How many days do you need in Ecuador? This is one of our most commonly asked questions by travelers looking for the Ecuador travel itinerary that will best help them enjoy their time here.
Ecuador may be a small country, but its jam packed with bucket list destinations – the Galapagos! The Amazon Rainforest! Volcanoes and mountains and ruins and colonial cities! There is truly so much to see here.
We recommend travelers plan a 10 day itinerary for Ecuador at the least to get to know the country well. This is our ultimate Ecuador itinerary for a reason – with this 10 day trip to Ecuador you’ll get to see the very best this country has to offer, without being too rushed.
Keep reading for our 10 days in Ecuador itinerary – we’re sharing all our expat secrets and tips to enjoy Ecuador well. After spending 10 days in Ecuador, you’re sure to have had a fantastic experience, and maybe even start planning your next trip back.
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What is There to See in Ecuador?
Despite being a relatively small country, there is plenty to see and do in Ecuador. Ecuador is divided into three mainlands regions – the Andes Mountains, the Amazon Rainforest, and the coast – plus the Galapagos Islands.
In each of these regions you could easily spend a week and still be left with more to see and do. I recommend spending at least 10 days in Ecuador to visit a good number of these sites.
Here are some of Ecuador’s top highlights:
How Many Days Do You Need in Ecuador?
I recommend spending at least 10 days in Ecuador, though most travelers will need at least two weeks to feel they’ve done the country justice!
Two weeks in Ecuador will allow you to visit each of the country’s three major regions (the coast, the Andes Mountains, and the Amazon Rainforest), or alternatively, visit the Galapagos and two of the three regions.
Of course, you may want to do special or specific activities in Ecuador that will alter how much time you need in each spot – like an Amazon tour, the Quilotoa Loop Trek, or a Galapagos Cruise. All fantastic travel experiences you won’t find anywhere else, and worth fitting in to an Ecuador itinerary how ever you can.
- Ultimate Guide to Ecuador’s Amazon Tours and Excursions
- Ultimate Guide to Quilotoa: The Quilotoa Loop & Crater
Is One Week Enough for Ecuador?
One week in Ecuador is enough to do some great traveling and explore some beautiful locations, but will just let you scratch the surface of the very best of the country. Ten days in Ecuador at the very least will allow you to see so much more of this beautiful place, as well as travel at a much more leisurely pace.
How Many Days Do You Need in Quito?
To get to know Quito well, you’ll need at least three full days here, or a minimum of two to cover the best things to do in Quito. With an Ecuador itinerary 10 days in length, this gives you plenty of time to explore Quito well.
Check out my 2 Days in Quito Itinerary for my recommendations about how to spend two action packed days in Ecuador’s unforgettable capital.
10 Days in Ecuador
If you have 10 days in Ecuador, I recommend basing yourself in Quito and making several day trips or overnight trips throughout the Andes, the Cloud Forest, and the Amazon regions of the country. Visiting these distinct places all easily accessible via Quito, you’ll see the best of the country in the least amount of time.
Here is my recommended 10-day itinerary for Ecuador:
Day One: Quito
Day Two: Quito
Day Three: Cotopaxi
Day Four: Cotopaxi
Day Five: Otavalo
Day Six: Quilotoa
Day Seven: Quilotoa
Day Eight: Tena
Day Nine: Tena
Day Ten: Quito
Jump ahead to day one of this ultimate Ecuador itinerary to see my tips and recommendations about how to spend each day of your 10 days in Ecuador!
This 10 day Ecuador itinerary takes you to some of the most beautiful spots in the country – Quilotoa’s blue-green crater lake, the impressive snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano, Otavalo’s indigenous market, the Amazon Rainforest, and more.
It includes a wide array of different types of locations, too, so you’ll have a varied and well-rounded trip explore the many distinct places Ecuador has to offer.
10 Day Trip to Ecuador
One major thing that you’ll find isn’t on this Ecuador itinerary? The coast of Ecuador! Now, I truly love the coastal region of this country. Ecuador has so many beautiful beaches, lovely warm weather on the coast, delicious seafood, and so more.
