- Visit one of South America's largest Indigenous markets at Otavalo
- Journey by motorized canoe to an Amazon rainforest ecolodge
- Venture into the Andes and see one of the world's highest active volcanoes
- Encounter rainforest and Andean wildlife, from woolly monkeys to fluffy alpacas
|Day 1||Arrive in Quito||Quito|
|Day 2||Quito Walking Tour, Mitad del Mundo & Cable Car||Quito|
|Day 3||Day Trip to Otavalo Market & Cooking Class||Quito|
|Day 4||Transfer to the Amazon Rainforest, Arrive at Itamandi Ecolodge||Tena|
|Day 5||Itamandi Ecolodge: Jungle Walk & Community Visit||Tena|
|Day 6||Itamandi Ecolodge: Anaconda Island & AmaZOOnico||Tena|
|Day 7||Transfer to Baños, Free Evening||Baños|
|Day 8||Day at Leisure in Baños, Swing at the End of the World||Baños|
|Day 9||Follow the Avenue of Waterfalls to Cotopaxi||Cotopaxi|
|Day 10||Explore Cotopaxi National Park, Transfer to Quito||Quito|
|Day 11||Transfer to the Hot Springs of Papallacta via Antisana National Park||Papallacta|
|Day 12||Transfer to Quito & Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Quito
Welcome to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Upon arrival, a driver will meet you and transfer you to your accommodation in the city center. Quito city stands at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,850 m), in an impressive setting between mountain peaks, and it welcomes visitors with its vibrant nightlife, impressive culinary scene, picturesque plazas, shamanic healers, and market stands.
Today, you'll have the chance to explore the city at your own pace. Visit the UNESCO-listed historic center to discover the colonial churches of San Fransisco and La Compañia de Jesús, and orientate yourself around the Plaza de la Independencia (also known as Plaza Grande), the city's main square. Climb up the small El Panecillo hill for a close-up look at the Virgin of El Pacenillo statue. This madonna reigns over the city at 147 feet (45 m) tall and is made of 7,000 pieces of aluminum.
Day 2: Quito Walking Tour, Mitad del Mundo & Cable Car
After breakfast, a guide will pick you up for a walking tour of Quito. You'll get to know the center's historical landmarks in more detail, then, walk down the city's oldest street, La Ronda. This long, curving avenue has become one of Quito's most treasured attractions, with its bohemian roots still present in galleries, street performances, and Latin dance bars.
After, head to the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) monument just north of Quito, where there's a yellow line representing the equator (although the actual equator is around 800 ft/240 m away). Strike a pose with one foot in each hemisphere. Finally, ride the TelefériQo cable car up the slopes of the nearby Pichincha volcano, for dazzling views over the city and surrounding mountains from 12,942 feet (3,944 m).
Day 3: Day Trip to Otavalo Market & Cooking ClassIn the morning, you'll head off on a guided tour of Otavalo. This laid-back town in Ecuador's northern highlands is the proud homeland of the Kichwa culture—many residents still wear traditional clothing and maintain deep-rooted customs. It's no surprise then, that Otavalo is home to one of South America's most important traditional markets. Here, Indigenous people of the surrounding areas gather to trade anything from animals and handicrafts to fresh fruit and flowers.
After, roll up your sleeves and join a hands-on cooking class led by a local chef, where you'll get to know Andean flavors in a culturally rich environment. You'll learn the traditional processes that go into preparing Ecuadorian meals, and be introduced to local ingredients, all 100% organic and harvested in gardens. In the afternoon, you'll return to Quito.
Day 4: Transfer to the Amazon Rainforest, Arrive at Itamandi Ecolodge
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Itamandi Ecolodge: Jungle Walk & Community VisitThis morning starts early with a canoe ride for 15 minutes upstream to see a parrot clay lick, where parrots and parakeets get the minerals they need to digest their food. Hundreds of the birds will gather in the treetops here, and flit down to eat the mineral-rich earth of this clay bank. Make sure to bring your camera to capture this colorful phenomenon.
