If you want to visit Ecuador but can't decide between city or rainforest life, this itinerary has the best of both worlds. Start in Quito to see colonial churches and visit the equatorial line, then head to the Amazon rainforest. Spend three days in Yasuni National Park relaxing at an ecolodge, panning for gold in a stream, and learning to make chocolate the authentic way. 

Highlights

  • Tour Quito's colonial city center
  • Visit the Middle of the Earth equator site
  • Soak in Papallacta's hot springs
  • Learn to fish piranha in the rainforest
  • Visit an indigenous Kichwa community

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival to Quito Quito
Day 2 Quito Historic Center, Panecillo Hill, & Middle of the World Tour Quito
Day 3 Quito to Yacuma Ecolodge in Yasuni National Park Yasuni National Park
Day 4 Yacuma Ecolodge: Plant Hike, Bat Cave, & Gold Panning Yasuni National Park
Day 5 Yacuma Ecolodge: Kichwa Ceramics, Chocolate-Making, & Campfire Yasuni National Park
Day 6 Papallacta Hot Spring en Route to Quito Quito
Day 7 Depart 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, Panecillo Hill, & 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. 

This visit is followed by a short stop at the top of El Panecillo Hill where the impressive statue of the Virgin Mary is located. It's a great place for photos of panoramic city views. 

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: Quito to Yacuma Ecolodge in Yasuni National Park

Viewpoint at Yacuma
Viewpoint at Yacuma

Start your day with a 4-hour transfer to the town of Tena, which sits on the edge of Yasuni National Park. From here, take a motorized canoe to reach the lodge. You'll be welcome with a refreshing Guayusa, a drink which locals drink at dawn as a natural energizer for the remainder of the day. 

Settle into your hotel, relax, and spend some time unwinding after the trip. Later, head to the river to try your hand at piranha fishing. 

Afterward, return to the lodge for dinner. In the evening, head out for a nighttime wildlife walk, or opt to stay at the lodge and relax.

Day 4: Yacuma Ecolodge: Plant Hike, Bat Cave, & Gold Panning

A toucan in Yasuni
A toucan in Yasuni

After breakfast, head out for a 3-4 hour hike. You'll get to see and learn about medicinal plants that local communities have used for centuries. The hike eventually winds towards the Bat Cave, parts of which remain unexplored. Inside the cave, you can see bats, spiders, snakes, and other dark-loving creatures. It's also a key site for the nearby community: local Shamans use this cave to gain energy for their rituals. 

After the hike, return to the lodge for lunch and a short rest.

In the afternoon, go tubing on the Napo River, where you'll learn about traditional gold panning (a practice that's observed by several of the local communities). This gold is later sold in town.

In the evening, return to the lodge for dinner and a good night's rest.

Day 5: Yacuma Ecolodge: Kichwa Ceramics, Chocolate-Making, & Campfire

An artist sculpting ceramics
An artist sculpting ceramics

Today you'll visit a local indigenous Kichwa family, where you'll learn about their culture and lifestyles. You'll also get a demonstration on the process of making and painting ceramics, which the family sells to visitors along with other items of art and crafts. 

Return to the lodge for lunch, then learn to make chocolate from locally-grown cocoa beans for a sweet afternoon dessert. 

In the evening, gather together for one last dinner and a farewell campfire.

Day 6: Papallacta Hot Spring en Route to Quito

Papallacta Hot Springs
Papallacta Hot Springs

For those interested in bird-watching, an early hike can be arranged this morning to Yacuma's parrot clay-click or to a nearby viewpoint. Return to the lodge for breakfast at 8:00 AM, then return to Santa Rosa by motorized canoe. 

On the drive back, stop at Papallacta Hot Spring for a relaxing soak before continuing to Quito for the evening.

Day 7: Depart from Quito

Cathedral La Basílica
Cathedral La Basílica

Today you are free to explore Quito on your own and shop for souvenirs before your flight home. At the designated time, meet your driver at the hotel for the transfer to the airport.

Map

Map of Nature & Culture in Ecuador: Quito and the Amazon Rainforest - 7 Days
Map of Nature & Culture in Ecuador: Quito and the Amazon Rainforest - 7 Days