However, when you’re only working with a 10 day timeframe, I truly think you’ll get the most out of a trip if you remain in the Andes, the Cloud Forest, and the Amazon regions.
These regions are so unique and have so much to offer visitors that you can’t find anywhere else. You’ll also save yourself a lot of time traveling, as buses from the mountains down the coast are long. Once you’re able to spend at least 2 weeks in Ecuador, consider adding a trip to the coast to your itinerary. You can either fly from the Andes – likely either Quito or Cuenca – into Guayaquil or Manta on the coast, or take an overnight bus into any coastal city or town.
Day One: Quito
Spend your first day in Quito visiting some of the city’s unmissable attractions in more modern sections of the city and just outside the city. Visiting the TelefériQo cable car, Mitad del Mundo (the Equator!), and the best of the La Mariscal neighborhood will be more than enough to fill a first, excellent day in Quito.
I’ve written a super-detailed and complete 2 Days in Quito Itinerary with way more information than I can fit here. Check it out as you plan your first two days in Ecuador!
Start your day at the TelefériQo cable car, which take you up the Pichincha volcano for an incredible view over the city of Quito. Arriving when it opens and in the morning will give you the best chance of avoiding ticket lines. Plus mornings in Quito tend to have the clearest weather for the best views.
Top Travel Tip
Feel free, of course, switch up the day one and day two itineraries in Quito. Whichever day is supposed to have the best weather should be the day you start at the TelefériQo – this cable car and mountaintop visit is all about the view of Quito and the surrounding valleys, so aiming for a good weather day is crucial!
Mitad del Mundo
Next, head to Mitad del Mundo – the Equator! To visit the equator, you can visit the the monument to the Equator, which is actually not the true site of the Ecuador – GPS revealed its just a few meters away!
Or, visit the Inti Ñan Museum, where you’ll see the true Equator, and have a chance to try the fun science “experiments” that only work on the Equator line.
Arriving to Mitad del Mundo is relatively easy on public transport. Take any public bus that heads to La Ofelia bus station, and then a bus to Mitad del Mundo from there. The trip should take 45 minutes to an hour from most places within the Historic Center or Central Quito.
Booking on to an organized Mitad del Mundo excursion is a great way to arrive here quickly and easily, and get a comprehensive overview of the two main attractions here. An excursion to Mitad del Mundo tends to be a very popular one with Quito visitors.
Here are the best excursions to Mitad del Mundo worth considering:
Mitad del Mundo and TelefériQo Excursion – just $50 for private tour and guide, including a visit to the TelefériQo as well!
Next, explore the modern neighborhood of La Mariscal. This vibrant neighborhood located in central Quito is always busy, and has plenty of restaurants, bars, cafes, and great things to do.
La Casa de la Cultura
If you’re a museum lover, consider visiting the permanent collection at La Casa de la Cultura – this is my number one recommendation for Quito visitors who just want to see one museum. Here you’ll find an array of fantastic archeological discoveries from ancient and indigenous civilizations, plus even a mummy!
Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal
This is the place to get your Ecuador souvenirs! Covering one entire square block north of Parque El Ejido, the Mariscal Artisan Market is packed with stalls and vendors selling clothing, alpaca blankets, wood and leather products, and so much more. You could spend hours exploring the whole market!
Dinner in La Mariscal
La Mariscal is filled with restaurants, cafes, and bars, so finding a great place to finish the night should be easy. Some of my top recommendations include the following:
El Árabe for delicious and authentic Middle Eastern food and shawarma
Las Menestras de la Almagro for giant portions of typical Ecuadorian dishes
Miskay for refined dining and some of Ecuador’s best dishes.
Cosa Nostra Trattoria for the best wood fired pizza in Quito.
Where to Stay in Quito
I generally recommend that travelers choose to stay in either Old Town Quito, La Mariscal, or the Parque Carolina neighborhoods when staying in Quito. For those with just a few days here, staying in the Historic Center (Old Town) is the best bet – you’ll be close to most of the city’s attractions you’ll want to see.
