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Although a small country, Ecuador has an unparalleled diversity and is, therefore, the perfect destination to get the taste of South America. Its attractions range from an array of colonial monuments, age-old ruins, innumerable indigenous villages and towns as well as tropical beaches and remote highlands.
Its lush rainforests along with the Galapagos Islands draw wildlife enthusiasts from all over the world, while the colonial architecture and monuments of the Unesco-listed capital city of Quito, nestled high in the Andes, are a sight to behold. Ecuador is also never short of fun for outdoor enthusiasts. Coastal cities like Guayaquil offer everything from boat rides and snorkeling to surfing, while Cotopaxi and Cajas national parks are scoured with hiking trails lasting anywhere from a couple of hours to a few days. If you are unsure about how many days should you spend in Ecuador, you will find out our below guide helpful.
For those planning a short stay of three to five days in Ecuador, we suggest that you choose between the cultural highlights of its major cities or the Galapagos. However, to get the best out of your Ecuador vacation, we recommend an Ecuador itinerary of at least around ten days. With more time at your disposal, you can dive deep into the diverse culture, history, and heritage of Ecuador while also spoiling yourself with a variety of activities.
If you are lucky enough to afford a two-week tour of Ecuador, you have plenty of time to cover the country’s must-visit attractions at leisure while also enjoying its mesmerizing confluence of cultures.
Try to get a well-rounded perspective of Ecuador’s history and culture if you have less than five days to spare. Head out to discover Plaza San Francisco while in Quito. Regarded as the historic center of the city, the plaza is adorned with monuments dating back to the sixteenth and seventeen centuries, including San Francisco Church, a massive complex with white-washed towers. The church is known for its ornate Baroque interior as well as religious paintings, sculptures, and carvings.
Other destinations in the city that might be of interest are Plaza de la Independencia, Basilica del Voto Nacional, and Carondelet Palace. Also check out its stunning cathedral, archbishop's palace, and La Compañia Church, famous for its gold altars. Add Mirador del Panecillo to your itinerary if you want to admire the best views of Quito.
Head out to Otavalo if you want to purchase one-of-a-kind souvenirs or just meet natives and swap stories with them. Explore its indigenous market, one of the largest in Latin America, and see how people still engage in ancient trading methods like bartering. On your way there, you might want to stop in Miralago for views of Lago San Pablo. Last but not the least, do not miss out on the chance to taste the delicious bizcochos de cayambe, a local variety of bread baked in clay ovens.
Alternatively, you can also embark on a horseback adventure in the Ecuadorian Andes and the Bomboli Cloud Forest. A short trek to Corazon volcano offers the chance to soak up amazing views of Cotopaxi volcano. Else, go hiking and canoe riding in either Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve or Yasuní National Park.
For more ideas, check our 5-day Ecuador tours.
A seven-day Ecuador itinerary may not be enough to capture all the diverse experiences that the country has to offer. However, it does allow you to hit the main attractions.
Discover the unique flora and fauna of the Galapagos during an island-hopping tour. Spot wildlife on San Cristobal Island and swim with sea lions on Lobo Island. Take a boat from San Cristobal and head for Santa Cruz. Visit the famous Tortuga Bay, a nesting site of black sea turtles. The tortoise sanctuary of El Chato as well as the Charles Darwin Research Station is other unmissable highlights that should be part of any Galapagos itinerary.
Enjoy a hiking trip on Bartolome Island and visit Sullivan Bay to see penguins and white-tip sharks. Discover the endemic flora of Plazas Island and relish Santa Fe’s beautiful landscape and marine life. If you find yourself with some time to spare, travel to North Seymour Island and see iguana colonies.
Alternatively, you can choose to climb the volcanic mountains that Ecuador is known for during your one-week stay in the country. Start your adventure by scaling small volcanoes like Corazon, Pasochoa, and Illiniza Norte before you undertake the epic journey to the top of Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world.
Check out our 7-day Ecuador trips for more ideas.
With ten days at your disposal, it might be a better idea to weave several adventures into a single tour. Hiking through the Quilotoa Loop could be combined with a sightseeing tour in Quito, while an island-hopping adventure in the Galapagos could be enjoyed along with the balmy, tropical beaches of Guayaquil.
You can also embark on a motorbike adventure and explore all corners of Ecuador on two wheels. Start your journey from the capital and head for Mindo, home to native butterflies and beautiful waterfalls. Then travel to Teleferico and enjoy a cable car ride up Pichincha volcano. Mitad del Mundo, with its tower marking the 0’0” latitude line, is not that far from the highway and sees scores of visitors all year round.
Your third option during a ten-day Ecuador stay is to go hiking through the country’s hinterlands. Trek along the Illinizas, a pair of volcanic mountains. Traverse quaint villages such as Chugchilan and Salinas de Guaranda and learn more about their unique cultures. Then spot vicunas in Chimborazo National Park, soak up the views of the impressive Pailón del Diablo waterfall and traverse Banos’ lush forests. A drive to the highest mountain in Ecuador, Chimborazo, is definitely an experience worth a lifetime.
You have endless possibilities during two weeks in Ecuador. In addition to gathering a multitude of experiences, a trip of this length allows quality time to interact with the locals and appreciate their customs and traditions.
Go on an extended trip from the Andes to the Amazon during your fortnight-long stay in the country. Tena, the capital of Napo province, is an ideal destination to explore the vast Amazon basin from. Highlights in the area include river journeys and jungle excursions.
Discover colonial cities like Cuenca and admire the Inca architecture of Ingapirca. Board a train that takes you up the switchbacks of La Nariz del Diablo in the Andes and relax in the mineral-rich hot springs of Baños. San Clemente is a great place to learn traditional embroidery techniques, while in Peguche you can get the taste of local music.
Savor locally made dishes as you pass through Ecuador’s small towns and villages and splurge on locally made products sold in indigenous markets throughout the country.
Traveling to Ecuador? Chat with a local travel specialist in Ecuador who can help organize your trip.