start in the San Sebastián neighborhood to visit the Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno (Modern Art Museum) and its colorful gardens. 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 is now a museum, the new one, with its famous blue and white domes, is still a working church.

Later, visit Museo del Sombrero de Paja Toquilla, otherwise known as the Panama Hat Museum. Yes, those famous hats are made here in Ecuador from toquilla straw. Next up, head to El Barranco, the part of the historic center that borders the Río Tomebamba, to walk along verdant riverbanks. Finally, end the tour at the Mirador de Turi, an observation deck where you can enjoy stunning views of the city and, more often than not, catch a beautiful sunset.

Day 9: Transfer to Guayaquil via Cajas National Park

Aerial view of a lake within Cajas National Park with a brick building on shore
One of the many lakes in Cajas National Park
After one last morning in Cuenca, take a private transfer out of the highlands toward the Pacific coast. Stop at Cajas National Park, a 110-square-mile (285 sq mi) area of hundreds of high-altitude lakes and cloud forests. Take a hike through the páramo grasslands to visit Luspa, the largest lake in the park. After exploring this unique landscape, a private transfer will take you the rest of the way to your next destination, Guayaquil. Check into your hotel and gear up for your first day in the Galápagos tomorrow!

Day 10: Fly to Isla Santa Cruz & Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station

Blue-footed Boobie bird flying over Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
A blue-footed boobie flies over Puerto Ayora

Starting today, you'll spend the rest of your trip in the Galápagos Islands. Fly from Guayaquil to the airport on Isla Baltra. Take a short ferry ride to neighboring Isla Santa Cruz, where a private transfer will head toward Puerto Ayora, the largest urban area in the islands and your destination for the day. Take a short detour to visit a farm housing dozens of Galápagos giant tortoises, one of the archipelago's most famous animal residents. After lunch, you'll finish the ride to Puerto Ayora.

Once you've settled into your accommodations, visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, named for the scientist whose visit to the island inspired the theory of natural selection. Learn about the islands' unique ecosystems and the work scientists all over the world are doing to better understand and preserve them. Check out more Galápagos giant tortoises in a different context, this time at the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center, and find out more about the various subspecies found across the islands.

Day 11: Ride a Speed Boat to Isla Isabela & Snorkel at Los Túneles

Pool of water in Los Túneles volcanic rock formations on Isabela Island
A pool of water enclosed by volcanic rock within Los Túneles

This morning, join a guide on a speedboat ride to Isla Isabela, the largest island in the Galápagos. Formed out of six volcanoes, five of which are active, Isabela has some of the best examples of the volcanic geology that defines the Galápagos.

Your destination today is Los Túneles, a collection of tunnels, arches, and walls formed by past volcanic eruptions that create a calm, secluded area perfect for snorkeling. Dive underwater and keep an eye out for green sea turtles, whitetip reef sharks, seahorses, rays, and more. On the shore, follow your guide's lead to find even more animals, like blue-footed boobies, sea lions, and penguins. Spend the night in Puerto Villamil, the largest settlement on the island.

Day 12: Hike the Sierra Negra Volcano

Red, orange, and brown dust and rocks within the Sierra Negra Volcano
Gorgeous landscapes created by the Sierra Negra volcano
Today, hike on the crater of Sierra Negra volcano. It's one of the largest shield volcanoes in the world, with a distinctive low profile and nearly 6-mile (10 km) diameter crater. Your six-hour roundtrip hike to the volcanic summit will begin from Puerto Villamil. As you approach the crater, explore its lava landscapes and see views of the Isabela and Fernandina volcanoes. End your day with time on the beach or snorkeling through Concha Perla's mangrove forests.

Day 13: Go Paddleboarding in Puerto Vilamil Bay & Transfer to Isla Santa Cruz

A group of swimmers snorkel offshore Isabela Island
A group of snorkelers by Isla Isabela 
On your last day on Isabela Island, explore Puerto Villamil Bay by paddleboard. Navigate mangroves and the calm bay while staying on the lookout for blue-footed boobies, pelicans, and frigatebirds. Set your paddle board aside and put on snorkeling gear to go for a swim in Concha Perla. After a fun day of water activities, it's time to return to Isla Santa Cruz via speedboat. Once you're back in Puerto Ayora, settle in and spend the evening however you'd like.

Day 14: Explore One of the Uninhabited Galápagos Islands

View of an underwater crater in the foreground with Pinnacle Rock in the background on Bartolome Island in the Galapagos Islands
An underwater crater and Pinnacle Rock (right) on Isla Bartolomé 

The Galápagos archipelago contains 21 islands, many of which are uninhabited by humans. Spend the day visiting one of them to get a rare glimpse of nature relatively untouched by civilization. Consider heading to Fernandina, the westernmost island, for a chance to spot the flightless cormorant, a famous bird species that has lost its ability to fly. Or, visit Bartolomé for another rare bird, the Galápagos penguin, as well as colorful volcanic rock formations and its famous Pinnacle Rock.

Regardless of the island you spend the day on, you'll be sure to leave with a better appreciation of the delicate ecosystems that thrive in uninhabited places—plus plenty of pictures of your adventure. Once your tour is over, return to Puerto Ayora for the night.

Day 15: Transfer to Isla Baltra, Depart

A group of Nazca Boobies on some rocks at sunset near in the Galápagos
Nazca boobies during a Galápagos sunset

After an amazing two weeks in Ecuador, it's time to head home. Catch the ferry back to Baltra to board your plane back home or on to your next destination. Safe travels!

More Great Ecuador Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Ecuador? Check out these Ecuador itineraries, explore different ways to spend 15 days in Ecuador, or discover the best time to visit Ecuador.


Map of Ecuadorian Andes & the Galápagos Islands - 15 Days
Map of Ecuadorian Andes & the Galápagos Islands - 15 Days