- 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
|Arrive in Quito
|Tour Quito & Mitad del Mundo
|Visit the Cloud Forest of Mindo
|Shop at Otavalo Market & Visit Cuicocha Lagoon
|Explore Cotopaxi National Park
|Hike Around Quilotoa Lagoon
|Free Day in Quito
|Fly to Santa Cruz Island & Visit Charles Darwin Station
|Afternoon Boat Tour
|Day Trip to an Uninhabited Island
|Boat to an Island for Wildlife Viewing
|Hike, Bike, Swim & Relax in the Galapagos
|Depart the Islands & Enjoy Quito
|Depart Ecuador - End of Trip
Day 1: Arrive in Quito
Day 2: Tour Quito & Mitad del Mundo
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
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
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.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Explore Cotopaxi National Park
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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