With 14 days in Ecuador, the hard part is narrowing down where to go. Many visitors come for the Galápagos, but the mainland swells with natural beauty, colonial architecture in walkable towns and diverse indigenous cultures still practicing traditional arts and lifestyles. The gorgeous landscapes range from beaches to snow-covered equatorial volcanoes and finally humid jungles feeding into the Amazon.

Overview

Fourteen days in Ecuador gives plenty of time to cover several of Ecuador's four zones: the coast, the Andes, the Amazon, and the Galápagos Islands. While you could conceivably do it all in one trip, it's probably best to opt for two or three zones, in order to relax and savor all they have to offer. Birders and wildlife-watchers will want to hit the Galápagos or the Amazon – doing both in one trip is a dream come true for nature lovers.

 

#1 Ecuador Highlights: Quito, Cuenca, Galápagos & Amazonía

An indigenous woman in the market town of Otavalo.
Day Activity Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Quito Quito
Day 2 Otavalo market Otavalo
Day 3 Hiking around Lagunas de Mojanda Quito
Day 4 Cuenca Cuenca
Day 5 Ingapirca Cuenca
Day 6 Fly to Galápagos via Guayaquil Galápagos 
Day 7 Galápagos  Galápagos 
Day 8 Galápagos  Galápagos 
Day 9 Galápagos  Galápagos 
Day 10 Fly back to Quito; Old Town city tour Quito
Day 11 Fly to Coca; begin down Lower Río Napo  Jungle lodge
Day 12 Explore the jungle and river Jungle lodge 
Day 13 Visit indigenous village Jungle lodge 
Day 14 Return to Quito via Coca   
     

Take advantage of cross-country flights, none of which last much more than an hour, in order to pack in as much of Ecuador's rich diversity as possible. From the Andean highlands, head west for close encounters with Galápagos wildlife, then east into the Amazonian jungle.

After arriving in Quito, travel north to Otavalo, famous for its quality textiles and its market, which you'll find at its biggest on Saturdays. Browse for beautiful Otavalo embroidery, woolen clothing, and blankets, shopping amid the local indigenous people in their traditional garb. Following market day, once you've acclimated a bit to the altitude, you can hike around nearby Lagunas de Mojanda.

From Quito, fly south to the charming colonial city of Cuenca, where walking the city center reveals a multitude of churches and cathedrals, green parks and plazas, and excellent museums highlighting Ecuadorian culture. Day trip to Ingapirca, Ecuador's most intact archaeological ruins, where both the Inca and Cañari people made their mark.

Leave the Andes to fly westward to the famed Galápagos Islands to island-hop for a few days, to move among the diverse island wildlife, encountering gigantic Galápagos tortoises, sea lions, and blue-footed boobies.

After soaking up the island splendor, fly back to Quito and tour the Old Town if time permits. Then head eastward to Coca, where you'll catch a motorized canoe down the Río Napo and venture deep into the Amazon jungle. Look for colorful birds, monkeys, and frogs as you hike the rainforest, and watch parrots of all sizes flock to salt clay licks. Visit indigenous communities to learn about their traditions and sample some chicha (fermented cassava drink) or steamed piranha.

Return to Quito via Coca.

#2 Best of the Andes & Amazonía

Journey in the Amazon by boat, a great way to experience the flora and fauna of the jungle. 
Day Activity Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Quito Quito
Day 2 Hiking in Mindo Mindo
Day 3 Hiking in Cotopaxi National Park Hacienda near park
Day 4 Fly to Cuenca Cuenca
Day 5 Cajas National Park Cuenca
Day 6 Bus to Vilcabamba Vilcabamba
Day 7 Horseback riding Vilcabamba
Day 8 Bus to Loja Loja
Day 9 Podocarpus National Park Loja
Day 10 Fly to Quito Quito
Day 11 Fly to Lago Agrio Jungle lodge
Day 12 Explore Cuyabeno Jungle lodge
Day 13 Explore Cuyabeno Jungle lodge
Day 14 Return to Quito  
     

Get a fix of both mountain and jungle on this trip, beginning in the cloud forest and ending in a rainforest.

