Best of Ecuador
Ecuador is so compact that, if you plan it right, you can see a decent chunk of the country in just two weeks. This itinerary takes in the highlights of the mountains as well as a trip to the rainforest.
If you have an extra week, include a visit to the Galápagos Islands.
Fly to Quito and spend the day touring the churches, plazas, and museums of Old Town, including a trip up to either El Panecillo, La Basílica, or Itchimbía for great views. Spend the night in New Town and enjoy the international restaurants and nightlife. If you decide to add a trip to the Galápagos, book it now if you haven’t already.
Tour the New Town, including the archaeological treasures of Casa de la Cultura and Guayasamín’s famous artistic work, La Capilla del Hombre. Take an afternoon excursion to the equator at Mitad del Mundo.
Take a bus to Quilotoa via Latacunga. Spend the afternoon hiking around the spectacular extinct volcanic Lake Quilotoa and enjoy home-cooked food while staying with an indigenous family.
Spend the day hiking and cycling around Cotopaxi National Park and enjoy wonderful views of the volcano. Head to Baños and enjoy a thermal bath in the early evening.
Cycle the waterfall route along the Pastaza Valley from Baños toward Puyo, stopping at several waterfalls along the way. Alternately, go white-water rafting or hike to the foot of active volcano Tungurahua. Take the bus to Riobamba and spend the night.
Take the early morning train to Alausí and travel along the dramatic Devil’s Nose switchbacks. Spend the night in Alausí or head south to stay near Ingapirca.
Spend a minimum of four days at an Amazon lodge via a flight to Coca or Lago Agrio. Alternately, take a bus to Tena with an optional stopover at the hot springs at Papallacta. Visit a nearby Kichwa community in secondary rainforest and take in some rafting on the upper Napo. Remember that getting to the rainforest will be at least half a day on both ends, so consider extending your stay by a day and forgoing Day 13’s activities.
Head back to Quito and go straight to Otavalo, ideally in time for the Saturday textile market. Stock up on indigenous clothing and carvings. Extend your stay by a day with hikes to nearby lakes such as Cuicocha and Mojanda before going back to Quito in time for your flight.
© Ben Westwood and Avalon Travel from Moon Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands, 5th Edition