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2 weeks in Ecuador: Travel itinerary and tips

If you've landed on this page, I imagine you're considering traveling to Ecuador, or perhaps your decision is already made. Ecuador is one of the places in the world that has surprised me the most. To be honest, I visited the country without much of an idea of what I would encounter. Without intending to, I stumbled upon incredible landscapes, people filled with love, and a sense of freedom that captivated me. Ecuador surprises and charms. In this article, I want to assist you in planning your 2-weeks in Ecuador travel itinerary.

Ecuador is a small country, yet it boasts numerous things to do. This itinerary through Ecuador focuses on the Andean region, with a brief day trip to the Amazon region and a visit to a city on the coastal side. If you're considering adding the Galapagos Islands to your journey, I recommend focusing on Quito and its surroundings to allocate several days to this magnificent archipelago.

This itinerary is also designed for traveling around Ecuador by car. That's how we explored the country, and, in my opinion, renting a car is the best thing you can do. It provides you with a lot of freedom, and you'll save time on transfers. I recommend comparing prices on Discover Cars to find the best deal.

In this itinerary, I've aimed to include all the essential places in the highlands of Ecuador. I'll warn you, it's going to be a non-stop journey, but the energy invested will be well worth it. You can rest when you're back home!

Table of contents

What to do in 2 weeks in Ecuador

Ready to start this 2-weeks in Ecuador adventure? Let’s get started! 

An overview of the nights in Ecuador:

Day 1: Quito, must-see in Ecuador

2 weeks in Ecuador
Quito

Summary: Visit Quito. One night at Rincón Familiar Hostel Boutique.

I suggest spending the first day in Ecuador honoring Quito, the nation’s capital. First of all, you should know that Quito is the second-highest capital in the world, after La Paz (Bolivia), with an elevation of 2,850 meters. If you have trouble adjusting to altitude, I advise you to take it easy and acclimate at a comfortable pace rather than rushing around the city.

One of the most special places in Quito that you shouldn’t miss, especially if you have a day to explore the capital, is the historic center of Quito. Considered the best-preserved old town in Latin America, you can take a delightful stroll while admiring the historic buildings and gaining a first impression of Ecuadorian culture.

In the historic center, don’t miss Plaza Grande, the Church of the Society of Jesus, La Ronda Street, and San Francisco Square. Just a short distance from the historic center, you must also explore The Basilica of the National Vow.

If you want to get a panoramic view of Quito, you can visit the Panecillo viewpoint or take the Quito Cable Car up to Cruz Loma Hill. If you prefer a relaxed stroll, then I recommend checking out La Carolina Park or Itchimbía Park.

A fantastic idea to explore the Ecuadorian capital is to book this tour of Quito. It’s one of the best guided tours in Quito.

On another note, if you want to learn more about the city, I recommend reading my article about things to do in Quito. Lastly, if Quito serves as your home base, you can explore my guide on the best day trips from Quito.

Day 2: Quito → Otavalo

peguche waterfall otavalo
Peguche Waterfall

Summary: Transfer from Quito to Otavalo. Explore Otavalo. Night at Hostal Curiñán.

We depart Quito early in the morning and head towards Otavalo, one of the Ecuadorian towns with the most vibrant indigenous cultures.

Otavalo is located just over 90 km from the Ecuadorian capital. It takes almost two hours to get there by car. Along the way, I recommend making a stop in the town of Cayambe to purchase the local specialty, the traditional biscuit. They didn’t knock my socks off personally, but they are quite iconic.

The charming town of Otavalo is surrounded by breathtaking landscapes and natural wonders. On your first day in Otavalo, I recommend taking a stroll through the town, making sure not to miss the Otavalo Artisan Market (Plaza de Ponchos), Peguche Waterfall, and San Pablo Lake.

San Pablo Lake is quite large, so I recommend visiting the Cachiviro Otavalo Pier. It’s a cool spot to grab a beer while enjoying the views of the lake and Imbabura Volcano. You can also take a boat ride on the lake.

If you’d rather stay an additional night in Otavalo, you can explore this town by booking a day trip to Otavalo from Quito.

Day 3: Otavalo → Cotopaxi

2 weeks in Ecuador
Cuicocha Lake

Summary: Explore the surroundings of Otavalo. Transfer from Otavalo to Cotopaxi. Night at Mateospaxi.

