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Ecuador Explorer: Explore Ecuador via the Avenue of the Volcanoes and the Galapagos Islands

Days: 16 | From: $X,XXX/per person

  • Includes accommodations at first class hotels that reflect the best of local culture
  • Includes excursions and tours with superb private guides

Discover the Ecuadorian highlands, including Cotopaxi National Park and Quilotoa Crater. Stay in historic country estates while traveling through the Avenue of the Volcanoes and then head to the Galapagos Islands. Finish at a 17th-century hacienda.

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We tailor itineraries to your dates and interests, adjusting hotels, excursions and length as desired.

We consistently receive 5 star reviews from our discerning clients.

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At a glance

  • Quito
    2 nights: Arrive to this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage city
  • Cotopaxi
    2 nights: stay in a working hacienda built atop a former Incan palace
  • Riobamba
    1 night: visit a beautiful Andean hacienda with views of Chimborazo Volcano
  • Cuenca
    2 nights: discover this UNESCO World Heritage Trust site, a cultural capital of Ecuador
  • Guayaquil
    1 night: visit Ecuador's largest coastal city
  • Galapagos
    5 nights: Discover the Galapagos Islands
  • Otavalo
    2 nights: visit one of the finest and best-known street markets in South America and explore the Andean countryside

  • All itineraries are fully customizable. We will send you a personalized variation that reflects your interests and travel dates at no extra cost. Call to discuss your travel plans with one of our Specialists who know this region firsthand.

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Sample itinerary

Day 1:

Welcome to Quito!

Ecuador_Quito_White church and city view

Arrive to Quito, where your private guide will welcome you to the country and take you to your hotel, located in the heart of the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a great part of the city for walking around, with traditional squares and architecture and a variety of shops and restaurants.

Accommodations: Patio Andaluz, 2 nights

Housed within a 16th-century colonial home arranged around a central courtyard, Patio Andaluz enjoys a prime location just off the Independence Plaza in historic Quito. The hotel is within walking distance of the iconic Plaza San Francisco, the La Compañia Church with its impressive gold leaf interior, and the Theater Sucre. As is common in traditional Ecuadorian architecture, the hotel's rooms and their windows face toward the covered inner courtyards rather than out to the streets (which reduces light, but also noise). The hotel restaurant, El Rincón de Cantuña, serves Ecuadorian and Spanish cuisine along with a variety of South American wines.

Upgrades available: Casa Gangotena, Plaza Grande
Day 2:

Colonial Architecture and One-of-a-Kind Artwork

Ecuador_Quito_Banco Central and church

Set out with your private guide to explore historic Quito, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

Visit the highlights of the colonial “Centro Historico,” and go up to a lookout point on the Panecillo for a great view of the entire city. Afterward, head into the new town to visit the remarkable Fundación Guayasamin, which houses the art collection of Oswaldo Guayasamin, Ecuador’s most famous 20th century artist.

Seeing both parts of the city gives you a great overview of some of the different neighborhoods in this diverse Andean metropolis.

Accommodations: Patio Andaluz, 2 nights

*Includes: Breakfast

Day 3:

Cotopaxi National Park / Inca Hacienda San Agustin de Callo

Journey along the Avenue of the Volcanoes, a series of 11 peaks that frame the Latacunga-Ambato valley in the center of Ecuador. Drive through the scenic Andean countryside to reach the foot of Cotopaxi Volcano, the 19,340-foot peak that dominates the area. Cotopaxi National Park is an ecological sanctuary of 36,000 hectares surrounding the volcano. You’ll have time to explore the park, home to unique wildlife and otherworldly landscapes.

After your visit to the park, you will be taken to your lodging for the night, Hacienda San Agustin de Callo. Built in the 18th century on the site of an important Incan Palace and containing the largest set of Incan ruins in central Ecuador, this working hacienda subsequently became an Augustinian convent with a textile workshop and later the home of the French Geodesic Mission. The house is built directly on top of what was the Incan palace, and many rooms have original Incan walls, with extraordinary masonry work. The dining room is a full intact original Incan palace room, an experience you can’t have anywhere else.

