Five days in Ecuador is clearly not enough to get to know the country well, but there’s one thing that five days in Ecuador can do. And that is give you a peek at its amazing diversity and distinct “worlds”. Just for that experience alone, 5 days in Ecuador is an exciting adventure that few other places could match.
Quito, the largest preserved Historic Center in the Americas
Ecuador’s gateway is, by sheer logic, its beautiful capital city, Quito. If you know nothing about Ecuador and want to have a gist of what this country is all about, starting off in Quito certainly serves as a wonderful introduction.
First off, Quito shatters many preconceived notions of what a country, and city, located in the very heart of Latin America, is supposed to look and feel like. Quito is the opposite of hot and muggy. Cumbia, salsa, beaches, chimichangas… rice and beans… these aren’t really associated to what the city at the Heart of the Equator stands for. Quito offers a new version of Latin America, contrary to what TV and movies usually portray. Its a land dominated by the awesome view of a string of mighty volcanoes, many of which are snow-capped… But it’s also a world of ponchos, of Colonial churches and eternal spring-like weather.
Get to know the city strolling about its Historic Center, over 300 hectares of heritage buildings, including the stunning gold-clad La Compañía Church, the massive Basilica (get a bird’s eye view of the city from its towers), and Iglesia San Francisco, the city’s oldest church, as well as the largest religious complex in the Americas. You can also set out to discover the highest of Mount Pichincha, on a cable car that takes you up to over 4000 meters above sea level. The sights from here are larger than life!
Staying in Quito is always a pleasure. Read on to discover our five day options to set out and discover an array of different ecosystems, only a handful of hours drive from each other. Nowhere else will you see such diversity.
Private tours from Quito… an itinerary to the Andes and the Amazon Basin
Wanderbus offers many template itineraries to help you organize your private tour in Ecuador. Here are some of the most exciting.
Let’s start by traveling south to Cotopaxi National Park. Located only an hour-and-a-half from Quito, we head out early to get a taste of the fine fresh produce a Colonial hacienda farm for breakfast, before heading to Cotopaxi, an imposing, perfectly conical snow-capped volcano. Discover its tundra-like vegetation, windswept grasslands that remind you of Iceland or the Russian steppes, something totally different from what you’ve encountered in Quito and its immediate surroundings.
We then visit the beautiful turquoise crater lake of Quilotoa, and discover the livelihoods of the local indigenous communities there. Before the day is over, we reach Baños, known as the gateway to Amazonia, a town located in the heart of the Eastern Andean cloud forests.
On day two, we visit one of this town’s many claim-to-fames, its “swing at the end of the world” before heading out to Pailón del Diablo, a massive waterfall where you can enjoy a number of activities, including ziplining and bungee jumping.
The next day we go deeper into Amazonian territory towards the jungle town of Puyo, a frontier town on the headwaters of the Pastaza river. Known for its extreme nature, the capital of one of Ecuador’s least impacted provinces, Puyo offers orchid gardens and wildlife rescue centers, as well as arresting viewpoints and forest trails to discover.
On the fourth day, before heading back to Quito, we travel by canoe along warm tropical rainforest rivers and later head to the cool, elevated cloud-forest along the Papallacta Pass, where sumptuous volcanic thermal pools await.
Private tour options towards the west from Quito
The previous itinerary takes us to the Eastern (Amazonian) region of the country. When traveling west, we reach the lush cloud forests of the Chocó and the vibrant jungle town of Mindo. This is a haven for birdwatching and ecotourism in general. You will love the waterfalls, butterfly houses and birding experiences, including the chance to see the one-and-only Cock-of-the-Rock, a bizarre, large, bright-red bird known for its flamboyant group courtship dances.
After visiting Mindo, we head back towards Quito stopping at the Equatorial Monument, where Northern and Southern Hemispheres collide. You can place one foot on the northern side of the globe and another on southern side, a very popular photo-op. There are also a number of curious phenomena that occur only here, along the Equator, due to the planet’s magnetic pull, which you can experience as part of several interactive activities, all this within an arid landscape, the very opposite of the forested realms we just visited hours before.
Then we can continue to the cold paramo weather at Cotopaxi and, if you so chose, continue onto the Eastern slope, Baños, Puyo, and more, as we explained above.
Five days is very little for any destination, but in Ecuador you certainly get a mosiac vision of the world.