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Ride, hike and snorkel in Ecuador and the Galapagos islands

If the last years’ travel restrictions have left you with a pent-up sense of adventure, our friends at KimKim travel have curated a trip to Ecuador in South America that will blow those cobwebs away.

Horse-riding, hiking, cycling, snorkelling and, of  course, sight-seeing are all on the menu in this 10-day trip that takes in the Ecuadorian Andes and the natural wonders of Galapagos islands.

There are plenty of variations for tailor-made tours run by local operators, but if you are footloose and fit, this is a great taster for what could be the trip of a lifetime.

Day 1: Arrive in Quito

Welcome to Quito, the capital ofEcuador! Arrive at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), where your driver will meet you for the one-hour transfer to your accommodation in the city center. You’ll get a short introduction to Quito’s history and a quick briefing on the next day’s activities.

The entire city of Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, standing at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,850 m). It welcomes visitors with its picturesque plazas situated between mountain peaks. The city has an abundance of market stands, shamanistic healers, fourth-generation hat makers, and a vibrant and sophisticated culinary and nightlife scene.

Day 2: Transfer to Baños via Quilotoa Lagoon

Join your driver/guide as you journey into the western Ecuadorian Andes, where you’ll visit the picturesque Quilotoa Lagoon. This spectacular crater lake was formed centuries ago by a massive volcanic eruption. Walk along the crater’s rim to take in splendid views or hike down a path to the edge of the turquoise waters. If you’re looking for a less adventurous trek, mules are available to rent for the return uphill hike. Afterward, get back on the road and continue to Baños, where you’ll settle into the night’s accommodations.

Ecuador’s capital Quito with the Cotapaxi volcano in the background

Enjoy the vistas of Quilotoa Lagoon in the Ecuadorian Andes

Take a scenic drive along the “Avenue of Waterfalls” to El Pailón del Diablo

Pinnacle Rock in the Galápagos Islands

See Humboldt penguins in the wild on Tintoreras Islet

Marine iguanas sunbathing on a rock

See giant tortoises up close in the highlands of Santa Cruz

A Last glimpse of Ecuador

Mangroves along the coast of Isabella Island

Day 3: Follow the Avenue of Waterfalls to Cotopaxi

Driving south from Baños this morning, you’ll follow the Avenue of Waterfalls, a 31-mile (61 km) stretch of spectacular jungle and mountain scenery dotted with countless dramatic cascades. Skirt the Pastaza River on its way through the scenic valley of the same name to reach the village of Rio Verde, where you will stop to visit the well-known El Pailón del Diablo (the Devil’s Cauldron) waterfall. Your journey then continues toward Cotopaxi where you’ll get settled in for the night in a cozy hacienda.

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Day 4: Explore Cotopaxi National Park on Horseback, Transfer to Quito

Rise early this morning to mount up for an epic horseback ride through Cotopaxi National Park. Setting out from your hacienda, you’ll be met with sweeping views of the páramo (typical Andean landscape) and the snowcapped peak of Cotopaxi. Gallop across windswept plains and explore the area’s native forests before returning to the hacienda, where you’ll have the option of sitting down to lunch before getting back on the road and heading north to Quito. 

Day 5: Fly to the Galápagos, Arrive on San Cristóbal Island

The next phase of your adventure begins today as you transfer to the Mariscal Sucre International Airport and catch a flight to the Galápagos Islands

After checking in to your hotel in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, visit the local Interpretation Center with your guide to learn everything about the history and future of the Galápagos. Afterward, you’ll take a short walk to Tijeretas Hill, where you can spot frigate birds nesting and spectacular views over the island. End the day with a stop at La Lobería, a scenic beach that hosts a thriving colony of sea lions. As evening falls, return to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

Day 6: Fly to Isabella Island, Explore Tintoreras Islet

In the early morning, you’ll head to the airport to board a short flight to Isabela Island. Upon arrival, make your way to the Flamingo Lagoon or the Giant Tortoise Breeding Station to learn about the local wildlife. 

After lunch, join a group tour to visit the Tintoreras Islet for a short hike and some snorkeling. Here you can see Humboldt penguins, marine iguanas, sea lions, and sharks, which rest in the natural channels formed by lava flows. Snorkel in the turquoise water and spot different fish, sea turtles, rays, and penguins. The rest of your evening is free, with an overnight stay on Isabela Island in Puerta Villamil.

Day 7: Rappelling & Biking on Isabella Island

Your guide will pick you up early this morning for an excursion to Los Trillizos Volcano, a fantastic spot to try your hand at the sport of rappelling. Descend 493 feet (150 m) into the dormant volcano to explore the interior of this magical island from a unique perspective.

Return to the hotel for lunch, then head back out in the afternoon for a biking adventure that takes you to the top of the island and on to scenic highlights like Cave SucreMango Viewpoint, and Campo Duro. At the latter, you can stop to observe the island’s giant tortoises in their natural habitat.

Day 8: Speedboat to Santa Cruz Island, Visit the Charles Darwin Station

Get an early start this morning to take the public speedboat to Santa Cruz Island, roughly 2.5 hours away. Meet your guide at the dock, then head to the highlands to see giant tortoises in the wild. Enjoy lunch at a local farm, then continue to Puerto Ayora to check in to your hotel. 

In the afternoon, you’ll head to the Charles Darwin Station, where scientists from all over the world meet and work together on environmental projects such as water analysis, animal protection, and the effects of tourism on nature. Here you can pay a memorable visit to the turtle rearing station, where the animals are raised before being released into the wild. Keep an eye out for the many basking land iguanas that live around the station!

Day 9: Day Trip to an Uninhabited Island

Today, you’ll travel by yacht to an uninhabited island near Santa Cruz. Depending on the weather, scheduling, and permissions granted by the national park, you’ll visit one of the following islands: Santa FéSouth PlazasBartolomé, or North Seymour.

Each island is unique, offering spectacular scenery and opportunities to see rare wildlife. Santa Fé and South Plazas are home to endemic land iguanas, while Bartolomé is known for its beautiful lava flows. On North Seymour, look for frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. In the evening, return to Puerto Ayora to enjoy some free time.  

Day 10: Transfer to Baltra Island & Depart

If there is enough free time before your transfer to the airport, do some last-minute souvenir shopping or take a last stroll through Puerto Ayora. At the designated time, your driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the Itabaca Channel, which you will cross on a ferry. For the last part of your trip to the airport, take the public shuttle bus to the terminal, where your program ends with your return flight to the mainland and onward connection. Safe travels!

More Great 10-Day Ecuador Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Ecuador? Check out these other 10-day Ecuador itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. Or start planning your trip to Ecuador by chatting with a local specialist who can help organize your great adventure.

NB: has not receive any sponsorship for promoting this trip – we just think it looks pretty awesome.

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