- Explore Quito's colonial city center
- Go horseback riding in Cotopaxi National Park
- Soak in hot springs at the edge of the Amazon in Baños
- See giant tortoises and marine iguanas in the Galápagos
|Arrive in Quito, Free Afternoon
|Quito City Tour, Visit the Mitad del Mundo
|Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park, Horseback Riding
|Transfer to Baños, Day Trip to Pailón del Diablo Waterfall
|Transfer to Guamote via Chimborazo Volcano
|Transfer to Cuenca, Free Evening
|Transfer Guayaquil via Cajas National Park & Cacao Tour
|Overnight Trip to Puerto López
|Boat Tour to Isla de la Plata, Return to Guayaquil
|Fly to the Galápagos, Visit Charles Darwin Research Station
|Isla Santa Cruz
|Wildlife Tour on Isla Isabela
|Speedboat to Isla Santa Cruz, Free Afternoon
|Isla Santa Cruz
|Return to the Mainland, Depart
Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Free Afternoon
Situated between mountain peaks, Quito, the Ecuadorian capital, welcomes visitors with its vibrant nightlife, impressive culinary scene, picturesque plazas, and traditional market stands. Upon arrival, a driver will greet you and transfer you to your accommodation.
The rest of the day is yours to explore at your own pace. If you're feeling adventurous, ride a cable car up the slopes of the nearby Pichincha volcano for dazzling views over the city from 12,942 feet (3,944 m) up. Alternatively, walk around the narrow streets of the historic colonial center, where you'll find markets filled with traditional food stands and souvenirs.
Day 2: Quito City Tour, Visit the Mitad del Mundo
After breakfast, a guide will pick you up for a walking tour of Quito. Start at the colonial center, a World Heritage Site home to numerous historic buildings and squares. Visit Plaza Grande and the beautiful churches of La Compañía and La Basílica. Then, walk down the oldest street of Quito, La Ronda, before heading to an Ecuadorian cooking class inside a colonial house.
Afterward, make your way to Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) to stand on the Equatorial line. Strike a pose with one foot in each hemisphere, and see how balance is affected at latitude zero. Get cultured at the museums and on-site exhibits like the Planetarium, the Ethnographic Museum, and the Artisanal Beer Museum. There is also a small-scale model of Quito that puts the city into perspective.
Day 3: Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park, Horseback Riding
Embark on a road trip to Cotopaxi National Park today, one of Ecuador's most visited natural landmarks. On the way, stop at Limpiopungo Lagoon for a short hike to enjoy the panoramic mountain views as they are reflected on the lagoon. Keep an eye out for wildlife, which includes numerous birds and, occasionally, wild horses.
Arrive at a traditional hacienda or estate, which will be your base for the night. Spend the afternoon exploring the impressive national park on a three-hour horseback ride. On the way, you'll pass through paramos, a rare Andean ecosystem that only exists in five countries, while taking in views of Cotopaxi volcano and the glacier surrounding it.
Day 4: Transfer to Baños, Day Trip to Pailón del Diablo WaterfallToday, your driver will take you to Baños, a town situated on the edge of the Amazon Rainforest. The town's unique geographic location makes it a perfect adventure destination, with access to jungle hikes, hidden waterfalls, and thermal pools. Travelers can also enjoy engaging in activities like rafting and ziplining to get an adrenaline rush.
Alternatively, you can do a day trip along the Avenue of Waterfalls, following the Río Pastaza on a scenic valley route. Pass by several waterfalls to reach the small village of Río Verde. Stop to see the famous El Pailón del Diablo (Devil's Cauldron) waterfall from a hanging bridge.
Day 5: Transfer to Guamote via Chimborazo Volcano
Leave early in the morning for a day spent exploring the imposing volcano of Chimborazo. You'll see it from afar as you drive, but the true adventure will be to walk up to the Carrell Refuge, which stands at 15,748 feet (4,800 m) above sea level. The views of the surrounding valleys and mountains are splendid.
