See Ecuador off the beaten path on this 15-day trip that takes you from the towering Andes to the edge of the Amazon. Visit the major sites of Quito as you discover its local cuisine, then hike and horseback ride through Cotopaxi National Park. Explore waterfalls near Baños before reaching Tena, where you'll float along the river through the Amazon rainforests. Discover the Andean hill towns of Cuenca, Gualaceo, and Chordeleg, and witness the ruins of Ingapirca and El Cajas National Park


  • Tour colonial Quito and learn about its history and local cuisine
  • Go hiking and horseback riding in Cotopaxi National Park
  • Explore Baños, Quilotoa Lagoon, and the Pailón del Diablo waterfall
  • Spend time in Tena to observe its wildlife, natural beauty, and culture

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito Quito
Day 2 Colonial Quito City Tour, Cooking Class & Visit the Mitad del Mundo Quito
Day 3 Visit Otavalo Market & Hike Cuicocha Lake Quito
Day 4 Transfer to Cotopaxi, Hike & Horseback Ride in Cotopaxi National Park Cotopaxi
Day 5 Transfer to Baños via Quilotoa Lagoon Baños
Day 6 Day Trip to Pailón del Diablo Waterfall Baños
Day 7 Transfer to Tena, Relax at Itamandi Lodge & Observe Nocturnal Wildlife Tena
Day 8 Meet the Kichwa Community Tena
Day 9 Discover Wildlife at Anaconda Island & AmaZOOnico Tena
Day 10 Transfer to Quito via Papallacta Hot Springs Quito
Day 11 Transfer to Cuenca, The Athens of Ecuador City Tour Cuenca
Day 12 Visit Gualaceo, Chordeleg & Cañar Province Cuenca
Day 13 Hike the Ingapirca Ruins Cuenca
Day 14 Transfer to Guayaquil via El Cajas National Park Guayaquil
Day 15 Depart Guayaquil  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito

Views over Quito and the Cotopaxi Volcano
Views over Quito and Cotopaxi 

¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Ecuador! Your flight will touch down in Quito, Ecuador's capital city, where a private driver will pick you up and take you to your accommodation. During the 45-minute trip, enjoy an introduction to Quito and a rundown of the itinerary for the next day from your driver. After settling into your hotel, you'll have the rest of today to explore the city. Sitting in the valley of Volcán Cotopaxi, Quito has an elevation of 9,350 feet (2,850 m) above sea level, making it the second-highest capital city in the world, second only to La Paz, Bolivia.

You're in for a fantastic adventure in the city, from the incredibly well-preserved colonial center to the lively bars and nightclubs around Plaza Foch. Take a walk through Parque Metropolitano Guangüiltagua, the largest urban park on the continent, or ride the TelefériQo to the top of Cruz Loma for dramatic views of the city's skyline.

Day 2: Colonial Quito City Tour, Cooking Class & Visit the Mitad del Mundo

Tour Quito's characterful neighborhoods today

Today, a guide will meet you at your hotel and take you on a walking city tour. The colonial center of Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to many beautiful historic buildings and squares. Visit the Plaza Grande, the beautiful churches La Compañía de Jesús and La Basílica del Voto, and walk down the oldest street of Quito, La Ronda. Later, head to the kitchen for a cooking class inside a colonial house in the heart of Old Town. You'll learn about Ecuadorian meals and the preparation process of a local dish. Once all your hard work is finished, enjoy the freshly made lunch you prepared.

Afterward, see the monument that marks the equator, the Mitad del Mundo ("Middle of the World"). Located just 16 miles (26 km) north of Quito, this is where French scientists determined the position of the central line many years ago. Take a selfie as you stand on the equator and pose with one foot in each hemisphere. Once you've had a look, visit some of the nearby attractions. You'll find a miniature "city" home to art exhibits, a planetarium, a small-scale model of Quito, an ethnographic museum, an old train station, a beer museum, a small chapel, and exhibits on cocoa and chocolate.  

Day 3: Visit Otavalo Market & Hike Cuicocha Lake

Cuicocha Lagoon
The crater lake of Cuicocha 

It's an early start as you head two hours north of Quito to visit the local market of Plaza de Los Ponchos in Otavalo, famous for products ranging from musical instruments, jewelry, and embroidery to vegetables, traditional sweets, terracotta objects, alpaca-wool ponchos, and more. Don't forget to bargain a little, as that is included in the price vendors first quote you.

After some shopping, it's off to visit Cuichocha Lake, a crater lake formed by an eruption of the Cotacachi volcano thousands of years ago. Walk along a path on the lake's steep shores to admire its midnight blue water and beautiful flowers as you listen to the buzz of hummingbirds. Take a boat ride past the two islands formed by lava domes or have lunch at the nearby restaurant and enjoy its panoramic views. This evening, head back to Quito for the night.

