Explore Ecuador's diverse beauty during this eight-day adventure from mountains to islands. Start among the Andes in Quito, where you'll learn about its traditional food and colonial Old Town. Head into nature to hike in Cotopaxi National Park and see its active volcano, then hop over to the Galápagos Islands. Get up close to the giant tortoises on Isla Santa Cruz, spot rare marine life as you kayak along Tortuga Bay, then spend some downtime swimming, snorkeling, or just lazing on the beach.


  • Explore key highlights in Quito and learn about its food and colonial past
  • Hike Cotopaxi National Park for extraordinary views of its active volcano
  • See marine life up close at the Charles Darwin Station
  • Discover the Galápagos wildlife of Tortuga Bay and Isla Santa Cruz

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito Quito
Day 2 Otavalo Market & Cooking Class Quito
Day 3 Hike at Cotopaxi National Park Quito
Day 4 Colonial Quito City Tour & Visit Mitad del Mundo Quito
Day 5 Fly to the Galápagos Islands, Santa Cruz Highlands & Charles Darwin Station Isla Santa Cruz
Day 6 Kayak in Tortuga Bay, Tour of Isla Santa Cruz  Isla Santa Cruz
Day 7 Explore an Uninhabited Island Isla Santa Cruz
Day 8 Free Time on Isla Santa Cruz, Depart via Quito  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito

Views over Quito and Cotopaxi
Views over Quito and Cotopaxi

Welcome to Quito, the capital of Ecuador! Upon arrival at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport, your driver will meet you for the one-hour transfer to your accommodation in the city center. Nestled between mountain peaks, the city stands at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,850 m) and welcomes visitors with its vibrant nightlife and culinary scene, picturesque plazas, shamanic healers, craftspeople, and market stands.

Spend today exploring Quito at your own pace. Visit the UNESCO-listed historic center to discover the colonial churches of San Francisco, La Compañia de Jesús, and other historical landmarks, or if you're feeling adventurous, ride a cable car up to the slopes of the nearby Pichincha volcano for dazzling views over the city at 12,942 feet (3,944 m).

Day 2: Otavalo Market & Cooking Class

Otavalo Market
See local produce and bargain for handicrafts at Otavalo Market

In the morning, visit Otavalo Market, one of South America's most important and traditional markets. Indigenous people gather here to buy and trade everything from handicrafts to fresh vegetables and fruits. With a local chef, you'll discover the typical produce found at the market and learn how to prepare a few traditional Ecuadorian dishes. Take a stroll through the streets near the market and try some local street food, such as salted mango or fritada con mote (fried pork with cooked corn).

Afterward, prepare your tastebuds for an explosion of flavor as you head to the kitchen for a cooking class. Work closely alongside the chef in a culturally rich environment full of Andean flavors. You'll learn about Ecuadorian meals and the preparation process of a local dish with 100% organic ingredients harvested in a local family's garden. Once all your hard work is finished, enjoy the freshly-made lunch you prepared yourself, followed by an Ecuadorian coffee.

Plan your trip to Ecuador
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 3: Hike at Cotopaxi National Park

The Adventure Continues - Hiking Day at Cotopaxi National Park
View of Cotopaxi from Lake Limpiopungo

Enjoy a change of scenery for the day as you head south for the Cotopaxi National Park, which is about 43.5 miles (70 m) from the center of Quito. As soon as you arrive, you will see the towering 19,347-foot (5,897 m) volcano, whose peak boasts a perfectly symmetrical snow-capped cone surrounded by picturesque parkland. Cotopaxi is not only the second-highest summit in Ecuador—it's also one of the world's most active volcanoes.

Upon arrival, start at Lake Limpiopungo, where you'll find various birds and see herds of wild horses. A short walk around the lake will allow you to admire the Andean flora and fauna. Explore the rugged surroundings and stunning scenery of the Andean landscapes as you enjoy heading ever-higher into this sky-high region, stopping at the 15,800-foot (4,830 m) Padre Rivas Refuge, where you will have a spectacular view of Cotopaxi's gigantic cone. In the afternoon, you will return to Quito.

