Spend two weeks in Ecuador walking amid history, hiking national parks, exploring the Amazon, taking cooking classes, and more. Explore Quito's colonial landmarks and snack on decadent Ecuadorian chocolate, followed by a trip to the famous Indigenous market in Otavalo and hikes around the snowcapped cone of Cotopaxi volcano. After the highlands, fly to the Amazon for a few days of rainforest adventures, then conclude with stops in Spanish colonial Cuenca and farm tours near the coast.


  • Visit Indigenous markets in the highlands to shop for fine textiles and garments
  • Savor Ecuador's flavors with cooking glasses, chocolate tours, and rum tastings
  • Explore volcanoes and jungles on adventures from the highlands to the Amazon
  • Hike around ancient Inca ruins and stroll the cobbled streets of colonial cities

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito, Chocolate Tasting Quito
Day 2 Quito Old Town History Tour, Convent Cooking Class Quito
Day 3 Visit Mitad del Mundo, Transfer to Otavalo, Explore Otavalo Market Otavalo
Day 4 Dawn Balloon Ride, Visit Cuicocha Lagoon, Transfer to Quito Quito
Day 5 Fly to Yasuní National Park. Transfer to Sacha Lodge, Night Walk Yasuní National Park
Day 6 Day Trip to Observation Tower & Canopy Walk Yasuní National Park
Day 7 Visit Parrot Clay Lick, Guided Nature Hike in Yasuní National Park Yasuní National Park
Day 8 Fly to Quito, Day Trip to Papallacta Hot Springs Quito
Day 9 Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park, Helicopter Tour Cotopaxi
Day 10 Rose Farm Tour, Transfer to Riobamba, Hike Chimborazo Riobamba
Day 11 Transfer to Cuenca, Stop at Ingapirca Ruins & Guamote Market Cuenca
Day 12 Cuenca City Tour, Artisan Workshops Tour, Dinner at Negroni Cuenca
Day 13 Visit Cajas National Park, Transfer to Guayaquil, Dinner at Casa Julián Guayaquil
Day 14 Guayaquil City Tour, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Chocolate Tasting

Discover the secrets of world-class Ecuadorian chocolate on this afternoon's tour and tasting experience 

Welcome to Ecuador! This country is renowned for its beautiful Andes landscapes, Spanish-colonial landmarks, and Indigenous heritage. The best introduction to all of this is the capital of Quito, where you'll arrive today. Your driver will be waiting at the airport terminal for a 45-minute drive into the city, which is nestled high in the Andes mountains at 9,350 feet (2,850 m).

You'll be staying right in Quito's famous Old Town district at Illa Experience, a 4-star hotel located in the historic San Marcos neighborhood. Housed in a beautifully restored colonial-era mansion, it features luxurious rooms with plush beds and baths with rainwater showers. Highlights include a spa and wellness center (ideal to take the edge of your flight with a massage) and a rooftop terrace offering panoramic views of the city and its famous surrounding hills.

Later, you'll receive a tasty introduction to Quito's heritage with a chocolate tasting. Held at a local chocolate production facility, you'll learn how Ecuador cultivates a great deal of cacao (cocoa) and then turns the beans of this fruit into decadent chocolate. During this one-hour tasting experience, you'll sample different types of chocolate and learn about the history of cocoa in Ecuador.

Day 2: Quito Old Town History Tour, Convent Cooking Class

Quito's neo-Gothic Basilica del Voto Nacional pierces the sky above the city's colorful old town

In the morning, you'll meet a bonafide historian for a private guided tour around Quito's UNESCO-listed Old Town. This jaunt will take you down cobblestone streets to famous landmarks, including the neo-Gothic Basilica del Voto Nacional and the 17th-century San Francisco Church. During the tour, you'll also see famous works by renowned local artists, like Oswaldo Guayasamín, who left an indelible mark on Quito's (and Latin America's) artistic heritage. And your guide will be there every step of the way to offer insight and historical perspective.

Another tasty activity is in store later when you visit a historic convent dating to the 17th century. This gastronomic adventure takes place in one of Latin America's oldest sacred kitchens, which exudes enchantment and intrigue. Here, you'll embark on a historical journey guided by a private chef who will immerse you in the essence of Ecuadorian traditions and timeless recipes, many of which are as old as the convent itself. 

Day 3: Visit Mitad del Mundo, Transfer to Otavalo, Explore Otavalo Market

 Step into your deluxe room or suite after a day exploring Otavalo's market (photo courtesy of La Mirage)

After breakfast at the hotel, meet your driver and travel just north of Quito to Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World City), a park dominated by the 98-foot (30 m) tall Monument to the Equator. It marks the precise location of the equator, the invisible line that divides the Earth into the northern and southern hemispheres. You can straddle the yellow line here, which means you'll have one foot in each hemisphere. Later, visit the Planetarium, which houses a small-scale model of Quito, and various exhibitions.

