On this 10-day journey through Ecuador, you will experience culture and extraordinary wildlife. It is the perfect trip for the curious traveler who wants to see the magic of the Amazonian jungle, learn about indigenous communities, and experience history in the UNESCO-listed city of Quito. Zipline between trees through the rainforest, drink Wayusa with the Kichwa locals and shop for local crafts at the Otavalo Market.

Highlights

  • Walk down the oldest street of Quito—La Ronda
  • Visit the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve in the Amazon Jungle
  • Hike along the “Playas” trail to experience amazon wildlife
  • Learn about the Kichwa culture from the aboriginal community

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival and transfer to hotel in Quito Quito
Day 2 City Tour Quito - Mitad del Mundo - Quito Quito
Day 3 Cuicocha Lagoon - Cotacachi - Otavalo Otavalo
Day 4 Otavalo Market - Mindo Mindo
Day 5 Cloudforest of Mindo - Quito Quito
Day 6 Quito - Coca - Yasuni National Park  Yasuni National Park
Day 7 Parrot clay licks- Community project - Observation Tower Yasuni National Park
Day 8 Indigenous community - Mama Cuna Path Yasuni National Park
Day 9 Wayusa Ritual - Coca - Quito Quito
Day 10 Day at leisure until departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival and transfer to hotel in Quito

Quito with the Cotopaxi Volcano
Quito with the Cotopaxi Volcano

Approaching the International Airport Mariscal Sucre, you'll quickly get a glimpse at the immense Andean capital of Quito, in beautiful Ecuador. Upon arrival, your Spanish-speaking driver will be ready to welcome you and take you and transfer you to your hotel. 

This UNESCO World Heritage Site stands at an altitude of  9,350 feet (2,850 m), welcoming you with its famous picturesque plazas ( squares), situated between mountain peaks. Immediately, you will get a sense of the warm and welcoming Ecuadorian Sierra Culture and experience the diversity of this beautiful city. 

On the one hand, you will find modern apartment buildings and on the other hand, modest concrete homes. 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: City Tour Quito - Mitad del Mundo - Quito

Plaza Grande in Quito

Today, after breakfast, your English-speaking guide will pick you up from your hotel and take you on a walking city tour. The colonial center of Quito was already named world cultural heritage by the UNESCO in 1978 and is home to many beautiful, historic buildings and squares.

You will visit the Plaza Grande and the beautiful churches La Compañía and La Basílica, and walk down the oldest street of Quito—La Ronda. Afterward, you will visit the equatorial monument Mitad del Mundo, where French scientists determined the position of the central line many years ago. 

Day 3: Cuicocha Lagoon - Cotacachi - Otavalo

Cuicocha Lagoon

This morning, you will explore the surroundings of the Cuicocha Lagoon during a hike through the vivid flora of the Andean highlands, where blue waters and an awe-inspiring scene await you. The lagoon is one of Ecuador's hidden gems, sitting just outside of Otavalo, where you can sometimes hike around the whole thing without ever running into another person.

After a traditional lunch in Cotacachi, you will visit a small archaeological museum, before continuing to the famous Otavalo Market where you can enjoy exotic fruits and vegetables. You will find beautiful paintings, carvings, handpainted bowls, and much more to take with you as a souvenir. 

Hike duration:  4-5 hours

Day 4: Otavalo Market - Mindo

Otavalo Market

If you didn't get to explore the Otavalo Market yesterday thoroughly, today would be your chance. Otavalo features one of the most famous traditional markets in South America. Here, the indigenous people of the surrounding areas gather to trade anything from animals over handicrafts to fresh vegetables and fruits.

Take a stroll through the streets and maybe try some of the local street food such as salted mango or fritada con mote (fried pork with cooked corn). Afterward, you will continue to the small town of Mindo, located in the Ecuadorian cloud forest. Its location at the western slopes of the Andean highlands has blessed the region with mild temperatures and a lot of rainfall.

Thanks to the favorable conditions, the Mindo area is known for its incredibly high biodiversity. You will discover different bird species, dozens of butterflies, and countless insect species. Visit the Butterfly Garden, hike to beautiful waterfalls, or enjoy ziplining between the trees. Don't forget to take the opportunity and get a hands-on experience creating chocolate. 

Day 5: Cloudforest of Mindo - Quito

Colibri in Mindo
Colibri in Mindo

This morning, you will explore the lush green cloud forest of Mindo. Its location at the western slopes of the Andean highlands has blessed the region with mild temperatures and a lot of rainfall. Due to the favorable conditions, the Mindo has incredibly high biodiversity.

You will discover hundreds of different bird species, dozens of butterflies, and countless insect species. Visit the butterfly garden, hike to beautiful waterfalls, or go from one tree to another on zip lines. You should also not miss out on learning hands-on how to create chocolate. In the afternoon, you return to Quito.

