- See the major sites in Quito and learn about Andean flavors in a cooking class
- Discover waterfalls in Baños and bike secluded trails in Cotopaxi National Park
- Go off the beaten path to explore the quaint hill towns of Cuenca and Gualaceo
- Hike in Podocarpus National Park before venturing to Ecuador's coast
|Day 1||Arrive in Quito||Quito|
|Day 2||Colonial Quito City Tour, Cooking Class & Visit the Mitad del Mundo||Quito|
|Day 3||Transfer to Baños, Bike in Cotopaxi National Park||Baños|
|Day 4||Reconnect with Nature at Baños de Agua Santa||Baños|
|Day 5||Transfer to Riobamba via Chimborazo Volcano||Riobamba|
|Day 6||Transfer to Cuenca via Ingapirca Ruins||Cuenca|
|Day 7||Explore Cuenca, Gualaceo & Chordeleg||Cuenca|
|Day 8||Transfer to Loja, Loja City Tour||Loja|
|Day 9||Visit Podocarpus National Park, Transfer to Vilcabamba||Vilcabamba|
|Day 10||Return to Cuenca, Pottery Class||Cuenca|
|Day 11||Transfer to Guayaquil via El Cajas National Park||Guayaquil|
|Day 12||Transfer to Puerto López via the Scenic Route||Puerto López|
|Day 13||Sailing Excursion to Isla de la Plata||Puerto López|
|Day 14||Return to Guayaquil, Los Frailes & Agua Blanca in Machalilla National Park||Guayaquil|
|Day 15||Depart Guayaquil|
Day 1: Arrive in Quito
¡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 the dramatic Cotopaxi volcano, 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
A guide will meet you at your hotel today 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 and La Basílica, and walk down the oldest street of Quito, La Ronda. Later, head to the kitchen for a cooking class inside a 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 neighboring 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: Transfer to Baños, Bike in Cotopaxi National Park
Early this morning, your guide will take you south to Cotopaxi National Park. Once in the park, enjoy the beautiful landscapes as you continue the ascent in a 4WD vehicle until you reach the park's highest point at 15,000 feet (4,500 m). The view is stunning, and you'll see eight volcanoes on a clear day. Then, put on your helmet and gloves as you begin your bike adventure on the world's highest active volcano. The first 5 miles (8 km) will take you down on dirt roads, through volcanic ash and the páramo (alpine tundra) landscape.
At 12,467 feet (3,800 m), you will have to do some pedaling as you head down another 5 miles (8 km), past volcanic rocks and wild horses, to your lunch spot by an Inca ruin at 12,139 feet (3,700 m). With some luck, you might see a condor or a caracara. After lunch, put the bikes back on the Jeep and head for Limpiopungo Lake, where you will start a 10-mile (16 km) downhill ride to complete your adventure. At the end of the day, continue to Baños and get settled into your accommodations.
Day 4: Reconnect with Nature at Baños de Agua Santa
Lace up your hiking boots as you head toward the Pailón del Diablo (Devil's Cauldron), just 10 miles (17 km) from Baños de Agua Santa on the road to Puyo. After a hike down to the waterfall, you will be amazed at its height. At approximately 262 feet (80 m) high, it's considered one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Ecuador. In addition, its location on Río Pastaza guarantees a constant water supply for the surrounding areas.Afterward, you'll find 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. Swing over the edge at 8,530 ft (2600 m), experiencing exhilarating sensations with the volcanoes of Baños and Tungurahua in full view.
Day 5: Transfer to Riobamba via Chimborazo Volcano
Join your driver/guide as you embark on today's road trip to the impressive volcano of Chimborazo. Along the way, you'll stop at interesting sights, learn about the surrounding landscapes, and have plenty of time to stretch your legs. Chimborazo has three peaks stretching eastward and a base of more than 12 miles (20 km) in diameter. It has not had any volcanic activity since its last eruption 10,000 years ago. Its location along the equator makes its peak the furthest point away from the earth's center.
You'll witness many views of the volcano along the way. If the altitude does not affect you, take a walk to the Refuge Carrell at 15,748 feet (4,800 m) and enjoy the splendid view of the surrounding valleys and mountains. Afterward, continue your journey toward Riobamba, a small Andean town where you'll spend the night. If you're up for it, explore the town's colonial architecture and visit one of its many museums.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 6: Transfer to Cuenca via Ingapirca Ruins
Today, you will continue your journey as you make the four-hour drive south to Cuenca. Enjoy the winding roads with summits as a backdrop along the way before making a stop at Ingapirca, nestled within the mountains. Ingapirca, meaning "Inca Wall," is one of the most important ruins from pre-Inca times. Visit the temple and the small museum that houses Inca ceramics, sculptures, and tools. Late afternoon, you will finally arrive in Cuenca, which is said to be one of the most beautiful cities in South America.
If you'd like to explore the Old Town, start with El Sagrario, the old cathedral built in the sixteenth century and converted into a museum. Wander the streets and see the beautiful flower market or visit one of the many museums in town. Enjoy the many bars, restaurants, and nightclubs scattered throughout the city in the evening.