Accommodations: Hacienda San Agustin de Callo

This unique and remarkable property was the country house of one of Ecuador's most prominent families (including two former presidents). The hacienda was built in the early 18th century on top of the ruins of an Incan palace, the northernmost Incan ruins in South America. Entire Incan rooms from the original palace still exist, including what is now a chapel and the main dining room of the hacienda. There is nothing like this opportunity to spend time inside the original rooms of an Incan palace anywhere else in South America. The property is ideally located right next to Cotopaxi National Park, home to glacier-capped Mount Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world.

*Includes: Lunch, Dinner

Day 4:

Quilotoa Crater & Local Markets

Set out through the Quilotoa area, passing through rolling Andean countryside. En route you will stop in the Tigua community, whose artists are known for their colorful paintings on sheepskin canvases, representing Andean landscapes, people, and daily life.

Explore the Quilotoa Volcano Crater, over 2 miles wide and 800 feet deep, which now holds a vivid green lake. The crater is the result of an eruption hundreds of years ago, and your guide will teach you about the interesting geological history of the area. Enjoy a scenic lunch before heading back to your hacienda, where you’ll have the balance of the day free to relax, explore more of the hacienda, or visit local markets.

Accommodations: Hacienda San Agustin de Callo

*Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5:

Travel the Avenue of the Volcanoes to Riobamba

Enjoy a private scenic transfer south along the scenic Avenue of the Volcanoes to Riobamba, the provincial capital. Stop for lunch at a mountain lodge nestled at the foot of Ecuador’s highest mountain, Chimborazo (20,500 feet), a massive extinct volcano. In the afternoon you arrive to Hosteria La Andaluza, a beautiful Andean hacienda where you will spend the night.

Accommodations: Hosteria La Andaluza

Located outside of the town of Riobamba, the historic Hosteria La Andaluza features beautiful views of the Chimborazo Volcano. The site has been declared part of the Cultural Heritage of Ecuador, and the hacienda has been carefully restored to provide maximum comfort while protecting its historic charm. The hotel has 55 rooms and features beautiful gardens, a restaurant, games room, and a common area with bar, fireplace, and living room.

*Includes: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 6:

Ingapirca Incan Ruins / Cuenca

Head south to the Ingapirca Ruins, the largest Incan ruins in Ecuador, which date back to the Inca Huayna Capac. Explore the area with your private guide, then continue by car along scenic roads to the city of Cuenca. Cuenca is named for one of its striking geographical features: the city was built in a cuenca, a land basin formed by the confluence of several rivers.

Optional early morning excursion: Take a ride on the Devil’s Nose Train, considered one of the world’s most impressive feats of railway engineering. This scenic railroad travels along a series of switchbacks down the steep mountainside, passing Andean lakes and small traditional villages along the way.

Accommodations: Mansion Alcazar

A colonial-era mansion that was converted into a boutique hotel in 1999, today the Mansion Alcazar is one of the most refined hotels in Cuenca. The hotel includes a spa and restaurant as well as ample gardens.

*Includes: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 7:

Explore Cuenca

Take a private walking tour of Cuenca with your guide. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site for its historic buildings, Cuenca is considered a cultural capital of Ecuador. On the tour you will have a chance to visit the Plaza de San Sebastián and the Museum of Modern Art, several of Cuenca’s incredible cathedrals and local markets, and a lookout point with a beautiful view out over the city. With your private guide, you’ll have the flexibility to explore at your own pace and make adjustments to the itinerary as you go.

Accommodations: Mansion Alcazar

*Includes: Breakfast

Day 8:

Cuenca / Guayaquil

Transfer from Cuenca to Guayaquil and discover Ecuador’s largest coastal city. Along the way you will stop to visit Cajas National Park, a beautiful area full of lakes and páramo (the local term for this type of high altitude tundra). The highest point in the park is over 14,000 feet and an interesting part of this day will be to experience the change in climate and scenery from the high Andes down to Guayaquil located on the Pacific Ocean. Stop for lunch at a local restaurant.

Accommodations: Hotel Oro Verde

Located in central Guayaquil, Hotel Oro Verde Guayaquil is close to Centennial Park, Guayaquil Municipal Library, and Municipal Palace. Other nearby attractions include Malecon 2000 and Banco Pichincha Monumental Stadium. The hotel offers five restaurants, a coffee shop and a grocery store. Sleek, modern décor adorns its 230 rooms.

*Includes: Breakfast, Lunch

Upgrade available: Hotel del Parque
Day 9:

Fly to the Galapagos Islands

Fly from Cuenca to Quito and then about 600 miles out over the Pacific Ocean to arrive at the Galapagos Islands. You will be met at the airport and transferred to your vessel.

