- Spend three days exploring the biodiverse Yasuni National Park
- Explore the volcanic landscape of Cotopaxi National Park on horseback
- Follow the Ruta de Cascadas to the famous Pailón del Diablo waterfall
- Relax in the natural hot springs at the Termas de Papallacta
|Day 1||Arrive in Quito, Explore||Quito|
|Day 2||Ride the TelefériQo Cable Car & Tour La Floresta||Quito|
|Day 3||Fly to El Coca, Canoe to Yasuní National Park||Yasuni National Park|
|Day 4||Visit Clay Licks, Meet Napo Kichwa People & Hike to Garzacocha Lagoon||Yasuni National Park|
|Day 5||Hike in the Rainforest & Take a Nocturnal Animal Walk||Yasuni National Park|
|Day 6||Fly to Quito||Quito|
|Day 7||Transfer to Cotopaxi, Explore Cotopaxi National Park on Horseback||Cotopaxi|
|Day 8||Transfer to Baños, Relax||Baños|
|Day 9||Visit El Pailón del Diablo Waterfall, Transfer to Quito||Quito|
|Day 10||Transfer to Papallacta, Visit the Hot Springs||Papallacta|
|Day 11||Transfer to Quito, Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Explore
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Ecuador! After landing in Quito, the capital city, a private transfer will take you to your accommodations in the city. You'll have the rest of the day to explore Quito at your own pace.
Visit the UNESCO-recognized Old Town to discover gorgeous colonial churches like San Francisco, La Compañia, and other historical landmarks. Head north to the Equator Monument, which also houses the Ethnographical Museum. If you're feeling adventurous, climb to the top of Panecillo Hill, a 656-foot (200 m) overlook of the city topped by a 135-foot-tall (41 m) aluminum statue of the Virgin Mary, known as the Virgen del Panecillo.
Day 2: Ride the TelefériQo Cable Car & Tour La Floresta
In the morning, meet your guide and hop on the TelefériQo cable car, which brings you up to 12,943 feet (3,945 m) on the Pichincha volcano. From the summit, you can enjoy a spectacular view of the city and the surrounding mountains. If you want to, take a short walk or just snap some pictures from different viewpoints.
Afterward, head to La Floresta, a traditional neighborhood in Quito, for a walking tour. During this walk, admire the urban artwork and creativity of local artists as you wander through the neighborhood's attractive streets filled with cafés and restaurants. Later, head back to your hotel for a well-earned rest.
Day 3: Fly to El Coca, Canoe to Yasuní National Park
Fly east from Quito to Puerto Francisco de Orellana, also known as "El Coca." From here, travel along the Napo River via motorized and paddle canoes alongside your guides to enter the Yasuní National Park.
Over the next few days, you'll explore one of the most biologically diverse places in the world—the Equator, Andes, and Amazon biomes meet within the park, supporting thousands of species of mammals, plants, insects, reptiles, and amphibians. Before you head out into this fascinating environment, a guide will introduce you to the area so you can fully appreciate the park's uniqueness.
Then, take your first venture into the rainforest along the Matapalo Trail, a two-hour walk alongside naturalist guides who will point out some of the region's diverse residents, like towering mahogany trees, Eastern Ecuadorian squirrel monkeys scampering in the canopy, and tree frogs endemic to the area. Be sure to keep an eye out for strangler figs; they're the trail's namesake, after all. After the hike, head back to your lodge accommodations to relax, kayak, or swim in a lagoon and enjoy a well-deserved dinner.
Day 4: Visit Clay Licks, Meet Napo Kichwa People & Hike to Garzacocha Lagoon
Get an early start on another day in the Ecuadorian Amazon. First, visit a clay lick, an area where the river has worn away soil to reveal a clay seam. Hundreds of parrots flock to these areas to get essential minerals from the clay, and you can watch the gathering through a pair of binoculars.
Later on, meet with representatives of the local Napo Kichwa people, who call themselves Napu Runa. They'll share stories of their way of life and close relationship to the rainforest in this area, giving you a better understanding of how the Amazon supports the people who live within it.
Then it's time for a lunch break before a hike out to Garzacocha Lagoon, a calm lake hidden in the rainforest. Along the way, guides will point out animals like tapirs and black-mantled tamarin monkeys and medicinal plants like guayusa and ajo sacha (garlic vine). Head back to the lodge via a canoe and consider participating in other activities like yoga, kayaking, or fishing.