Here are the best hotels and hostels in Quito (at every price point) – check them out and choose one of these as a fantastic base for your ten days in Ecuador:
Selina Quito ($ – $$)
Hotel Carlota ($$ – $$$)
Casa Gangotena ($$$)
Check out our Ultimate Guide to Where to Stay in Quito for even more detailed neighborhood and hotel recommendations. You’ll find our favorite spots at every price point.
Day Two: Quito
Spend your second day in Quito getting to know Old Town Quito and the surrounding markets and parks that make this neighborhood a thriving part of the city. Quito is home to Latin America’s largest and most well-preserved historic center, so you’re in for a treat.
Don’t forget to head to my 2 Days in Quito Itinerary for even more details about how to spend these first two days in Quito! I couldn’t fit all that information in this guide!
Old Town Quito
Visiting Old Town Quito is not to be missed while in Quito. You should plan to spend at least four hours exploring this neighborhood well, including visiting a few key sites within this neighborhood.
I’ve written extensively on every attraction and destination in the Historic Center in this article, Old Town Quito: Ultimate Guide to Quito’s Historic Center. Make sure you read this before planning your day.
Old Town Quito is very walkable, and you can easily take your own self-guided walking tour of the Historic Center, or book one of these small group tours of the neighborhood if you’d like the insight of a guide:
Here are the attractions you just can’t miss in the historic center.
Basilica del Voto Nacional
Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús
Iglesia de San Francisco
Check out my Old Town Quito: Ultimate Guide to Quito’s Historic Center for much more about this great neighborhood, and to learn more about these attractions!
Head to the Mercado Central on the edge of the Historic Center for an authentic market experience. Here you’ll find multiple floors of market space with vendors selling everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to meat and fish, flowers, and countless stalls of prepared foods and fresh fruit juices.
This can be a great place to try cheap, delicious local Ecuadorian food. I recommend trying the hornado (roasted park), which usually is served with salad and cheesy potato pancakes called llapingachos.
Finish the afternoon at Parque Itchimbia. One of the most underrated parks in the city, here you’ll find some of the best views of the entire city. Plus, you can check out art exhibits at the park’s Palacio de Cristal, and frequent events like food truck roundups and concerts.
Check out our Ultimate Guide to Where to Stay in Quito for neighborhood and hotel recommendations. You’ll find our favorite spots at every price point.
Day Three: Cotopaxi
In the morning on day three, head to The Secret Garden Quito in the Historic Center to catch their daily shuttle to Cotopaxi National Park, one of Ecuador’s most stunning attractions.
The shuttle departs at 10:00 AM every day from Quito; it costs $10 USD per person and goes directly to The Secret Garden Cotopaxi in about an hour and a half.
The Secret Garden Cotopaxi is my top recommendation for an overnight at Cotopaxi National Park. This hotel is one of my favorite I’ve ever stayed in. They organize fantastic tours and excursions in the park, serve delicious food, and have the most incredible grounds to explore, with a stunning up-close-and-personal view of Cotopaxi Volcano.
Plus, The Secret Garden Cotopaxi has excellent private rooms and dorm room options, so it’s great for travelers on any budget.
Once you arrive at the Secret Garden Cotopaxi, you can get settled in to your room. Sign up for the hotel’s free daily waterfall hike – this is a fantastic way to begin exploring the National Park and see and area of the park you won’t see on any tour.
You can also sign up for the next day’s activities and speak to hotel staff about their recommendations for how you’ll spend the next day exploring the park.
Check out our guide to Quito to Cotopaxi Day Tours and Excursions for more about visiting Cotopaxi National Park and the excursions you’ll find offered here.
Day Four: Cotopaxi
Wake up bright an early to enjoy sunrise over the Cotopaxi Volcano. This also tends to be the clearest part of the day, so you’ll have the best chance of getting the best view of the volcano’s snowcapped cone.
