The small South American country of Ecuador is rich in wildlife, biodiversity, and natural beauty. Active kids, whatever their ages, will love this two-week tour of the country, which takes you from the high-altitude capital of Quito to the Andean plains, the jungles of the Amazon, and the cloud forests of Mindo. Horseback ride across the highlands, take night and daytime tours of the rainforest, admire dramatic waterfalls, zipline through a cloud forest, and much more.


  • Take a family horseback ride through Cotopaxi National Park
  • Visit a wildlife sanctuary in the Ecuadorian Amazon
  • Drive along the famous Route of Waterfalls in Baños
  • Shop for colorful crafts and souvenirs at Otavalo Market
  • Zipline through the cloud forests of Mindo

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito Quito
Day 2 Educational Museum Tour, Visit the Vivarium de Quito Reptile Park Quito
Day 3 Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park, Laguna de Limpiopungo Walk Cotopaxi
Day 4 Horseback Riding & High Ropes in Cotopaxi National Park Cotopaxi
Day 5 Hike at Laguna Quilotoa, Transfer to Baños Baños
Day 6 Free Day in Baños, Ecuador's Adventure Capital Baños
Day 7 Route of Waterfalls Drive, Journey Upriver to Itamandi EcoLodge Tena
Day 8 Visit Anaconda Island & the AmaZOOnico Wildlife Sanctuary Tena
Day 9 Transfer to Papallacta, Splash Around in the Hot Springs Papallacta
Day 10 Transfer to Otavalo via Peguche Falls Otavalo
Day 11 Laguna de San Pablo Nature Tour & Parque el Condor Otavalo
Day 12 Visit Otavalo Market, Transfer to Mindo Mindo
Day 13 Family-Friendly Activities in Mindo Cloud Forest Mindo
Day 14 Transfer to Quito, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito

Adjust to the altitude with a stroll through central Quito

Welcome to Ecuador! After arriving at the airport in Tababela, your driver will meet you and take you to Quito, less than an hour's drive away. After taking some time to settle into your hotel, venture out into the city for some leisurely family sightseeing. Quito, sitting at an elevation of 9,350 feet (2,850 m), is one of the highest cities in the world, and its breathtaking views are sure to impress everyone in the family. Make sure to take it easy after arrival, though, so everyone has a chance to adjust to the altitude.

Take a stroll through Plaza Foch, a bustling hub for shopping, dining, and people-watching, then head over to Parque Metropolitano Guangüiltagua, one of the largest urban parks in the Americas, with plentiful playgrounds and even a resident herd of llamas. Depending on the time and how the kids are feeling after the trip, end the day with a cable car ride to the top of Cruz Loma to admire Quito's skyline at sunset.

Day 2: Educational Museum Tour, Visit the Vivarium de Quito Reptile Park

Kids can meet reptiles and amphibians at Quito's Vivarium

After a good night's sleep, get out into the city to explore. Start by checking out a great museum that will give you and your kids a thorough overview of Ecuador's history, so you can better make sense of the cultures and landscapes you'll experience throughout your trip. The Templo de la Patria Museum is located on the slopes of the Pichincha volcano, where the famous Cima de la Libertad battle took place. The museum remembers the soldiers and illustrious characters who fought for the liberation of Ecuador and the wider Americas. Check out dynamic murals, artifacts, statues, and more.

In the afternoon, head to the Vivarium de Quito, the flagship project of the Gustavo Orcés Herpetological Foundation, a center specializing in the management of amphibians and reptiles. Kids of all ages will love seeing the over 40 species here, including lizards, snakes, and turtles, and learning more about them with interactive and engaging exhibits.

Day 3: Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park, Laguna de Limpiopungo Walk

Quito - Cotopaxi National Park
Enjoy the views of wild horses beneath the Cotopaxi volcano in Cotopaxi National Park

After breakfast today, your driver will take you two hours south of Quito to Cotopaxi National Park, where you and the kids can experience the wild beauty of Ecuador on a grand scale. Admire the sweeping landscapes of the Andean highlands, crowned by the snowcapped peak of the Cotopaxi volcano.

Spot wild horses and fuzzy alpacas, stop for a hike around the beautiful Laguna de Limpiopungo, and explore the ruins of an ancient Inca military fortress at El Salitre. In the afternoon, continue your journey to a cozy local hacienda (estate), which will be your family's home for the next two nights.

Day 4: Horseback Riding & High Ropes in Cotopaxi National Park

Get ready for an afternoon of thrills at the hacienda as the family braves a high ropes course

Explore more of the national park today, starting with an epic horseback ride through Cotopaxi National Park. Animal-loving kids will especially enjoy learning more about how the local chagras (Ecuadorian cowboys) live and work in the high mountains of the Andes. Take a gentle ride up to a traditional hacienda for sweeping views of the páramo (typical Andean landscape) and the snowcapped peak of Cotopaxi. Remind your kids to look out for wild horses, rabbits, birds, and deer along the way.

