Featuring activities from cycling to hiking to snorkeling, this exciting 12-day itinerary is perfect for outdoor adventurers. Discover Quito on a bike tour, then soak in the hot springs of Papallacta. Hike and canoe in the rainforest in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve before catching a flight to the Galápagos Islands. Spot giant tortoises in the wild, snorkel with sea lions, and explore an uninhabited island to end the trip.


  • Explore Quito on a bicycle tour
  • Spend the night at a rainforest lodge
  • Spot monkeys and other animals in the wild 
  • Snorkel at Kicker Rock in the Galápagos Islands

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito & Tour Mitad del Mundo Quito
Day 2 Enjoy a Bike Tour & Cooking Class Quito
Day 3 Soak in Papallacta Hot Springs, Transfer to Cosanga Cosanga
Day 4 Travel to Rainforest Lodge & Night Walk Cuyabeno  
Day 5 Hike in the Jungle & See a Parrot Clay Lick Cuyabeno 
Day 6 Canoe on the Río Cuyabeno & Cultural Activities  Cuyabeno  
Day 7 Visit Observation Tower, Transfer to Quito Quito
Day 8 Fly to Isla San Cristóbal, Interpretation Center, Frigate Hill & Snorkeling Isla San Cristóbal 
Day 9 Snorkel at Kicker Rock Isla San Cristóbal 
Day 10 Boat to Isla Santa Cruz, Charles Darwin Research Station Isla Santa Cruz
Day 11 Go on an Excursion to an Uninhabited Island Isla Santa Cruz
Day 12 Transfer to Isla Baltra & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito & Tour Mitad del Mundo

Basilica of the National Vow, Quito
Quito's Baroque La Basílica del Voto stands over the city

Welcome to Quito! You'll arrive at the airport and then head to your hotel in the city center. Standing at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,850 m), this is the world's second-highest capital, and it welcomes visitors with its picturesque plazas between mountain peaks. After taking some time to get settled in, get your bearings and stretch your legs with a stroll around the city's UNESCO-listed historic center. Start on La Ronda, one of the oldest streets in the city, see the Monastery of San Francisco (circa 1535), the oldest church in Ecuador, or head to El Panecillo for spectacular views over Quito. 

In the afternoon, you'll visit the equatorial monument at Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World). It's located just 16 miles (26 km) north of the capital city in the spot where French scientists determined the position of the central line many years ago. You'll have the chance to stand on the line of the equator and strike a pose with one foot in each hemisphere! Visit the adjacent museum, featuring a planetarium, cocoa and chocolate exhibits, and a small-scale model of Quito.

Day 2: Enjoy a Bike Tour & Cooking Class

Street art in Quito
Spot unique street art on today's cycling tour of Quito

Today you'll explore the northern neighborhoods of Quito on two wheels. Follow your local guide on a four-hour bike tour through La Floresta, Carolina Park, and Iñaquito to see urban art and architecture. This is a great way to get to know Ecuador's capital from a different vantage point. After working up an appetite, you'll head to a cooking class inside a colonial house in Quito's historic center. Learn to prepare various traditional Ecuadorian dishes alongside your knowledgeable hosts, then sit down and enjoy a memorable meal.

Day 3: Soak in Papallacta Hot Springs, Transfer to Cosanga

Papallacta hot springs
Relax in the thermal waters of the Papallacta hot springs
It is time to leave Quito and head into the Ecuadorian Amazon. On the way, make a stop at the hot springs at Papallacta. Enjoy a couple of hours in the thermal springs: relax in the pools, enjoy the beautiful Andean scenery of the surroundings, or treat yourself to a massage. Afterward, continue the journey to a beautiful lodge nestled in the green forests near Cosanga, an ideal place for bird-watching and relaxation in nature.

Day 4: Travel to Rainforest Lodge & Night Walk

Canoe rides
Canoeing in the jungle
Your Amazon adventure starts in the morning with a transfer to a village on the shores of the Río Aguarico. Here you'll board a motorized canoe and make your way downstream. After approximately 2.5 hours of navigation, arrive at the mouth of the Río Cuyabeno, a tributary of the Aguarico. Stop for a delicious picnic lunch in the Secoya Indigenous territory.
Continue along the river and deeper into the rainforest, where you'll spend the night in a jungle lodge. During this journey, you'll have great chances to spot wildlife, including pink and gray freshwater dolphins. Upon arrival, go on a short night walk to spot giant insects, spiders, and snakes, and enjoy the sounds of nocturnal life in the Amazon before dinner at the lodge.

Day 5: Hike in the Jungle & See a Parrot Clay Lick

Parrots eating minerals from the rock
Make sure to pack your camera for today's visit to a parrot salt lick 
Early in the morning, head to the Saladero (Salt Lick), a natural phenomenon where parrots of different species show up in large numbers to get minerals from the cliff walls. Enjoy the wonder of this natural spectacle as colorful flocks descend in great numbers, then return to the lodge for breakfast.
Continue the day with a hike in the Amazon rainforest, one of the most biodiverse places on earth. During the walk, your experienced naturalist guide will explain the use of medicinal plants in the local Indigenous community, and you'll stop to admire a giant tree that towers over the surrounding forest. Cool off after the hike with a refreshing swim. 
Plan your trip to Ecuador
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
After lunch, you'll have some time to relax back at the lodge, before setting out once again on the Río Cuyabeno looking for new species of wildlife until the sun sets over the jungle. As you navigate back to the lodge after dark, discover the sights and sounds of nocturnal wildlife like birds, snakes, bats, caimans, frogs, and more.