Afterward, continue driving two hours north to Otavalo. This highland town is famous for its Indigenous market, where, among other things, locals sell beautiful handcrafted textiles and garments. You'll be staying in style at La Mirage Garden Hotel, located just north of town. Perched on a hillside, La Mirage occupies a historic hacienda and features expansive guest rooms, many with canopy beds and fireplaces. There's an indoor pool if you feel like taking a dip, and you can also stretch your legs with a stroll around the lush gardens abounding with bougainvilleas, hibiscus, roses, and orchids.

Once you've settled in, you'll head over to the famous market. It's busiest on Saturdays, but you can find vendors throughout the week, primarily Otavalos, the region's Indigenous people. The Otavalo are best known for their colorful, hand-woven textiles, and many market stalls offer tablecloths, blankets, scarves, and more. If you like, you can pick up some items to take home as souvenirs.

Day 4: Dawn Balloon Ride, Visit Cuicocha Lagoon, Transfer to Quito

Get a bird's-eye-view of Ecuador on a dawn balloon ride

Rise and shine! Your day begins at 5 am, but the early start is well worth it, as waiting for you is the adventure of a lifetime. You'll leave the hotel and transfer to the shores of Laguna de San Pablo, where you'll hop in the basket of a hot-air balloon. Then, around 6 am, you'll ascend into the sky and marvel at the sprawling Andean landscapes as they come alive with the first rays of the morning sun. The flight lasts about 30 minutes, after which you'll land back on the lakeshore.

Afterward, lace up your hiking boots for your first nature hike in Ecuador. Transfer north of Otavalo to Laguna de Cuicocha, a volcanic crater that filled with water after an eruption and features two iconic islands. Stroll along the shore to admire its midnight blue water and beautiful flowers as you listen to the flutter of hummingbirds. Later, you'll head back toward the airport in Quito, where tonight's accommodation awaits.

EB by Eurobuilding is a 5-star hotel near the airport that doesn't skimp on class and comfort. Its well-appointed rooms and suites feature adjustable beds with luxury linens, minibars, and flat-screen TVs. There's also a swimming pool where you can relax in a lounger amid views of Quito's surrounding green hills.

Day 5: Fly to Yasuní National Park. Transfer to Sacha Lodge, Night Walk

Sacha Lodge
Kick back and relax at your remote lodge in the heart of the rainforest (photo courtesy of Sacha Lodge)

The adventure begins! Rise early and transfer back to the airport for the 40-minute flight to Coca. Located in the northeastern Amazon region, on the Río Napo, this small city is a transport hub for excursions deep into the jungle. That's exactly what you'll do when, upon arrival, transfer to the dock and hop on a private canoe for the two-hour ride downriver to Sacha Lodge.

This remote jungle lodge is the perfect escape for those who want to mix adventure with comfort. Sacha lies within a 5,000-acre ecological reserve, blending seamlessly into the heart of the rainforest. All around the rustic (yet well-equipped) property are fun natural attractions, like nature trails, a suspended walkway over the trees, and the "Canopy Exploration Crane"—a metal basket suspended from a jib 140 feet (42 m) above the ground and which offers panoramic views over the jungle canopy.

The lodge is also adjacent to Yasuní National Park. The equator, Andes, and Amazon biomes meet within this 3,792 square mile (9,820 sq km) protected area, home to thousands of species of mammals, plants, insects, reptiles, and amphibians. You don't have to wait to enjoy these natural wonders, either. After dinner, you'll set out on a nocturnal nature hike with an expert guide. Equipped with a headlamp, you'll hike through the forest and ride a canoe on the lake to spot exotic animals like bats, ocelots, sloths, snakes, and caimans.

Day 6: Day Trip to Observation Tower & Canopy Walk

Sacha Lodge Canopy Walk
Start the day with a dawn canopy walk in the Amazon

Your first full day in the Amazon begins at dawn. It's a great time to embark on a nature hike around the lodge to spot the rainforest animals when they're most active. After breakfast, you'll appreciate the Amazon from a different vantage point when you transfer to a tower built around a vast kapok tree. From the tower's observation deck, you'll enjoy panoramic views of the jungle canopy and the surrounding Amazon wilderness.

It's an excellent spot for nature photography and to spot endemic birds like toucans and macaws. You might even spot the famously strange hoatzin, or, as it's known locally, the "stinkbird." This bird earned this moniker from the unpleasant odor it emits due to its diet of swamp plants.

