- Tour Quito's historical sites and enjoy a cooking class
- Soak in hot springs and see waterfalls around Baños
- Trek through the jungle near Archidona
- Spot unique wildlife on the Galápagos island of San Cristóbal
|Day 1||Arrive in Quito, Ride the TelefériQo Cable Car & Tour La Floresta||Quito|
|Day 2||Colonial Quito City Tour & Mitad del Mundo, Cooking Class in Quito||Quito|
|Day 3||Transfer to Baños via Quilotoa Lagoon||Baños|
|Day 4||Day Trip to Pailón del Diablo Waterfall||Baños|
|Day 5||Baños Hot Springs & Swing at the End of the World, Transfer to Archidona||Archidona|
|Day 6||Jungle Trek & Indigenous Community Encounter||Archidona|
|Day 7||Fly to Isla San Cristóbal & the Galápagos||Isla San Cristóbal|
|Day 8||Snorkeling at Kicker Rock, Dinner by the Sea||Isla San Cristóbal|
|Day 9||Day Trip to Punta Pitt, Depart the Galápagos|
Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Ride the TelefériQo Cable Car & Tour La Floresta
Welcome to Quito, the capital of Ecuador! Upon arrival at Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), your driver will meet you for the one-hour transfer to your accommodation in the city center. Situated between mountain peaks, the city of Quito stands at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,850 m), and its historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It welcomes visitors with its vibrant nightlife and culinary scene, picturesque plazas, shamanic healers, craftspeople, and market stands.
After settling into your accommodation, meet your guide and hop on the TelefériQo cable car, which brings you up to the eastern slopes of the Pichincha volcano for a spectacular view of the city and the surrounding mountains. Take a short walk, or just snap some pictures from different viewpoints. Afterward, head to La Floresta, a traditional neighborhood in Quito, for a walking tour. During this walk, admire the urban artwork and creativity of local artists as you wander through the neighborhood's attractive streets filled with cafés and restaurants.
Day 2: Colonial Quito City Tour & Mitad del Mundo, Cooking Class in Quito
Today, your guide will pick you up from your hotel and take you on a city walking tour. Quito's colonial center is home to many historic squares and buildings and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. You'll visit the Plaza Grande and the beautiful churches of La Compañía de Jesus, with its ornate golden domes and Baroque splendor, and La Basílica del Voto Nacional, the largest neo-Gothic cathedral in Ecuador. Afterward, take a stroll down La Ronda, said to be the oldest street in Quito, where food vendors and local craftsmen ply their wares.
Later, get ready to experience life as a true Quiteño (Quito resident) as you learn how to make three traditional dishes with a gourmet twist. Accompanied by your guide, head to a cooking class venue in a colonial house in the heart of Quito's old town. Prepare a meal under the directions of the instructor, then enjoy a wonderful authentic lunch with vegetarian and vegan options. Afterward, see a monument known as the Mitad del Mundo ("Middle of the World"), which marks the location of the equator and is located just 16 miles (26 km) north of Quito.
Day 3: Transfer to Baños via Quilotoa Lagoon
Today starts with a three-hour drive into the western Ecuadorian Andes, where you'll visit the picturesque Quilotoa Lagoon. Sitting about 12,844 feet (3,915 m) above sea level, this spectacular crater lake was formed centuries ago by a massive volcanic eruption. Take an easy hike of less than an hour down to the edge of the turquoise waters, or embark on a longer 2.5-mile (4 km) three-hour roundtrip excursion to take in more of the scenery. If you're looking for a more relaxed trek, mules are available to rent for the return uphill journey.
Afterward, get back on the road and continue another three hours to Baños, where you'll get settled into your accommodation for the night. Known for its waterfalls, hot springs, and lush scenery, this charming city will serve as your base for the next two nights.
Day 4: Day Trip to Pailón del Diablo Waterfall
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Driving south from Baños along the Avenue of Waterfalls, follow the Río Pastaza along a scenic route through a valley. Passing a number of cascades, you'll reach the small village of Río Verde, where you will stop to see the famous Pailón del Diablo ("Devil's Cauldron") waterfall. If you'd like, you can rent a bike and ride to the falls. In the afternoon, you'll have some free time to visit the thermal pools of Baños or the Casa del Arbol (a treehouse with a viewing deck). If you are looking for some more adrenaline, opt for rafting or ziplining instead. In the evening, return to your accommodation in Baños.