Cuicoha Lake

On your third day of this 2-week trip in Ecuador, I recommend taking a day trip from Otavalo to Cuicocha Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in Ecuador and a major tourist attraction in the Otavalo region. It’s located 17 km from Otavalo, and the journey takes approximately half an hour on a paved road.

There is a hike that goes around the entire crater of Cuicocha Lake, which lasts between three and five hours. If you don’t have that much energy, you can opt for a shorter section and return along the same path. There is also the option of taking a boat ride.

After visiting Cuicocha Lake, I suggest heading to Mojanda Lakes or exploring Cayambe-Coca National Park.

Mojanda Lakes

You can reach Mojanda Lakes from Otavalo via the Mojanda road. The road is decent initially, but later turns into a dirt path. Ideally, it’s recommended to drive up with a 4×4. Once you reach the lakes, you can take a stroll around them or hike up to Fuya Fuya Hill.

Cayambe-Coca National park

If you prefer to visit Cayambe-Coca National Park, you’ll need to head to the town of Cayambe. From there, you can reach Cayambe Refuge or Oyacachi.

Transfer to Cotopaxi

After the visits, we head towards Cotopaxi National Park to spend the night in an area near the park and explore it the next day. We stayed at Mateospaxi, a family guesthouse. We felt very comfortable, and the owner is delightful. The journey from Otavalo to this guesthouse takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Day 4: Cotopaxi → Quilotoa

cotopaxi
View of Cotopaxi Volcano

Summary: Visit to Cotopaxi National Park. Transfer to Quilotoa. Night at Cloud Forest Hostel.

Cotopaxi National Park is open every day from 8 am to 5 pm. Admission is free. Having a car is necessary to visit the park. If you are traveling around Ecuador with a rented car, that’s perfect. If not, at the park entrance, you can hire a 4×4 with a driver.

I recommend entering through the south entrance, as the road at the north entrance is not in very good condition. Inside Cotopaxi National Park, I recommend visiting Limpiopungo Lagoon and hiking up to José Ribas Refuge. You can also climb Rumiñahui. You can bring sandwiches and snacks with you or grab something to eat at the refuge or one of the cafes within the park.

Once you’ve finished exploring Cotopaxi National Park, it’s time to travel to Quilotoa. The journey takes about 2 hours. You can stay in the village of Quilotoa itself or in the surrounding areas. We stayed at Cloud Forest Hostel, a delightful place just a few minutes by car from Quilotoa.

Day 5: Quilotoa → Baños, must-see in Ecuador

quilotoa lake
Quilotoa Lake

Summary: Visit to Quilotoa Lake. Transfer to Baños. Night at Monte Carmelo Hostel.

Visit Quilotoa Lake

In the morning, you’ll explore Quilotoa Lake, one of the best thing to do in Ecuador in 2 weeks. There are various ways to experience this site, with the two most popular activities being hiking around the entire crater of the lagoon or descending to the lake. I would advise against attempting both in one day as they require a significant amount of time and, most importantly, a considerable amount of energy.

If you opt for the hike around the crater, you can enjoy incredible views. There’s a cool glass and wooden viewpoint along the way. If you descend to the lake, you can rent a kayak or have a picnic. There’s a nice patch of grass where you can spread out a towel, have a meal, lie down, relax, etc. There are also restroom facilities. Both plans are fantastic.

Regardless of whether you’re hiking around the crater or the hike that takes you to the lake, I recommend bringing plenty of water and snacks. There are restaurants in the village of Quilotoa and a snack stand at the lake, but that’s about it. The entrance fee to Quilotoa is $2 per person.

The entrance fee to Quilotoa is $2 per person.

Transfer to Baños

After visiting Quilotoa Lake, it’s time to hop in the car and drive to Baños, our next stop in Ecuador. We’ll be spending several nights in this town. We stayed at Monte Carmelo Hostel.

If you arrive in Baños and it’s not too late, you can take a stroll through the town, as it has a lively atmosphere with many restaurants and shops. Don’t forget to visit La Basílica Park, the square where the Basilica of the Virgin of the Rosary of Holy Water is located.

I recommend staying at the same hotel we did, Monte Carmelo Hostel. It’s a bit away from the town center, but it was budget-friendly, the rooms were good, and it has free parking.

Day 6: Baños – Waterfall Route and Treehouse

day trips from Quito
Devil’s Cauldron

Summary: Visit to various places in Baños. Night at Monte Carmelo Hostel.