The rest of the day is yours to create your own itinerary with your dedicated guide. If you like, go for a canopy walk on suspension bridges and take a ride on the Exploration Crane. The lodge is also home to one of the largest butterfly farms in Ecuador. Designed as a live exhibition conservatory, the Butterfly House breeds nearly 40 native butterfly species, which you can see on a visit. You can also head to Lago Pilchicocha and swim in a section protected by a mesh cage—you might spot caimans and giant river otters swimming on the other side of the net!

Day 7: Visit Parrot Clay Lick, Guided Nature Hike in Yasuní National Park

Parrot Clay Lick
Watch from the riverbanks as flocks of parrots enjoy their daily feed
Plan your trip to Ecuador
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Today starts with a 30-minute hike along a nearby trail to reach one of the highlights of Yasuní National Park—the parrot clay licks. Hundreds of birds flock to these small cliffs on the banks of the Río Napo to feed the mineral-rich soil, creating one of the most captivating displays in the birding world. Make sure to bring your binoculars to view the 11 species of parrots and parakeets that frequent the cliffside, and keep an eye out for the other animals like howler monkeys, tapirs, and peccaries that come here to drink.

Later in the afternoon, embark on another guided nature hike to discover more flora and fauna. Within this natural menagerie, you'll spy all manner of exotic creatures, including monkeys, sloths, tree frogs, toucans, and (if you're lucky) the elusive jaguar. After the hike, explore the nearby lake and creeks by dugout canoe. There's a high chance you may run into a giant otter family on the way.

Day 8: Fly to Quito, Day Trip to Papallacta Hot Springs

Luxuriate in volcanic hot springs south of Quito
It's time to say a fond farewell to the Amazon as you travel by canoe back up the river to Coca and catch your return flight to Quito. At the airport, a driver will be waiting to take you on a 1.5-hour trip south of the city to the famous Papallacta Hot Springs. It's certainly a lot of traveling, but lucky for you, once you arrive, you can relax with a nice long soak in volcanic springs. Situated at 12,100 feet (3,700 m) in an evergreen páramo (Andean high grasslands) landscape, If the weather is clear, you'll spot the giant Artisana volcano looming above the springs. Afterward, return to Quito and EB Hotel by Eurobuilding.

Day 9: Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park, Helicopter Tour

Settle into your historic Cotopaxi hacienda (photo courtesy of Hacienda San Agustín de Callo)

Leave Quito this morning on a 1.5-hour ride south to Cotopaxi National Park, a pristine nature reserve covering 129 square miles (334 sq km) in the Andean highlands. Get ready for an unparalleled adventure, as upon arrival, you'll take to the skies once again, this time on a private helicopter tour. It's a scenic (and thrilling) way to marvel at the highlands, with their Andes peaks and the snowcapped cone of Cotopaxi volcano.

Back on Earth, you'll transfer to the nearby Hacienda San Agustín de Callo. Situated in the foothills of Cotopaxi volcano, this rustic yet comfortable hacienda is built on the site of an Inca palace and later a colonial estate. It offers a variety of rooms and suites, each uniquely decorated with a blend of colonial and indigenous styles. The rooms feature antique furnishings, luxurious linens, and modern comforts such as private bathrooms and heating. Of course, the real star is the property itself, whose gardens and trails you'll explore on a guided tour when you arrive. 

Day 10: Rose Farm Tour, Transfer to Riobamba, Hike Chimborazo

Hike partway up the slopes of Chimborazo, Ecuador's tallest peak

Step into the colorful world of Ecuador's renowned rose farms this morning on a private guided tour. This country is one of the world's leading exporters, and on a visit to a rose plantation, you'll see firsthand the process of cultivating these prized blossoms. Gain insight into the meticulous care that goes into nurturing these captivating flowers, known for their vibrant colors and exceptional fragrance.

Later, you'll hop back in the car and continue south on a scenic three-hour drive to Riobamba. Along the way, stop for a hike at Chimborazo. This dormant stratovolcano is Ecuador's tallest peak, standing an impressive 20,548 feet (6,263 m) above sea level. While you can't go all the way to the top, you'll follow a route up to Carrel Refuge, a mountain hut at 15,748 feet (4,800 m). Needless to say, the views of the surrounding valleys and mountains are spectacular.

Afterward, continue driving about an hour south to Riobamba, the capital of Chimborazo province in central Ecuador. There, you'll check into Hosteria La Andaluza. Situated in the highlands and featuring prime views of the volcano and surrounding valleys, La Andaluza was founded in the 16th century. Over the years, it has hosted notable figures, such as Simón Bolívar, the Liberator of South America. Upon arrival, you can relax with a cocktail in the comfy bar lounge, followed by dinner at the restaurant, which serves a delightful combo of Ecuadorian and international cuisine.

