This sweeping two-week adventure showcases the diversity of Ecuador. From busy marketplaces in the city to thermal baths in the highlands, from peaceful bays in the Galapagos to the lush landscapes of the cloud forest, this itinerary has something for everyone. Highlights include hiking in Cotopaxi National Park, shopping in Otavalo Market, sightseeing in the bustling city of Quito, and snorkeling and swimming around the gorgeous islands of the Galapagos archipelago.


  • Snorkel, boat, and birdwatch in the Galapagos Islands
  • Get up close with giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island
  • Stand on the equator at Mitad del Mundo
  • Hike to the volcano of Cotopaxi National Park
  • Shop for handicrafts in one of South America's most traditional markets
  • Ride a zip line through the cloud forest of Mindo

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito Quito
Day 2 Tour Quito & Mitad del Mundo  Mindo
Day 3 Visit the Cloud Forest of Mindo  Otavalo
Day 4 Shop at Otavalo Market & Visit Cuicocha Lagoon Papallacta
Day 5 Explore Cotopaxi National Park Cotopaxi
Day 6 Hike Around Quilotoa Lagoon  Quito
Day 7 Free Day in Quito Quito
Day 8 Fly to Santa Cruz Island & Visit Charles Darwin Station Puerto Ayora
Day 9 Afternoon Boat Tour Puerto Ayora
Day 10 Day Trip to an Uninhabited Island Puerto Ayora
Day 11 Boat to an Island for Wildlife Viewing Puerto Ayora
Day 12 Hike, Bike, Swim & Relax in the Galapagos Puerto Ayora
Day 13 Depart the Islands & Enjoy Quito Quito
Day 14 Depart Ecuador - End of Trip  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito

View of Quito and the Cotopaxi Volcano
View of Quito and the Cotopaxi Volcano
Welcome to Ecuador! The entire city of Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Standing at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,850 meters), it welcomes visitors with its picturesque plazas situated between mountain peaks. Spend your first day in the country exploring the capital and sampling Ecuadorian cuisine. The city has an abundance of marketplaces, shamanistic healers, and fourth-generation hat makers, as well as a vibrant and sophisticated culinary and nightlife scene. 

Day 2: Tour Quito & Mitad del Mundo 

Equatorial Monument Mitad del Mundo
The Mitad del Mundo monument

Today, your guide will take you on a walking tour through the colonial center of Quito. You will visit the Plaza Grande and the beautiful churches La Compañía and La Basílica. Walk down the oldest street of Quito, La Ronda. Afterward, you will visit the equatorial monument Mitad del Mundo, where French scientists determined the position of the equator's line many years ago. Stop for dinner in a traditional restaurant, then stay overnight at your hotel in Quito.

Day 3: Visit the Cloud Forest of Mindo 

A zip line in the Mindo cloud forest
A zip line in the Mindo cloud forest

This morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and drive you to the lush cloud forest of Mindo. This forest's location at the western slopes of the Andean highlands means mild temperatures and a lot of rainfall, which help nourish its incredible biodiversity. Once you arrive, you'll be able to see hundreds of different bird species, visit the butterfly garden, hike to beautiful waterfalls, or ride a zip line through the forest.

Later, take a tour of the nearby chocolate factory and learn how locally grown cacao beans are processed to create delicious candy. In the late afternoon, you'll check-in at your accommodations in the Andean town of Otavalo and enjoy a relaxing evening.

Day 4: Shop at Otavalo Market & Visit Cuicocha Lagoon 

Thermal springs of Papallacta
The thermal springs of Papallacta

Today, visit Otavalo Market, one of the most important and traditional markets in all of South America. The region's indigenous people gather here to buy and trade everything from handicrafts to fresh vegetables and fruits. Take a stroll through the streets near the market and try some local street food, such as salted mango or fritada con mote (fried pork with cooked corn).

In the afternoon, hike around the crater lagoon of Cuicocha. On the trail, your guide will point out the high-altitude flora and fauna and explain the history of the once active volcano. In the evening you will arrive at your hotel in Papallacta, famous for its natural thermal springs.

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Day 5: Explore Cotopaxi National Park

Limpiopungo lake with Cotopaxi volcano in the background
Limpiopungo lake and Cotopaxi Volcano

Leave Papallacta this morning and head south to Cotopaxi National Park. Visit Lake Limpiopungo, located in the highlands, offering a spectacular view of Cotopaxi Volcano's gigantic cone. Lake Limpiopungo is home to a variety of birds and some wild horses, too. Go for a short walk around the lake to admire Andean plants and wildlife.

You'll reach a traditional hacienda just in time for lunch. Afterward, go for a scenic horseback excursion in the foothills of Rumiñahui Volcano, explore the surroundings on a mountain bike, or just relax at the hacienda, where you'll spend the night. 

Day 6: Hike Around Quilotoa Lagoon 

Quilotoa Lagoon
The beautiful Quilotoa Lagoon

Today you will visit a picturesque volcano lagoon, Quilotoa. Walk along the crater’s rim to enjoy the splendid view, or hike down a path to the crater lake. You'll also have the option to rent a mule for the excursion. In the afternoon, you'll return to Quito. Choose one of several excellent restaurants near your hotel to enjoy a traditional Ecuadorian-style meal.

