This 12-day itinerary is a thrilling introduction to Ecuador's magnificent landscapes. Begin with sightseeing and a cooking class in Quito, then continue to the natural wonders of Baños and Cotopaxi National Park. Base yourself in Archidona, exploring waterfalls in the rainforest, before heading to the Pacific coast. Tour Guayaquil, learn to catch a wave in Ayampe, and visit a cocoa plantation to finish the adventure.


  • Get up close with one of the highest active volcanoes on earth
  • Explore the incredible landscapes around Baños
  • Learn to make Ecuadorian dishes during a cooking class
  • Enjoy quiet days and beautiful sunsets on the Pacific coast

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito & Cooking Class Quito
Day 2 Tour Quito & Mitad del Mundo  Quito
Day 3 Explore Cotopaxi National Park, Transfer to Baños Baños
Day 4 Discover Baños, Ecuador's Adventure Capital Baños
Day 5 Visit Pailón del Diablo Waterfall, Transfer to Archidona & Rainforest Hike Archidona
Day 6 See Ushpayacu Waterfalls, Cooking Class & Chocolate Workshop Archidona
Day 7 Transfer to Quito via the Papallacta Hot Springs Quito
Day 8 Fly to Guayaquil, Transfer to Ayampe Ayampe
Day 9 Enjoy a Free Day in Ayampe Ayampe
Day 10 Learn to Surf in Ayampe Ayampe
Day 11 Visit Isla de los Pajaros & Cocoa Plantation, Transfer to Guayaquil Guayaquil
Day 12 Depart Guayaquil   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Cooking Class

Basilica of the National Vow, Quito
Quito's La Basílica del Voto stands over the city

Welcome to Quito! You'll arrive at the airport and then head to your hotel in the city center. Standing at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,850 m), this is the world's second-highest capital, and it welcomes visitors with its picturesque plazas between mountain peaks. After taking some time to get settled in, get your bearings and stretch your legs with a stroll around the city's UNESCO-listed historic center. 

Take a walk down La Ronda, one of the oldest streets in the city, and visit Independence Square, where the Presidential Palace and El Sagrario Church are located. Visit the Monastery of San Francisco (circa 1535), the oldest church in Ecuador, or head to El Panecillo, for spectacular views over Quito. In the evening, you'll receive a warm welcome as you join a cooking class inside a colonial house in the historic center. Learn to prepare various traditional Ecuadorian dishes from scratch alongside your hosts, then sit down and enjoy a memorable meal.

Day 2: Tour Quito & Mitad del Mundo 

Stroll thorugh Quito's historic streets on a guided city tour
Stroll through Quito's historic streets on a guided city tour

Your guide will pick you up from your hotel this morning and take you on a walking tour of the city. Stroll through its narrow streets and visit some of the city's most important churches, such as the Baroque La Compañía de Jesús, with its incredible gold-covered interior, and the neo-Gothic La Basílica del Voto—famous for its whimsical gargoyles depicting Ecuador's native wildlife like penguins, monkeys, and pumas. 

In the afternoon, you'll visit the equatorial monument known as Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World). It's located just 16 miles (26 km) north of the capital city in the spot where French scientists determined the position of the central line many years ago. You'll have the chance to stand on the line of the equator and strike a pose with one foot in each hemisphere! Visit the adjacent museum, featuring a planetarium, cocoa and chocolate exhibits, and a small-scale model of Quito.

Day 3: Explore Cotopaxi National Park, Transfer to Baños

Cotopaxi Volcano
Explore the Cotopaxi National Park and its snowcapped volcano

The adventure takes you into the Cotopaxi National Park today. Cotopaxi is one of the highest active volcanoes on earth, and the views of its perfectly shaped cone and the surrounding volcanoes are incredible. The park is also home to wild horses, which you can sometimes spot grazing among the páramo (Andean grassland) landscapes. You may even see an Andean condor.

While walking around Limpiopungo Lagoon, your guide will point out high-altitude flora and fauna. Afterward, trek to the José Rivas Refuge. Enjoy the spectacular views before continuing your journey to Baños, one of Ecuador's outdoor hotspots.

Day 4: Discover Baños, Ecuador's Adventure Capital

Take your pick of outdoor adventure sports like ziplining in Baños
Today you'll explore more of Baños and its surroundings. Visit the famous Casa del Árbol and the "Swing at the End of the World," where you'll enjoy swinging high above the clouds from a mountainside treehouse. It's also possible to try ziplining or canyoning, two adrenaline sports the region is famous for. Alternatively, take a stroll through town, try some typical Ecuadorian food, or do some short hikes in the landscapes around Baños. 

