Hit the road for this exciting self-drive adventure through Ecuador. The 13-day itinerary begins when you pick up your rental car at Quito's airport. Take side trips to Mitad del Mundo and Papallacta before continuing to the famous Otavalo Market to shop for handicrafts. Drive to Cotopaxi National Park and Baños for hikes and outdoor activities, then finish with sightseeing in Cuenca and coastal Guayaquil.


  • Ride the TelefériQo cable car to the top of Pichincha volcano 
  • Learn to prepare traditional Ecuadorian dishes in a cooking class
  • Hike to the beautiful Pailón del Diablo waterfall
  • Soar over mountain scenery on the "Swing at the End of the World"

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito, Explore the City Quito
Day 2 Spend the Day Discovering Quito Quito
Day 3 Take a City Tour & Cooking Class, Visit Mitad del Mundo  Quito
Day 4 Drive to Otavalo, Otavalo Market & Hike Around Cuicocha Lake  Otavalo
Day 5 Drive to Cotopaxi, Explore Cotopaxi National Park Cotopaxi
Day 6 Drive to Baños, See El Pailón del Diablo Waterfall Baños
Day 7 Enjoy Leisure Time in Baños  Baños
Day 8 Drive to Riobamba & Chimborazo Volcano Riobamba
Day 9 Drive to Cuenca via the Ingapirca Ruins Cuenca
Day 10 Explore Cuenca at Your Own Pace  Cuenca
Day 11 Drive to Guayaquil & the Pacific Coast Guayaquil
Day 12 Tour the Port City of Guayaquil Guayaquil
Day 13 Depart Guayaquil  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Explore the City

Views over Quito and Cotopaxi
Views over Quito and Cotopaxi

Welcome to Quito! You'll arrive at the airport, pick up your rental car, and then head to your hotel in the city center. After taking some time to get settled in, explore the historic center. This UNESCO World Heritage Site stands at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,850 m) and welcomes visitors with its picturesque plazas between mountain peaks.

Stroll through its narrow streets and visit some of the city's most important churches, such as the Baroque La Compañía, with its incredible gold-covered interior, and the neo-Gothic La Basílica. Take a walk down La Ronda, one of the oldest streets in the city, then head to Panecillo Hill for incredible panoramic views. If you're up for it, drive to Papallacta for a soak in its geothermal pools, then return to Quito for the night.

Day 2: Spend the Day Discovering Quito

The dazzling gold interiors of La Compañía Church
The dazzling gold interiors of La Compañía Church

Today you'll have the entire day to explore Quito at your own pace. Visit the artsy La Floresta neighborhood and Parque La Carolina, the largest urban park in the city. It features an artificial lake, bike trails, and a skate park. For more arts and culture, check out La Casa de La Cultura, MINDALAE Museum, or the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Another excellent option is to ride the TelefériQo cable car to the top of Pichincha volcano for fabulous views of the city. At the summit, you can go on a short hike, take some amazing pictures, and even spot wildlife.

Day 3: Take a City Tour & Cooking Class, Visit Mitad del Mundo 

Colonial Quito City Tour - Cooking Class with a Local Chef &  the Middle of the World
Visit the "Middle of the World"
Your guide will pick you up from your hotel this morning and take you on a walking tour of the city. Around midday, head to a traditional cooking class to learn about the incredible gastronomy of Ecuador and enjoy a delicious lunch.
In the afternoon, you'll visit the equatorial monument known as Mitad del Mundo. 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 4: Drive to Otavalo, Otavalo Market & Hike Around Cuicocha Lake 

Cuicocha Lagoon
The crater lake of Cuicocha 

In the morning, hit the road and drive north 55 miles (90 km) from Quito to Otavalo. Explore the famed local market, filled with colorful textiles, paintings, carvings, hand-painted bowls, and other traditional products. Snack on street food such as salted mango or fritada con mote (fried pork with cooked corn), then continue to nearby Cotacachi, known for its leather products.

In the afternoon, take a walk along the shores of the volcanic crater lake of Cuicocha. Spot its high-altitude flora and fauna, then enjoy a boat ride around the lake's islands. After your tour, drive to a traditional hacienda (farmhouse) in Otavalo, where you'll spend the night.

Plan your trip to Ecuador
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 5: Drive to Cotopaxi, Explore Cotopaxi National Park

Car Rental Drive from Otavalo to Cotopaxi
Sweeping views of Cotopaxi
Your next destination is Cotopaxi National Park. You'll travel south approximately 43 miles (70 km) toward Volcán Cotopaxi, whose symmetrical snow-capped peak (9,347 ft/5,897 m) is the second-highest summit in Ecuador. Start at Lake Limpiopungo, where you'll see birds, wild horses, and a mix of Andean plants and wildlife amid the rugged scenery, then hike to the Padre Rivas Refuge for a spectacular view of the volcanic cone. In the late afternoon, head back to your hacienda for a restful evening.