Day 6: Canoe on the Río Cuyabeno & Cultural Activities 

Squirrel monkeys
Spot squirrel monkeys in the rainforest canopy
Today you'll explore more of the Río Cuyabeno by canoe. During the excursion, you'll have excellent chances of spotting wildlife, including parrots and macaws, herons, egrets, toucans, and many other species of birds. With a little luck, you might also see some of the 10 species of monkeys that call the reserve home.
For lunch, enjoy maito, a delicious Kichwa dish that consists of fish and vegetables wrapped in bijao leaves. Discover more untouched ecosystems with an afternoon trip down the Río Aguas Negras in a motorized canoe. As night falls, don't miss the chance to take a short hike into the forest after dark to look for more nocturnal life in the Amazon.

Day 7: Visit Observation Tower, Transfer to Quito

Sunset over the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

Early in the morning, get back out on the river for a trip to a local observation, the highest in the Cuyabeno Reserve. Built around a vast ceibo tree, this ecotourism destination was created by the local Kichwa people, and offers a bird's-eye view of the rainforest canopy, as well as sweeping views over the surrounding landscapes.

After breakfast, it's time to say goodbye to your rainforest paradise. A boat trip will take you back to the Río Aguarico, stopping en route for a delicious picnic lunch with a local Secoya family. Upon arrival at the dock in Tierras Orientales, a driver will be waiting to take you to Coca, then on to Quito, where you'll spend the night. 

Day 8: Fly to Isla San Cristóbal, Interpretation Center, Frigate Hill & Snorkeling

Frigate birds nesting on Tijeretas Hill
Brilliant red-breasted frigatebirds nest on Tijeretas Hill
It's time for a new adventure today as you fly to the Galápagos Islands. Your driver will take you to the airport in Quito, where you'll catch a flight to the island of San Cristóbal, the easternmost island in the archipelago and one of the oldest, formed over two million years ago by volcanic activity. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel and get settled into your accommodations. 
When you're ready to start exploring, begin with a visit to the Interpretation Center to learn more about the archipelago. Then your local guide will take you on a short hike through the island's typical brush forests to reach Frigate Hill (known as Cerro Tijeretas in Spanish), a viewpoint over the island and a prime spot to see distinctive frigatebirds nesting. Afterward, you can spend the rest of the afternoon in the water, snorkeling with sea lions, sea turtles, and colorful fish as you get your first glimpse of the Galápagos' underwater world.

Day 9: Snorkel at Kicker Rock

The iconic Kicker Rock
The iconic Kicker Rock rises out of the sea 
Pack your swimsuit and your sunscreen for today's adventurous excursion. A 50-minute boat ride will transport you to one of the most iconic places in the Galápagos, the famous Kicker Rock (also known as León Dormido, or "Sleeping Lion"). While snorkeling around this spectacular rock formation, you'll encounter sea lions, rays, turtles, and an array of fish. If you're lucky, you might even spot hammerhead sharks! When you've had your fill of marine life and underwater wonders, take a break and enjoy a hearty lunch prepared onboard.
Finish the day trip with a visit to a pristine beach, where you can relax, swim, and do some more snorkeling. In the afternoon, you'll return to Isla San Cristóbal, where the rest of your evening is free—though you won't want to miss a quick trip to Playa Mann to catch one of its famous sunsets.

Day 10: Boat to Isla Santa Cruz, Charles Darwin Research Station

Giant tortoise in their natural habitat
See giant tortoises in their natural habitat on Santa Cruz
It's time for a change of scene as you take the public speedboat from San Cristóbal to the island of Santa Cruz today. Located in the center of the archipelago, this is the second-largest island in the Galápagos and home to its largest town, Puerto Ayora. Upon arrival, you'll meet your guide and set off on a hike into the island's highlands, where you can observe giant tortoises in their natural habitat and explore the impressive lava tunnels that dot the area. Make another stop at the so-called "Twin Craters," home to various rare and resplendent bird species.

After enjoying a healthy meal on a farm in the highlands, your guide will bring you back to Puerto Ayora to visit the Charles Darwin Foundation and its research station, home to many giant tortoises and iguanas. Witness conservationists' inspiring efforts and learn how they are helping to repopulate the island with different species of endangered tortoises.

Day 11: Go on an Excursion to an Uninhabited Island

Blue-footed boobies
Spot blue-footed boobies and other native species on today's excursion
Only four of the many islands that compose the Galápagos archipelago have permanent settlements. The rest of the islands are left in their natural condition, serving as habitats for many endemic species. Today you will visit one of these untamed islands. Aboard a modern yacht, you'll travel to one of the following islands: Bartolomé, Seymour Norte, Plazas Sur, or Santa Fé

Each island has a different landscape and its own unique flora and fauna. On Santa Fé, you'll find the endemic Santa Fé iguana, while colonies of sea lions, frigatebirds, and blue-footed boobies are common on Seymour Norte. After an al fresco lunch on the yacht, spend the rest of the afternoon snorkeling at a nearby bay or beach, then return to civilization in Puerto Ayora, where you can savor your final night on the islands however you choose.

Day 12: Transfer to Isla Baltra & Depart

Marine iguana at Tortuga Bay beach
A marine iguana at Tortuga Bay beach
Enjoy some final hiking, snorkeling, or wildlife spotting this morning on Isla Santa Cruz. When the time comes, your driver will take you to cross the Itabaca Channel by ferry and transfer you to the airport. Safe travels! 

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Map of Outdoor Adventures in Ecuador: Quito, Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve & the Galápagos - 12 Days
Map of Outdoor Adventures in Ecuador: Quito, Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve & the Galápagos - 12 Days