Day 7: Explore Cuenca, Gualaceo & Chordeleg
There is so much to see and do in Cuenca that you could spend a whole day wandering the historic district's cobblestone streets and admiring its stunning colonial architecture. However, if you want to explore farther afield today, consider traveling outside the city and visiting the Azuay Province and its many picturesque villages nestled in the mountains around Cuenca. Each town has its claim to fame. Chordeleg is a silversmith town specializing in filigree silverwork, which uses fine wires to form delicate jewelry pieces.
Day 8: Transfer to Loja, Loja City Tour
Leave Cuenca this morning and continue south on a four-hour drive to Loja. Known as the "Music and Cultural Capital of Ecuador," this small but vibrant city has plazas, churches, monasteries, and historic buildings. As you look up at its impressive colorful buildings and wooden balconies, learn about its rich cultural heritage. Once checked in at your hotel, you'll take a city tour of the village where you can see monuments such as La Puerta de la Ciudad (The City Gate), a castle-like tower with a museum, café, and galleries that display local artwork.
See Plaza Parque Central, where you'll find Loja Cathedral and the must-see Music Museum that tells the story of Loja's progressive music scene. Also, you'll have the opportunity to visit other churches and the more important sites in Loja. Stroll through the Botanical and Orchid Garden. Finally, visit a coffee shop in town and taste what is considered the best coffee in Ecuador.
Day 9: Visit Podocarpus National Park, Transfer to Vilcabamba
Visit the amazing Podocarpus National Park today, located an hour south of Loja. The park is famous for its biodiversity and the sightings of spectacled bears. Besides that, you have good chances to spot condors, toucans, and other rare bird species. During a four-hour hike through the cloud forests, there will be many opportunities for photos from the beautiful vistas looking down on Loja and Vilcabamba. After a day spent in the outdoors, you'll head to the colorful town of Vilcabamba, where you'll be staying for the night. It will be easy to find plenty of restaurants around Parque Central serving up the local cuisine.
Day 10: Return to Cuenca, Pottery Class
After one last relaxed morning, you will leave Vilcabamba and head back to Cuenca, where your driver will drop you off at your hotel. In the afternoon, head to the home of a local artisan, who will welcome you to his workshop and share stories about his 40 years of working in this art form. Settle in for a pottery lesson, where you'll try your hand at this ancient craft and start with the raw material, which comes from the clay mines of the Sinincay, a nearby village.
Day 11: Transfer to Guayaquil via El Cajas National Park
Have a local traditional breakfast while enjoying the landscapes of Cuenca. Your driver will pick you up a 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 spectacular sites, located 20 miles (32 km) west of Cuenca. During this trek, you will cross small gorges and polylepis forests, as your guide points out the distinctive moorland vegetation. Highlights along the way include the Garden of the Virgin of Cajas and Tres Cruces Viewpoint.After stopping for lunch, get back on the road for a four-hour drive with your guide, approaching one of the highest points in the Ecuadorian highlands before descending toward the 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 leisure.
Day 12: Transfer to Puerto López via the Scenic Route
Keep your camera handy for stunning scenery as you'll follow the coast from Guayaquil and head north until you reach the small fishing village of Puerto López. Of course, on the way, your driver and guide will make stops along the road to explore hidden beaches and breathtaking scenery. Upon arrival, check into your hotel; the remainder of the day is free. Stroll along the beach or head to Puerto López Pier to admire the long sandy stretches, observe fishing boats and take photos. Finally, have a cocktail as you watch the sunset.
Day 13: Sailing Excursion to Isla de la Plata
Board a small family-friendly yacht today, which will take you to Isla de la Plata (Silver Island) in the Pacific Ocean. The island's name derives from the local legend that Sir Francis Drake buried some treasure here, and it is also said to have been the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island." Isla de la Plata is part of Machalilla National Park, and sea lions and blue-footed boobies are among the diverse wildlife found here. You can also observe frigatebirds, red-footed and masked boobies, waved albatross, and tropicbirds, among others.
After a walk around the island's guided trail, there will be time to go snorkeling and explore beneath the ocean. In the afternoon, return to Puerto López. From mid-June to mid-October, humpback whales can often be sighted on the journey to and from the island, so keep your eyes peeled on your return.
Day 14: Return to Guayaquil, Los Frailes & Agua Blanca in Machalilla National Park
Get ready for more extraordinary landscapes today. A driver will pick you up and take you back to Guayaquil. If you didn't catch the great photo ops on the way up, here's your chance along this scenic drive on Ecuador's stunning coast. You'll stop at Los Frailes, a set of three beaches and a hiking trail that is part of the tropical dry forests of Machalilla National Park. Take a short walk along the pathway leading you to a black sandy beach known as La Tortuguita. Reach the viewpoint and enjoy the magnificent white-sand beaches.
The Agua Blanca community, also part of the park, was the capital of the last of the Indigenous Manteña people, and you can stop to visit an interesting museum with archaeological pieces typical of their culture. After a traditional lunch, you'll arrive late afternoon in Guayaquil and check in at your hotel. It's your final evening, so enjoy the nightlife of this bustling port city full of trendy bars and restaurants.