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.
Galapagos at a glance 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 the Daphne, operated by our partners at Intrepid. This mini-Galapagos adventure packs a lot into just a few days on the water. You’ll stay 3 nights aboard the Daphne and stop off at 5 unique southern islands, encountering incredible wildlife both above and below the water along the way. It’s an ideal way to see the Galapagos Islands if you’re in a little bit of a hurry.
Want to know more? You can find a detailed description on our Galapagos at a Glance trip page.