See rare wildlife, climb into the clouds, traverse volcanoes, and more on this 10-day Ecuador itinerary. You'll get to experience cultural highlights, like Quito's UNESCO-designated city center and the Otavalo market, but the true gem of this trip is nature. From the lush cloud forests of Mindo to the ecologically diverse Amazon, there's no shortage of wildlife sightings: howler monkeys, pink river dolphins, and iridescent blue butterflies all call this region home. 

Highlights

  • Tour the UNESCO world heritage city of Quito
  • Browse for handicrafts at the indigenous market in Otavalo
  • Explore the biodiversity of the cloud forest of Mindo
  • Spot wildlife in the Amazon rainforest
  • Visit the indigenous Seoqueya community

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival to Quito Quito
Day 2 Quito Historic Center, Cooking Class, & Middle of the World Tour Quito
Day 3 Otavalo Market & Cuicocha Lagoon Hike Mindo
Day 4 Mindo Cloud Forest Quito
Day 5 Cloudforest of Mindo & Return to Quito Quito
Day 6 Quito to Cuyabeno Reserve & Canoe Trip to Jungle Lodge Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
Day 7 Wildlife in the Amazon: Sloths, Dolphins, & More Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
Day 8 Indigenous Community, Laguna Grande, & Igapó Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
Day 9 Return to Quito Quito
Day 10 Sightseeing & Departure from Quito  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival to Quito

View of Quito and the Cotopaxi Volcano
View of Quito and the Cotopaxi Volcano

Welcome to Quito, the capital of Ecuador! Arrive at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), where your driver will meet you to transfer to your accommodation in the city center, a one-hour trip. Along the way, you'll get a short introduction into Quito´s history and a quick briefing on the next day's activities.

The entire city of Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, standing at an altitude of 9,350ft (2,850m). It welcomes visitors with its picturesque plazas situated between mountain peaks. The city has an abundance of market stands, shamanistic healers, and fourth-generation hat makers, as well as a vibrant and sophisticated culinary and nightlife scene.

Day 2: Quito Historic Center, Cooking Class, & Middle of the World Tour

Quito: Governmental Palace
Quito: Governmental Palace

The human occupation of Quito dates back thousands of years. Prior to the arrival of Spanish conquistadores, the main cultures in the area were the Quitus, as well as the Inca, whose empire spread across vast stretches of South America. The city was colonized by the Spanish and recognized as a city in the mid-16th century. In 1978, together with Kraków in Poland, the entire city became the first UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

After breakfast at the hotel, visit the old town and meander down romantic narrow streets to see the colonial  Churches of San Fransisco, La Compañia, and other historical landmarks. 

Afterward, join a cooking class, where you'll learn how to prepare traditional Ecuadorian dishes with fresh products picked from the local market. 

In the afternoon, visit the Equator Monument, which highlights the exact location of the equatorial line according to the Franco-Spanish mission that determined its approximate location. It's also the location of the Ethnographical Museum that showcases the indigenous culture and ethnography of Ecuador.

After a full day, return to your hotel.

Day 3: Otavalo Market & Cuicocha Lagoon Hike

Cuicocha Lagoon
Cuicocha Lagoon

In the morning, head to Otavalo. The city is the home of the well-known indigenous market where artisans come to sell colorful textiles and other traditional goods. Snack on fruits and other snacks while you browse the stalls for paintings, carvings, handpainted bowls, and much more. 

Enjoy some street food (try the salted mango or fritada con mote—fried pork with cooked corn, then continue to the nearby town of Cotacachi for some free time and more shopping (the town is famous for its leather products).

In the afternoon, stretch your legs with a hike around the crater lagoon of Cuicocha. On the trail, your guide will explain to you the high altitude flora and fauna and the history of the once active volcano. Alternatively, enjoy a short walk and take some photos, or ride in a boat around the two islands. 

In the evening, continue to Mindo in the cloud forest, where you will spend the night.

Day 4: Mindo Cloud Forest

Colibri in Mindo
Colibri in Mindo

Today you'll explore the lush green cloud forest of Mindo. Its location at the western slopes of the Andean highlands gives this region mild temperatures and lots of rainfall. Thanks to the favorable conditions, the Mindo forest has incredibly high biodiversity.


You'll get the chance to see some of the countless birds, butterflies, and insect species that call the region home. Visit the butterfly garden, hike to beautiful waterfalls, or fly between the treetops on a zipline. After, learn to make chocolate and taste your creations. In the afternoon, return to Quito.