After breakfast, an expert naturalist guide will lead a walk through primary and secondary rainforests. As you learn about the local ecology, flora, and fauna, keep a lookout for wildlife, which could range from giant insects and birds to reptiles and monkeys. Later on, you'll be hosted by an Amazonian Kichwa community, who will teach you about their way of life and interactions with the forest. Watch them make chicha, a fermented drink made with yuca, and try some of their favorite cuisines. You'll have a chance to buy Indigenous crafts, then enjoy the finale of a traditional dance performed by kids from the community.
Day 6: Itamandi Ecolodge: Anaconda Island & AmaZOOnicoAfter a buffet breakfast buffet, take a 40-minute canoe ride downriver to Anaconda Island. It's not an island, but rather a stretch of land where the Napo and Arajuno rivers meet, but you'll still feel delightfully cut off from the real world. See if you can spot abundant wildlife, such as the flamboyant tropical bird hoatzin, woolly monkeys, and squirrel monkeys. Then, pay a visit to a family in one of the Indigenous communities to learn about their farming habits, medicinal plants, and traditional way of hunting using blowguns (cerbatana) and forest traps.
After a packed lunch, continue to AmaZOOnico. This wildlife sanctuary rehabilitates Amazonian creatures that were victims of illegal trafficking, with the aim of reintroducing them back into their natural habitats. You'll likely meet critters such as monkeys, macaws, ocelots, capybaras, toucans, and parrots. Then return to the lodge to enjoy the hotel's facilities—if you haven't tried out its outdoor pool yet, now's your chance!
Day 7: Transfer to Baños, Free Evening
Enjoy a last breakfast and absorb the sounds of the Amazon rainforest before boarding a canoe for the tranquil journey back to Puente Arajuno. From there, your driver-guide will take you to Tena and finally to today's destination—the adventurous town of Baños, where you'll arrive in the late afternoon.
Day 8: Day at Leisure in Baños, Swing at the End of the World
Enjoy a free day in Baños today. You could get an adrenaline hit with extreme activities such as canyoning, rafting, bungee jumping, and mountain biking. Or, hike on one of the leisurely trails that run through the forest from town. Take a 10-minute bus or cab ride to the Tungurahua hot springs, which are always 72ºF (22ºC) or more and said to have healing properties. Smaller thermal baths, La Virgen, are a five-minute walk from town at the foot of La Virgen waterfall.
For some of the best photo opportunities in Ecuador, arrange a trip to the mountainside treehouse of Casa del Árbol, to ride its famous "swing at the end of the world." This long swing is installed at 8,530 feet (2,600 m), with an incredible view of the Tungurahua volcano on the other side of the valley. And although it looks like the swing flies over a cliff, it's more of a steep slope when you get up close. So strap in, and away you go!
Day 9: Follow the Avenue of Waterfalls to Cotopaxi
Setting off from Baños via private transfer, you'll drive north to the province of Cotopaxi, around 62 miles (100 km) away. Located in Ecuador's central highlands, the region offers dramatic Andean scenery and windows into traditional ways of life. Its focal point is the conical, snow-capped peak of Cotopaxi, the second-highest summit in Ecuador at 19,347 feet (5,897 m) and one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. While you can often see it on the horizon, you'll get a closer look at it tomorrow.
Day 10: Explore Cotopaxi National Park, Transfer to QuitoMake the journey up to Quito today, driving along the Avenue of the Volcanoes again, a nickname popularized by the German explorer and naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt in the 18th century. Enter Cotopaxi National Park, around 43.5 miles (70 m) from Quito. You'll immediately see the towering Cotopaxi volcano, whose peak boasts a perfectly symmetrical snow-capped cone surrounded by cinematic parkland.
Day 11: Transfer to the Hot Springs of Papallacta via Antisana National Park
The drive is a treat on today's journey to Papallacta, a village at an altitude of 10,827 feet (3,300 m). As the road weaves into the Amazon rainforest and Antisana National Park, you'll take a break in the park for a bite to eat and to walk to a high-altitude lake. While it's not far from the bustle of the city, it feels a world away, with white-tailed deer, Andean Condors, and fluffy alpacas living around the lakeshore.
Day 12: Transfer to Quito & Depart
After breakfast (and maybe one more dip in the hot springs!), a driver will pick you up at your hotel in Papallacta and take you to Quito Airport for your flight. Safe travels, and see you back for more Ecuadorian adventures soon!