Active families can experience the best of Ecuador's great outdoors on this 10-day itinerary that takes you from the Andes to the Amazon. Start in Quito with a walking tour and family cooking class, then set off into Cotopaxi National Park, where the kids will channel their inner adventurer with horseback riding and high ropes courses at a local hacienda. See dramatic waterfalls and the world's most famous treehouse in Baños, venture deep into the Amazon for two nights at an incredible ecolodge, and wrap things up with a dip in the natural hot springs of Papallacta.


  • Take a family-friendly cooking class in Ecuador's high-altitude capital, Quito
  • Get adventurous in Cotopaxi with horseback rides and a high ropes course
  • See dramatic waterfalls and visit the world's most famous treehouse in Baños
  • Spot nocturnal Amazonian wildlife on a night walk at your jungle ecolodge
  • Soak in the spa and treat yourself to a massage at Termas de Papallacta

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito Quito
Day 2 City Tour, Family Cooking Class, Mitad del Mundo Monument Quito
Day 3 Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park Cotopaxi
Day 4 Horseback Riding & High Ropes Course Cotopaxi
Day 5 Hike & Kayak at Laguna Quilotoa, Transfer to Baños Baños
Day 6 Free Time in Baños, Ecuador's Adventure Capital Baños
Day 7 Drive the Waterfall Route, Journey Upriver to Itamandi EcoLodge Tena
Day 8 Anaconda Island Wildlife & Indigenous Village, Visit AmaZOOnico   Tena
Day 9 Transfer to Papallacta, Splash Around in the Hot Springs Papallacta
Day 10 Transfer to Quito & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito

A view across the rooftops of Quitos UNESCO-listed historic center

Welcome to Ecuador! After arriving at the airport in Tababela, your driver will meet you and take you to Quito, less than an hour's drive away. After taking some time to settle into your hotel, venture out into the city for some leisurely family sightseeing. Quito, sitting at an elevation of 9,350 feet (2,850 m), is one of the highest cities in the world, and its breathtaking views are sure to impress everyone in the family. Make sure to take it easy after arrival, though, so everyone has a chance to adjust to the altitude.

Take a stroll through Plaza Foch, a bustling hub for shopping, dining, and people-watching, then head over to Parque Metropolitano Guangüiltagua, one of the largest urban parks in the Americas, with plentiful playgrounds and even a resident herd of llamas. Depending on the time and how the kids are feeling after the trip, end the day with a cable car ride to the top of Cruz Loma to admire Quito's skyline at sunset.

Day 2: City Tour, Family Cooking Class, Mitad del Mundo Monument

Sample some local sweets at a market stall in Quito's historic center

After a good night's rest, get to know the city better today with a family-friendly city tour. Start with a guided walk through Quito's UNESCO-listed historic center. Learn about local history and culture while visiting Plaza Grande and the beautiful churches of La Compañía de Jesús and La Basílica del Voto, then take a stroll down the oldest street in Quito, La Ronda. This narrow, cobbled street is lined with shops and cafés and follows the same route as an ancient pre-Columbian walking trail.

Once you've worked up an appetite, take part in a fun, family-friendly cooking class led by a local chef. Kids will love getting active in the kitchen and learning more about local food, especially as they'll get to eat their creations after. Learn the traditional processes that go into preparing Ecuadorian meals, and be introduced to local ingredients, all 100% organic and harvested in local gardens. It's a fun opportunity for parents and kids to cook together without the stress and hustle of regular at-home mealtimes.

After lunch, head to the north of the city to see a monument marking the point where the Northern and Southern Hemispheres meet and divide, the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) monument. Sneak in a geography lesson as the little ones hop between hemispheres for a photo op, then visit the many appealing attractions nearby, which include a planetarium, a fun scale model of Quito, several museums, an old train station, and a small chapel. 

Day 3: Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park

Strike out south into the high Andean planes of Cotopaxi National Park

After breakfast today, your driver will take you two hours south of Quito to Cotopaxi National Park, where you and the kids can experience the wild beauty of Ecuador on a grand scale. Admire the sweeping landscapes of the Andean highlands, crowned by the snowcapped peak of the Cotopaxi volcano.

Spot wild horses and fuzzy alpacas, stop for a hike around the beautiful Laguna de Limpiopungo, and explore the ruins of an ancient Inca military fortress at El Salitre. In the afternoon, continue your journey to a cozy local hacienda (ranch), which will be your family's home for the next two nights.

Day 4: Horseback Riding & High Ropes Course

Challenge your family to the hacienda's high ropes course

Explore more of the national park today, starting with an epic horseback ride through Cotopaxi National Park. Animal-loving kids will especially enjoy learning more about how the local chagras (Ecuadorian cowboys) live and work in the high mountains of the Andes. Take a gentle ride up to a traditional hacienda for sweeping views of the páramo (typical Andean landscape) and the snowcapped peak of Cotopaxi. Remind your kids to look out for wild horses, rabbits, birds, and deer along the way.

In the afternoon, you and your family can share some laughs during a high and low ropes course at the hacienda. Traverse a series of ladders, nets, tightropes, swinging logs, wobbly bridges, and more fun surprises 20 feet (6 m) off the ground. Young adventurers (from 6 to 12 years old) can participate in the kids' course, which is lower but just as exciting!

