Ecuador ranks among the top destinations in Latin America, and for good reason! It’s relatively small, astonishingly beautiful, and pretty darn cheap. If a good flight deal drops into your inbox ($300-$400, round-trip), you better book that baby!
Many people, however, don’t have the luxury of taking six months off from life to hitchhike from Ecuador to Patagonia (sigh), and instead must plan around a measly week-long vacation. That’s where we come in! In the following blog, we’ve prepared an excellent itinerary to explore the Andes and Amazon regions and ensure you make the most of your one-week trip to Ecuador. Stay tuned for more sample itineraries of other regions!
Factors to consider as you customize your trip to Ecuador
While we may know our way around Ecuador pretty well (Wanderbus is basically synonymous with “Ecuador Travel Experts”. Buying that domain name. Ugh, it’s taken.), we don’t know you that well. The reality is, you’re going to have preferences, goals and deadly allergies we know nothing about.
An important factor to consider as you customize your itinerary is why you’re traveling. For instance, if you’re traveling to get away from the buzz of urban life and modern comforts, your trip will probably take on a nature-retreat type feel. Think yoga and ayahuasca (an hallucinogenic ‘truth vine’). On the other hand, if you’re out to party in beautiful places, you might be visiting other parts of the country. In the following itineraries, we’ve tried to include a nice mix of both nature-ey and popular destinations.
Another important factor is your budget. Fortunately for you, Ecuador is considered a budget destination, but there will definitely be instances where you might prefer to spend a little extra for the sake of comfort. For instance, while regular bus transport around the country is incredibly cheap ($1 per hour, roughly), there are associated safety risks and schedules are irregular.
Finally, Ecuador is divided roughly into three geographic regions (there are many more, but let’s keep this simple!), and that’s not counting the Galápagos Islands. There’s a lot to see here! It’s important to decide early on what’s at the top of your bucket list. If it’s the Galapagos Islands, in 1 week you may only have enough time for a day in Quito or Guayaquil and the rest of your time will be spent on the Islands. If you’re planning to explore the rest of the country, you’ll be able to see a greater diversity of ecosystems and culture.
In any case, I assure you that whatever you’re seeking, you’ll find it in Ecuador. (They didn’t pay me to write that. Well, actually, they did, but it’s an honest sentiment.)
Trip to Ecuador’s Andes and Amazon
If you only have 1 week during your trip to Ecuador, the following itinerary will give you a taste of the Ecuadorian Andes and Amazon regions like you’ve never experienced before.
The following itinerary can be completed with the purchase of the Wanderbus Jacamar Pass. Make sure you know the pick up/drop off locations, dates and times, which will be provided upon purchase of your pass. This itinerary is also based on the assumption that you arrived the day or night before Day 1 and will leave the day after Day 7. Feel free to adjust depending on your trip restrictions!
AM: Explore Quito’s Old Town
Assuming you’ve arrived the day or night before, you’re well rested and ready to begin exploring Quito Old Town. Many people that arrive in Quito want to head straight out to their first official destination, but there is much to see in this high-altitude city. For some specific tips on where to go and where to eat, check our our Guide to Quito.
PM: Wine and Dine at the best spots in town
After a long day exploring the city, make sure to check out some of the best spots in town to dine, like Casa Warmi (La Floresta), Café Dios No Muere (Old Town), or the Pizzeria Amici Miei (La Floresta).
Start your day early and jump on the Wanderbus in Quito at around 6:00 am at a convenient location. After breakfast, your first stop will be Cotopaxi, an active stratovolcano and the second highest summit in Ecuador. You’ll have two hours to get some pano shots, and if you’re a mountaineer you can opt to stick around and climb Cotopaxi. Note that you’ll have more hiking opportunities in Quilotoa and Baños, though.
After Cotopaxi, you’ll head to another breathtaking location, Quilotoa crater lake. By the time you arrive, you’ll only have a few hours before nightfall. You can either stay at a hostel right by the crater, or grab a bus (or truck) to Chugchilán, a town about 40 minutes from the crater. The advantage to staying in Chugchilán is that, from here, you can explore the surrounding area and trails.
Wherever you decide to stay, make sure to ask your hostel staff about nearby outdoor activities options. If you stay near the crater, you can focus on hiking around and inside the crater. You can even rent a kayak and explore the lake. If you’re in Chugchilán, you can go horseback riding, or hiking in the surrounding mountains.
AM: Quilotoa nature exploration
Wake up early and take advantage of a full day to explore the Quilotoa area. If you haven’t already, read our Quilotoa Loop guide, which will help you decide which route to take.
Make sure you leave the Quilotoa area with enough time to reach Baños. If you’re using the Wanderbus, our staff can tell you what pick up times work best. When you arrive in Baños, we recommend you stay at one of the following hostels: Community Hostel, Selina or Papachos Hostel.
If you have the time and energy, head to the thermal baths for a dip before dinner.
When you arrive at your hostel, make sure to ask about Day Trips to Puyo for your Day 5 itinerary. And if you haven’t already, check out our Guide to Baños here.
AM: Baños Adventure
With one full day in this sub-tropical, fun town, you better get moving early! There’s A TON you can experience here. One of the most popular activities is exploring the Waterfall Route which lies to the east (towards the Amazon), which you can do by bicycle, dune buggy or go-cart. The Pailón del Diablo is an incredible waterfall you really can’t miss.
Depending on which activities you decided on, you might be out and about well into the evening. After an exciting day of activities, head back to your hostal, take a shower and eat out at one of the following restaurants: La Tasca de Baños and Leoni Pizzeria
Puyo is city deeper in the Amazon about an hour and a half from Baños. Ideally, you’d have found a Day Tour to Puyo from Baños, but it’s also easy enough to get to this town and explore the surroundings on your own.
When you arrive to Puyo itself, make sure to try some of the local delicacies like chontacuro (beetle larvae) and maito de pescado (steamed fresh-water fish in banana leaves).
In terms of places to stay, consider one of the following: Huella Verde Rainforest Lodge, Bellandia, or Amuntai Rainforest Lodge. When you get to your lodge, inquire about day trip activities, such as hikes or visits to nearby indigenous communities. If you arrive early enough in the day, you can go ahead and explore the area based on these recommendation.
AM: Amazon activities
During the morning of Day 6 you can further explore the Amazon area. If you haven’t organized an activity through your hostal, try visiting a community led initiative in the area. You’ll make new friends, head downriver in a hand built canoe, trek to hidden waterfalls and learn about the medicinal plants they use in the rainforest.
Head back to Baños so that you can grab the Wanderbus back to Quito the next day (this service will be operating in early 2019!).
By now you’ll know where to stay and where to eat, so we won’t worry about that, HOWEVER, if you have time in the afternoon (before 5pm), head to Luna Volcán Adventure SPA (previously known as Luna Runtun) to enjoy their (not exaggerating) INCREDIBLE thermal pools. Heck, if you haven’t already reserved a night somewhere else, and you have some extra cash to splurge with, stay a night at Luna Volcán. You won’t regret it.
Once in Quito, and if you’re up for it, visit a local brewery like Bandidos Brewery (Old Town), Santa Rosa (Old Town) or La Cleta (a bicycle bar in la Floresta). Remember you’re in altitude and will feel the alcohol faster!
Did you like the sound of this itinerary?
Book your Jacamar Pass today!
We hope the above itinerary gets the juices flowing on how to spend your 1 week trip to Ecuador! If you’d like more specifics or additional tips, feel free to comment below and if you’re interested in seeing the Pacific Coast, make sure to check out other Wanderbus passes!