Visiting the Galapagos Islands is a unique experience: a combination of sheer natural beauty, amazing wildlife, beautiful vessels, and fascinating natural history.

Accommodations: Ocean Spray, 4 nights

This elegant ship is among the leaders in performance and comfort in Galapagos. With spacious cabins, and private balconies off every cabin, the Ocean Spray provides the intimacy of a small yacht while maintaining amenities often only found on larger ships. Excursion options include hiking, snorkeling, and kayaking, and all excursions are led by a top-quality bilingual naturalist guide. This is one of the premier options in the Galapagos and has received outstanding feedback from our travelers.

*Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Upgrades and alternatives: Passion, The Grace, Cormorant, Petrel
Days 10-13:

Cruising and Exploring the Islands

Sea lions coming out of water at sunset; boat in background

The exact itinerary varies from vessel to vessel, but you will spend these days exploring the islands in depth. Your boat will travel between several different islands so that you can experience a wide variety of the unique wildlife and environments that the Galapagos offers.

The giant Galapagos Tortoise, the marine iguana, the waved albatross, the Galapagos penguin, and flightless cormorants are just a few of the species you can come across. There will also be daily opportunities to snorkel, where you can see what’s below the surface: giant sea turtles, rays, and sea lions, to name just a few. Each day you will enjoy excellent cuisine and the company of an expert bilingual naturalist guide.

Accommodations: Ocean Spray, 4 nights

*Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 14:

Return to Quito / Transfer to Otavalo

Hacienda Zuleta, Ecuador

Fly to Quito and enjoy a scenic private transfer north along the Pan American Highway. Upon arrival to Hacienda Zuleta you can relax or enjoy some free time to explore the area on your own.

Accommodations: Hacienda Zuleta, 2 nights

Situated on 4,000 acres in an Andean valley and owned by the family of two former Ecuadorian presidents, Hacienda Zuleta invites guests to experience life in a restored 17th-century country estate. This working hacienda features a dairy and trout farm, a flock of sheep, a cheese factory, an embroidery shop creating exceptionally high quality textiles, and a stable of beautiful horses that you can take out around the property and into the mountains. Active in conservation and preservation, the hacienda has its own Andean condor rescue project as well as several pre-Colombian burial mounds often being worked on by visiting archeologists. Each of its nine guest rooms has a fireplace and its own unique personality. Meals feature organic vegetables, which are grown on the hacienda premises.

*Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 15:

Free day at Hacienda Zuleta

Hacienda Zuleta_horseback riding

Explore on your own and enjoy the area. There are several options for excursions that can be set up through the hacienda, including horseback riding, hiking, and bird watching.

Accommodations: Hacienda Zuleta, 2 nights

*Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 16:

Otavalo Market / Depart for Home or Your Next Destination

Have a leisurely morning at Zuleta before visiting the Otavalo Market. After your visit, transfer back to Quito for your international flight home or to your next destination.

*Includes: Breakfast, Lunch

More Photos From This Trip

Ecuador Highlands - Cotopaxi VolanoOtavalo Girl

Popular Ways to Customize This Itinerary

  • Add a few nights in the Ecuadorian Amazon, a 30 minute flight from Quito. Our top choice is the Napo Wildlife Center, one of the top lodges anywhere in the Amazon.

  • Add extra days in Quito: Quito is worth exploring on your own, and we can arrange a variety of activities, including city tours, culinary excursions, visits to ruins and historical sites, and active options such as hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

  • Include some downtime for rest and relaxation! Some free time to unwind or have a massage will allow you to feel refreshed and ready for the remainder of your trip. Many of our properties include excellent spas or wellness centers. We can help arrange these services or include properties that offer health & wellness amenities.

  • Contact us to learn about more options for designing and customizing your trip.

Reviews From This Trip

5 stars

  • We were well cared for. Each person we met was kind and generous of their time, knowledge and willingness to help out with anything that would improve the nature of our trip.
    Robin Buchalter
  • This trip was the best vacation my family has ever taken. We felt completely safe and comfortable travelling in another country. The things we saw and experienced were amazing and we learned a lot from our tour guides!
    Michele Buchholz
  • Quito, Cotopaxi, Quilotoa Crater and the associated excursions while in central Ecuador were fantastic.
    Diane Saber

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