Spend the morning and afternoon on whatever excursion you’ve organized in the park. Options range from mountain biking down the side of the volcano’s cone to hiking to the José Rivas Refuge near the glacier line of the volcano. Or, take a more leisurely tour of the park including walking around Laguna Limoncocha.
Take the late afternoon shuttle from evening shuttle from The Secret Garden Cotopaxi back to Quito and spend the night here so you’re ready to head on to Otavalo the next morning.
Alternatively, staff at the Secret Garden can organize private transportation from Cotopaxi National Park directly to Otavalo. This is a great way to cut your travel time down, and make sure you have plenty of time to explore Otavalo the next day. Plus, you might save on transportation costs, too, if you’re traveling with multiple people.
Where to Stay in Otavalo
Day Five: Otavalo
Wake up in Otavalo, or head there early in the morning from Quito. While there is plenty to do and see around Otavalo, the indisputable main attraction is the Otavalo market, which opens early!
Otavalo’s main market day is Saturday, and to a lesser extent, Wednesday. On these days, the whole town seems to be taken over by the market. However, the market is open from morning to late afternoon every day, so don’t worry if you can’t fit a Saturday trip to Otavalo in to your itinerary.
Based in the Plaza de Ponchos and spreading outward through the streets from there, the Otavalo market is unmissable. Here you could easily spend hours exploring, wandering from stall to stall and checking out the wares. If you’re visiting on a Saturday, plan to check out the animal market as well – its an interesting peek into local life here.
Check out our Ultimate Guide to Otavalo and the Otavalo Market for so much more about exploring this town and the surrounding area.
Once you’ve immersed yourself in the market, head to Laguna de Cuicocha (Cuicocha Lake), one of the many beautiful destinations surrounding Otavalo. Laguna de Cuicocha isn’t just any lake – its actually a volcano. The volcanic cone exploded thousands of years ago, collapsing inward on itself and leaving a lake behind, with two small islands in the middle.
Here you can hike a portion of the rim – or all of it, if you have a few hours! – but I’d recommend cruising the lake in the passenger boat that leaves every half an hour. There is also a restaurant and natural history museum beside the lake.
Even if you don’t hike the rim, climb the stairs to the right of the entrance, heading a few yards counterclockwise around the rim to reach to lookout. Here you’ll find a stunning viewpoint over the valley, and you might even be able to see a few snowcapped volcanoes if the day is clear enough.
Taxis will take you to and from Cuicocha for just a few dollars each way – buses don’t go all the way up to the entrance of the park, so taking a taxi is your best bet.
Where to Stay in Otavalo
Day Six: Quilotoa
Wake up bright and early to depart Otavalo for Quilotoa, one of Ecuador’s most impressive natural wonders. You can choose to take public transportation or private transportation – or a mix of both.
From Otavalo, you’ll have two options for reaching the remote town of Quilotoa by bus:
Take the bus from Otavalo to Quito. Transportation to Quilotoa is via the city of Latacunga, so in Quito you’ll catch a bus to Latacunga, and then another bus to Quilotoa.
Take the bus from Otavalo to Ambato. You’ll get off the bus at Latacunga, a few stops before you arrive in Ambato. From Latacunga, you’ll take another bus to Quilotoa.
If you want to avoid the buses – or some of the buses – you could also choose to head back to Quito and book a day trip to Quilotoa with private transportation from there.
Our Ultimate Guide to Quilotoa includes even more details how to get to Quilotoa, Quilotoa hikes, and plenty of details about where to eat, where to stay, and what else you can do in Quilotoa.
However you choose to get to Quilotoa, your jaw will surely drop when you arrive and finally peak over the edge of the crater into the volcanic crater lake below. Spend the rest of the day taking in the scenery, or hiking in to the crater. You can even rent a kayak to paddle on the water and explore the crater.
Where to Stay in Quilotoa
Day Seven: Quilotoa
Wake up and get ready for an incredible day exploring Quilotoa. With a few hours in this beautiful spot, I recommend trying to hike the crater’s rim. This hike generally takes anywhere 3 to 5 hours, and is only moderately challenging – though be aware that the elevation here is extremely high, so any physical activity is more challenging.