Day 5: Visit Pailón del Diablo Waterfall, Transfer to Archidona & Rainforest Hike

Take a short walk to feel the spray from the Pailón del Diablo waterfall

This morning, leave Baños and head deeper into the Amazon basin to visit the famous Pailón del Diablo (Devil's Cauldron) waterfall. This powerful cascade forms a small gorge; you can admire its majesty alongside and from above, thanks to an overhanging bridge. From the parking lot, it's a 15-minute walk downhill, but the return will be a bit longer.

Next, continue the journey to Archidona, known as the "gateway to the Amazon." Once you arrive at the rainforest lodge, enjoy a traditional lunch made with fresh local ingredients. Then explore the area with your guide, visiting Guitarracocha and Kuyana Island. Take a refreshing swim on the banks of the Río Hollín, keeping your eyes open for colorful birds and insects.

Day 6: See Ushpayacu Waterfalls, Cooking Class & Chocolate Workshop

Ushpayacu Waterfalls
Hike to the jungle waterfalls of Ushpayacu 
Plan your trip to Ecuador
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Enjoy a delicious breakfast at the lodge before starting a guided walk to the waterfalls of Ushpayacu. After a hike and a dip in these refreshing natural pools, you'll return to the lodge to relax. As evening falls, learn to prepare local dishes like maito (fish wrapped and cooked in a leaf) for dinner, then finish the day learning about organic chocolate. Participate in the complete process, from roasting the cocoa beans to enjoying the homemade treats alongside fresh fruit for dessert.

Day 7: Transfer to Quito via the Papallacta Hot Springs

Plant a tree
Plant a tree by the Río Hollín before you leave the rainforest
Learn about the Río Hollín Reforestation Project today and lend a hand by planting a tree—the perfect way to give back during your stay in the rainforest. After a walk through the lodge's beautiful gardens, it's time to say your goodbyes as your driver picks you up and transfers you back into the highlands. On the way, you will stop at the hot springs of Papallacta, where you can enjoy a relaxing soak in the thermal waters and natural hot springs. In the late afternoon, you will arrive back in Quito.

Day 8: Fly to Guayaquil, Transfer to Ayampe

Colorful houses in coastal Guayaquil

Take a domestic flight from Quito to Guayaquil today, where you'll have plenty of time upon arrival to explore Ecuador's largest city. At the Parque Histórico, discover some native species, such as sloths, monkeys, and parrots, in a park recreating the natural mangrove habitat. The next stop could be the Cementerio General, an early 20th-century cemetery where artistic tombs are reminders of the prospering cocoa trade of that time.

Finally, you could walk the historic cobblestone streets of Puerto Santa Ana and the busy boardwalk Malecón 2000 along the Río Guayas. Later on, a driver will take you to the quiet coastal town of Ayampe for the evening, where you can settle into your hotel and catch a spectacular Pacific sunset.

Day 9: Enjoy a Free Day in Ayampe

Beautiful sunsets in Ayampe
Don't miss the beautiful sunsets in Ayampe
Today is free for you to savor the tranquility of the small coastal town of Ayampe, considered one of Ecuador's health and wellness hotspots. Take a nap in a hammock, enjoy food and drink in various small cafés and restaurants, take a yoga class, or just go for a walk on one of the area's beautiful beaches.

Day 10: Learn to Surf in Ayampe

Hit the beach in Ayampe and learn to surf its gentle waves

After a relaxing morning at your hotel, it's time to head to the beach for a surfing lesson. Ayampe's dependable surf and quiet, crowd-free beaches make the perfect spot to learn, and regardless of your experience level, you'll have a great time learning to catch a wave with an expert instructor. After some free time in the afternoon, enjoy a seafood dinner at one of Ayampe's restaurants and catch another sunset from the beach.

Day 11: Visit Isla de los Pajaros & Cocoa Plantation, Transfer to Guayaquil

See frigatebirds like this male on La Isla de Los Pájaros

Start this morning with a visit to Puerto el Morro, a fishing village outside the city. At this particular place, there is a confluence of saltwater and freshwater, which allows the growth of mangroves and creates a perfect habitat for a great variety of marine species. Board a boat tour to Isla de Los Pájaros, a small island home to magnificent frigatebirds, Peruvian boobies, and many other mangrove birds. You might also spot delta dolphins (bottlenose dolphins) following the boat during the trip.

After the boat tour, visit a cocoa plantation, El Castillo, for a fascinating, first-hand look at the techniques and processes that have made Ecuadorian cocoa one of the highest quality cocoas in the world. From here, your driver will take you back to Guayaquil, where you can spend the remainder of the afternoon at your leisure and take your pick of one of the many excellent waterfront restaurants to toast your final night in Ecuador.

Day 12: Depart Guayaquil 

A pedestrian street in Guayaquil
Your Ecuadorian adventure comes to an end today. Depending on your departure time, you could spend a morning strolling through the cheerful streets of Guayaquil and picking up some last-minute souvenirs. When the time comes, your driver will pick you up at your hotel and escort you to the airport to catch your departing flight. Safe travels!

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