Day 5: Baños Hot Springs & Swing at the End of the World, Transfer to Archidona
Early in the morning, your guide will pick you up and take you to the hot springs in Baños, where you will have the chance to enjoy the healthy mineral waters and relax. Once you've had a soak in the springs, visit the famous Swing at the End of the World, a scenic tree swing hanging over a steep slope. From here, you can observe the Tungurahua, the nearby active volcano. Next, meet your private driver to begin the following leg of your journey. You'll arrive at lunchtime at a beautiful lodge in the historic town of Archidona, the gateway to the Amazon.
After lunch and a quick break, take a short walk to a 40-foot (12 m) waterfall, where you can enjoy an energizing bath. Then, continue onward to see a lagoon and a vineyard and learn about some of the local plant life. When you return to the lodge, savor a delicious dinner as you listen to the unique singing sounds of the lagoon toads. Afterward, you'll be the star of a chocolate session, where you'll learn everything about the process of chocolate making. Start by toasting the beans, then grind them, and finish by tasting a delicious dessert with fruit!
Day 6: Jungle Trek & Indigenous Community Encounter
Wake up to the sounds of the rainforest and enjoy a delicious local breakfast to start off your day filled with nature, wildlife, and adventure. You will head off on an easy three-hour jungle trek surrounded by primary and secondary forest. Begin by crossing a 394-foot (120 m) long cave, where you can find fruit bats. Then move on to the Golondrinas Waterfall, which is approximately 46 feet (14 m) high, and have a dip in its waters. Upon your return, visit a guayusa (Amazonian holly tree) plantation and factory. Traditionally, guayusa leaves are used for making tea.
After a break for lunch, you'll have the chance to interact with the Kichwa community and experience their traditional dances and culture. You'll also learn about the preparation of the famous chicha, a fermented beverage made out of manioc (cassava). In the evening, enjoy a dinner featuring regional specialties, then as darkness falls, take a 40-minute walk around the gardens. Here, you can spot nocturnal species like grasshoppers, insects, frogs, and—if you're lucky—bioluminescent fungi.
Day 7: Fly to Isla San Cristóbal & the Galápagos
Wake up early and transfer back to Quito's Mariscal Sucre International Airport for your flight to the beautiful Galápagos island of San Cristóbal. After checking in to your hotel in the city of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, head to the local Interpretation Center. Here, you will have the chance to learn about wildlife and environmental conservation through exhibition and conference rooms, a natural history room that explains the origin of the islands, and a human history room that describes the presence of humankind since the discovery of the Galápagos.
Afterward, take a short walk to Las Tijeretas Hill, which takes its name from the large number of tijeretas (frigatebirds) that inhabit and nest in this area. Stop at several viewpoints en route to observe the passage of whales, mainly between the months of June and October. If time allows, you will also visit La Lobería, a great site to view colonies of sea lions and marine iguanas. You'll find patches of salt marsh here, as well as vegetation like common mangroves, palo verde, and muyuyo (yellow cordia). In the evening, return to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno for your next day of adventure.
Day 8: Snorkeling at Kicker Rock, Dinner by the Sea
Enjoy a day trip to Kicker Rock, one of the best-known spots in the Galápagos. Ride there on a comfortable speed boat that will navigate you along the coast of San Cristóbal Island. Kicker Rock is made of compacted volcanic ash, which towers up almost 500 feet (152 m) from the ocean floor. It is split into two above-surface structures connected below the surface, with a channel running between them. The rock is home to many birds, including tropicbirds, frigatebirds, Nazca boobies, and blue-footed boobies.
Once you arrive, explore the underwater world on a snorkeling excursion, where you'll get up close and personal with the area's marine wildlife. When the excursion is finished, have lunch on the boat and head to a beautiful, pristine beach. There, take some time to relax and warm up in the sunshine before heading back to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno in the afternoon. Tonight, you have dinner reservations booked to enjoy a delicious meal in a restaurant by the sea.
Day 9: Day Trip to Punta Pitt, Depart the Galápagos
It's your last day in the Galápagos! If you have time today, visit Punta Pitt by boat. Punta Pitt is located in the extreme east of San Cristóbal. Nearby is a 295-foot (90 m) trail leading to an olivine (green sand) beach, and another trail that ascends to the top of a hill made of volcanic tuff, passing through various natural viewpoints and lookouts along the way. The strong winds in this place have caused natural erosion.
This is the only spot in the Galápagos Islands where you can observe all three species of boobies, as well as the two species of frigates making their nests in the same area. An additional attraction here is the presence of many sea lions. After the hike, return to the boat for a snorkeling excursion, where you'll see a variety of fish, black-tipped reef sharks, marine turtles, and manta rays. Once the excursion is finished, return to your accommodation and transfer to the airport for your flight to the Ecuadorian mainland, where you'll catch your connection home. Buen viaje!