Use Ecuador's capital as your base for this adventure-packed, weeklong trip. Explore Quito's colonial past and visit the equator line, head to the lush Mindo Cloud Forest to see its incredible diversity of wildlife, and browse local markets for handmade art and handicrafts. No trip to Ecuador would be complete without a visit to one of the country's volcanos, and you'll get to hike two: Quilotoa and Cotopaxi. 

Highlights

  • Tour Quito's historic city center
  • See the Cotopaxi Volcano on horseback
  • Explore the biodiversity of the Mindo cloud forest
  • Hike the rim of the Quilotoa Lagoon
  • Shop at local artisanal markets

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival to Quito Quito
Day 2 Quito Historic Center, Panecillo Hill, & Middle of the World Tour Quito
Day 3 Mindo Cloud Forest & Otavalo Otavalo
Day 4 Cuicocha Lagoon Hike & Otavalo Market Quito
Day 5 Hike, Horseback, & Hacienda in Cotopaxi National Park Cotopaxi
Day 6 Zumbahua Market & Quilotoa Lagoon Hike Quito
Day 7 Sightseeing & Departure from Quito  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival to Quito

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

Welcome to Quito, the capital of Ecuador! Arrive at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), where your driver will meet you to transfer to your accommodation in the city center, a one-hour trip. Along the way, you'll get a short introduction into Quito´s history and a quick briefing on the next day's activities.

The entire city of Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, standing at an altitude of 9,350ft (2,850m). It welcomes visitors with its picturesque plazas situated between mountain peaks. The city has an abundance of market stands, shamanistic healers, and fourth-generation hat makers, as well as a vibrant and sophisticated culinary and nightlife scene.

Day 2: Quito Historic Center, Panecillo Hill, & Middle of the World Tour

Quito: Governmental Palace
Quito: Governmental Palace

The human occupation of Quito dates back thousands of years. Prior to the arrival of Spanish conquistadores, the main cultures in the area were the Quitus, as well as the Inca, whose empire spread across vast stretches of South America. The city was colonized by the Spanish and recognized as a city in the mid-16th century. In 1978, together with Kraków in Poland, the entire city became the first UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

After breakfast at the hotel, visit the old town and meander down romantic narrow streets to see the colonial  Churches of San Fransisco, La Compañia, and other historical landmarks. 

This visit is followed by a short stop at the top of El Panecillo Hill where the impressive statue of the Virgin Mary is located. It's a great place for photos of panoramic city views. 

In the afternoon, visit the Equator Monument, which highlights the exact location of the equatorial line according to the Franco-Spanish mission that determined its approximate location. It's also the location of the Ethnographical Museum that showcases the indigenous culture and ethnography of Ecuador.

After a full day, return to your hotel.

Day 3: Mindo Cloud Forest & Otavalo

Colibri in Mindo
Colibri in Mindo

Today you'll explore the lush green cloud forest of Mindo. Its location at the western slopes of the Andean highlands gives this region mild temperatures and lots of rainfall. Thanks to the favorable conditions, the Mindo forest has incredibly high biodiversity.


You'll get the chance to see some of the countless birds, butterflies, and insect species that call the region home. Visit the butterfly garden, hike to beautiful waterfalls, or fly between the treetops on a zipline. After, learn to make chocolate and taste your creations. In the afternoon, continue to Otavalo

Day 4: Cuicocha Lagoon Hike & Otavalo Market

Cuicocha Lagoon
Cuicocha Lagoon

In the morning, stretch your legs with a hike around the crater lagoon of Cuicocha. On the trail, your guide will explain to you the high altitude flora and fauna and the history of the once active volcano. Alternatively, enjoy a short walk and take some photos, or ride in a boat around the two islands. 

In the afternoon, return to Otavalo. The city is the home of the well-known indigenous market where artisans come to sell colorful textiles and other traditional goods. Snack on fruits and other snacks while you browse the stalls for paintings, carvings, handpainted bowls, and much more. 

Enjoy some street food (try the salted mango or fritada con mote—fried pork with cooked corn, then continue to the nearby town of Cotacachi for some free time and more shopping (the town is famous for its leather products).

In the evening, return to Quito. 

Day 5: Hike, Horseback, & Hacienda in Cotopaxi National Park

Limpiopungo Lagoon and volcano Cotopaxi
Limpiopungo Lagoon and volcano Cotopaxi

After breakfast, head south to Cotopaxi National Park. Stop at Limpiopungo Lagoon for a short hike to take in the panoramic mountain views. You'll also see the El Salitre Inca Ruins, located in the park highlands. Keep an eye out for wildlife—Lake Limpiopungo is home to a variety of birds and occasionally even wild horses. 

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

Day 6: Zumbahua Market & Quilotoa Lagoon Hike

Quilotoa Lagoon
Quilotoa Lagoon

In the morning, a short drive takes you to the village of La Victoria, which is famous for traditional ceramics. Continue to the Zumbahua market to browse for gifts, then head to the Quilotoa Crater Lagoon, a lake located inside of the crater of the Quilotoa Volcano.

Find a family-run cafe for lunch, then choose between hiking around the crater rim or kayaking on the lake for a quiet afternoon.

Return to Quito in the evening. 

Day 7: Sightseeing & Departure from Quito

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

Today you are free to explore Quito on your own before getting picked up for your transfer to the airport.  

 
  • Visit the impressive monastery St. Francis at the San Fransisco Square, and enjoy a drink on the square terrace—one of few in the historical center. It is the oldest and most important religious site in Ecuador, with a vast complex holding 13 cloisters, three churches, more than 3,500 works of religious art, and a library with thousands of books and historical documents. 
  • Enjoy a scenic view from El Panecillo hill, where the Virgin of El Pacenillo stands tall. The madonna is a 147-foot (45 m) tall monument, made up of 7,000 pieces of aluminum. 


At the designated time, meet with your driver at the hotel and head to the airport for your flight home.

Map

Map of Ecuadorian Adventure in Quito: Otavalo, Cotopaxi, & Cloud Forest - 7 Days
Map of Ecuadorian Adventure in Quito: Otavalo, Cotopaxi, & Cloud Forest - 7 Days