This short itinerary is perfect for travelers who want a mix of cosmopolitan fun in Quito and adventure in the nearby cloud forests. Start with a walking tour of Quito's most striking historical sites and neighborhoods before taking a short drive to the cloud forest of Mindo where you can visit a butterfly farm, see how chocolate is made at a cacao hacienda. Then, explore the charming town of Otavalo and see the Peguche waterfall where ancient rituals still take place.

Highlights

  • Explore the UNESCO world heritage city of Quito
  • Straddle the Earth's hemispheres at Mitad del Mundo
  • Experience the biodiversity of a cloud forest
  • Shop at the indigenous market in Otavalo
  • See the Peguche Waterfall

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Quito Quito
Day 2 Tour of Quito - Mindo - Mitad del Mundo Mindo
Day 3 Cloud Forest of Mindo - Otavalo Otavalo
Day 4 Otavalo Market - Peguche Waterfall Otavalo
Day 5 Depart Quito  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Quito

View of Quito and the Cotopaxi Volcano
View of Quito and the Cotopaxi Volcano

When you arrive in the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), your Spanish-speaking driver will be ready to welcome you and take you to your hotel in the Andean capital.

The entire city of Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site standing at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,850 m), and it welcomes you with its picturesque plazas situated between mountain peaks. The city has an abundance of market stands, shamanistic healers, and fourth-generation hatmakers—all mixed with a vibrant and sophisticated culinary and nightlife scene.

Day 2: Tour of Quito - Mindo - Mitad del Mundo

Equatorial Monument Mitad del Mundo
Equatorial Monument Mitad del Mundo

After breakfast at your hotel, your English-speaking guide will pick you up for a walking tour of the city. You'll visit the colonial La Plaza Grande before heading over to the beautiful Church of la Compañía de Jesús and Basílica del Voto Nacional, the largest Neo-Gothic church in the Americas. After you grab some lunch, you will be taken to Mindo, a quiet town nestled in the slopes of the Western Cordillera mountain range. On the way, we will stop at the equatorial monument Mitad del Mundo, where French scientists determined the position of the equatorial line many years ago.

Day 3: Cloud Forest of Mindo - Otavalo

A zip line in the Mindo cloud forest
A zip line in the Mindo cloud forest

After breakfast, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and drive you to the lush cloud forest of Mindo. This forest's location at the western slopes of the Andean highlands affords the region with mild temperatures and a lot of rainfall, which help nourish its incredible biodiversity. Once you arrive, you'll be able to see hundreds of different bird species, visit the butterfly garden, hike to beautiful waterfalls, or take a few zip lines.

After you explore the forest, you can take a tour of the nearby chocolate factory and see how they process the local cacao beans to create chocolate. In the late afternoon, your driver will take you to your accommodation in the Andean town of Otavalo in the northern Imbabura Province.

Day 4: Otavalo Market - Peguche Waterfall

Textiles in a market booth in Otavalo
Textiles in a market booth in Otavalo

Today, you will be able to visit the famous Otavalo Market, which is one of the most important traditional markets in South America. Here, the indigenous peoples of the surrounding area gather to trade animals, handicrafts, fresh vegetables, and fruits. Take a stroll through the stalls, do some souvenir shopping, and try some of the local street food like salted mango or fritada con mote, fried pork with hominy.

After you explore the market, you can go see the small Peguche Waterfall, which is an indigenous ceremonial site. Once you finish hiking near the waterfall, you'll have the rest of the evening free at your hotel.

Day 5: Depart Quito

Plaza Grande in Old Town Quito
Plaza Grande in Old Town Quito

It's time to say goodbye to Ecuador! After breakfast, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and drive you back to Quito, where you can either spend a couple of hours exploring the city or transfer directly to the airport. 

Map

Map of Highlands of Ecuador - 5 Days
Map of Highlands of Ecuador - 5 Days