Your day-by-day itinerary
One of the highest capital cities in the world, and almost on the equator, Quito’s location surrounded by mountains is something to behold. The city itself has lots of Latin charm too, with plenty of colonial buildings and impressive cathedrals, as well a youthful edge which you’ll see in the street art and bars. You’ll be picked up from the airport by our local partner, spend a couple of nights in the trendy Mariscal district, and explore the UNESCO-listed Old Town and markets with a local guide. Welcome to Ecuador!
Andean Traditions of Otavalo
Next, you’ll visit the northern highlands of Ecuador, and the colourful town of Otavalo. Most famous for its market where you’ll see the very best of Andean craftsmanship, the area also gives a glimpse into everyday life in the mountains, and the surrounding volcanoes provide a spectacular backdrop. You’ll take a tour around the surrounding indigenous villages during your stay, and will also have plenty of time to explore and enjoy the town independently.
You’ll be picked up by a private driver who’ll take you from Otavalo to Mindo. The usual drive time is around 3.5 hours, but you’ll break up the journey with a stop at Mitad del Mundo – a monument and surrounding park which marks the Equator. Admittedly it’s a little touristy, but how often do you get the chance to stand with one foot in each hemisphere? Your driver will wait for you whilst you head into the park to explore and get that classic Equator photo, and there’s also an interesting museum and a place where they’ll demonstrate the different effects of gravity only metres apart.
Cloud Forests of Mindo
Mindo is in the heart of the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest – a tranquil, almost mystical, area full of lush green vegetation, waterfalls and hiking trails, as well as a huge variety of butterflies and birds. You’ll be staying in a cosy, rustic bungalow surrounded by tropical gardens. During your stay we’ll arrange a visit to a spectacular butterfly house. There are also plenty of more adventurous activities on offer here like ziplining, along with hours of rural trails to explore.
High times at the Cotopaxi Volcano
You’ll spend the evening in a peaceful hacienda set on a farm in the beautiful Cotopaxi National Park, surrounded by cattle, horses and alpacas grazing on the grassy plains. You first afternoon is free to relax and get used to the altitude, or perhaps take a walk through the countryside, before you head to the volcano cone the following morning. Your driver will wait whilst you take on the 300m scramble up the volcanic ash, to a viewpoint not far from the top where you’ll get a spectacular panorama of the National Park and surrounding volcanoes.
Chimborazo and the Devil’s Nose
Along the way as you travel south, you’ll stop to see the mammoth Volcán Chimborazo – set in a beautifully desolate national park, and arguably the highest mountain on Earth due to the planet’s imperfect shape. Next you’ll continue by road and spend the night in tranquil Alausi, before jumping aboard the famous Nariz del Diablo railway for a train ride through spectacular, untouched Andean landscapes.
Wheels and Waterfalls in Banos
Tucked away amongst the forests, gorges, hot springs and waterfalls of the Central Highlands, Baños serves as perfect base to explore nature and get active in the great outdoors. The town itself is pleasant, if a little touristy, but real reason to come here is the setting. During your stay, we’ll arrange mountain bikes and a route map so you can see what the region has to offer, and there are plenty of adventure activities you can arrange locally too!
Ultimate Galapagos with Intrepid Travel
After a night in Quito where you’ll meet the rest of your group, you’ll fly to the Galapagos Islands to join your small group sailing trip aboard Le Grande Daphne, operated by our trusted partners at Intrepid. Your route takes you past 7 unique islands where you’ll meet many of the archipelago’s most iconic residents, accompanied by an expert naturalist guide. It’s a nature experience you’re unlikely to forget. Your trip brings you back to Quito for a final night in the city.
For full details on this part of your trip, see our Ultimate Galapagos trip page where you can read all about visiting these unique islands.