Ecuador is often overshadowed by its bigger neighbor Peru, but one of the great things about Ecuador is that really has it all, and Ecuador has the advantage of being a much smaller country.
That means if you have just a week to travel you can get to see a lot in a very short time frame.
A One-Week Ecuador Itinerary
Ecaudor Has Something For Everyone
Some of the best Ecuador tours take advantage of this, and they will pack as much or as little as you want into a week. Ecuador really does have something for everyone.
Whether you’re a history buff, a culture fanatic, a wildlife spotter or a thrill seeker, looking for your next adrenalin hit, Ecuador truly is the place to see it all.
It even has superb options for the perpetual beach bum to lie around on the beach drinking cocktails – though with so much else to see and do it is hard to sit still.
See the Natural Side of Ecuador
The best Ecuador tours can take in snow-capped Andean mountains, overgrown Amazonian jungle teeming with wildlife, magical hot springs and historic colonial towns, all within the space of a week.
Or you could mix it up a bit and throw in bird watching in the cloud forest, or shopping for traditional souvenirs in colorful indigenous markets. Ecuador tour packages that do this well take into account logistics, so you have plenty of time to enjoy yourself, with not too much time on the road.
Distances are relatively short compared with North American standards, and roads between major towns are decent.
Visit Quito and Otavalo
In a week, you could fly into Quito and explore the UNESCO World Heritage site in the colonial heart of the city that very afternoon, before heading off for an overnight trip to Otavalo.
Otavalo is worth a stop, especially for those that like culture and shopping, as Otavalo is considered one of the biggest markets in South America, particularly on a Wednesday or Saturday when the streets are awash with a kaleidoscope of color.
Visit Volcano Terrain
The next evening you could head back to Quito, and in the morning drive through the avenue of volcanoes, past Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, towards Banos.
This little town is truly a thrill-seeker’s paradise, set as it is in the shadow of the mighty Tungurahua volcano which is highly active and prone to burst its top from time to time, at short notice, adding to the adventure. You could spend a day or two in Banos, enjoying biking, rafting, hiking, rappelling, canyoning or simply chilling in the hot springs after which the town is aptly named.
The Devil’s Nose Train Ride
On the next day you could take the exhilarating Devil’s Nose train ride, with its switchbacks – a nineteenth century engineering feat worth admiring, before driving through more colonial cultural gems to Ingapirca.
The Colonial City of Cuenca
You could stop a while here to photograph Ecuador’s best Inca ruin, and head to the jewel of the south, colonial city Cuenca. After a morning enjoying a wander around the cobbled streets, through the markets and into the majestic churches you could drive towards the beach and spend your final day relaxing on the coast, before catching your flight out.
Strike the Depths of the Amazon Jungle
But that’s just one option, and not everyone likes it all crammed in so much. There are plenty more choices. For example, you could land in Quito and head directly to the Papallacta hot springs, high in the Andean mountains.
While away a few hours watching hummingbirds peck at the vegetation while you soak in the deliciously warm waters. You could then take a flight and motorized canoe deep into the Amazon jungle for a few days to birdwatch and spot wild creatures galore, including monkeys, snakes, caiman, sloths and river dolphins. From there you could fly back to Quito and take day trips to the cloud forest (more hummingbirds and butterflies than you have ever seen), Otavalo (for shopping and culture), straddle the Equatorial line and hike up a mountain or two.
Make Time for the Galapagos Islands
If you have just one week and love wildlife, the Galapagos Islands may be just the place. This once in a lifetime adventure can be experienced cruising aboard a luxury yacht or using different islands as a base and staying on land. This is one trip you will never regret.
Despite the volume of visitors in the Galapagos, it never feels truly crowded once you’re out of the airport, and you’ll take in wildlife that you’ve never seen before or since. Blue footed boobies, Sally Lightfoot crabs, marine iguanas, sea lions and frigate birds abound.
Depending on your cruise you could observe bright pink flamingos or albatross, or even the Galapagos penguin or giant tortoises, and if you’re really lucky you could snorkel with hammerhead sharks. While a Galapagos trip will keep you busy with the wildlife, there’s also plenty of time to relax with a cold drink and reflect on the wonders you have seen.
Indeed, you could spend your week doing any activity of your choosing. You could hike a different mountain every day, with many peaks at an altitude of more than 5,000 meters. Bird watchers can tick countless unusual birds off their list in a week with a trip to the jungle and cloud forest. You could spend a week riding horses, or exploring colonial towns and staying in luxurious, historic old hacienda buildings, converted to meet your every need. Or you could do some of all of these – a different activity every day from Monday through to Sunday. There is something for everyone in Ecuador.
Whatever you are looking for from your week’s vacation, Ecuador really does have it all, and it’s all easily accessible.