Day 6: Drive to Baños, See El Pailón del Diablo Waterfall

El Pailón del Diablo waterfall in Baños
El Pailón del Diablo waterfall in Baños

Set out for Baños today, about 81 miles (131 km) south of Cotopaxi. Set your GPS to guide you through the Avenue of the Volcanoes along the way. You'll reach the small village of Río Verde, where you will stop to see the famous El Pailón del Diablo (The Devil's Cauldron) waterfall. In the afternoon, visit the relaxing thermal pools of Baños, or opt for a rafting or ziplining adventure among the rainforest canopy.

Day 7: Enjoy Leisure Time in Baños 

Leisure Time in Baños - The Gateway to the Amazon
Canyoning in Baños
In Baños, named for nearby hot springs with healing waters, you'll wake up to the sound of waterfalls. For a relaxing morning or afternoon, take a dip in these thermal waters. Or embark on a rafting, canyoning, bungee jumping, hiking, or mountain biking excursion. Finish the afternoon with a ride on the Swing at the End of the World at Casa del Árbol, a treehouse on a mountainside overlooking Baños. 

Day 8: Drive to Riobamba & Chimborazo Volcano

Car Rental Drive from Baños to Riobamba
Sunrise over Chimborazo 
After breakfast, the road trip continues to Chimborazo, traveling west about 73 miles (119 km). This ancient volcano's three peaks stretch eastward from a base of more than 12 miles (20 km) in diameter, although its last eruption was about 10,000 years ago. Explore the volcano's base and then hike to Refuge Carrell at 15,748 feet (4,800 m) for mountain and valley views. Back on the road, you'll continue southeast 30 miles (49 km) to Riobamba and rest at your hotel for the evening. 

Day 9: Drive to Cuenca via the Ingapirca Ruins

Riobamba  & Hiking Ingapirca Ruins
Explore the Ingapirca ruins
Start today with a drive to the pre-Inca ruins at Ingapirca, one of the largest archeological complexes in Ecuador. Located at 10,498 feet (3,200 m) above sea level, the site was a strategically-located settlement to manage an entire empire. Climb through the Cañari settlement ruins and look out for llamas roaming freely. At the end of your archaeological exploration, continue on to Cuenca, traveling the remaining 43 miles (70 km) south. 

Day 10: Explore Cuenca at Your Own Pace 

A street vendor in Cuenca

Go out and see more of the walled town of Cuenca today as you explore this historic city built on limestone cliffs above the Júcar and Huécar rivers. As you walk around, notice the casas colgadas (hanging houses) over the Huécar Gorge. Stroll the San Sebastián neighborhood to visit the Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno (Modern Art Museum) and its colorful gardens, or stop to admire Cuenca's famous pair of cathedrals.

For lunch, visit a local market to try street food like grilled corn and tamales, then stop in at the Museo del Sombrero de Paja Toquilla, otherwise known as the Panama Hat Museum, where the famous hats are made from toquilla straw. Take a walk along the verdant riverbanks of El Barranco, then catch the sunset at Mirador de Turi, an observation deck where you can enjoy stunning views of the city.

Day 11: Drive to Guayaquil & the Pacific Coast

Welcome to The Pearl of the Pacific: Arrival in Guayaquil
Welcome to the Pearl of the Pacific, Guayaquil
Head for the ocean today as you make your way to Guayaquil, famed as the gateway to the Galápagos Islands. The drive is approximately four hours from Cuenca, and you'll take the scenic route, observing the shift from dry highlands to lush coastline along the way. Check in to your hotel and then take a leisurely walk around. The port city is filled with colorful neighborhoods, waterfront views, and restaurants and galleries to explore.

Day 12: Tour the Port City of Guayaquil

Malecón 2000 Guayaquil
A colorful scene in Guayaquil
Take time to explore Guayaquil today. At the Parque Histórico, discover native species, such as sloths, monkeys, and parrots, in a park recreating the natural mangrove habitat. The next stop could be the Cementerio General, an early 20th-century cemetery where artistic tombs are reminders of the prospering cocoa trade of that time. Finally, stroll along the historic cobblestone streets of Puerto Santa Ana and the busy boardwalk Malecón 2000 along the Río Guayas

Day 13: Depart Guayaquil

Houses on a hillside in Guayaquil
Your great Ecuadorian road trip draws to a close today. Return your rental car to Guayaquil's airport, and then catch your flight to your next destination. Safe travels!

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Map of Road Trip Through Ecuador - 13 Days
Map of Road Trip Through Ecuador - 13 Days