Day 4: Colonial Quito City Tour & Visit Mitad del Mundo

Colonial Quito City Tour & Visit the Mitad del Mundo
Colonial-style architecture in the UNESCO-listed center of Quito

Your guide will pick you up from your hotel today and take you on a city walking tour. Quito's colonial center is home to many historic squares and buildings, and it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. You'll visit the Plaza Grande and the beautiful churches of La Compañía de Jesús and La Basílica del Voto, then walk down La Ronda, the oldest street in Quito. Later, see the monument that marks the equator, the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World). Located just 16 miles (26 km) north of Quito, this is where French scientists determined the position of the central line many years ago.

While here, be sure to take a selfie as you stand on top of the equator posing with one foot in each hemisphere. Once you've had a look, visit some of the nearby attractions. You'll find a miniature "city" home to art exhibits, a planetarium, a small-scale model of Quito, an ethnographic museum, an old train station, a beer museum, a small chapel, and exhibits on cocoa and chocolate.  

Day 5: Fly to the Galápagos, Santa Cruz Highlands & Charles Darwin Station

A giant tortoise in the highlands of Santa Cruz 

Today, you will be taken to the airport to catch your flight to the Galápagos Islands. Upon arrival at Isla Baltra's airport, you'll take a short ferry ride across the Itacaca Channel to reach Isla Santa Cruz. Here your guide will be waiting to transfer you to a local farm in the island's highlands, where you can see dozens of giant tortoises in their natural habitat before sitting down to a delicious lunch. Afterward, you'll continue to the port of Puerto Ayora to check into your hotel.

In the afternoon, visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, where scientists from all over the world meet and work together on environmental projects such as water analysis and animal protection. Nearby you'll find the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center, where giant tortoises are raised in a secure environment before being released into the wild. This is the best place in the Galápagos to view various species and see how their tortoiseshell shapes have evolved differently to match the terrain and vegetation of the islands to which they are native.

Day 6: Kayak in Tortuga Bay, Tour of Isla Santa Cruz 

Go kayaking and snorkeling among marine life

Start your day with a 45-minute hike from Puerto Ayora to Tortuga Bay, famed for its soft coral sand and spectacular scenery. This stretch of coast is one of the archipelago's most picturesque spots. Go kayaking to see marine life up close and admire the coastline from a different perspective. Observe colonies of marine iguanas, birds, mangroves, cacti forests, and fascinating coastal flora. Be on the lookout for various birds, pelicans, and finches. Near the mangroves, you may even spot flamingoes wandering. After kayaking, relax on the beach before returning to Puerto Ayora.

In the afternoon, you'll board a small boat for a bay tour visiting exotic places along the bay of Santa Cruz. Possible stops include the small islet La Lobería, named for its great colony of sea lions. Go snorkeling and find tropical fish displaying a dazzling show beneath the water's surface against interesting underwater formations. See "Shark Alley," where you'll spot harmless white-tip sharks and blue-footed boobies. Reach Canal del Amor, where you'll find sea turtles and many tropical fish varieties, then take a short walk to see marine iguanas in their natural habitat.

Day 7: Explore an Uninhabited Island

See endemic wildlife like land iguanas on today's tour

Today's adventure takes you on a fantastic day trip to an uninhabited island. Board a boat and visit one of the following islands: Santa Fé, Plaza Sur, Bartolomé, or Seymour Norte, where you will follow trails to discover their beauty. After lunch on board, you'll have the opportunity to go snorkeling and explore the area. Santa Fé and Plaza Sur are home to endemic land iguanas, while Bartolomé is known for its beautiful lava flows. On Seymour Norte, look for frigatebirds and blue-footed boobies. Each island is unique, offering spectacular scenery and opportunities to see rare wildlife.

Day 8: Free Time on Isla Santa Cruz, Depart via Quito

Say goodbye to the Galápagos!

With no planned activities today, you're free to enjoy the island's beauty at your own pace. Relax and enjoy the hotel amenities or savor your last few hours with a hike to Tortuga Bay, explore hidden coves, or stroll in the peaceful town of Puerto Ayora. Later in the day, you'll catch a ferry to Baltra Airport, where you'll board a flight to Quito and continue to your connecting flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Highlights of Quito, the Andes & the Galápagos Islands - 8 Days
Map of Highlights of Quito, the Andes & the Galápagos Islands - 8 Days