In the afternoon, you and your family can share some laughs during a high and low ropes course at the hacienda. Traverse a series of ladders, nets, tightropes, swinging logs, wobbly bridges, and more fun surprises 20 feet (6 m) off the ground. Young adventurers (from 6 to 12 years old) can participate in the kids' course, which is lower but just as exciting!

Day 5: Hike at Laguna Quilotoa, Transfer to Baños

Little ones can hop on a mule for the return hike from Laguna Quilotoa 

Travel further south today to the Ecuadorian Amazon, but not before stopping for some family fun at Laguna Quilotoa, a blue-green volcanic crater lake within the Andes. Depending on how everyone's feeling, you have the option to walk along the crater's rim or hike for 45 minutes down a path to the water's edge. The views of the lake are spectacular up close, and if the weather's good, you might like to have a paddle in a kayak. Otherwise, there's a jetty here that you can walk down for some family photos with a stunning backdrop, and you can sit on the beach and take in the views while the kids play.

The return journey up to where you started is uphill, but you can rent a mule to carry the kids (or all of you!) if you're feeling tired. After this scenic excursion, you'll get back on the road for the three-hour transfer south to Baños de Agua Santa, a mountain city famous for its dramatic waterfalls and outdoor adventure sports that serves as your base for the next two nights.

Day 6: Free Day in Baños, Ecuador's Adventure Capital

Go for a swing at the "End of the World" in Baños

Enjoy a relaxing or active day in Baños today, depending on how your family is feeling at this midpoint in the trip. Baños is named after the nearby hot springs with healing waters, so you and the kids might want to take a dip. Or, stay active with a rafting, canyoning, bungee jumping, hiking, or mountain biking excursion.

Don't miss a visit to the most famous treehouse in the world, the Casa del Árbol. This quaint-looking simple playground is home to the Swing at the End of the World, popular with all ages as the perfect setting for a dramatic photograph. Enjoy the views of Baños and Mount Tungurahua from the mountain's edge as you and the kids swing your hearts out—just make sure someone remembers to take the photos! 

Day 7: Route of Waterfalls Drive, Journey Upriver to Itamandi EcoLodge

Baños - Waterfalls - Itamandi Lodge
Feel the kids' excitement as you journey into the Amazon by motorized canoe to reach the ecolodge
Plan your trip to Ecuador
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Your driver will take you on a spectacularly scenic drive today along the Ruta de Cascadas (Waterfall Route). Journey toward the village of Río Verde, spotting the route's namesake cascades as you travel. When you arrive, you'll take a short hike to one of the best-known waterfalls in the area, the Pailón del Diablo (Devil's Cauldron). Here, dramatic cascades drop steeply 265 feet (81 m) through the lush cloud forest. Cross a suspension bridge and descend many steps to get to the falls, which are definitely worth the effort.

After, continue the drive toward Itamandi EcoLodge. You'll be driven to a port on the Río Arajuno, where you'll meet your naturalist guide for the 20-minute journey upstream in a motorized canoe. Kids can keep an eye out for wildlife on the banks, and your guide will explain how the river winds through the jungle like a giant snake and is considered to be the main system of Pacha Mama (Mother Earth).

Upon arrival at the lodge, get settled into your comfortable accommodations and grab some rest. If the kids are itching to explore their surroundings, they can join a night walk before dinner. A flashlight and camera are the most important tools in this nocturnal excursion, which allows you and the little ones to see and hear fishing bats, owls, some insects, tarantulas, toads, and frogs as darkness falls and the jungle comes alive with nocturnal animals.

Day 8: Visit Anaconda Island & the AmaZOOnico Wildlife Sanctuary

Itamandi Eco Lodge: Anaconda Island & AmaZOOnico 
Get to know the animals of the Amazon with a memorable visit to the AmaZOOnico sanctuary

There's more Amazonian adventure in store today as you hop in a canoe for the 40-minute ride downriver to Anaconda Island. On this stretch of land where the Río Napo and Río Arajuno meet, keen-eyed youngsters can spot the flamboyant hoatzin bird and playful woolly and squirrel monkeys. Next, you'll go ashore to visit a family in one of the local Indigenous communities and 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, sure to be a hit with the kids. This wildlife sanctuary rehabilitates Amazonian creatures that were victims of illegal trafficking, with the aim of reintroducing them back into their natural habitats. Animal lovers will be delighted by the up-close encounters with critters such as monkeys, macaws, ocelots, capybaras, toucans, and parrots. Later, return to the lodge to enjoy its facilities—if you haven't tried out its outdoor pool yet, now's your chance!