Waterfall route

On the first day in Baños, I recommend doing the well-known Waterfall Route. My advice is to start with Pailon del Diablo. It’s the most spectacular and popular waterfall in Baños, truly amazing.

It’s also the most visited, so I recommend making it your first stop to avoid crowds. There are two entrances to Pailon del Diablo. In my article about things to do in Baños, I provide more important details for visiting this place.

I also recommend visiting El Rocío Machay and Manto de la Novia waterfalls. For both waterfalls, be prepared for a good walk. At Manto de la Novia, there are zip lines and cable cars that traverse from one side of the canyon to the other. If you’re up for a lot of adrenaline, it’s the perfect opportunity.

There are a total of 7 waterfalls, but these are the 3 I visited and the ones I believe are the most beautiful. If you don’t have a car, you can take the organized tour of the Waterfall Route.

Casa del Árbol

To wrap up your first day in Baños, I recommend visiting La Casa del Árbol (The Treehouse), a small wooden house located atop a mountain with views of Tungurahua, a volcano at 5,023 meters above sea level. The house has swings where you can sway back and forth while enjoying the incredible views.

Day 7: Baños – Day trip to Puyo

Ecuador 2 weeks
2 weeks in Ecuador

Summary: Excursion to Puyo. Hot Springs. Night at Monte Carmelo Hostel.

On your second full day in Baños, I recommend taking a trip to Puyo. Puyo is part of the Amazon region of Ecuador. In just a few kilometers, sixty to be exact, you’ll transition from the highlands to the Amazon, from the mountains to the jungle, from cool to warm. Incredible, isn’t it?

The first stop I recommend is at Miramera Viewpoint. Here, you’ll find wooden platforms, baskets, and swings overlooking the Pastaza River.

After passing the town of Puyo, I recommend visiting Hola Vida Waterfall, taking a boat ride on the Puyo River, and enjoying the incredible views from Mirador Indichuris. I also suggest making a stop in a small village called Veracruz to try their famous artisanal ice creams.

If you’re not planning to make the trip with your own vehicle, you can book this organized day trip to Puyo.

Back in Baños, I recommend relaxing in one of the many hot springs you can find in the town. I suggest the ones at Luna Volcán Hotel. The views from the pools are incredible. If you’re looking for something more budget-friendly, there are plenty of options in the town. You can also unwind with a typical wooden bath. End your day with a stroll through the town and a good dinner.

Day 8: Baños → Riobamba

tungurahua
Banos de Agua Santa

Summary: More things to do in Baños. Transfer to Riobamba. Night at Alborada Hostel.

We’ve reached the halfway point of this 2 weeks in to Ecuador. On your last day in Baños, I recommend visiting some of the following viewpoints and waterfalls or trying out some adventure sports. You can also consider booking this day trip to the Tungurahua Volcano.

Some of the best viewpoints in Baños include La Virgen Viewpoint, Crus de Bellavista Viewpoint, Las Antenas Viewpoint, and Las Manos de Dios Viewpoint. Some of the waterfalls in Baños that you should visit are Agoyán Waterfall, Ines María Waterfall, and Silencio Waterfall.

After completing your last visits in Baños, it’s time to journey to Riobamba, which is 75 km away from Baños. I recommend spending two nights here. We stayed at Hostal Alborada. It’s located on a central street and offers free parking. There are many cafes and restaurants on the same street.

Day 9: Riobamba – Excursion to Chimborazo

things to do in Ecuador in 2 weeks
Chimborazo

Summary: Visit the Chimborazo Fauna Production Reserve. Night at Hostal Alborada.

Today, you’ll be exploring the reserve around Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest peak. In fact, the summit of Chimborazo is the point on Earth closest to the sun and farthest from the core of our planet. Quite an incredible fact, isn’t it?

To reach the Chimborazo Fauna Production Reserve from Riobamba, you first need to get to a small village called San Juan. From there, take a right turn, and after about 14 km, you’ll reach the reserve. The park can be explored by car, and there are also hiking options available.

In the Chimborazo Reserve, you can visit some of the following places: the viewpoint overlooking La Chorrera Waterfall, the Polylepis Forest, and the Hermanos Carrel Refuge, which can be reached by car. Several hikes begin at the refuge. Two of the most popular hikes are the one to the second refuge or to Laguna Condor Cocha.

I must add that driving on the roads of the reserve is an attraction in itself. You can easily pull over to the side of the road to peacefully observe any vicuñas you come across or to photograph a landscape.

