This is the ultimate pass for the best of the mainland’s diverse regions! Begin anywhere to explore the Ecuadorian capital, tropical paradises on the coast, Andean highlands, misty cloudforests… and then back to where you began.
- Delve into the amazing gold churches, perfect plazas and charming streets of Quito’s Old Town, the first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Explore the stunning Cotopaxi National Park by foot, bike or horseback with a chance to climb one of the world’s highest active volcanoes.
- Take in the awesome sights and vibe of Quilotoa Lake, a brilliant turquoise, 400-metre deep caldera created from volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago.
- Raft, hike, bungee jump and soak in hot springs in the valley of Baños on the borders of the Highlands and Amazon.
- Discover the picture-perfect plazas and the off-beat, colonial vibe of Cuenca.
- Hike the 200 lakes, lunar landscapes and enchanted cloud forests of El Cajas National Park.
- Learn how chocolate really does grow on trees (and mangos too) with an authentic cacao experience in a real-life hacienda.
- Surf with the pros, relax on golden beaches, explore beautiful national parks and party in one of the South America’s best nightlife towns.
- Explore the wild beaches of Machalilla National Park and learn about coastal culture and cuisine around Puerto López.
Need to know
- Guamote or Riobamba market
- El Cajas National Park
- Cacao hacienda
- Puerto López
- And many other short stops along the way!
Departure Days from Quito
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Time of Departure: 06:00-07:00
If you want to do the Quilotoa loop, add three to four days.
If you want to take the Devil’s Nose train from Alausi, add two days.
If you want to go to Galapagos from Guayaquil, add five to seven days.
What to bring
- Sun cream
- Hiking boots
- Cosy jacket
- Wind breaker
- Bathing suit
- Credit card
- Travel insurance
- Plenty of cash in notes no greater than US$20. Some places won’t accept notes of US$50 / credit or debit cards.
- Wanderbus Ecuador guide
- Your passion for independent travel
Recommended Full Itinerary
Remember, this itinerary is just our suggestion – you can hop on and hop off at any of the main stops, extending your trip for as long as you like!
Day 1: Baños
|06:00-07:00||Depart from Quito from your selected pick-up point.|
|08:30||Arrive at Cotopaxi National Park, home to one of the world’s highest active volcanoes.|
|12:00||Short visit to charming Pujili, a town famous for its dancers. Traditional lunch.|
|14:45||Arrive at Quilotoa. Explore the 3km-wide turquoise volcanic crater lake.|
|19:30-20:00||Arrive in Baños, home to steaming volcanoes, explosive waterfalls and hot thermal springs.|
FREE DAY to take a guided bike tour from La Casa del Arbol swing (selfie stick at the ready!) to the awesome Devil’s Cauldron waterfall.
FREE DAY to explore the subtropical town, rafting in jungle ravines, bungee jumping into the valley, spotting exotic birds, hiking in the foothills of the active Tungurahua volcano and finishing the day soaking in steaming hot springs.
Day 4: Cuenca
|06:30-07:00||Depart from Baños from your selected pick-up point.|
|09:30||15-minute stop at the mirror-like Colta lake and Balbanera church for photos.|
|10:00||Arrive at Guamote or Riobamba to explore one of the most authentic markets in the country.|
|11:00||Depart Guamote or Riobamba. Those who wish to take the train hop off at Alausi.|
|12:30||Arrive at Ozogoche, 45 lagoons for hiking, fishing and spotting highland wildlife amid dramatic landscapes.|
|14:30||Lunch at Ozogoche.|
|19:30-20:00||Arrive in Cuenca, ready to explore one of South America’s most intact colonial cities.|
Our first town stop depends on which day the market is.
Tuesday: Riobamba hornado market
Saturday: Riobamba fair
If you want to take the Devil’s Nose train, hop off at Alausi, stay the night and board the Tren Ecuador early the next morning.
FREE DAY to explore the historic and bohemian charms of Cuenca, including visiting the Pumapungo Inca ruins, walking along the riverside, checking out the art galleries and shops, visiting a convent and enjoying the cafés, bars and clubs.
FREE DAY to discover more of the treasures just outside the city, exploring Inca ruins in Ingapirca, marvelling at the beautiful river and skilled artisans of Gualaceo, and soaking in the volcanic hot springs under the stars.
Day 7: Montañita
|06:30-07:00||Depart from Cuenca from your selected pick-up point.|
|08:00||Arrive at El Cajas National Park for a wet and wild adventure among 200 lakes.|
|09:30||Depart from El Cajas.|
|11:30||Arrive at hacienda for cacao and mango experience and lunch.|
|14:30||Arrive in Guayaquil to drop those who wish to stay here.|
|17:30||Stop in San Pablo fishing village for photos and snacks.|
|18:00-18:30||Arrive in Montañita in time to catch the sunset and hit the party scene.|
Passengers hopping off at Guayaquil must all be dropped off at the same spot – not at specific hotels.
If you want to go to Galapagos from Guayaquil add five to seven days to your itinerary.
Surf’s up! Get out on the waves and enjoy the beach life of Montañita and its nightlife later!
Take some surf classes.
Check the sleepy fishing town of Manglaralto for a lazy lunch on the beach, or Olón’s more chilled vibe. Or else organize a hike in the dry forest ecosystem to the east.
Day 11: Return to Quito
|06:30-07:00||Depart from Montañita from your selected pick-up point.|
|08:30||Arrive at Puerto López for a late breakfast.|
|09:15||Depart Puerto López|
|20:00-20:30||Arrive in Quito and be dropped off at one of our points.|