Day 4: Transfer to Cotopaxi, Hike & Horseback Ride in Cotopaxi National Park

Limpiopungo Lagoon and Cotopaxi Volcano
Limpiopungo Lagoon and Cotopaxi 
This morning, head south to Cotopaxi National Park, where you'll find the volcano of the same name. Rising to 19,347 feet (5,897 m) on a high Andean plain, this majestic peak with glaciers towers over the rest of the surrounding landscapes. Start at Lake Limpiopungo and walk all or part of the trail around the lake. You'll also see the El Salitre Inca ruins, located in the park's highlands. Home to many fascinating birds, you may also spot Andean foxes, wild horses, eagles, and hawks as they flock to the shores for a drink. Look out for the spectacular reflection of Cotopaxi on the lake's surface.

In the afternoon, explore the national park on horseback. Ride through beautiful páramo (typical high Andean landscape) before enjoying the rest of the evening in front of the fireplace in the cozy traditional hacienda.

Day 5: Transfer to Baños via Quilotoa Lagoon

Quilotoa Lagoon
Quilotoa Lagoon

Leave Cotopaxi National Park and head west to visit the picturesque caldera, Quilotoa Lagoon. 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. 

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

Continue your journey toward Baños de Agua Santa, a city on the edge of the Amazonian basin, where you'll spend the night. Baños is nestled in a valley between mountains and volcanoes with nearby waterfalls, rivers, and hot springs. The town is famous for its thermal baths and is known as the "adventure sports capital of Ecuador," which means you'll enjoy many activities in this town.

Day 6: Day Trip to Pailón del Diablo Waterfall

The Devil's Cauldron

Drive south today along the "Avenue of Waterfalls," which skirts the Río Pastaza on a scenic route through the valley. Passing a number of waterfalls, you'll reach the small village of Río Verde, where you will stop to see the famous El Pailón del Diablo ("Devil's Cauldron"). If you'd like, you can choose to rent a bike and ride to the falls. In the afternoon, you'll have some free time to visit the thermal pools of Baños and relax.

Or you could head to the famous treehouse, Casa del Arbol, and its swing known as El Fin del Mundo ("The End of the World"), balancing on the edge of a steep valley. From the swing, at 8,530 ft (2,600 m), you'll experience exhilarating sensations with Baños and the volcano of Tungurahua in full view. If you are looking for some more adrenaline, opt for rafting or ziplining instead. Return to your accommodation in Baños in the evening. 

Day 7: Transfer to Tena, Relax at Itamandi Lodge & Observe Nocturnal Wildlife

Baños- Tena - Itamandi Lodge
Float through the Amazon rainforest

As you leave Baños and make the four-hour journey to Tena, it's time for a change of scenery. Start your Amazon tour at the Arajuno Bridge, where you'll take a motorized canoe upriver for 20 minutes through the tropical forest to Itamandi Ecolodge. On this boat trip, you'll appreciate the magic and beauty of the Amazon rainforest by traveling along a river that zigzags through the jungle like a giant snake, considered the primary system of the Pacha Mama (Mother Earth). Upon arrival at the Itamandi Ecolodge dock area, enjoy a warm welcome from the lodge staff.

For the remainder of the afternoon, relax in the lounge with a fresh tropical drink. At some point, you'll have a short briefing containing general information about the accommodation and activities provided. After dinner at the lodge, a flashlight and camera are your essential tools as you set out on a nighttime excursion, allowing you to hear and capture the nocturnal sounds of fishing bats, owls, some insects, tarantulas, toads, frogs, and possibly snakes. If the sky is clear, you'll have the opportunity to observe every star in the sky.

Day 8: Meet the Kichwa Community

Itamandi Lodge: Meeting the magical Kichwa community
A toucan in the Amazon canopy
In the calm of the early morning, fill your lungs with fresh air as you take a three-hour walk through the primary and secondary forests. In the afternoon, enjoy a cultural activity with the Indigenous Amazonian Kichwa community. Discover their way of life and their interaction with the jungle. During this meeting, you'll learn about a part of the Amazon that is not found on maps.
A portion of the visit consists of sharing the famous chicha, a fermented yucca drink that has become part of festivities and daily consumption. Participate in preparing this drink and try some of the traditional dishes. The visit ends with a traditional dance performed by the community's children, and you'll have free time to buy some one-of-a-kind handicrafts afterward.

Day 9: Discover Wildlife at Anaconda Island & AmaZOOnico

Itamandi Lodge: Discovering creatures on Anaconda Island & Amazoonico
Monkeys at play at AmaZOOnico

Today you'll take a 40-minute canoe ride downriver to visit the Isla Anaconda. Along the way, you might spot the rare prehistoric hoatzin bird, woolly monkeys, and squirrel monkeys in the treetops above. Visit a family in one of the local Indigenous communities to learn about their farming habits, medicinal plants, traditional way of hunting with cerbatana (blowguns), and handmade traps in the forest.

After lunch, visit AmaZOOnico, which shelters many animals in danger of extinction. AmaZOOnico is not a zoo but a rescue center for animals of the Amazon in Ecuador. Observe a wide variety of monkeys, macaws, ocelots, capybaras, toucans, parrots, and much more animals at close range, then return to the ecolodge for a quiet afternoon.