Day 5: Hike in the Rainforest & Take a Nocturnal Animal Walk
During your last full day in the Amazon, explore extraordinary landscapes and try to spot animals you haven't seen yet. Start off with a three to four-hour hike through the forest to a lagoon called Mandi Cocha, keeping an eye out for tapir and other mammals. At the lagoon, hope in a canoe to explore the blackwater-flooded forest. Seasonally, fresh rainwater floods the forest, creating a temporary world where trees rise out of the still water and animals, like the rare giant otter, visit looking for fish.
Later, hike out to the nearby Garzacocha Lagoon to search for animals around the lake. You might spot groups of squirrel and capuchin monkeys in the trees or hear the shouts of howler monkeys reverberating off the water. You'll find plenty of birds in this area and might see colorful hoatzins, toucans, macaws, and other species.
Once night falls, your adventure in the rainforest continues. Grab a flashlight and follow your guide on a night walk, where you'll have the chance to find creatures that normally hide out during the day. Be on the lookout for praying mantises, tree frogs, snakes, even nine-banded armadillos and kinkajous.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 6: Fly to Quito
Grab an early breakfast before taking a canoe ride back out of Yasuní National Park to El Coca. From here, catch a flight back to Quito, where you'll once again be transferred to your hotel. After a full day of travel, take some time to relax in the hotel or continue exploring the city. Consider taking a walk through Parque Metropolitano Guangüiltagua, the largest urban park on the continent, or around Independence Square, home to colonial palaces and a cathedral.
Day 7: Transfer to Cotopaxi, Explore Cotopaxi National Park on Horseback
Early this morning, head south from Quito for an adventure in Cotopaxi National Park. Once you arrive, head over to Limpiopungo Lagoon, a calm, turquoise lake hidden in a valley. While you're here, you might spot the wildlife that calls the lagoon home, like two dozen species of birds, llamas, and rabbits.
Then, saddle up at a traditional hacienda (ranch) and explore the Andean landscape on horseback, admiring the symmetrical, snow-capped peak of Cotopaxi. As your horse picks through terrain formed by ancient eruptions and high-altitude forests, keep an eye out for more wild animals, like hawks, condors, and weasels. After a day of adventure in one of Ecuador's most iconic natural areas, relax and unwind back at the hacienda.
Day 8: Transfer to Baños, Relax
Today, head south from Quito to Baños de Agua Santa, also known simply as Baños. This city sits on the edge of the Amazonian basin and is known for its hot springs and nearby waterfalls. Take your time to explore. Relax in the thermal pools, hike on nearby trails, or visit the Casa del Arbol ("Tree House") to soar on a swing at the edge of a mountain.
For something a bit more involved, consider visiting another volcanic wonder: Quilotoa. This 2-mile (3 km) wide crater lake is filled with 820 feet (250 m) of mineral-rich green water. Hike along the lake's outer rim, enjoying the views from three lava domes, or follow a path to the lake itself. Hiking in the area, especially uphill, can be challenging, so consider renting a mule for help.
Day 9: Visit El Pailón del Diablo Waterfall, Transfer to Quito
This morning, ride along the scenic Ruta de Cascadas ("Waterfall Route") toward the village of Río Verde. Along the way, you'll be sure to see the route's namesake water feature. When you arrive in town, take a short hike to one of the better-known waterfalls in the area, El Pailón del Diablo ("Devil's Cauldron"). The water cascades 265 feet (81 m) down through the cloud forest. Then, head back toward Baños to take a dip in its thermal pools, check out its many Catholic churches, or visit the Casa del Arbol.
At the end of the day, a private transfer will pick you up and bring you back to Quito for the next part of your Ecuadorian adventure.
Day 10: Transfer to Papallacta, Visit the Hot Springs
What better way to wrap up a long trip than a relaxing visit to a hot spring to unwind? Today, head via private transfer to Papallacta, home of the Termas de Papallacta, a spa made up of eight natural geothermal pools. Take a dip in the warm water and let any stress from your travels melt away as you admire the views of polylepis trees and the Artisana volcano in the distance.
Day 11: Transfer to Quito, Depart
On your last day in Ecuador, grab breakfast and enjoy your morning in Papallacta before your private driver transfers you to the Quito airport for your departing flight. Hasta luego! See you later!