After arriving in Quito, spend your first full day exploring one of the cloud forest reserves around Mindo and acclimatizing to the altitude. Then move on to hike in Cotopaxi National Park, admiring views of Ecuador's stunning volcanic peak. Return for a cozy evening in one of the haciendas near the national park.

Next, head south on a flight to Cuenca, viewing snow-capped Andean peaks pass below. Stretch your legs with a walking tour of the colonial architecture, ethnographic and contemporary art museums, and craft beer. From Cuenca, take a day trip to hike in Cajas National Park, a windswept wonderland of páramo (alpine grasslands) inset with sparkling blue lakes – come prepared for wet weather.

The winding road to Vilcabamba drops you into this green little valley for a bit of horseback riding and hiking. If you're feeling ambitious, you can hike Cerro Mandango for stunning 360-degree views of all the tiny valleys below. From Vilcabamba, backtrack northwards to Loja, your base for exploring Podocarpus National Park. In this sector of the park, your hike through mist and wind will be rewarded with wild, lush cloud forest scenery from dramatic ridgelines.

From Loja, fly back to Quito, exploring Old Town Quito if time permits. An early-morning flight to Lago Agrio in the far north of the country will begin your journey into the jungle of Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. After driving to the Río Cuyabeno, you'll board a motorized canoe into the rainforest. With your jungle lodge as a base, you'll visit local indigenous communities and ply the rivers and lagoons in search of atavistic birds, river dolphins, and anacondas.

Traveling back the way you came, return to Quito for departure.

#3 Active Adventure in the Andes

Cotopaxi National Park offers excellent scope for high altitude hikes.
Day Activity Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Quito Quito
Day 2 Acclimatization and walking tour of Old Town Quito Quito
Day 3 Hiking in Cotopaxi National Park Hacienda near park
Day 4 Summiting Cotopaxi Park Refugio
Day 5 Bus to Riobamba Riobamba
Day 6 Hiking Volcán Chimborazo Riobamba
Day 7 Mountain biking Riobamba
Day 8 Bus to Macas Macas
Day 9 Caving at Cueva de Los Tayos Macas
Day 10 Bus to Tena Tena
Day 11 Whitewater rafting or kayaking Tena
Day 12 More whitewater or hiking Tena
Day 13 More whitewater or hiking Baeza
Day 14 Thermal pools at Papallacta; depart  
     

The journey is part of this active adventure, as you travel the Andes in pursuit of altitudinous and gravity-driven pleasures.

But first, take a day to acclimatize to the altitude with a walking tour of Quito's beautiful colonial Old Town, enjoying the backdrop of mountains surrounding the city. Take it up a notch the next day by hiking around Cotopaxi National Park. If altitude sickness doesn't strike – and note that even the very fit can succumb – begin your ascent of Volcán Cotopaxi the following evening. Whether you reach the top or not, hiking this iconic mountain affords incredible views.

Descend the mountain and catch a bus to Riobamba, where you can spend a couple of days hiking Ecuador's highest mountain, Volcán Chimborazo, and/or mountain-biking down it. The Riobamba area has great mountain-biking for all levels. Hop on another bus heading south to Macas, where you'll go caving on a day-long expedition to Cueva de Los Tayos – not for the faint of heart. After exploring this underground cave system carved by water, trek northward to Tena, Ecuador's whitewater central.

Various rivers around Tena run through forested valleys, featuring exciting Class III to Class V rapids. Novice rafters to experienced kayakers will find a perfect river trip for their level, and Tena itself makes a pleasant base for waterfall hikes and float trips. From Tena, the gorgeous mountain road leads up to Baeza, where you can spend more time running whitewater or hike to an abundance of waterfalls.

On your last day, soak sore muscles in the divine thermal pools of Papallacta, about an hour away from Quito's international airport.

