Ecuador Highlights Walking Tour

From $1429 per person

Hike the northern lake district of Ecuador, the hot spring region of Papallacta, the Cotopaxi National Park, Quilotoa Crater Lake and the waterfalls of Baños.

  • Activity Level: Moderate
  • Duration: 6 days / 5 nights
  • Highlights: Cuicocha Crater Lake - Otavalo People & Market - Papallacta Paramos – Cotopaxi National Park – Quilotoa Crater Lake – Pailon del Diablo Waterfall
Six hikers in Ecuador in front of erupting Tungurahua Volcano


Day 1 Andean Life & Villages Hike (L,D)

We travel north from Quito. Our first stop of the day is at the Quitsato Museum, a giant sun dial which is located exactly on the Equator line. Here our traditional thinking about the Earth is challenged through revolutionary theories proposed by the museum. Great photo opportunity.

On arrival in the Otavalo region we walk along the foothills of the imposingly beautiful Imbabura Volcano, at an altitude of around 2600m - 2650m, passing by local farmlands & through surrounding communities, observing the everyday life of the colourful indigenous people. (7km – 2.5 hours)

Lovely views of the San Pablo Lake and surrounding volcanos. Picnic lunch included.

Time permitting in the afternoon we can visit a master weaver’s home and learn more about the traditional art of back-strap weaving, and also visit a family of Andean musicians who elaborate their musical instruments by hand and happily share their music with us.

Dinner & overnight in a local hacienda.

Day 2 Cuicocha Crater Lake

Our route today takes us along the rim of the striking Cuicocha Volcano, with its captivating blue-green crater lake. Hiking through Andean forest to discover orchids & bromeliads, we are also on the look-out for the endangered Andean Condor. Incredible lake views.

This is a circular route, classed as moderate. The first part of the hike is a climb for around one and a half hours, which brings us up from 3100m to 3500m, the second section of the hike has moderate ups and downs along the crater rim for around two hours, then the last hour and a half is a gentle downhill back to where we began. (5 hours – 12km)

Box lunch included.

In the afternoon we visit the pretty leather market town of Cotacachi before continuing on to the colourful handicraft market in Otavalo, where many different indigenous people, with their unique traditional dress and customs, from all across Ecuador, sell their artisan products and wares.

Day 3 Papallacta Paramo Walk (B,L,D)

This morning we journey from Imbabura to Papallacta, crossing the continental divide en-route.

Today's walk explores the beautiful glacial landscapes around Papallacta, passing mountain lagoons and discovering elfin forests where we can learn more about the distinct flora & fauna of this region.

Our in-and-out route begins with 20 minutes of climbing along a dust road from 3700m – 3850m. We then take a paramo trail which has moderate ups and downs for around 1 hour before our final climb up to 4000m where we reach the striking Laguna de Anteojos. From here we return the way we came.

Amazing views – look out for the snow-capped Antisana Volcano at the beginning of the hike. (10km – 4 hours)

Picnic lunch is included and at the end of the day we have access to the private spa at Termas Papallacta where we can relax in the rejuvenating natural thermal waters.

Dinner and overnight in a local lodge.

Day 4 Cotopaxi National Park Hike – Pita Canyon Loop (B,L,D)

This morning we travel south to the Cotopaxi region where we undertake a circular walk through the Pita Canyon, which offers spectacular views of the canyon itself, along with the Cotopaxi, Sincholagua & Rumiñahui Volcanoes.

The hike is classed as moderate, and takes place at an altitude of 3600m to 3800m.

The first part of the hike takes us along the Pita Canyon for around 1 hour, as we follow the course of the Pita River. It is a soft climb which brings us up into the Cotopaxi National Park. 

We then continue past a number of immense volcanic mound formations and pieces of debris for an hour and a half of gentle ups and downs, to reach the “pucara” – an ancient ruin of an Incan fortress – located within the National Park.

From here we loop around for another hour and a half of more gentle ups and downs along the flanks of the Cotopaxi Volcano before reaching a local mountain lodge where our hike ends. (12km - 4 hours)

Late lunch included in local mountain lodge.

Dinner and overnight in a local hacienda.

Day 5 Quilotoa Crater Lake Rim Hike (B,L,D)

An early start this morning to drive to Quilotoa Crater Lake from where we begin today's walk.

The journey by vehicle, which takes around 1.5 hours, is extremely beautiful as we venture into the hidden side valleys of the Andes and on to the beautifully untouched region of Quilotoa.

Our hike today takes us around the rim of the Quilotoa Crater Lake with its incredible blue-green waters.

Walking at an average altitude of 3800m - 3900m, with lots of ups and downs, the whole trail will take us around 6 hours to complete.

Keeping to the ridge of this stunning lagoon we are accompanied at all times with incredible vistas of the turquoise lake waters and the contrasting grey rocky outcrops of the mountain.

Box lunch included.

This is truly one of Ecuador’s most beautiful and impressive spots. (12km – 6 hours)

Travel on to the Baños region in the afternoon.

Dinner & overnight in a local hacienda.

Day 6 Smuggler's Trail & Pailon del Diablo

Today’s route, used in past times by smugglers, takes us along the dramatic Pastaza Canyon at an altitude of 1800m.

We can enjoy great river views and vistas of the Llanganates – the remote mountains where legend says the lost Inca gold of Atahualpa is hidden. We pass beautiful waterfalls including the breathtaking Manto de la Novia. (7km – 2.5 hours)

Then continue on to visit the Pailon del Diablo waterfall. 

Box lunch.

In the afternoon we have time to explore the pretty streets and basilica of the mountain spa town of Baños before returning to Quito.

3 Star Superior: Las Palmeras, Otavalo
4 Star: Hacienda Cusin, Otavalo
3 Star Superior: Guango Lodge, Papallacta
4 Star: Termas Papallacta, Papallacta
3 Star Superior: Hacienda La Cienega, Cotopaxi
4 Star: Hacienda Hato Verde, Cotopaxi
3 Star Superior: Hacienda Leito, Baños
4 Star: Samari Spa Hotel, Baños


3 Star Superior Prices 2024

2 people
$1974 p/p
3 - 4 people
$1623 p/p
5 - 6 people
$1429 p/p

4 Star Prices 2024

2 people
$2303 p/p
3 - 4 people
$1904 p/p
5 - 6 people
$1681 p/p

Price includes:
Private transportation, top English-speaking guide, accommodation as specified, meals as specified (B - Breakfast, L - Lunch, D - Dinner), entry fees to Quitsato Museum, Spa at Papallacta Hot Springs & Pailon del Diablo.

Not included:
International flights, personal travel insurance, alcoholic and soft drinks, extra activities not specified, spa treatments, tips and personal expenses

Prices are stated in US Dollars.
Prices are valid until 31st December 2024.
This tour begins and ends in the city of Quito. For pick up / drop off in Quito airport extra charges will apply.

Day 1: San Pablo Lake & Imbabura Volcano, Andean Villages Hike
Day 1: Visiting Master Weavers home in Peguche
Day 2: Cuicocha Crater Lake Hike
Day 2: Hiking around Cuicocha Crater Lake
Day 3: Hiking in the Paramos of Papallacta
Day 3: Papallacta Lakes Hike
Day 3: Termas Papallacta Spa
Day 4: Volcanic Cones on Pita Canyon Loop Hike, Cotopaxi National Park
Day 4: Cotopaxi Volcano views on Pita Canyon Loop Hike
Day 5: Quilotoa Crater Lake
Day 5: Hiking the Quilotoa Rim Trail
Day 6: Hiking near Tungurahua Volcano, Baños
Day 6: Pailon del Diablo Waterfall, Baños