Day 6: Quito - Coca - Yasuni National Park 

Squirrel Monkey in Yasuni National Park
Squirrel Monkey in Yasuni National Park

Arriving at Napo Cultural Center, you will have the outstanding chance to step onto the aboriginal territory of the kichwa Añangu community, with its members welcoming you with a traditional and refreshing ice-cold “wayusa."

The local hotel manager will give instructions and then take you to your comfortable room with views of the rainforest. Your first activity in the afternoon will be a hike along the “Playas” trail in Yasuni National Park. You will experience amazon wildlife for the first time in the river islands and shores amidst one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth.
 
Kayaking is also available as an optional activity for around 45 min where you will enjoy an overwhelming and colorful sunset in the vastness of Napo River. Then head back to your cabin, rest a bit, and be prepared for a well-deserved dinner. After dinner, you will fall asleep to the relaxing sounds of the Amazon.

Day 7: Parrot Clay Licks - Community project - Observation Tower

Parakeets in clay licking cave in Yasuni National Park
Parakeets in clay licking cave in Yasuni National Park

Today, you will have an early breakfast, followed by a motorboat ride to one of the highlights of the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve—the parrot clay lick in the riverside of River Napo. Bring your binoculars and camera lenses to see flocks of blue-headed, yellow-crowned parrots and even dusky headed parakeets, from the boat.

After a 30-minute walk through the “Pericos” trail, you will reach the blind in the forest with a direct view of the fantastic Parrot clay lick, bringing you face to face with up to 11 species of parrots and parakeets (including parrotlets and macaws). You might even spot mammals like howler monkeys, tapir, and peccaries that come to this place to drink water and get vital minerals for their bodies.

You will end the morning with a visit to the intercultural interpretation center "Kuri Muyu," which means golden seed in the native language, handled by the women of the community, also knows as “mamakuna.” Learn about the kichwa culture, crafts, customs, and traditional use of natural resources directly from the people of the aboriginal community.
 
You will then return to the center of the community to have lunch at the dining hall, and take a break in the lodge before your one-hour hike to climb up the observation tower. Reaching 35 meters above the surface, you will have a big chance to spot a variety of birds, howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, toucans, parrots, and sloths.  After your dinner this evening, you will enjoy a unique activity at Napo river, aboard the ancestral catamaran to learn about native legends and traditional chants, while women grill some delicious snacks in the fire.

Day 8: Indigenous community - Mama Cuna Path

Amazon Jungle forest

Following your breakfast at sunrise, you will have an exciting day awaiting you. You will visit the sustainable community projects, talk about the worldview Kichwa Addition to medicinal, and walk along the Mama Cuna path. It is an excellent opportunity to see extended wildlife, ceiba trees, strangler, bamboo cane, vines, and shrubs endemic from Yasuní.

In the afternoon, after a nice local lunch, you will paddle around the Añangu stream— a black water ecosystem where you can spot monkeys jumping from tree to tree, caiman, and at times even giant river otters trying to catch fish. You will then prepare for a traditional dinner and enjoy the taste of local flavors of the Amazon, such as the maito, which is grilled fish wrapped in a “Bijao” leaf.
 
If you feel adventurous, try the grilled worms of the “chonta” locally known as “chontakuru.” After dinner, prepare your flashlight for a night walk around the lodge to see various reptiles, insects, and even nocturnal mammals like the night monkeys.

Day 9: Wayusa Ritual - Coca - Quito

Amazon Riverboat ride

This morning, you will participate in a traditional Kichwa ritual! You will wake up around 04:30 am and drink the traditional energy drink "Wayusa." You can forward to listening to songs in the local language, meditating, and interpreting dreams. It will be a unique "once in a lifetime" experience, where you will experience the harmony, peace, and joy that the indigenous people of South America know so well.

Wayusa is a traditional, energizing herbal tea prepared from the leaves of a sacred tree in the equatorial rain forests of the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle by indigenous people. Each family has their tree and use it as a part of their everyday lives, and has been a part of the Amazonian culture for more than 2000 years.

After breakfast, a motorized canoe will bring you back to El Coca, originally named Puerto Francisco de Orellana,  from where you will take the plane back to Quito. 

Day 10: Day at leisure until departure

Plaza Grande - Old Town Quito
Plaza Grande - Old Town Quito

Today you are free to explore Quito on your own before being be picked up for your transfer to the airport.  After spending a lot of time in the city already, you might think that there is not much more to see.  This could not be further from the truth as there are a few more points of interest to visit and make you feel completely satisfied before your departure. 

Here are some more things you can enjoy on your last day:

  • 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. You can walk up the hill if you have a local with you, but otherwise, it is recommended to take a cab or ride the bus. 

Map

Map of Ecuador Wildlife & Culture: Quito, Mindo, Yasuni National Park - 10 Days
Map of Ecuador Wildlife & Culture: Quito, Mindo, Yasuni National Park - 10 Days