Day 11: Transfer to Cuenca, Stop at Ingapirca Ruins & Guamote Market

Transfer to Cuenca, known as the "Athens of Ecuador"

The road trip continues this morning as you leave Riobamba on a drive south to the Ingapirca ruins, which sit at 10,498 feet (3,200 m). Dating to the 15th century, the site was vital to the Indigenous Cañari people and the Inca, as they coexisted peacefully for many years. On a hike around, you'll visit the Temple of the Sun, ancient terraces, and a Cañari tomb, among other highlights.

From Ingapirca, continue to nearby Guamote, a town famous for its traditional Indigenous market. It's a great excuse to stop and browse handicrafts, textiles, fresh produce, and other goods. Afterward, you'll make the final leg of the journey to Cuenca, the capital of Azuay province. Known as the "Athens of Ecuador" due to its well-preserved buildings, it's a great place to stroll amid colonial history.

You'll stay in the center of this rich history at Mansión Alcázar. This 4-star boutique hotel is located in a historic colonial building and offers luxurious accommodations with plush queen and king beds—many featuring prime views overlooking inner gardens. Amid these gardens, you'll find Casa Alonso, a gourmet restaurant featuring a menu mixing traditional Ecuadorian and international cuisine. Also on site is a spa and wellness center offering a blend of treatments, including western, indigenous Andean, and millenary ones from India. 

Day 12: Cuenca City Tour, Artisan Workshops Tour, Dinner at Negroni

Marvel at Cuenca's most famous landmarks, like the blue domes of the "New Cathedral"

This morning, take a guided city tour to see more of Cuenca. During this half-day excursion, you'll stroll the town's cobbled streets and visit landmarks like the 16th-century Iglesia El Sagrario, known as the "Old Cathedral." Another highlight is the 19th-century Catedral Metropolitana de la Inmaculada Concepción, the "New Cathedral." While the old cathedral has been converted into a museum, the new one is still a working church with its famous blue and white domes.

Later, you'll visit the Museo y Parque Arqueológico Pumapungo, which features artifacts from the Inca city Tomebamba. Then, stop in at local workshops to see how traditional Panama hats are woven and how master sculptors produce their artisanal ceramics. Another highlight is a visit to a distillery where, during a private tour, you'll learn about the process of making fine Ecuadorian rum and the secrets to the aging process. Of course, tastings are included.

Dinner this evening will be at Negroni, one of the finest restaurants in the city. Located in the historic center, it features a menu of Italian-inspired cuisine. Standout dishes include Negroni's signature pizza, risotto al funghi (mushroom risotto), and ossobuco alla Milanese.

Day 13: Visit Cajas National Park, Transfer to Guayaquil, Dinner at Casa Julián

Today's journey ends in Guayaquil, where you'll check into a historic 5-star hotel (photo courtesy of Hotel del Parque)

Say goodbye to Cuenca today as your driver picks you up and takes you south to Guayaquil and the Pacific coast. Along the way, you'll cut through to El Cajas National Park, whose 200 glacial lakes and numerous hiking trails make it one of Ecuador's most spectacular natural sites. Take some time to enjoy the view from one of the lookout points or stop to stretch your legs with a walk to one of the many lagoons. With a bit of luck, you may spot one of the endemic or endangered species that call the park home, such as the Andean condor, the spectacled bear, or the giant hummingbird.

From El Cajas, continue to the ocean. As you drop altitude, the weather will get warmer as the vegetation changes from páramo grasslands to lush banana plantations. Eventually, you'll arrive in the port city of Guayaquil and check into Hotel del Parque. This 5-star accommodation is something of a green oasis itself, located within the green space of Parque Histórico in a beautifully restored 19th-century building. The elegant rooms and suites blend traditional and contemporary decor and feature plush beds with high thread count linens. Many offer views of the nearby gardens and Río Daule.

After settling in, head out for a stroll around the Parque Histórico, which recreates a natural mangrove habitat. In the trees here, you'll spot native wildlife such as sloths, monkeys, and parrots. For dinner, head to the riverside dining room of the hotel restaurant Casa Julián. Here, you'll feast on artistic plates of traditional Ecuadorian cuisine sourced from the freshest local ingredients.

Day 14: Guayaquil City Tour, Depart

Spend the morning getting to know Guayaquil before you say your goodbyes

Milk this itinerary for all its worth with one more fun activity. In the morning, embark on a private Guayaquil city tour starting at Cementerio General, an early 20th-century cemetery with abundant ornate tombs and mausoleums. Continue to Parque Seminario, where you can spot iguanas scurrying about and relaxing in the sun. After visiting the park's neo-Gothic Metropolitan Cathedral, you'll stroll down the famous Malecón 2000, a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) boardwalk along the river.

Then, head north to Las Peñas, a colorful neighborhood dating to the 16th century, famous for its cobbled streets and pastel-colored hilltop homes. At the tour's end, you'll say goodbye to your new iguana friends as you hop in a car for the transfer to the airport, where your flight home awaits. Safe travels!

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