If you don’t have your own vehicle, you can book this organized tour to the Chimborazo Reserve from Riobamba.

It’s time to head back to Riobamba and get some rest. Tomorrow is packed with activities. Spend the night at Hostal Alborada.

Day 10: Riobamba → Atillo Lagoons → Palmira Desert → Alausí

atillo lakes ecuador
Atillo Lakes

Summary: Depart from Riobamba in the morning. Journey to Alausí, passing through Atillo Lagoons and Palmira Desert. Night at Hostal Gampala.

Day 10 in Ecuador is all about a scenic road trip from Riobamba to Alausí, with stops at Atillo Lagoons and Palmira Desert.

Atillo Lagoons

The truth is that Atillo Lagoons are not directly on the way. A detour is needed, but the place is beautiful, so I highly recommend visiting it. They are located 78 km from Riobamba, and it takes around an hour and a half to get there by car.

It is a group of several lagoons that stand out against the surrounding vegetation, creating a beautiful landscape. After passing the lagoons, I recommend driving a bit further, as the scenery is truly breathtaking.

Palmira Desert

palmira desert
Palmira Desert

Then you’ll need to return on the same road until you reach Cebadas. A few kilometers after this town, there’s a detour that will lead you to the road heading south, taking you to the Palmira Desert.

This is quite a unique place as it’s surprising to come across dunes like these in the middle of Ecuador. The color of the sand dunes is a toasty brown, and they are surrounded by pine trees. It’s a very beautiful landscape.

After visiting this Ecuadorian desert, it’s time to descend to Alausí, one of the most beautiful towns in Ecuador. It takes half an hour to get there. If you have time and energy, you can take a little stroll around Alausí.

Day 11: Alausí → Cuenca

2 weeks in Ecuador
Alausí

Summary: Visit Alausí. Transfer to Cuenca. Night at Pepe’s House.

Alausí

If you didn’t have time to visit Alausí the previous day, you can have breakfast in the town and take a stroll through the historic center. The most beautiful corner of this Ecuadorian town is Eloy Alfaro Street. The colorful houses and train tracks create one of the most charming streets I saw during my trip to this South American country.

You can also visit 13 de Noviembre Park or San Pedro Viewpoint. It won’t take much time to explore the most interesting parts of the town.

Transfer to Cuenca

After exploring Alausí, it’s time to drive 172 km to reach Cuenca. The journey takes a little over 3 hours by car. During the drive, I recommend making a brief stop at the viewpoints located just before the town of Chunchi.

Once you arrive in Cuenca, I recommend taking a stroll through the historic center and heading to a terrace to enjoy views of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. You can do this from the Negroni restaurant. Then, it’s time to rest and recharge for the next day.

Day 12: Cuenca – Cajas National Park

cajas national park
Ecuador travel itinerary

Summary: Visit to Cajas National Park. Night at Pepe’s House.

Today is the day to visit Cajas National Park! It is one of the most beautiful natural places in Ecuador and an ideal destination if you enjoy hiking. One of the most popular spots in Cajas that I recommend visiting is Laguna Toreadora

You can stroll along the wooden walkway by the lake or embark on a longer hike from here. There’s a restaurant and an information center where they can guide you on which route to take.

We couldn’t visit this park properly as it was closed due to the pandemic. We could only drive through the road and make a quick stop at Laguna Toreadora. When we travel to Ecuador again, we’ll come back!

If you don’t have your own vehicle, you can take a bus from Cuenca to Cajas. It will drop you off at Laguna Toreadora. Another option is to book this organized tour to Cajas from Cuenca.

Day 13: Cuenca → Guayaquil

cuenca ecuador
Cuenca, Ecuador

Summary: Visit Cuenca. Transfer to Guayaquil. Night at Yu! Smarthotels.

In the morning, explore the essential sights of Cuenca: the stunning Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Calderón Park, San Sebastián Park, and San Francisco Square. Take a delightful stroll along the river for a scenic experience. For impressive city views, head to the Turi Viewpoint.

Next, head to Guayaquil. It is located 197 km from Cuenca, and the journey takes approximately 3 and a half hours by car. If you arrive early enough, you can take a stroll around the city. However, don’t worry; the second-to-last day of this 2 weeks in Ecuador is dedicated to exploring the city of Guayaquil.

