Ecuador offers so much more than the Galapagos, so don’t just fly over this rich country on the way to the islands. Instead, spend some time visiting the stunning cities, soaking up the breathtaking scenery and meeting the friendly people. This Ecuador holiday will show you the main highlights of the country and combine them into an unforgettable self-drive adventure. Witness the colonial splendour of Quito, explore charming Cuenca, drive to the Cotopaxi volcano and the Quilotoa Crater lagoon and visit Baños, Ecuador’s adrenaline capital. Taste the traditional hornado dish in Riobamba and walk through the colourful Las Peñas district in Guayaquil. During this trip, you can experience amazing Ecuador at your own pace, driving through cloud forests, stopping at volcanoes and exploring historical cities.
This Ecuador holiday can be tailored to suit your requirements, so please contact one of our consultants to start planning your dream trip.
Depart the UK from your chosen airport.
On arrival at Quito airport, you will be met and driven to your hotel by private transfer. The historic centre of Quito is very safe and easy to walk around, so stretch your legs with a stroll around the main sights. If you would like to add a guided tour of the Old Town, just ask!
Today after breakfast you will be collected from your hotel and driven by private transfer to the rental car offices. Here, you’ll pick up your hire car and set off on the drive to Mindo Cloud Forest. The journey takes around 2 hours, and we recommend a stop at the Middle of the World monument on the way. When you arrive in Mindo, you’ll check into your accommodation for one night and enjoy your lodge’s privileged position amongst this vibrant ecosystem.
Today, you can spend the morning exploring the wonders of Mindo Cloud Forest before driving to Otavalo in the mid-afternoon. The journey takes around 3 hours. When you reach your destination, you’ll check into your hotel for one night.
Otavalo is famous for its artisanal markets, so be sure not to miss it! The market is open every day, although there’s a larger number of stalls on Saturdays and Wednesdays. In the afternoon, you’ll drive to Papallacta, around 2 hours away from Otavalo. Before you leave, we highly recommend a guided tour of the beautiful Cuicocha Crater lagoon. When you arrive in Papallacta, you’ll check into your hotel for one night. The town is famous for its thermal baths, so let us know if you wish to add the entrance ticket to your itinerary.
This morning we recommend making an early start to reach Cotopaxi National Park, giving you plenty of time to explore. We have included a tour with a local guide, to help you make the most of this incredible destination. We can also arrange guided hikes and horseback excursions, so let us know if you would like to add these extra activities. In the afternoon, you’ll drive to your hacienda where you will check in for one night.
After breakfast this morning, you’ll drive to the charming town of Baños, approximately 2 hours away from Cotopaxi. We recommend stopping to see the stunning Quilotoa Crater Lagoon on the way. The detour will add about 200 km to your journey, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
Baños is the adventure sports capital of Ecuador, so it’s a great place to try zip-lining, canyoning, mountain biking and white water rafting. When you arrive in Baños, you’ll check into your hotel for a one night stay.
This morning is free for you to explore Baños and its surroundings. We recommend visiting the Pailon del Diablo waterfall or, even better, adding a guided tour to both the Avenue of Waterfalls and the Chimborazo volcano reserve. In the late afternoon, you’ll drive the 1.5 hour journey to Riobamba, where you’ll check into your hotel for one night.
You’ll spend this morning exploring Riobamba. As one of the largest cities in the Sierra region of Ecuador, Riobamba is an important regional transport hub with a charming traditional centre. If you fancy a truly local experience, try the famous hornado at one of the city’s markets! In the afternoon, you’ll drive to Cuenca. This will be a journey of around 4.5 hours. When you arrive in the town, you’ll check into your hotel for a two-night stay.
Cuenca is one of the most beautiful cities in South America, and today you’ll have a full day to explore at your own pace. We suggest visiting the Panama hat factory, producer of the original Panama hats. Let us know if you wish to add a guided tour of the city.
Today, you’ll drive towards Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city. The journey takes approximately 4 hours. During the first couple of hours, you will be climbing to an altitude of over 4,000 metres, through the stunning Cajas National Park. We suggest stopping here for a tour with a local guide. Afterwards, the route will begin its descent towards the coastal city of Guayaquil.
When you arrive, you’ll drop off the car rental and check into your hotel for your last night in Ecuador. We recommend visiting the Malecon and Las Peñas neighbourhood with its colourful houses.
You’ll be collected from your hotel at any time today and be taken to the airport by private transfer to connect with your flight home.
While this itinerary can be enjoyed all year round, the best time is between May and October, when the skies are clearer and the days sunnier.
If you'd like to get a feel for this Ecuador holiday, read our blog post 'Visit Ecuador: why you should extend your trip beyond the Galapagos', written by one of our consultants who has been there.
This itinerary is purely a suggestion and can be tailor-made to your requirements, so please contact us with your dates and requests, and we’ll put together a bespoke quotation for you.
10 nights in 4* standard accommodation.
Hotels in this category include: