Ecuador is, by South American standards, as small country.  Most people think only of the Galapagos Islands as a reason to head to Ecuador given that where you have to fly from to the Islands.

Our strong suggestion is to take another look.  Ecuador has
Cloud Forest
Colonial towns and architecture
Beautiful Haciendas
A flourishing flower industry
Beautiful art and weavings


The Galapagos Islands

Days 1-2 Quito

Day 1.  Arrive into the Colonial area of Ecuador’s capital – perhaps transfer to the Casa Gangotena or the charming La Casona de la Ronda

Day 2.  Relax in the morning PM explore part of Colonial Quito – maybe a chocolate tasting.

Featured Accommodation
Casa Gangotena

Casa Gangotena is described as ‘understated opulence given an Ecuadorean twist’. This 1926 palatial family home that had fallen into disrepair has been transformed into an intimate luxury hotel. The three-level mansion on the main Plaza San Francisco in the heart of the old city has been exquisitely restored, with additions that mix Art Nouveau with contemporary design.

Days 3-6 Hacienda Zuleta and Otavalo

A short transfer by road has you at the beautiful Hacienda Zuleta.  Zuleta is set on a working farm with its own cheese factory.  Zuleta has an interesting history given that previous Presidents of Ecuador lived here; Presidents who were responsible for given indigenous Ecuadorians land rights.  Close links with the local community continue to this day.

The food is wholesome with a local flavour, the rooms are very comfortable and have kept their original features.  Activities are varied with horse rides, carriage rides, walks, a visit to the Andean Condor breeding Centre, embroidery and cooking classes, cycling and bird-watching all on offer.

Three nights would give you time to relax as well as enjoy the many activities on offer at Zuleta as well as a day trip to the nearby Otavalo market.  Famous throughout South America the market at Otavalo has many fine artworks, Panama hats (originally from Ecuador), woollen garments and more.

Featured Accommodation
Hacienda Zuleta
Singular Santiago

Hacienda Zuleta is a colonial working farm of some 2,000 hectares, it dates from the late 16th century and for the past 100 years has belonged to the family of Mr. Galo Plaza Lasso, a former President of Ecuador and it is still the Plaza family home.  Now a small number of guests are welcomed into the home and have the opportunity to explore the farm, taste some of its produce and to learn about the family history.

Days 6-8 Cloud Forest

Transfer back to Quito and onto Mashpi Cloud Forest Lodge.  A cloud forest is a slightly high elevation forest area.  There are several options from which to explore, with Mashpi being the stand out.  I’ve included both Cloud and Rainforest experiences simply as they are both worthwhile and quite different.

Mashpi Lodge

At Mashpi to you can walk the many well kept forest trails, ‘cycle’ your way across and through th forest canopy, take a cable car ride (yes a cable car in the Cloud Forest), visit the Hummingbird feeding station (more than 40 species have been recorded here), butterfly house (with over 200 species at varying stages of development) as well as night walks.  Cloud Forests have some truly amazing birds: Cock-of-the-Rock, Umbrella bird,

After each excursion you return to the beautiful lodge where you can relax and enjoy every comfort, including a spa, yoga and outdoor hot tub.  For breakfast, lunch and dinner you are offered excellent cuisine prepared by some of Ecuador’s best chefs.

Featured Accommodation
Mashpi Cloud Forest Lodge
Mashpi Ecuador

Perched 900m above sea level among lower montane rainforest and cloud-forest, is the strikingly contemporary and intimate Mashpi Lodge, with just 22 understated yet luxurious rooms whose floor-to-ceiling windows provide close-up views into the forest. This hideaway in the clouds is surrounded by a profusion of plant species, from ferns and bromeliads to hundreds of orchid species, many newly-discovered. It is a biologist’s paradise and walks along the well-maintained trails in the company of experienced local guides and expert naturalists will delight even the most worldly nature lover.

Days 8-11 The Amazon Rainforest

After Mashpi it’s time to head back via Quito to head to the Amazon Rainforest – here you have two choices, a traditional Rainforest Lodge stay (La Selva Lodge, Napo Wildlife Centre or Sacha Lodge), or an Amazon River Cruise.

Here you’ll have the chance to see several types of macaw and parrots, several species of monkey, giant river otter (none of which you will see in Cloud Forest).  That’s in addition to the Rainforest itself and Amazonian rivers; which are massive and flow for many thousands of kilometres (the Amazon is over 6,800 km long, and through Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil – where it flows into the Atlantic.