Day 10: Transfer to Quito via Papallacta Hot Springs

Itamandi Lodge - Papallacta- Quito
Take a soak in the hot springs at Papallacta 

Hear the sounds of the rainforest for the last time before leaving the lodge and heading back to Puente Arajuno by canoe. From there, you will be brought back to Tena to return to Quito. On the way, stop at the hot springs of Papallacta to refresh in fantastic volcanic waters. Soothe those tired muscles in the thermal waters as you enjoy the beautiful Andean scenery, or treat yourself to a massage. It's also a great spot to have lunch with local dishes such as fresh-grilled trout. Bid your farewells to the fresh mountain air before returning to Quito.

Day 11: Transfer to Cuenca, The Athens of Ecuador City Tour

Welcome to Cuenca! The Athens of Ecuador - City Tour
Aerial view of Cuenca

Return to city life today as a driver picks you up and takes you to the airport in Quito for the 50-minute flight to Cuenca. Once you've arrived and settled into your hotel, join a tour to get to know the city. The tour starts in the San Sebastián neighborhood on the western edge of the city center. You'll visit the Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno ("Modern Art Museum") and its colorful gardens. See the Iglesia El Sagrario, the "Old Cathedral," now a museum, and the Catedral Metropolitana de la Inmaculada Concepción, the "New Cathedral," which is still an operating church. 

Later, visit Museo del Sombrero de Paja Toquilla, or Panama Hat Museum. Learn how weavers create these hats and the techniques used to turn the everyday headwear into expensive accessories. Head to El Barranco, the part of the historic center that borders the Río Tomebamba. Walk along the verdant riverbanks and admire the terraced houses alongside the river. Finally, end the tour at the Mirador de Turi, an observation deck where you can enjoy stunning views of the city, the nearby mountains, and a beautiful sunset. Return to your hotel for a well-earned restful night.

Day 12: Visit Gualaceo, Chordeleg & Cañar Province

Gualaceo - Chordeleg - Cañar Province
Gualaceo's Orchids

Start your day with a trip to Gualaceo, nicknamed the "Garden of Azuay," where you will visit an orchid farm housing more than 6,000 different types of carefully cultivated orchids. Many picturesque villages are nestled in the mountains, and each town has its claim to fame. Stop in Chordeleg, a silversmith town specializing in filigree silverwork, which uses fine wires to form delicate jewelry pieces. Afterward, you will drive to Ingapirca to enjoy the history behind the corridors and walls of one of the oldest haciendas of the Cañar Province, before returning to Cuenca for the evening.

Day 13: Hike the Ingapirca Ruins

Ruins of Ingapirca
Ruins of Ingapirca

Enjoy the winding roads with mountains and volcanoes as a backdrop before arriving at Ingapirca, nestled within the mountains. Ingapirca, meaning "Inca Wall," is one of the most important ruins from pre-Inca times. With a guide, spend the day exploring the largest Inca complex in Ecuador. At 10,498 feet (3,200 m) in elevation, the site was important to the Cañari people who lived there before the arrival of the Inca. Here, you'll find archaeological evidence of both cultures, as they coexisted peacefully for many years.

Among the ruins, your guide will show you the Temple of the Sun, ancient terraces, and Cañari tomb, bringing these impressive ruins to life. Don't miss the small museum that houses Inca ceramics, sculptures, and tools. In the afternoon, you'll return to Cuenca.

Day 14: Transfer to Guayaquil via El Cajas National Park

From the Highlands to the Coast: Cajas National Park to Guayaquil
Llamas at El Cajas National Park

Savor a traditional breakfast while you enjoy the landscapes of Cuenca. Your driver will pick you up and take you to El Cajas National Park before making your way to the largest city in Ecuador, Guayaquil. El Cajas National Park, with its 200 glacial lakes and numerous hiking trails, is one of Ecuador's most beautiful sites, located 20 miles (32 km) west of Cuenca. You will cross small gorges, and polylepis forests during this trek as your guide explains moorland vegetation. Highlights include the Garden of the Virgin of Cajas and Tres Cruces Viewpoint

After stopping for lunch, you'll continue on a four-hour drive with your guide, approaching one of the highest points in the Ecuadorian highlands before descending toward Ecuador's coast. Rice plantations dot the landscape as you near Guayaquil, where you will be dropped off at the hotel to relax and spend the rest of the evening at your leisure.

Day 15: Depart Guayaquil

Farewell Ecuador!

It's time to say goodbye this morning. If you have some free time, don't miss a stroll through colorful Guayaquil, where you can explore the historic cobblestone streets of Puerto Santa Ana and the busy riverfront boardwalk Malecón 2000. When the time comes, you'll be picked up by private transportation for a transfer to the airport, where you'll catch a flight to your final destination. Safe travels! 

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Map of The Ecuadorian Andes to the Amazon - 15 Days
Map of The Ecuadorian Andes to the Amazon - 15 Days