Day 9: Transfer to Papallacta, Splash Around in the Hot Springs

The whole family can enjoy soaking in the Termas de Papallacta spa

Enjoy the sounds of the rainforest one last time before leaving the lodge and heading back along the Río Arajuno by canoe. From there, a three-hour transfer north will take you to the town of Papallacta, on the outskirts of Quito. Here you'll get settled in at the Termas de Papallacta resort, where you'll spend the night. Made up of eight natural geothermal pools in a beautiful forest setting, complete with a view of the Antisana volcano, this luxurious complex is the perfect place to take a dip after your time on the road.

With a shallower pool for kids, hot pools, steam baths, Jacuzzis, mud baths, and massages, there's an option to suit each member of the family. The mineral-rich water is famous for its therapeutic powers, and for those needing nourishment of another variety, there are several great restaurants. 

Day 10: Transfer to Otavalo via Peguche Falls

Look out for cute camelids when you stop to explore Peguche Falls

After a night of spa indulgence, today, your driver will pick your family up for the two-hour drive north to Otavalo, a town in the northern Andean highlands famous for its Indigenous culture and colorful daily market. As you near the town, stop to stretch your legs at the Peguche Waterfall. Considered one of the highlights of this region, this beautiful 50-foot (18 m) cascade holds special significance to the Indigenous Kichwa community, and ritual purification baths are held here every June.

If the kids want to venture farther afield, you can take a walk in the surrounding landscapes of Bosque Protector Cascada de Peguche (Peguche Waterfall Protected Forest), considered one of the most beautiful forests in northern Ecuador, or continue north of Otavalo to see Laguna de Cuicocha, a stunning crater lake with small islands you can boat to. When you're ready to settle in for the afternoon, head to town and get checked into your hotel, then venture out to sample some traditional Otavalan cuisine for dinner.

Day 11: Laguna de San Pablo Nature Tour & Parque El Condor

Go bird-watching on today's boat trip around Laguna de San Pablo

Parents and kids alike will love today's full-day excursion filled with nature and wildlife. Your adventure starts just five minutes outside of Otavalo at Laguna de San Pablo, a beautiful lake formed at the foot of the Imbabura volcano, where the waters that run into the Peguche Waterfall originate. Today you'll take a boat trip around this natural wonder, whose important ecosystem is home to herons, ducks, amphibians, and many aquatic plants. Stop for a leisurely family lunch with lovely views overlooking the lake, and make sure to grab some family photos against the dramatic backdrop.

Then it's on to the nearby Parque El Condor, whose lofty setting offers sweeping 360-degree views of the surrounding valleys and volcanoes. This nonprofit sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates the region's raptors and birds of prey, including the endangered Andean condor, and offers a rare chance to see this enormous bird up close. Curious kids will want to catch one of the park's bird shows to learn more about these incredible creatures, while younger ages might want to head to the on-site playground to burn off some energy.

Day 12: Visit the Otavalo Market, Transfer to Mindo

Shop for fun and colorful souvenirs at Otavalo Market

Otavalo is famous for its market, and you and your kids will be able to indulge in some fun retail therapy today while learning more about local culture. This is one of the most famous traditional markets in South America, where the Indigenous Kichwa people from the surrounding areas gather to trade everything from animals to handicrafts to fresh vegetables and fruits. Stroll through the streets and try some of the local street food, such as salted mango or fritada con mote (fried pork with cooked corn).

After the kids have picked out some one-of-a-kind souvenirs, your driver will be waiting to transfer you three hours southwest to Mindo, a small town nestled among the cool and misty cloud forests of Ecuador's western Andean slopes. This region's unique climate and setting make it a haven of biodiversity, and it boasts some of the highest concentrations of bird species in the world. Get settled in at your hotel, and enjoy a quiet night in the peaceful surroundings.

Day 13: Family-Friendly Activities in Mindo Cloud Forest

See exotic butterflies and birds in the forests of Mindo

Get out of the city today to explore more of the lush cloud forests around Mindo. Stretching over 48,000 acres (19,200 ha) and reaching heights of 15,700 feet (4,778 m), this is one of the most biologically diverse places in the world, and there's no shortage of nature-based activities and adventure sports on offer for all ages.

Explore the forest and let the little ones keep a tally of the countless birds, butterflies, and insects that call the region home. Visit the beautiful Butterfly Garden, hike to nearby waterfalls, or fly between the treetops on a zipline for older kids eager for an adrenaline hit. Reward yourselves afterward with a visit to Mindo Chocolate Makers and meet the Michigan couple harnessing the region's perfect cocoa-growing conditions to create their own ethically sourced chocolate, which, naturally, you and the kids will need to sample. 

Day 14: Transfer to Quito, Depart

Farewell Quito

All good things must come to an end, and today it's time to say goodbye to Ecuador. Your driver will pick you up for the two-hour transfer back to Quito and the airport, where you'll catch your departing flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Active Family Adventure in Ecuador: Andes, Amazon & Cloud Forest - 14 Days
Map of Active Family Adventure in Ecuador: Andes, Amazon & Cloud Forest - 14 Days