Day 5: Cloudforest of Mindo & Return to Quito

Cock-of-the-rock
Cock-of-the-rock

Enjoy another day in Mindo, filling the day with nature activities. Hike to beautiful waterfalls, get an adrenaline rush during ziplining, or try a chocolate tour—it's up to you.

In the late afternoon, head back to Quito, where you will spend the night.

Day 6: Quito to Cuyabeno Reserve & Canoe Trip to Jungle Lodge

Squirrel monkeys in the trees
Squirrel monkeys in the trees

In the morning, leave Quito behind as you travel to the rainforest. Your destination is the small city of Lago Agrio, which you will reach by 9:30 AM. From here, travel by bus for another 2.5 hours to El Puente, the main entrance to the Cuyabeno Reserve

Stop here for a box lunch, then continue on the Cuyabeno River by motorized canoe. The lodge is located three hours downriver, giving you plenty of time to take in the sights and look for wildlife on the narrow river banks 

Arrive at the lodge and settle in, then take a tour of the property. After dinner, meet with your guide to discuss the upcoming itinerary, then fall asleep to the sounds of the nighttime frogs and rainforest insects.

Day 7: Wildlife in the Amazon: Sloths, Dolphins, & More

Parrot in the Amazon
Parrot in the Amazon

Get an early start this morning, since dawn is the best time to see many of the forest animals. After breakfast, head out for a walk with your naturalist guide. You'll learn and understand how so many species in the rainforest coexist in balance with each other. Your guide will also point out different medicinal plants, which have been used by indigenous communities for many generations and continue to be utilized by locals for health and healing. As you walk, look for frogs and snakes, butterflies, centipedes, millipedes, birds, monkeys, and other mammals along the trail. 

After your hike, return to the lodge for lunch. In the afternoon, explore the Cuyabeno River to see animals that live in the dense foliage alongside the riverbanks, especially monkeys, macaws, toucans, and sloths. You'll also get to see river dolphins, an incredibly unique and fascinating animal that's adapted to live inland. 

Before dinner, head back out to the dark forest to see a completely new cast of characters: insects, spiders, snakes, colorful frogs, and other species come out after the sun sets. Return to the lodge and have dinner, accompanied by the nocturnal sounds of the jungle.

Day 8: Indigenous Community, Laguna Grande, & Igapó

Local rowing a traditional canoe
Local rowing a traditional canoe

Enjoy an early morning walk through the forest to see wildlife, especially monkeys and birds. Return to the lodge for breakfast, then continue by motorized canoe along the "Turtle Path" to visit the Seoqueya community, where several families of the indigenous Siona group live. One of the family members will demonstrate traditional cooking techniques, including preparing the typical yucca bread, called casave.  Try your hand at making bread under instruction from the family as your guide explains local traditions and cultures. 

In the afternoon, continue by motorized canoe along the Cuyabeno River to Laguna Grande. Here, you'll get to explore a unique rainforest ecosystem: flooded forest (Igapo), which is characterized by massive trees and lush greenery. 

After exploring the lagoon, cool off with a swim in the calm waters while taking in the sunset. Continue your adventure downriver to see more nocturnal wildlife, especially caimans, before returning to the lodge. 

Day 9: Return to Quito

Hoatzin bird
Hoatzin bird

Enjoy another early morning in the rainforest with a canoe trip on the river to see the sunrise and take in the peaceful atmosphere. 

After breakfast, gather your belongings for the return trip. Navigate back upriver to El Puente de Cuyabeno, then break for a box lunch. From here, take the bus back to Lago Agrio, then return to Quito.

Day 10: Sightseeing & Departure from Quito

Plaza Grande in Old Town Quito
Plaza Grande in Old Town Quito

Today you are free to explore Quito on your own before getting picked up for your transfer to the airport.  

 
  • Visit the impressive monastery St. Francis at the San Fransisco Square, and enjoy a drink on the square terrace—one of few in the historical center. It is the oldest and most important religious site in Ecuador, with a vast complex holding 13 cloisters, three churches, more than 3,500 works of religious art, and a library with thousands of books and historical documents. 
  • Enjoy a scenic view from El Panecillo hill, where the Virgin of El Pacenillo stands tall. The madonna is a 147-foot (45 m) tall monument, made up of 7,000 pieces of aluminum. 


At the designated time, meet with your driver at the hotel and head to the airport for your flight home.

Map

Map of Mountains & Rainforest in Ecuador: Quito, Andes, & Amazon - 10 Days
Map of Mountains & Rainforest in Ecuador: Quito, Andes, & Amazon - 10 Days