A blend of history, multi-ethnic culture and extreme adventures, Ecuador offers endless possibilities for every type of travelers. From the historic sites in Quito to the otherworldly rainforest of Amazon, the many attractions of Ecuador will surely give you a one of kind travel experience. In this 10 day suggested itinerary, capture the excitement in one of South America’s most diverse and astounding nation. Welcome to Ecuador!
Things to know before traveling to Ecuador:
Language – Being a Spanish colony for three centuries, Spanish have become the nation’s language which is widely spoken by majority of the people in the country. However, it is important to note that the Indian population still use Quechua, which is the language of the Inca Empire. English is used widely in most tourist areas, especially in hotels, souvenir shops, tour agencies and rent-a-car companies. Speaking at least some Spanish phrases or attempting to learn is greatly appreciated by the locals.
Currency Exchange – Since January 2000, the official currency of Ecuador has been the US dollar. In the 1990s, the then-President Jamil Mahuad took a drastic decision of dollarizing the economy of Ecuador because of soaring inflation and the collapse of Sucre currency. ATMs and credits cards are widely accepted, but check with your bank beforehand if there are any limitations.
Safety and security – There is currently no nationwide security advisory in effect for Ecuador. Check your country’s travel advisory website to get the most up-to-date information for your personal safety abroad. Do not carry debit or credit cards with you, or hide it in your bra or shoes. There were incidences of robbery when offenders will escort you to an ATM and make you take out as much as you can. Leave your passport in the hotel’s safety deposit box and just carry a photocopy. Avoid unnecessary travel to border area of Colombia and Ecuador.
Getting there – Quito’s airport is Mariscal Sucre International Airport, located 40 minutes from downtown. The city is served by several foreign carriers including Aeroméxico, Air Europa, American Airlines, Avianca Ecuador, Avianca El Salvador, Eastern Airlines, LLC, KLM, LASER Airlines, LATAM Ecuador, Spirit Airlines, United Airlines, and TAME. Getting an “open-jaw” ticket is more economical if you are planning to visit other South American countries like Peru.
Transportation – Taking the bus is the best and cheapest way to get around Ecuador. Buses are reliable and navigable as they operate on a scheduled timetable and set routes. If you are on a luxury vacation, consider hiring a driver to take you around the country. This option is expensive but will give you complete control of the trip. Renting a car and driving on your own is not recommended because some roads are tricky to navigate.
Where to stay – Ecuador has a wide range of accommodation options, with something for every level of comfort and budget. From famous international luxury hotel chains and charming haciendas to budget and youth hostels, you will surely find a place that will suit your budget. Home-stay is also a great option to immerse yourself in the culture of the country and to experience living with a local family.
Detailed Itinerary 10 days in Ecuador
Day 1: Quito
Take an international flight to Quito Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO). Most international flights arrive in the capital in the afternoon or evening, so you will have to book yourself into an accommodation in Quito for 2 nights. If you arrive late at night, get a good night’s sleep so you have energy for a whole day of adventure the next day.
Where to stay in Quito:
Day 2: Quito’s Old Town
If breakfast is not yet included in the price of your accommodation, then start your second day in Quito by going to one of the best breakfast and brunch spots in this medieval Old Town. A complete Ecuadorian breakfast often includes bread (pan de sal) or sweet bread (pan de dulce), coffee or freshly made fruit juice, Bolon de verde (green plantain dumplings) and Ceviche de camaron (shrimp ceviche).
After breakfast, meet your Ecuadorian guide for your historic and cultural tour of Quito. Made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978, Quito is one of the best preserved colonial cities in South America. On this day, you will be able to see number of wonderful sites such as Iglesia de San Francisco, La Compañía de Jesús, Casa Museo María Augusta Urrutia, La Plaza de la Independencia and El Panecillo. Self-guided Walking Tours can also be done, however, we recommend availing a guided tour so that you will be able to learn the history and culture of Ecuador from a knowledgeable guide.
Day 3: Otavalo
After your first 2 days in Quito, it’s time to leave the colonial city and unwind in Otavalo, an indigenous town in the Imbabura Province of Ecuador. To get to Otavalo – take the bus. Buses leave from the Terminal Norte, aka Terminal Carcelén. Buyyour tickets on board, expect to pay $2.50. The trip takes about two hours. On the way to Otavalo, make a quick stop at Quitsato Mitad del Mundo (“Middle of the World“), said to be the exact place where the equatorial line in Ecuador is located. Take it easy and soak up the atmosphere in Otavalo upon your arrival. And a word of advice – be very careful in Otavalo, especially when you get on and off the bus or in the market square since pick-pocked tourists are something really common there.
Where to stay in Otavalo:
Hotel el Indio (Sucre 12 – 14 y Salinas | Diagonal a la Plaza de Ponchos, Otavalo 593, Ecuador)
Hotel Santa Fe (Calle Roca 7-34, Otavalo, Ecuador)
Hosteria La Casa de Hacienda (Quinchuqui, Panamericana Km 3, Otavalo 593, Ecuador)
Day 4: Otavalo and Imbabura Province
The next day, avail a half day tour of Lake Cuicocha. The 4-5 hour tour circles around the beautiful volcanic-crater lake which also gives awesome views of Imbabura and beyond. It is recommended to do this tour in the early mornings to get the best views of the volcano.
For lunch, head up to Hacienda Pinsaquí, one of Ecuador’s oldest haciendas. The hacienda’s restaurant offers authentic Ecuadorian cuisine, which will surely satisfy your taste buds! For more information, visit their website.
In the afternoon, visit the famous market of Otovalo. If you are lucky enough that your 4th day in Ecuador is on a Saturday, then you will be able to experience the famous Saturday market. Here, you will witness the indigenous people of the surrounding mountains sell their beautiful weaving, dried foodstuff, tagua nut jewelry, leather goods, indigenous costumes, sandals and other local products.
Day 5 to 8: Adventure in the Amazon Jungle
Undoubtedly one of the best travel experiences in South America is a visit to the Amazon, one of the world’s most bio-diverse area. Multi-day Amazon Jungle tours need not to be booked in advance. Tour agencies in Quito can arrange your tour from there (or you can book one over the internet – check the tours from La Selva or Sacha). 4-night stays in Amazon jungle lodge accommodation, transportation in 4×4 vehicle, knowledgeable amazon naturalist guide in English and full board meals are included in the tour. 4-day tours are normally priced at USD 290 and go all the way to thousands of dollars.
The opportunity for incredible photographs is endless during the tour, so frequent stops are provided for visitors to enjoy the landscape. Highlights include Laguna Grande, Cuyabeno River, El Puente and Lago Agrio.
Day 9: Amazon Jungle – Quito
After your 4-day Amazon Jungle Excursion, it’s time to leave the rain-forest behind and go back to Quito.
Where to stay in Quito:
Day 10: Quito
Savor your last morning in Quito with a relaxed breakfast in your room or at a nearby restaurant. Taking into consideration that you most likely stayed out rather late the other night, you can start your 10th and last day in Quito at around 10 to 11 in the morning. You can dedicate this day wandering around Old Town. Head to the airport in time to check in for your international flight home, or you may opt to continue traveling independently in Ecuador or visit other places in the region (Colombia, Brazil, Peru or if you are short on time – spend few days in Lima). The decision is all yours!
This is the end of our 10-day suggested itinerary. The sequence of activities and attractions above is just a guide and you can definitely change it to suit your interests. Enjoy Ecuador!
Have you been to Ecuador? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: View of two beaches on Bartolome Island in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador (jkraft5 / Bigstockphoto)