#4 Coastline Journey & the Galápagos Islands

Galápagos creatures
The diverse range of wildlife is a highlight of the Galápagos Islands.
Day Activity Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Quito Quito
Day 2 Fly to Manta, bus to Bahía de Caráquez Bahía de Caráquez
Day 3 Day trip to Chirije Bahía de Caráquez
Day 4 Bus to Canoa Canoa
Day 5 Beach and surfing Canoa
Day 6 Bus to Manta; day trip to Montecristi Manta
Day 7 Bus to Puerto López Puerto López
Day 8 Machalilla National Park Puerto López
Day 9 Isla de la Plata Puerto López
Day 10 Bus to Guayaquil Guayaquil
Day 11 Fly to Galápagos Galápagos
Day 12 Galápagos Galápagos
Day 13 Galápagos Galápagos
Day 14 Return to Quito; depart  
     

If a beach holiday is in order, make it count with one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites – the Galápagos Islands.

After a restful night in Quito, catch a flight to Manta on the Pacific coast, then a bus to Bahía de Caráquez. Enjoy some ceviche and cerveza after a long day of travel. In the morning, set off for a day trip to the nearby archaeological site and small museum of Chirije. Spend the next couple of days sunning and surfing just north in Canoa, a quieter locale with a lovely beach for proper relaxation.

Break up the trip with a stop in Manta, from where you can visit the town of Montecristi, home of the straw hat better known as the Panama. Or, opt to ride all the way down to Puerto López in one long day.

Make a foray from Puerto López to the coastal Machalilla National Park, which ranges from ocean to beach to tropical dry forest to cloud forest, full of wildlife including howler monkeys and a variety of seabirds. Puerto López is also the jumping-off point for boat trips to Isla de la Plata, an appetizer of sorts for your impending journey to the magical Galápagos Islands.

You'll fly to the Galápagos from Guayaquil, spending several days exploring these natural museums by boat, powered by your own fins and snorkel, and on foot. You'll have a chance to get up close to tropical fish, marine iguanas, charismatic cetaceans, bird colonies, sea turtles, and all manner of wonderfully diverse wildlife.

After sun, ocean air, and memorable encounters with Galápagos creatures take a flight back to Quito.

Map

Map of Great Itinerary Suggestions for 2 Weeks in Ecuador
Map of Great Itinerary Suggestions for 2 Weeks in Ecuador

Recent Trip Reviews

Related trips planned by kimkim specialists

12 days in ecuador , Ecuador - May 29 - Jun 1, 2018

Traveler: Kati M. - Local specialist: Mathias Onisseit

We had an incredible trip to Nicky Lodge on the Aguarico River. Our primary guide, Evi, was incredibly knowledgable (able to name nearly every species we asked about by its scientific name and also in Spanish, English and one or two of the local dialects), patient and fun. The secondary guide was not quite as knowledgable, but had a great knack for spotting hard-to-see animals. The guides (and the canoe drivers, too) paid close attention to the interests of our group, and would happily stop... read more

We had an incredible trip to Nicky Lodge on the Aguarico River. Our primary guide, Evi, was incredibly knowledgable (able to name nearly every species we asked about by its scientific name and also in Spanish, English and one or two of the local dialects), patient and fun. The secondary guide was not quite as knowledgable, but had a great knack for spotting hard-to-see animals. The guides (and the canoe drivers, too) paid close attention to the interests of our group, and would happily stop (or turn around) the boat to point out interesting creatures.

The lodgings were very comfortable, with running water (and it got nice and hot, important for the days we got soaked by the rain), but with no bells-and-whistles which made it feel like a proper jungle experience. The food was also simple but delicious, and the staff was very attentive to food allergies (my mom is gluten free).

Of course, in the jungle it's the plants and animals which really draw your attention - but the professionalism, comfort and service at Nicky Lodge made the whole trip seamless and wonderful.

Thanks!

12 days in ecuador , Ecuador - May 29 - Jun 1, 2018

Traveler: George M. - Local specialist: Mathias Onisseit

Mathias did a great job in setting up our 4-day adventure to the Amazon. He was very easy to communicate with and helpful in planning our trip - great advice, great service. All of the arrangements went smoothly and we loved the accommodations. We had a wonderful time!