Featured Accommodation
La Selva Eco Lodge and Retreat

Deep in the Amazon Jungle paradise awaits you at La Selva Eco-lodge and Spa. Offering you an oasis of relaxation, the lodge, which was remodelled in 2012 offers a variety of high end suites which were constructed based on their surrounding rainforest atmosphere and inspired by local native designs. Overlooking Lake Gorzacocha, La Selva allows guests to still experience a unique and authentic jungle experience but with maximum levels of comfort. Boasting delicious and unique food, the onsite restaurant serves food only using the highest quality of ingredients, sourced locally where possible. After a busy of exploring the surrounding rivers and trails of the jungle, relax with a treatment from La Selva’s spa. The property also features a 38 metre observation tower which enables its guests to see the incredible views of the rain forest canopy and the different bird and mammal species that make it their home.

Sacha Lodge

Sacha Lodge is located beside the tranquil oxbow lake, Pilchicocha, in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon Basin – 80km downstream from the port town of Coca. Rich in history, spanning from humble beginnings in 1991 when construction began on the property to now, when the property is situated on 5,000 acres of land the lodge has continued to seamlessly blend into its surrounds. The resident wildlife are quite literally at your doorstep with giant otters ducking and diving as you enjoy breakfast, caimans glide under the walkways and monkeys gossip outside your window.  Adventure and up close wildlife experiences does not mean the sparing of luxury and comfort. The lodge has built cabins constructed from local materials providing 26 rooms with serene accommodation designs. Each guestroom contains two double beds, a bathroom with a flushing toilet and hot water shower, a ceiling fan and screened windows. The high thatched roofs provide shade for the private terraces attached to each cabin making it is the perfect place to relax on hammocks between activities. There is also a dining room, bar and lounge which offer incredible views across Lake Pilchicocha.

Day 12 Quito

A rest day in Quito will allow some time to sort your images, reflect a little and to relax and you’ve still not reached the Galapagos.

Days 13-15 Cuenca

You have a choice to drive to Cuenca, or to take a short flight.  Cuenca is a colonial gem, it’s alos the historical home of the Panama hat.  A few nights here will allow you to enjoy all that this charming city has to offer.

Days 15-22 The Galapagos Islands

Red Footed Boobie, Genovesa Island
Flightless cormorant

Finally we leave the mainland and take a two hour flight (from either Quito or Guayaquil) to the amazing Galapagos Islands – we’ve kept it to the end as it is a pretty amazing destination.  We recommend a minimum of a 5 night voyage (in part as days 1 and 6 are travel days), and ideally a 7 night voyages that will give you the opportunity to see a high percentage of the Islands endemic species.

There is a range of wonderful vessels, some with just 16 guests (some with 2 guides – so you might be in a group of 8 whilst exploring), larger ships with 30-50 guests and a few with 100 guests.

When choosing your ship it’s good to think about a few key things.

1.  Each guide can only escort a maximum of 16 guests.  Which mean that ships with 100 guests split the clients into 6 groups.  Also understand some of the Islands are quite small so you will see all the other groups.

2.  Each ship offers a range of land-based walks and hikes as well as water based, snorkelling and kayaking activities – very few offer diving (as it’s very specialist).

3.  Landing sites are well organised by the Galapagos National Park Authorities, so you don’t find too many people (or ships) at any one site/Island. If you choose a 100 guest ship you’ll likely be the only ship, if you choose a 16 guest ship there may be 3-4 other ships.

4. Most of the sailing is completed at night.

5.  If you have specific species you want to see tell us – as you won’t see all species on all itineraries (e.g. flightless Cormorant, Galapagos Albatross, Galapagos penguins and red-footed booby are only found on certain Islands/sites).

Day 23 Quito or Guayaquil

As you can see from the above that’s a three week itinerary just in Ecuador.  Additional sites of interest like Cotopaxi, the avenue of volcanoes, Banos … the list continues, can be included or swapped.  A 3 to 4 week trip just in Ecuador is a fabulous option.  You don’t have to take numerous multi-hour flights to connect the different aspects of any trip and the people are very warm and welcoming.

This itinerary is a sample of what you might like to do in Ecuador. Please contact our expert travel consultants to create your own personalised itinerary of South America. Call 1300 784 794 or email

We will tailor the perfect holiday to suit your needs.


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