Ecuador is a country that packs enormous diversity into a small area, so it's ideal to visit for a short trip. You can spend a long weekend exploring Quito and the mountains, stay for a week venturing into the Amazon jungle or cruising the Galápagos, or spend two weeks climbing volcanoes, exploring cloud forests, and enjoying adventure sports before relaxing on the Pacific beaches. Whatever your preference, use this guide to help you make the most of your visit.
Make the Most of Your Time in Ecuador
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Have just five days in Ecuador? No problem: it's one of the smallest countries in South America, so it's possible to move around to more than one place in less than a week. Read on for our top suggestions for a quick visit to this gorgeous and geographically diverse destination.
If you've only got five days in Ecuador, pick from one of the country's three main ecological zones to maximize your time. Base yourself in Quito and explore the surrounding region, or head directly to Yasuni National Park for four days of wildlife viewing and rainforest adventures. If you prefer remote wilderness, bypass the city and fly directly to the Galapagos to see giant tortoises, snorkel, and visit an uninhabited island.
In six days, you can explore Quito's highlights and a few nearby destinations, like Cotopaxi and Otavalo. Or add in Mindo and venture into its cloud forest to see one of the world's most remarkably diverse landscapes. Concentrate solely on the capital city for an in-depth experience, or include Andean locales like Cotacachi and Apuela in northern Ecuador. Alternatively, get off the mainland, grab your camera and seek wild tortoises, seabirds, and sea lions on islands in the Galápagos.
Spend a week in Ecuador exploring the country's diversity, from volcanoes to the rainforest. Each trip starts in Quito, with tours of the UNESCO-designated historic city and a visit to the equator site. From here, choose to stay on the mainland and explore the highlands, cloud forest, and national parks, or fly to the Galapagos for a quick highlights tour of the biodiverse archipelago.
With one week in Ecuador, your family can cover up to three destinations. Nature lovers will want to include Yasuní National Park in the Ecuadorian Amazon, while beach-focused adventurers should visit the Pacific coast. Overnights in Baños and Tena and the Galápagos Islands ensure you and the kids will get up close to wildlife. For families wanting a more gently-paced itinerary, Quito is an excellent base for day trips to see the butterflies at Mindo Cloud Forest and for visiting Cotopaxi National Park.
With eight days in Ecuador, you can discover the impressive architecture of Quito and the dramatic landscapes of Cotopaxi National Park on a highlights tour or split your time between the rugged Andes and the wildlife-filled Galápagos Islands on a nature-packed itinerary. Those who prefer to stay on the move can opt for a natural wonders tour, complete with overnights in historic haciendas, while those looking to get well off the beaten path can head deep into the Amazon rainforest in between stays in Quito.
Nine days in Ecuador allows you to touch four to six provinces, including options to explore the Galápagos. Start from Quito, discover the Amazon, and see Galápagos wildlife, or cover more ground and see Inca ruins, waterfalls, and colonial cities in Ingapirca, Baños, and Cuenca. Alternatively, get active on a slower-paced trip and kayak crater lakes, hike around volcanoes, and spend the day at a traditional hacienda. Speed things up and add a night in the Andean village of Guamote and explore the Palmira dunes and Cajas National Park.
Locals are fond of saying that Ecuador is four countries in one: coast, highlands, jungle, and the Galápagos. Whether you want to relax on the beach, climb volcanoes, hike around Andean lakes, zip-line in the cloud forest, canoe up an Amazon tributary, or cruise the Galápagos, there is a perfect itinerary for everyone.
With 10 days in Ecuador, you and your family can visit at least three regions. Families keen on wildlife and watersports should head for the Pacific coast or the Galápagos. Those that stick to mainland Ecuador can experience history and cuisine in Quito, nature and Indigenous culture in the Amazon, and outdoor adventures, such as horseback riding, in the Andes. Families that prefer a relaxed pace can make Quito their base and experience the city and surroundings, including bird-watching in Mindo Cloud Forest.
With 11 days in Ecuador, you can see three to four regions depending on your preferred travel pace. Most trips start in Quito and visit the Andes, the Amazon, the Pacific Coast, or the Galapágos Islands from there. Get off the beaten path in southern Ecuador, visit crater lakes, hot springs, and waterfalls in the Andes, see endemic animals in the Galápagos Islands, tour the Amazon Rainforest, or choose a hiking-focused itinerary through active and dormant volcanoes in the highlands.
Ecuador is chock-full of diverse wildlife and dramatic volcanic landscapes, and with 12 days to explore, you can experience the best of both on a trip to Quito and the Central Andes. Those looking to spend time in the rainforest and on tropical islands can split their days between Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve and the Galápagos Islands. In contrast, those looking to take a deep dive into the country's culture should opt for a road trip itinerary from Quito to Guayaquil.
With 13 days in Ecuador, you can cover a lot of the country. Most itineraries begin in Quito and head south to Cotopaxi, Baños, and Cuenca. Then, from Guayaquil, fly to the Galápagos to island hop and observe endemic species. Consider focusing on national parks and volcanoes or spending more time in the Amazon rainforest. Head west to explore Mindo's cloud forest, south to the Pacific coast of Ayampe to observe birds and marine life, or immerse yourself in the culture of Andean towns.
Two weeks in Ecuador gives plenty of time to enjoy all three of the country's main ecosystems—Amazon, Highlands, and Galápagos—or focus on one to fully immerse yourself in the area. Use Quito as a base for day trips to local volcanoes and national parks while still exploring the capital's history, or opt to spend your time looking for wildlife on the remote Galápagos Islands. Alternately, maximize your trip by adding a week in Peru to see Lima, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu. Read on for more unique itineraries.
You can explore at least three regions with your family on a two-week vacation to Ecuador. Families visiting for the first time can enjoy adventure, culture, and wildlife in Quito, the Andes, and the Amazon. Those seeking a beach escape can spend time on the Pacific coast and try snorkeling at Isla de la Plata. Active families with a range of interests should head for Quito, Baños, Cuenca, and Guayaquil, where there's hiking in El Cajas National Park, biking the Avenue of Waterfalls, pottery workshops, and guided city tours.
With 15 days in Ecuador, you can visit 5-10 destinations. First-timers can hit the highlights on the Discover Ecuador or the Andes & Galápagos Islands tour. Groups will appreciate the range of activities, including surfing in Montañita and Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve hikes, on the Pacific Coast to the Andes & Amazon tour, while outdoorsy travelers will enjoy exploring national parks on Uncover Ecuador. Meanwhile, ambitious travelers will love the fast pace and variety of the Grand Ecuadorian Adventure.