Afterward, continue your journey toward Guamote, a small Andean town where you will spend the night. Take the opportunity to walk around town. Grab a bite, get a drink, meet local people, and find some interesting souvenirs to take home.
Day 6: Transfer to Cuenca, Free Evening
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Continue your journey south to Cuenca, passing through the dunes of Palmira. You can also stop at Baños del Inca, which contains pre-Columbian ruins and a fantastic hot spring. Then, explore Gualaceo, a town nicknamed the "Garden of Ecuador" because of its beautiful orchids.
Once you arrive in Cuenca, you'll have the rest of the afternoon at your leisure. Make the most of your time in this Andean city by walking around Parque Calderón and visiting its blue-domed Catedral Nueva. Other noteworthy landmarks include the Catedral Vieja and the Río Tomebamba waterfront promenade, where you can buy handicrafts.
Day 7: Transfer to Guayaquil via Cajas National Park & Cacao Tour
Say goodbye to Cuenca and head farther south. Your first stop today is Cajas National Park, which comprises more than 200 interconnected high-altitude lagoons. Take time to enjoy the view from one of the lookout points or take a short walk to one of the deep blue lagoons.
Head westward for a cacao and chocolate-making tour at a traditional hacienda, where you'll have lunch. In the afternoon, drive through verdant landscapes covered in lush vegetation until you reach Guayaquil, Ecuador's biggest city. If you have time, head to the Simón Bolívar waterfront promenade to see the city's famous La Rotonda monument.
Day 8: Overnight Trip to Puerto López
Start the day with a drive north along the coast. Take in the landscapes as you make your way to the small fishing village of Puerto López. Relax in your accommodation before meeting your guide for a half-day trip to Los Frailes Beach. Considered one of the most beautiful beaches on mainland Ecuador, this oceanside attraction is part of Machalilla National Park.Spend the day swimming, snorkeling, and relaxing on the sand. Once the sun starts to set, go back to Puerto López for dinner. Walk about town, appreciating the laid-back vibe of the village before turning in for the night.
Day 9: Boat Tour to Isla de la Plata, Return to Guayaquil
Board a small yacht in Puerto López to the wonderful Isla de la Plata (Silver Island). This natural landmark was named for the local legend that claims Sir Francis Drake once buried treasure here. Part of the Machalilla National Park, it is home to sea lions, blue-footed boobies, frigatebirds, and waved albatrosses. Walk around the island before snorkeling to explore the world beneath it.
On the way back to the mainland, you may see humpback whales in the middle of their migration. Even if it's not the right season, the scenic journey will be pleasant. Once you're back in Puerto López, your private guide will drive you to Guayaquil for the night. If you have the energy to go out, visit the Malecón 2000 boardwalk, or walk around Santa Ana Hill, a street dotted with cafés and galleries.
Day 10: Fly to the Galápagos, Visit Charles Darwin Research Station
Early this morning, catch a flight to the Galápagos Islands, the remarkable collection of islands that inspired Charles Darwin's "Theory of Evolution." After arriving at Baltra Airport, a local guide will pick you up and take you to Puerto Ayora, a tourist hub on the neighboring island of Santa Cruz.
Make a stop at a local farm in the highlands, where there are dozens of giant tortoises. Wander around on your own to appreciate these majestic creatures. Later, visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, then head to the nearby Fausto Llerena Breeding Center, where giant Galápagos tortoises are bred and cared for.
Day 11: Wildlife Tour on Isla Island
Rise early to catch a public speedboat to the island of Isabela. Spend the two-hour trip appreciating the watery scenery that surrounds you. After arriving on the island, go to the Flamingo Lagoon or the Giant Tortoise Breeding Station to learn more about the local wildlife.
Then it's time to tour the nearby Tintoreras Islet. Glimpse Humboldt penguins, marine iguanas, sea lions, sharks, and more while hiking or snorkeling. Once time is up, head back to Isabela for the evening, where you can sit outside in the dark and listen to the nocturnal wildlife wake up as the day ends.