Ecuador Highlights Tour

From $1395 per person

A classic Ecuadorian vacation in the Andean highlands, highlighting the variety of landscapes & experiences that can be enjoyed around Quito including rolling pastures, Andean lakes, high grassland paramos, snow-capped volcanoes, natural hot springs and cloud-forest waterfalls.

  • Activity Level: Easy
  • Duration: 6 days / 5 nights
  • Highlights: Otavalo Market - Cuicocha Crater Lake - Papallacta Hot Springs – Cotopaxi National Park – Quilotoa Crater Lake – Pailon del Diablo Waterfall
Colourful weavings in Otavalo Market in Ecuador


Day 1 Quito – Otavalo (L,D)

Departing from Quito with private guide and vehicle, we travel north to the ‘lake district’ of Ecuador. 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.

We then continue on to the town of Cayambe to see the local bakers at work and sample their bizcochos, a delicate savoury biscuit, served with coffee and fresh cheese or dulce de leche.

After enjoying the wonderful views of the San Pablo Lake at the base of the Imbabaura Volcano we continue on to Peguche. Here 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.

Lunch in a local restaurant

We end up at 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.

Dinner & overnight in a local hacienda.

Day 2 Cuicocha Crater Lake (B,L,D)

Today we head up into the mountains to visit the beautiful Cuicocha Crater Lake. The views across the green blue waters of the lagoon and of the surrounding mountains are spectacular. On a clear day you get wonderful vistas of the imposing Imababura volcano and snow-capped Cayambe volcano.

A short but steep walk can be enjoyed up to a look out with 360 degree views or you can take a boat ride onto the waters of the lake to get a closer look at the volcanic islands and bubbling waters of the lagoon.

Lunch in the local leather-market town of Cotacachi with it’s pretty main plaza and church, before continuing our journey.

This afternoon we travel up into the Eastern Andes, crossing the continental divide and onto the stark and beautiful high grassland paramos of the Papallacta region of Ecuador. On clear days, the views of the snow-capped Antisana Volcano are breathtaking.

Dinner and overnight in a local lodge.

Day 3 Papallacta Hot Springs (B,L,D)

If you are feeling energetic this morning you can venture out for an easy walk along the river trail. The trailhead is in the valley behind the hot springs and offers a fun, pretty and in some parts exhilarating experience. You walk up one side of the river, cross the bridge at the top and return along the opposite bank. The hike takes around 40 minutes in total.

This morning you also have access to the Termas Papallacta Spa, a relaxing open-air experience surrounded by dramatic Andean mountains. This area includes five thermal pools each with varying temperatures, bubbling waters and massaging water jets. There is also a polar pool and poolside loungers and umbrellas.

An extensive menu of treatments and massages is also available in the spa, extra costs apply.

Lunch included

In the afternoon we travel south, along the picturesque Avenue of the Volcanoes to the Cotopaxi province.

Dinner and overnight in a local hacienda.

Day 4 Cotopaxi National Park (B,L,D)

This morning we visit the Cotopaxi National Park. We can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding volcanoes including Pasochoa, Rumiñahui & Sincholagua.

We can undertake an easy one-hour hike around the Limpiopungo Lake in the ever-present shadow of one of the world’s highest active volcanoes – the perfectly cone shaped, snow-capped Cotopaxi.

As well as the immense and interesting geological features created by the volcano’s past eruptions, we are on the look-out for paramo wildlife including wild ponies, white tailed deer, Andean fox and the endangered Andean Condor.

Lunch is included in a local mountain lodge.

In the afternoon we return to our hacienda for some rest and relaxarion time.

Dinner and overnight in a local hacienda.

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

Today we continue our journey deep into the Quilotoa region of Ecuador – an area of the Andes which is still very much untouched and authentic.

We pass through rolling farmlands and local market towns, such as Tigua which is renowned for its vibrant oil paintings on sheepskin, and Zumbahua, a traditional indigenous market town.

Our destination today is the Quilotoa Crater Lake at 3800m. This stunning lagoon, with its incredible blue-green waters, is one of Ecuador’s most beautiful and impressive spots.

At the lake we can take a walk along part of the crater’s rim to take in the dramatic views or head down to the water’s edge.

Lunch included in a local restaurant.

Travel on to the Baños region in the afternoon.

Dinner & overnight in a local hacienda.

Day 6 Route of the Waterfalls – Baños (B,L,D)

This morning we travel down into the pretty mountain spa town of Baños.

From here we follow the course of the Pastaza River towards Puyo, a stunning road trip which passes a number of beautiful waterfalls including the Manto de la Novia and the Pailon del Diablo.

We can enjoy the short hike to the Pailon del Diablo to get a closer look at this powerful waterfall.

Lunch included in a local restaurant.

In the afternoon we visit the infamous "Swing at the End of the World" where you can swing from a local treehouse out over the valley below with the smoking Tungurahua Volcano as a back drop. Great photo opportunity.

Later enjoy a stroll around the main square and nearby streets of Baños town with its colonial Basilica. Sample the local ‘melcocha’, a handmade toffee which is prepared on every street corner before returning to Quito.

3 Star Superior: Las Palmeras Inn, 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
$1832 p/p
3 - 4 people
$1580 p/p
5 - 6 people
$1395 p/p

4 Star Prices 2024

2 people
$2161 p/p
3 - 4 people
$1852 p/p
5 - 6 people
$1650 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: Quitsato Musuem and Sundial
Day 1: Master weaver's home and workshop
Day 1: Colourful hammocks in Otavalo Handicraft Market
Day 2: Cuicocha Crater Lake, Otavalo
Day 3: Antisana Volcano, en route to Papallacta
Day 3: Papallacta River Walk, Papallacta
Day 3: Papallacta Hot Springs
Day 4: Cotopaxi Volcano, Cotopaxi National Park
Day 4: Limpiopungo Lake & Rumiñahui Volcano, Cotopaxi National Park
Day 4: Andean Condor, Cotopaxi National Park
Day 5: Colourful oil paintings in the Andean village of Tigua
Day 5: Quilotoa Crater Lake
Day 5: Quilotoa Farmlands & Countryside
Day 6: Tungurahua Volcano, Baños
Day 6: Pailon del Diablo Waterfall, Baños
Day 6: Swing at the End of the World, Baños