Day 7: Free Day in Quito

La Ronda street
La Ronda, the oldest street in Quito

Today you'll have a break from tours and take some time to explore Quito on your own. Take a stroll through the historic center, then visit the impressive Church and Convent of St. Francis (known to locals simply as El Francisco). It is the oldest and most important religious site in Ecuador, with a vast complex featuring various cloisters, three churches, more than 3,500 works of religious art, and a library with thousands of books and historical documents. Enjoy a drink on the square nearby with views of the monastery.

Day 8: Fly to Santa Cruz Island & Visit Charles Darwin Station

Giant Galapagos Tortoise
Getting up close with a giant Galapagos tortoise

In the morning you will be taken to the airport for your flight to the Galapagos Islands. Meet your guide at the dock on Santa Cruz Island, then head to the highlands for lunch at a ranch followed by the chance to see giant tortoises in the wild.

In the afternoon, you'll visit the Charles Darwin Station, where scientists from all over the world meet and work together. Environmental projects include water analysis, protection of endemic wildlife, analysis of the effects of tourism on nature, and other pressing issues. Visit the turtle rearing station to see where animals are raised before being released into nature. Check into your hotel in Puerto Ayora, where you'll spend the next few nights.

Day 9: Afternoon Boat Tour

Snorkeling with a sea turtle
Snorkeling with a sea turtle

Your morning is free to spend as you wish. Relax on the beach, go for a walk, rent a bike to explore the island, or just enjoy the sounds of nature as you find the perfect spot to sit and read. 

In the afternoon, you'll head onto the water on a tour of the bay. Aboard a small boat, you'll visit the coves and beaches of Santa Cruz Island. Wear a swimsuit: you'll have the chance to get in the water and swim with playful sea lion cubs. It's also possible to go snorkeling to see the extraordinary diversity of marine life beneath the water's surface, including seahorses, sea turtles, and colorful fish.

Day 10: Day Trip to an Uninhabited Island

Marine iguanas sunbathing on the shore
Marine iguanas sunbathing on the shore

Ride a yacht to an uninhabited island around Santa Cruz. Depending on the weather, scheduling, and permissions by the national park, you'll visit one of the following islands: Santa Fé, South Plazas, Bartolomé, or North Seymour.

Each island is unique, offering spectacular scenery and opportunities to see rare wildlife. Santa Fé and South Plazas are home to endemic land iguanas, while Bartolomé is known for its beautiful lava flows. On North Seymour, look for frigate birds, land iguanas, and blue-footed boobies. In the evening, return to Puerto Ayora to enjoy some free time. 

Day 11: Boat to an Island for Wildlife Viewing

Sally Lightfoot crabs
Sally Lightfoot crabs in the Galapagos

Another day, another boat trip to an uninhabited island — this time, you'll visit a different one than the day before. Once again, you'll get incredible opportunities to see endemic wildlife in its natural habitat and protected lands. You're likely to see Galapagos sea lions, blue-footed boobies, and magnificent frigate birds, all of which are abundant in the area. The boat trip itself is also an experience. Afterward, enjoy your evening in the laid-back town of Puerto Ayora.

Day 12: Hike, Bike, Swim & Relax in the Galapagos

Sea lions on the beach on Santa Cruz Island

Today, the last full day in the Galapagos, is yours to spend as you wish. Hike to Tortuga Bay, take a stroll in the peaceful town of Puerto Ayora, go on a guided boat tour to visit hidden beaches, or rent a bike to explore the highlands on your own.

Another option is an excursion to Los Tuneles, a perfect snorkeling spot on Isabela Island, accessible by speedboat from Santa Cruz. A series of lava flows have produced unique geological formations here, including arches and tunnels underneath and above the water, which makes the area a uniquely interesting place to swim around. In the shallow waters, you can see tropical fish, rays, turtles, seahorses, and white-tipped reef sharks. Keep your eyes open for penguins sitting on the rocks and be ready for the possibility of swimming alongside majestic sea turtles.

Day 13: Depart the Islands & Enjoy Quito

Beautiful sunset in the Galapagos
A beautiful sunset in the Galapagos

Today you'll leave the islands. If there is enough free time until your transfer to the airport, do some souvenir shopping in Puerto Ayora. You'll cross the Itabaca Channel by ferry on your way to the airport to catch a flight back to the mainland. When you arrive in Quito, check in at your accommodation and enjoy an evening of sightseeing, browsing through shops, and dining in an Ecuadorian restaurant.

Day 14: Depart Ecuador - End of Trip

Plaza Grande in Old Town Quito
Plaza Grande in Old Town Quito

The trip comes to a close today. You'll head to the airport to catch a flight out after breakfast. Safe travels!

More Great Ecuador Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to the Galapagos? Check out these other 14-day Ecuador itineraries, with island-hopping cruises, land-based trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

Or, describe your ideal trip and we will connect you with a local specialist to make it happen.

Written by Mathias Onisseit deactivated, updated Oct 4, 2021