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Day 5: Hike & Kayak at Laguna Quilotoa, Transfer to Baños

Little ones can hop on a mule for the return climb from Laguna Quilotoa

Travel farther south today to the Ecuadorian Amazon, but not before stopping for some family fun at Laguna Quilotoa, a blue-green volcanic crater lake within the Andes. Depending on how everyone's feeling, you have the option to walk along the crater's rim or hike for 45 minutes down a path to the water's edge. The views of the lake are spectacular up close, and if the weather's good, you might like to have a paddle in a kayak. Otherwise, there's a jetty here that you can walk down for some family photos with a stunning backdrop, and you can sit on the beach and take in the views while the kids play.

The return journey up to where you started is uphill, but you can rent a mule to carry the kids (or all of you!) if you're feeling tired. After this scenic excursion, you'll get back on the road for the three-hour transfer south to Baños de Agua Santa, a mountain city famous for its dramatic waterfalls and outdoor adventure sports that serves as your base for the next two nights.

Day 6: Free Time in Baños, Ecuador's Adventure Capital

Daredevils won't want to miss a ride on the Swing at the End of the World

Enjoy a relaxing or active day in Baños today, depending on how your family is feeling at this midpoint in the trip. Baños is named after the nearby hot springs with healing waters, so you and the kids might want to take a dip. Or, stay active with a rafting, canyoning, bungee jumping, hiking, or mountain biking excursion.

Don't miss a visit to the most famous treehouse in the world, the Casa del Árbol. This quaint-looking simple playground is home to the Swing at the End of the World, popular with all ages as the perfect setting for a dramatic photograph. Enjoy the views of Baños and Mount Tungurahua from the mountain's edge as you and the kids swing your hearts out—just make sure someone remembers to take the photos! 

Day 7: Drive the Waterfall Route, Journey Upriver to Itamandi EcoLodge

Baños - Waterfalls - Itamandi Lodge
Journey deep into the Amazon by motorized canoe to reach your ecolodge

Your driver will take you on a spectacularly scenic drive today along the Ruta de Cascadas (Waterfall Route). Journey toward the village of Río Verde, spotting the route's namesake cascades as you travel. When you arrive, you'll take a short hike to one of the best-known waterfalls in the area, the Pailón del Diablo (Devil's Cauldron). Here, dramatic cascades drop steeply 265 feet (81 m) through the lush cloud forest. Cross a suspension bridge and descend many steps to get to the falls, which are definitely worth the effort.

After, continue the drive toward Itamandi EcoLodge. You'll be driven to a port on the Río Arajuno, where you'll meet your naturalist guide for the 20-minute journey upstream in a motorized canoe. Kids can keep an eye out for wildlife on the banks, and your guide will explain how the river winds through the jungle like a giant snake and is considered to be the main system of Pacha Mama (Mother Earth).

Upon arrival at the lodge, get settled into your comfortable accommodations and grab some rest. If the kids are itching to explore their surroundings, they can join a night walk before dinner. A flashlight and camera are the most important tools in this nocturnal excursion, which allows you and the little ones to see and hear fishing bats, owls, some insects, tarantulas, toads, and frogs as darkness falls and the jungle comes alive with nocturnal animals.

Day 8: Anaconda Island Wildlife & Indigenous Village, Visit AmaZOOnico 

Itamandi Eco Lodge: Anaconda Island & AmaZOOnico 
Spot adorable monkeys in the treetops on today's canoe ride to Anaconda Island

There's more Amazonian adventure in store today as you hop in a canoe for the 40-minute ride downriver to Anaconda Island. On this stretch of land where the Río Napo and Río Arajuno meet, keen-eyed youngsters can spot the flamboyant hoatzin bird and playful woolly and squirrel monkeys. Next, you'll go ashore to visit a family in one of the local Indigenous communities and learn about their farming habits, medicinal plants, and traditional way of hunting using blowguns (cerbatana) and forest traps.

After a packed lunch, continue to AmaZOOnico, sure to be a hit with the kids. This wildlife sanctuary rehabilitates Amazonian creatures that were victims of illegal trafficking, with the aim of reintroducing them back into their natural habitats. Animal lovers will be delighted by the up-close encounters with critters such as monkeys, macaws, ocelots, capybaras, toucans, and parrots. Later, return to the lodge to enjoy its facilities—if you haven't tried out its outdoor pool yet, now's your chance!

Day 9: Transfer to Papallacta, Splash Around in the Hot Springs

The whole family can soak at Termas de Papallacta

Enjoy the sounds of the rainforest one last time before leaving the lodge and heading back along the Río Arajuno by canoe. From there, a three-hour transfer north will take you to the town of Papallacta, on the outskirts of Quito. Here you'll get settled in at the Termas de Papallacta resort, where you'll spend the night. Made up of eight natural geothermal pools in a beautiful forest setting, complete with a view of the Antisana volcano, this luxurious complex is the perfect place to take a dip after your time on the road.

With a shallower pool for kids, hot pools, steam baths, Jacuzzis, mud baths, and massages, there's an option to suit each member of the family. The mineral-rich water is famous for its therapeutic powers, and for those needing nourishment of another variety, there are several great restaurants. 

Day 10: Transfer to Quito & Depart

Say your final farewells to Ecuador as you fly out of Quito today

It's time to say goodbye to Ecuador today. Depending on your time of departure, you may have time for one last dip in the spa at Papallacta before you're collected and driven to Quito Airport to catch your flight. Safe travels!

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Map of Mainland Ecuador for Families: Andes to the Amazon - 10 Days
Map of Mainland Ecuador for Families: Andes to the Amazon - 10 Days