Ecuador: The Perfect 4 Weeks Itinerary
Detailed one-month travel itinerary for backpacking in Ecuador, a small country in South America. Tips and advice on things to see and do in four weeks. Explore Quito, Galapagos Islands, Mindo, Otavalo, Banos, Quilotoa Loop, Cuenca and more.
ECUADOR TRAVEL ITINERARY
Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America (probably the smallest one among those few which are frequently visited by travelers). The convenient size, incredible diversity, newly built roads and, of course, the Galapagos Islands make Ecuador an attractive travel destination. Although the Galapagos Islands have been for many years the number one reason why to visit Ecuador, it would be a shame to leave out the mainland.
When we compare Ecuador with other countries, it is still cheap and traveling here is overall safe as well. Of course, you should still use your common sense. The big advantage is that you can use US dollars in Ecuador as it is the official currency.
Ecuador is a country where you can see volcanic peaks, hike in the high altitudes, but also traverse the Amazon, admire colorful fauna and flora, or sunbath by the sea.
We arrived in Ecuador from Colombia by bus, that's why our first stop was Otavalo, and we then traveled the country from north to south. In case you fly to Quito first, take a bus to Otavalo and then follow our itinerary.
What did we skip? Amazon Jungle. It is probably something you should include in your itinerary - we visited Amazon in Peru later on, and those 7 days camping in Pacaya Samiria turned out to be one of the greatest adventures we've ever done.
DAY 1 & 2: OTAVALO AND LAGUNA CUICOCHA
Otavalo is known as an indigenous city with traditional markets.
There are markets every day, but the biggest ones take place on Saturday and Wednesday. On those days Otavalo fills up quickly with locals from surrounding villages as well as with tourists. You can buy here anything you can think of - from fruits, veggies to clothes or even animals!
Accommodation is plentiful and budget friendly.
It would be a shame to miss a trekking around Otavalo. We did an undemanding half-day hike around nearby Laguna Cuicocha. You can check the photos and decide for yourself if it is worth it. We say yes.
DAY 3 & 4 & 5: QUITO
The capital of Ecuador doesn't have the best reputation when it comes to safety.
This reputation should not keep you away from Quito as much has changed in the past years. The Quito's city center is in UNESCO because of the well-preserved architecture, it has many great museums, but it is also easy to escape the busy city and travel to one of the Quito's viewpoints high in the mountains.
We recommend you to stay in "centro historico" to fully immerse yourself in exploring the long and fascinating city history.
Read our article Best things to do in Quito to find out more.
DAY 6 -13: GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
Galapagos Islands are for many the main reason why visit Ecuador, but for some, it is still a place to avoid because of the price.
We can say only one. If you have a chance to visit the Galapagos, go for it.
We spent 7 days cruising the Galapagos Islands, and it was the best week we've had in Ecuador. During this week we visited several islands, had an amazing time on board with our fellow travelers, took many amazing photos and chiefly saw many incredible animal species from birds, iguanas, sea lions to huge tortoises.
Can't express enough how awesome our visit to the Galapagos was, we wouldn't mind going again at all.
DAY 14 & 15: MINDO
Mindo, a town tucked in the cloud forest, and lush green vegetation deserves travelers' attention.
The area around Mindo is astonishingly biodiverse and every year welcomes a large number of photographers, bird watchers, and biologists from around the world. But even if you don't belong in any of those groups, you still should consider visiting Mindo.
And what can you do in Mindo? Walk the waterfall route, watch colorful birds (even though you don't have well-trained eyes), walk in the forest at night, participate in adventure activities or taste Mindo's chocolate, just to name a few.
You can also make your stay more special and stay in the lodge in the cloud forest and reconnect with nature.
DAY 16 - 19: QUILOTOA LOOP
The most common option is to hike four days and sleep three nights along the trail. Quilotoa Loop will take you through Ecuadorian countryside and stunning hilly scenery.
The hike is not that hard the only trouble can be the altitude. The last day (or the first, it depends what direction will you hike) will take you to Quilotoa, azure-colored crater lake high up in the mountains which was created around 600 years ago by an enormous eruption.
Still not convinced? Here are 11 things to know before you go which might convince you.
In case you don't have time to do a multi-day trek, you can easily visit Quilotoa crater on a one-day trip from Latacunga. Also, the city of Latacunga serves as an accommodation base and starting point to visit Cotopaxi National Park - we did not visit it as we had known we would travel to Chimborazo National Park instead.
You will see the Cotopaxi Volcano on the way if coming from Quito.
DAY 20 & 21: BANOS
Banos quickly became one of the most visited places in Ecuador and no wonder why.
It is a mecca for all backpackers who come to the city to enjoy the nightlife, adrenaline adventures, and beautiful landscape.
In Banos, you can hike in the surrounding lush green hills, take an Instagram picture while swinging high above clouds, rent a bike and cycle the waterfall road and after a day full of adventures, take a bath in hot springs or just chill in a hostel and chat with other travelers.
Does it sound appealing enough? Find travel inspiration in our Banos guide.
DAY 22 & 23: RIOBAMBA & CHIMBORAZO NATIONAL PARK
From Banos, take a short ride by bus to Riobamba, a city surrounded by volcanic peaks.
Walk around the city, stay in stylish colonial house, and take a rest as tomorrow is the day to visit Chimborazo National Park, home to the highest mountain of Ecuador.
You can choose from many activities, including the climb to the summit, but from our own experience, we can recommend biking down from Chimborazo.
The views are amazing plus riding down 37 kilometers is fun!
DAY 25: INGAPIRCA RUINS
When traveling to Cuenca, why not to stop in the Ingapirca ruins?
These are the largest Inca ruins in Ecuador. The site is pretty, but small, especially if you've already seen Machu Picchu or some larger ruins in Peru or other countries.
Most of the travelers make a one-day trip to Ingapirca from Cuenca, but it is better to stay there on the way from Riobamba as it is not worth it to spend six hours in total on the bus on the way from Cuenca and back.
DAY 26: CUENCA
Cuenca, the UNESCO city in southern Ecuador lures visitors by the colonial architecture, clean and wide streets (on Ecuadorian standards), relaxing waterfront and the blue-domed cathedral. Although Cuenca is a big city, it doesn't feel this way with the indigenous markets and traditionally dressed citizens.
Also, there is a great choice of accommodation and international restaurants - here in Cuenca we finally got rid of monotonous South American food and ate Indian and Italian cuisine instead.
DAY 27: CAJAS NATIONAL PARK
You have probably never heard of Cajas National Park as we haven't before our visit to Ecuador.
Located only about an hour by bus from Cuenca, this national park offers a large number of one day or multi-day hikes. The hilly landscape is brownish and looks barren, but because of the frequent rains, the soil depressions are filled with water and create a large number of lagoons.
One of the best off the beaten hikes we've ever done, you should try it too.
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