Day 14: Guayaquil, 2 weeks in Ecuador

guayaquil
Guayaquil

Summary: Visit Guayaquil. Night at Yu! Smarthotels.

Guayaquil, aside from being the most populous city in Ecuador, is a place that offers countless activities. Some of the best things to do in Guayaquil include:

  • Strolling along the Malecón by the Guayas River.
  • Exploring the Las Peñas neighborhood on Santa Ana Hill.
  • Walking along Avenida 9 de Octubre.

These four activities will easily take up an entire day, allowing you to discover the major attractions of the Ecuadorian city.

I must admit that I didn’t get to visit Guayaquil during my trip to Ecuador. It was on our agenda, but due to some COVID-related measures, we had to make some adjustments to our itinerary. I missed out, so I hope you have the chance to go and explore this city.

Day 15: Guayaquil → Quito

The last day is dedicated to returning to Quito to catch your return flight, or perhaps you can return the rental car in Guayaquil and fly back to your country from there. If you’re not planning to rent a car, it might be a good idea to purchase the outbound flight to Quito and the return flight from Guayaquil. Although the two cities are only an hour apart by plane, the drive takes about 7 hours.

Regardless, I hope you thoroughly enjoy this 2 weeks in Ecuador. It’s a country I loved, and I hope you find it as delightful as I did. Immerse yourself in its culture, breathtaking nature, energy, and its people. Enjoy every moment!

Tips for traveling to Ecuador

2 weeks Ecuador itinerary
Otavalo

Here are some final tips to plan your trip to Ecuador:

Renting a car in Ecuador

Renting a car to embark on a road trip through Ecuador was the best decision we could have made. The freedom it provides to explore with your own vehicle is unparalleled. Moreover, both gasoline and tolls in Ecuador are very affordable. Honestly, the best advice I can give for your trip to Ecuador is to rent a car. You can compare prices on Auto Europe and Discover Cars.

Safety in Ecuador

In general, my partner and I felt very safe throughout the trip. While it’s true that in larger cities, you should be more careful with your belongings (as in almost any city worldwide), in rural areas, there is a very peaceful atmosphere. We drove through many places in the country, and we didn’t encounter any issues. On the contrary, everyone was very kind to us.

However, some friends were recently in the country and were robbed in a coastal city. Therefore, don’t forget that you need to be very cautious.

Travel insurance for 2 weeks in Ecuador

A crucial step in planning your trip is to purchase a travel insurance policy for Ecuador. When traveling to a country without medical coverage, it’s essential to have insurance in case of any unforeseen circumstances. I had to use the insurance during my trip to Ecuador when I accidentally injured my hand with a pickaxe, and I needed to get a tetanus shot.

I always use and recommend Heymondo travel insurance. Additionally, as a reader of this blog, you can book it with a 5% discount.

Is Ecuador expensive?

Perhaps you’ve heard that Ecuador can be pricey… It’s true that it’s pricier compared to some of its neighboring countries like Peru and Colombia. The official currency being the US dollar does contribute to slightly higher costs. I noticed that buying groceries in supermarkets and certain excursions tended to be relatively expensive.

However, dining in local restaurants is very affordable (around $2.5 to $3.5 for a menu). Gasoline and public transportation are also inexpensive.

Internet in Ecuador

We were planning to spend a considerable amount of time in Ecuador, so we went to a Movistar office and got a three-month plan. We paid a little over $20 per month and never ran out of data. I can assure you that I use the Internet quite a bit. However, there were some areas with no coverage, of course.

If you like to have internet during your travels, you can go to a telecommunication company’s office and choose the plan that suits you best. Another option is to get an eSIM from Holafly. With the code ‘COMEAMAVIAJA,’ you’ll get a 5% discount.

Money in Ecuador

The easiest and most cost-effective way to obtain US dollars in Ecuador is by withdrawing money from an ATM. Some banks do not charge a commission, so if you use a card like N26 or Revolut, you can withdraw dollars from your euro account without fees. We used Banco del Austro.

If you plan to include Galapagos in your 2-weeks in Ecuador itinerary, I recommend reading the following articles: tips for traveling to Galapagos, things to do in Galapagos, and where to stay in Galapagos.

Don’t miss my Ecuador travel guide to get all the information about the country.

I hope this article about traveling for 2 weeks in Ecuador has been very helpful for planning your trip through the country. If you have more questions or want to tell me about your trip, you can leave a comment or send me an email. Until next time!

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