- Go rafting on the Río Jatunyaku
- Jump from waterfalls while canyoning in Baños
- Explore and kayak at the turquoise Quilotoa Lagoon
- Stand on the yellow line marking the equator near Quito
|Arrive in Quito, Explore the City
|Colonial Quito City Tour & Mitad del Mundo
|Transfer to Cotopaxi, Biking the Andes in Cotopaxi National Park
|Hiking & Kayaking at Quilotoa Lagoon, Transfer to Baños
|Canyoning Adventure in Baños
|El Pailón del Diablo Waterfall, Transfer to Archidona
|Jatunyaku River Rafting
|Transfer to Papallacta, Termas de Papallacta Hot Springs
|Transfer to Quito & Depart
Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Explore the City
¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Ecuador! After landing at Mariscal Sucre International Airport, east of Ecuador's capital Quito, a driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel in Quito. While you travel, your driver will introduce the city and give you a rundown of your itinerary for the next day.
After settling into your hotel, you'll have the rest of today to explore. Sitting in the valley of the Cotopaxi volcano, Quito has an elevation of 9,350 feet (2,850 m) above sea level, making it the second-highest capital city in the world. The city has plenty to discover, from its incredibly well-preserved colonial center to the lively bars and nightclubs around Plaza Foch. Take a walk through Parque Metropolitano Guangüiltagua, the largest urban park on the continent, or ride the TelefériQo cable car to the top of Cruz Loma for dramatic views of the city's skyline.
Day 2: Colonial Quito City Tour & Mitad del MundoToday, join a walking tour of the well-preserved colonial center of Quito, which was named as one of the first UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites in 1978. In Independence Square, see La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, a 17th-century church covered in detailed carvings made of volcanic rock and cedar covered with gold leaf. Next, visit La Basílica y Convento de San Francisco, a sprawling complex that is the oldest and most significant religious site in Ecuador. End your tour on La Ronda, a street that began as a pre-Columbian walking trail and has transformed into a place full of cafés, live music, and eclectic shops.
Later on, head north of the city to visit the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World City), a park dominated by the 98-foot (30 m) tall monument to the equator created in honor of the Spanish-French mission seeking to find the circumference of the Earth at the equator. Stand on the yellow line marking the equator, posing with one foot in each hemisphere (though the true equator is a few hundred feet away). Around the monument, you'll find a planetarium, a small-scale model of Quito, several museums, an old train station, and a small chapel.
Day 3: Transfer to Cotopaxi, Biking the Andes in Cotopaxi National Park
You'll leave Quito early today and transfer south to the entrance of Cotopaxi National Park. Pass through a pine forest to the park's visitor center and look around. Then you'll continue your journey in a 4WD vehicle until you reach a high point at 15,000 feet (4,500 m). The view from here is stunning, and, on a clear day, you'll be able to see eight volcanoes. Then, you'll put on a helmet, gloves, and protection pads, before beginning your cycling adventure on one of the world's highest active volcanoes.
The first 5 miles (8 km) of your route will take you down dirt roads, through volcanic ash, and on the páramo (alpine tundra) landscape. At 12,467 feet (3,800 m), you'll have to pedal hard as you head downwards past volcanic rocks and wild horses, to your lunch spot by an Inca ruin at 12,139 feet (3,700 m). You might see impressive birds such as a condor or a caracara. After lunch, put the bikes back on your Jeep and head for Limpiopungo Lake, where you'll start a 10-mile (16 km) downhill ride to complete your adventure. You can then relax at your accommodation, a hacienda in the Cotopaxi area.
Day 4: Hiking & Kayaking at Quilotoa Lagoon, Transfer to Baños
Wake up early to visit Quilotoa Lagoon accompanied by an expert guide. This blue-green volcanic crater lake sits in the rugged Andean countryside south of Quito. On the way, you'll stop at a quiet village and local markets.
Once you arrive, you can walk along the crater's rim or hike for 45 minutes down a path to the lake, where you can see the shimmering green waters up close from a kayak. There is also a jetty here that you can walk on, or you can just sit on the beach and take in the view. The uphill hike can take longer, so you'll have the option to rent a mule.
Afterward, get back on the road and continue three hours southeast to the city of Baños, which lies in a lush valley at the base of the active Tungurahua volcano. The area's dramatic waterfalls, natural hot springs, and dense rainforests make it a mecca for active adventurers and adrenaline-seekers, and have earned it a reputation as Ecuador's "adventure capital."
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Canyoning Adventure in BañosDive right into the adventure today with an exciting canyoning expedition at Casahurco outside of Baños. You'll be shown the ropes, so to speak, by professional guides. Once you've gotten familiar with your equipment, it's time to start jumping from waterfalls, rappeling down the sides of the canyon, sliding down natural chutes, and swimming in the freshwater pools below.
Day 6: El Pailón del Diablo Waterfall, Transfer to Archidona
Today starts with a trip along the spectacularly scenic route known as the Route of Waterfalls. Leaving Baños, you'll follow the Río Pastaza on its way through the valley of the same name. You'll pass a number of waterfalls to reach the village of Rio Verde, where you'll stop at the popular El Pailón del Diablo waterfall (also known as "The Devil's Cauldron"). If you're feeling active and want to start the day with a challenge, you could rent a bike and cycle to the waterfall for even better views.
Day 7: Jatunyaku River RaftingFuel up with a hearty breakfast this morning, then transfer 10 minutes outside of Archidona to Tena, the capital city of the Napo Province. From here, you'll head to the banks of the mighty Río Jatunyaku, your starting point for today's 14-mile (23 km) whitewater rafting trip through the beautiful Llanganates National Park. Home to distinctive wildlife like Andean tapirs, vicuñas, and spectacled bears, the park's 542,907 acres (219,707 ha) of biodiverse landscapes range from high Andean páramo grasslands to dense cloud forests.
Day 8: Transfer to Papallacta, Termas de Papallacta Hot Springs
Say your goodbyes to Archidona as you're picked up this morning for the 2.5-hour drive north to Papallacta, a small village known for its natural hot springs that sits 12,100 feet (3,700 m) above sea level. Upon arrival, relax and unwind at the Termas de Papallacta Resort and Spa, enjoying its soothing pools which are naturally heated by the volcanic hot springs. If the weather is clear, you'll be able to see the giant Antisana volcano (reaching a height of 18,891 ft/5,758 m) looming above the evergreen páramo landscape.You'll stay in Papallacta tonight, so savor the final evening of your tour feeling relaxed and refreshed after soaking any aches from the week's active adventures away.
Day 9: Transfer to Quito & Depart
Today is the last day of your tour. A private driver and guide will pick you up from your hotel in Papallacta early in the morning for the hour-long transfer to Quito's Mariscal Sucre International Airport. From here you'll board your onward flight. Until next time!