Our Ultimate Guide to Quilotoa includes details about all the hikes you can do around Quilotoa, as well as details about where to eat, where to stay, and what else you can do in Quilotoa.
If you’re not interested in the rim hike, consider hiking down to the water’s edge inside the crater and renting a kayak to spend time on the water. You can’t swim here (and wouldn’t want to – the elevation makes Quilotoa very cold!) but exploring the lake by kayak is unforgettable.
Make sure that you depart Quilotoa with enough time to return to Quito for the night. The bus schedule seems to change frequently, but you can ask in any hotel, store, or restaurant and the locals will know the exact schedule. You can also find taxis or taxi pick-up trucks that can take you to Latacunga.
If heading back to Quito by bus, you’ll first take the bus from Quilotoa to Latacunga, and then from Latacunga to Quito. In total, the trip should take you about 4 hours.
Day Eight: Tena
In the morning, wake bright and early to depart for Tena. Just over three hours east of Quito, this small city on the edge of the Amazon Rainforest makes for a great base for a quick trip exploring the jungle.
Tena is also home to tour companies offering some fantastic adventure sports and excursions, including the best whitewater rafting in Ecuador! If you’re not in to adventure sports, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy Tena, like jungle walks, cave hikes, visits to local indigenous villages, and much more.
A visit to the Amazon Rainforest is also one of those types of trips that can be best enjoyed by booking on to an excursion or tour. Tour companies offering all inclusive transport, lodging, and excursions do a fantastic job making the experience as seamless as possible. That leaves you to just enjoy and take in this bucket list destination.
Here are some all-inclusive excursions from Quito to consider that we recommend:
If you’d rather explore Tena without an all-inclusive package from Quito, plan on booking activities through your hotel or at tour companies once you arrive in Tena. Some hotels, especially the nicer lodges like Kuyana Amazon Lodge or El Jardín Misahualli Lodge & Spa include excursions as part of the cost of staying.
We stayed at Hostal Pakay and LOVED it – even if you’re not a hostel person, the private rooms are fantastic and very comfortable (we stayed in a private room and loved it). Just on the outskirts of Tena, you’ll feel like you’re staying in the middle of the jungle in this beautiful hostel.
The jungle walk Hostal Pakay organized for us was great – we saw tons of wildlife, visited an indigenous village, and had a fantastic time with our guide.
Where to Stay in Tena
Day Nine: Tena
Spend your next full day in Tena enjoying even more of this Amazon gateway city’s amazing activities and excursions. This full day in Tena can be a great time to book a full day jungle excursion, such as a jungle walk.
We booked a full day jungle walk from Tena that included hiking in caves, visiting an indigenous village, and discovering tons of incredible wildlife with the help of our guide. Organized by Hostal Pakay, we highly recommend it!
If you’d prefer to book a private tour with a reputable company ahead of time, check out this full-day excursion of jungle walks, canoeing, and more offered by a favorite local tour guide!
Don’t forget about the option to white water raft in Tena if you’re feeling so adventurous. Tena is known for the best white water rafting in Ecuador.
Day Ten: Quito
On your last day in Ecuador, make sure you save enough time to return from Tena to Quito in time for your flight home! Generally the bus from Tena to Quito takes about four hours, though with private transportation it can take as little as three hours.
If you have plenty of time on your last day in Quito, you can spend the last of your 10 day Ecuador itinerary exploring sites you may not have gotten to in your first two days in Quito.
Here are some of my top recommendations of things to do in Quito you may not have had the chance to do before!
Visit the Guayasamin House and Capilla del Hombre.
Check out one of many museums in Old Town Quito. Or, take a free guided walking tour of the presidential palace, Carondelet Palace in Plaza Grande.
Head back to the Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal from last minute souvenir shopping.
We created a mega-guide to absolutely all the best things to do in Quito – after living here for two years, we’ve truly done it all. Check it out for even more ideas!